Ragnar Lodbrok is truly a larger than life hero from our great Viking Age. Though not as well known as the legends of Beowulf, Hrolf Kraki, and Sigurd, he was a man of adventure and a warrior supreme. Ragnar, who was of course a Pagan, it is said loved to attack the Christians on their holy days, thereby catching them off guard and in their churches. Ragnar in the legends is said to have been descended from Odin himself. As are we all, actually, if we believe that Odin is the All - Father. He is said to have married the Viking Lathgertha and later the Swedish princess Thora. The Anglo - Saxon Chronicles mentions him, briefly, as having the sons, Halfdan ( 871, 875,, 876, and 878 ), Ivar the Boneless, ( 878 ), and Ubba, (870 Note only). The father and sons are mentioned in the Sagas, Heimskringla, and Saxo Grammaticus', The history of the Danes.
Through numerous Viking raids he gained power and wealth and by the 840' s was a prominent warrior, though according to the Sagas not gaining the acclaim of his son Ivar the Boneless. In 845 Ragnar led a daring raid up the Seine river to the city of Paris. The Christian king, Charles the Bald, pulled together his countrymen into an army, and then divided them to protect both sides of the river. This was a major blunder ! Ragnar, an experienced warrior, knew all too well how to deal with a strategy like this. He attacked the smaller force defeating it and took 111 prisoners. He then hanged these prisoners in full view of the other half of Charles' army to demoralize them. It worked, and he easily sailed up the Seine river and sacked Paris, on Easter Sunday,March 28, 845. Charles the Bald, who was a coward in my opinion, decided to fight Ragnar no longer, and offered him 7000 pounds of silver to leave his lands in peace. And he let Ragnar keep the plunder he had taken in Paris ! This "Danegeld", which Charles believed would stop the Viking incursions into his lands, actually gave Viking raiders even more reason to attack his major cities and hold them for ransom ! Other Viking raiders took full advantage of this fear and returned to France for more "Danegeld", and even sacked the city of Rouen. This led ultimately to the Northmen being given land on the coast of France in exchange for protection against other raiders. This settlement, of course, became known as Normandy.
There are several accounts of his death. The most heroic being that his ship became wrecked on the shores of Northumbria, where he was taken prisoner by King Aella. The King had Ragnar thrown into a pit with poisonous snakes. As he was being bitten to death he supposedly exclaimed, " How the little pigs would grunt if they knew how the old boar suffers" ! Gwyn Jones translates this line into, " The piglings would be grunting if they knew the plight of the boar." Same difference. Gwyn Jones also says in his book, " The history of the Vikings", that this Ragnar might not be the Ragnar Lodbrok of the Sagas. In his book you will find the line, " Ragnar, whom it is unnecessary to equate with his hairy breeked namesake, Ragnar Lodbrok, entered the Seine. In his notes Mr. Jones also says, " It is difficult to prove a negative, but there is little evidence of the existence of a historical Ragnar Lodbrok. True, he suffers more than most from the numbing disadvantages of a mythical saga, and use as a heroic symbol, but even when these are set aside he is hard to locate in place and time. In the book, Saxo Grammaticus, The History of the Danes, in the notes it says, " Saxo's account agrees with the Saga and the tale at many points, but he adds much material not found there."
Personally I will stick to the Sagas and believe and honor Ragnar Lodbrok for his daring Viking raids. Especially the one on Paris in 845. I honor him on both March 28th, and on whatever date Easter actually falls on in a given year. Two digs at the Christians are always better than one, and Ragnar's exploits I feel warrant it . All Hail, Ragnar Lodbrok !
Thattr af Ragnars Sonum
Ragnars Death Lay
Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes by, Hilda Ellis Davidson and Peter Fisher
The Anglo Saxon Chronicles, by Michael Swanton
A History of the Vikings, by Gwyn Jones
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !