Ragnar "Lodbrok" Sigurdsson

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Ragnar "Lodbrok" Sigurdsson, Konge af Danmark og Norge

Also Known As: "Regner", "Lodbrog", ""Hairy-Breeks"", "Sigurdsson", "Lodbrok", "Loðbrók", "Ragnar "Lodbrok" /Sigurdsson/", "/Lodbrok/", "King of Dacia (Denmark)", "'Lodbrok'", "Lodbrok (Hairy Breeches)", "Hairy-Breeks", ""Lodbrok"", "King of Denmark", "Ragnar "Hairy-Breeks"", "King of Sweden", "Loth..."
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden
Death: Died in Snake Pit, Northumberland, , England
Place of Burial: Unknown
Immediate Family:

Son of Sigurdr Hring Randversson R. suecia y Dinamarca; Sigurd "Ring" Randversson, Danish king; Álfhildr Gandálfsdóttir and Alfhild Gondolsdottir
Husband of --- --- ---, Unnamed mothers of Ragnar's children; Þóra/Thora "borgarhjörtr" Herraudsdatter; Lagertha / Hlaðgerðr and Aslaug Kraka Sigurdsdatter
Father of Åløf Ragnarsdóttir; Sigurdr orms-i-auga R.de Dinamarca; Eric Ragnarsson; Agnar Ragnarsson; Ragnhild Ragnarsdottir and 11 others
Brother of Sigurd Sigurdsson Ringslinger; Halfdan Sigurdsson; Geva Sigurdsdotter Ringslinger; Ring and Unknown Daughter

Occupation: Pirate, raider and legendary Danish King, Konge/viking, Vikingakung, konge i Sverige og Danmark, King of Denmark and Sweden, Roi des Danois et de Lethra, King of Denmark/Sweden, Vikingkonge etter sagaen, død etter 845, konge, Roi, de Lethra, Konge, Jarl
Managed by: Anette Guldager Boye
Last Updated:

About Ragnar "Lodbrok" Sigurdsson

The legendary Ragnar Sigurdson Lothbrok is a mythical viking primarily depicted by the two sagas Ragnar’s Tale and The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons.

Ragnar is depicted as a viking king of Denmark and Sweden who marries at a young age, is widowed and then remarries, having at least two sons with his first wife and five with his second. Book IX of Gesta Danorum describes an earlier marriage than the sagas (giving Ragnar three wives in total with another son and two unnamed daughters) as well as Ragnar having children with women other than his wives.

The first half of the sagas are situated in Scandinavia and deal firstly with Ragnar’s marriages and the deaths of his older sons in battle, including the associated revenge of those deaths. As Scandinavia in this time period was not literate there are no historical records to either support or negate these stories.

The later parts of the sagas and Saxo’s work detail Ragnar’s exploits raiding England and mainland Europe, then Ragnar’s death in England and his sons' revenge attack against King Ælla of Northumbria (presented as the initial objective of the invasion of England in 865 by the Great Heathen Army). Ragnar’s sons by his second marriage all go on to be famous vikings themselves and in some cases kings, dominating Scandinavia and impacting on European affairs for the remainder of the century, as well as spawning several royal dynasties.

With the second portion of the stories taking place in Christian Europe it is possible to correlate some of the facts of the stories with written accounts of the time, notably the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Evidence from the Chronicle pertains more to Ragnar’s sons than Ragnar himself and are circumstantial in nature so that they cannot be taken as a verification that the sagas are factual records of historical events, rather only that portions of the sagas’ stories seem to reflect historical events.

Data Justifications and Merging Guide

Name

The early sources do not use the names Ragnar and Lothbrok in combination to refer to a single person. The first recorded instance of the names being so used is Ari Þorgilsson’s reference to Ívarr Ragnarssonr loðbrókar in his Íslendingabók, written between 1120 and 1133. As a common name used in popular culture Ragnar Lodbrok Sigurdson is used for this profile but historically there is a strong argument that Ragnar and Lodbrok were husband and wife. Indeed, if the origins of the legendary Ragnar lie with the Danish viking Reginheri there is no particular reason to accept as accurate the patronym Sigurdson.

Lothbrok

The sagas and Saxo relate Ragnar’s famous nickname “Hairy-Breeches” to his exploits in slaying a giant serpent(s) to rescue his first (or second) wife. However, in their earliest forms the sagas do not use the names Ragnar and Lothbrok in combination, rather his sons are referred to in different portions of the saga as the “sons of Ragnar” and “the sons of Lothbrok”. Taken in combination, the form of spelling used for Lothbrok indicates that it is a feminine name. This has been taken by academics to suggest that Loðbróka was actually Ragnar’s wife and that the two names were conflated in later versions of the story.

Death Date

While later texts describe the Great Heathen Army as a revenge attack, which would imply it taking place soon after Ragnar’s death, the contemporary chronicles do not make this connection. As a latest date this would set Ragnar’s death to before 865.

Ragnar is often linked historically to Reginherus / Reginheri, a jarl at the court of Danish king Horik I who raided Paris in 845 and reportedly died not long after. As the strongest candidate for a historical Ragnar, this has been used as the lower limit for an estimated date range.

Death Location

The sagas and early English sources place Ragnar’s death in Northumbria, specifically in a snakepit. Later English sources relocate the murder to East Anglia with the murderer variously being King Edmund or a man named Berne. Reginheri death location is not specifically detailed but contemporary Frankish reports indicate that he died shortly after returning to the court of King Horik, suggesting a death location in Denmark.

Birth Date

With a death between 845 and 865 and at least two marriages and seven children to account for (three and nine respectively, according to Saxo) a birth date before 795 seems to be the strongest statement that can be made with a lower limit of 765, making him 80 years old as an absolute maximum if he died in 845.

Birth Location

Sweden or Denmark are the two logical locations for his birth, although technically neither nation existed in the 700s.

The legendary king Ragnar of the sagas and other writings seems most closely associated with Denmark. Reginheri as a Danish viking could logically be assumed to have been born in Denmark (though by no means is this proof).

Wives

The sagas are traditionally interpreted as naming two wives, Thora and Aslaug.

Saxo names three: Lagertha, then Thora, then Aslaug, and also names Swanloga as a mother of three of Ragnar’s sons without indicating that she was a wife.

Further, Saxo also records Ragnar having at least one child (Ubbe) with the daughter of Esbern / Hesbernus.

Daughters

Annals of St Neots, an eleventh- or twelfth-century source, describe Ubba and Ivar as sons of Ragnar with three unnamed sisters.

Saxo states that with his first wife, Lagertha, Ragnar has a son and two unnamed daughters.

The Icelandic Landnámabók records an original settler as claiming to be the son of "Åløf, a daughter of Ragnar Lodbrog" which seemingly confirms the account of Saxo."

All unnamed profiles purporting to be of Ragnar’s daughters have been merged into one : “Unconfirmed daughter(s) of Ragnar Lothbrok” with further details in the About section of that profile.

Sons

Inwære, Healfdene, Hubba, Berno and Sigifridus (Ivar, Halfdan, Ubba, Bjorn and Sigfrid) are historical vikings who can be historically argued to be sons of Reginheri and Loðbróka

The saga Ragnar’s Tale names Hvítserkr and Rögnvaldr as his sons but none of the contemporary sources mention them as such. It has been theorized that historically Rögnvaldr most likely was actually a grandson of the historical Ivar. Saxo names Ragnald, Hwitserk, and Erik as Ragnar’s sons by a woman named Swanloga. Whether Ragnald here represents the Rögnvaldr in the saga is unclear as the mothers seem to be different women, Saxo’s Erik may be the saga’s Eric / Eirik and certainly Hwitserk would seem to equate with Hvítserkr, suggesting that Swanloga might be another name for Aslaug.

The saga Ragnar’s Tale also names two other sons to Ragnar with his first wife Thora, Eric and Agnar. Saxo names these sons of Thora as Radbard and Dunwat. Contemporary sources do not mention these men, which could purely relate to the fact that their exploits, as described in the sagas, are restricted to Scandinavia.

Beyond these nine sons later sources associate various vikings with Ragnar, either by describing them as his sons or linking them as brothers to one or another of the named sons. Profiles for these sons have been merged into one : “Unconfirmed son(s) of Ragnar Lothbrok” with further details in the About section of that profile.

Father

The sagas and contemporary sources name Ragnar's father as Sigurd Hring

Mother

The Skjöldunga saga and the Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum both name Alfhild, the daughter of king Alf of Alfheim, as Ragnar's mother

Siblings

No source names brothers or sisters for Ragnar.

Further Reading

Roskilde Krøniken http://heimskringla.no/wiki/Roskildekr%C3%B8niken

Den originale saga om Ragnar Lodbrog ligger i København. Det er ikke klart hvornår i middelalderen den er fra.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

https://books.google.dk/books?id=R78FAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA464&lpg=PA464&dq=regnar+lodbrogs+saga&source=bl&ots=LgZysoUrLk&sig=OLR_gzH8tDRrYyE4LJSdYEth2bc&hl=da&sa=X&ei=rzPaVOOtCoGfPP3-gdAP&ved=0CFQQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=regnar%20lodbrogs%20saga&f=false -------------------- http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok

http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/vikings_9.html

https://snl.no/Ragnar_Lodbrok

http://www.turbidwater.com/portfolio/downloads/RagnarsSaga.pdf

http://runeberg.org/nfcb/0475.html -------------------- Ragnar Lothbroc, King of Norway, who was baptized in 826 A.D. and took the Christian name of Raginfrid, died about 865 A.D. being put to a cruel death in a snake pit by Ella, King of Northumberland. His sons were Sigfrid; Biorn Jarnsithe, Ivar, Halvdan Ylving, Ubbe and the next to the youngest son, our ancestor Gormeric, Prince of Denmark.

"Origin and History of the Montgomerys" by B.G. Montgomery of Sweden.

-------------------- Was RAGNAR LOTHBROK historical?

One of the things that makes this a difficult question to discuss is that the question "Was Ragnar Lothbrok historical?" is itself somewhat ambiguous. Thus, before the question can be discussed, the question has to first be more clearly defined. To mention two opposite extremes, a skeptic could ask whether or not everything which is said about the character of Ragnar Lothbrok is historically accurate, observe that the answer is certainly "no", and then claim victory. At the other extreme, a proponent of a historical Ragnar Lothbrok could ask if a Viking by the name of Ragnar ever existed, point out that a Viking having the correct name ("Reginheri") appears in the Frankish annals, and claim that Ragnar Lothbrok was therefore historical. Neither of these two extremes is acceptable in a serious argument on the subject, so I will discuss the subject from the following middle ground. The criteria which I will use are that in order for Ragnar Lothbrok to be considered as historical, there should be a historically documented person of that name who actually performed a significant number of the deeds attributed to the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok. I think these are reasonable criteria, and the remainder of this discussion is based on these principles. Now, to answer the question: No, Ragnar Lothbrok does not appear to be a historical figure, based on the above criteria. I will give some comments as to why I have this opinion, and then mention some reading material for those who want more.

RAGNAR

The contemporary historical records of the ninth century (when Ragnar Lothbrok supposedly lived) show only one Viking of the correct name, a Viking named "Reginheri" (a Latin form equivalent to the name Ragnar) in France WHO DIED IN THE YEAR 845, according to the contemporary Frankish annals. The emphasized words in the previous sentence are often conveninetly overlooked by those who wish to use Reginheri as a historical prototype for Ragnar Lothbrok. Since Reginheri died in France in the year 845, he cannot have participated in the later events which form the principal part of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok's exploits. In addition, there is no good evidence that Reginheri was the father of any of the individuals who later came to be regarded as sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. Thus, Reginheri fails to satisfy the criterion mentioned above. No other historical Norseman named Ragnar is known for the appropriate time period.

LOTHBROK

No contemporary record gives this name, and it is significant that when the name finally does make it appearance in the records 200 years later, it stands alone. (Ari, writing in the twelfth century, was the first known writer to make Ragnar and Lothbrok the same person.) The name first appears (as "Lothbroc") in "Gesta Normannorum Ducum", by William of Jumieges, writing about 1070, in which Lothbroc is called he father of Bjorn Ironside. (A Viking named Bjorn is verified by the contemporary chronicles, but without the nickname.) Adam of Bremen, writing soon afterward, called Ivar the son of "Lodparchus". Besides the fact that this Lothbrok is not attested in any of the contemporary sources, there seems to be another problem, and that is that the name ("Lothbroka") appears to be a women's name. See the article on Ragnars saga" by Rory McTurk in "Medieval Scandinavia: an encyclopedia" (New York and London, 1993). If this argument based on philology is correct, then this Lothbrok(a), if historical at all, would be a women, and clearly not identical with the legendary Ragnarr Lothbrok. (I do not have the background in linguistics to comment further on this gender argument.)

RAGNALL

The "Fragmentary Annals of Ireland" (edited and translated by Joan N. Radner, Dublin, 1978, formerly called "Three Fragments") has an item of interest which has frequently been pointed out as possibly relating to the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok. In it, a certain Ragnall (Rognvald) son of Alpdan (Halfdan), king of Norway, is mentioned, and his exploits prior to the fall of York to the Danes are given, in a context in which it is at least arguable that Ragnall and Ragnar Lothbrok were the same person. There are two problem with this interpretation. First, Ragnar and Ragnall are not the same name, even though they look similar. Second, and more important, the Fragmentary Annals are themselves not a contemporary source, and there is good reason to be suspicious about them. However, even if we were to allow that the events given there are historical (a concession which many historians would be unwilling to make), and then concede further that these events form the basis of the Ragnar legend, then we would still have that the person on whom the legend was based did not have the right name.

Could RAGNALL and LOTHBROK have been the same person?

We have already seen that the only historically attested Ragnar (Reginheri) cannot reasonably be regarded as a historical prototype for Ragnar Lothbrok. Thus, it appears that the best attempt to argue for a historical Ragnar Lothbrok is to propose (as has been done on numerous occasions) that Ragnall and Lothbrok were both the same person, and then assume that the similar (but different) names Ragnall and Ragnar were accidently confused. Thus, let us see what assumptions are needed in order to assume that Ragnall and Lothbrok were the same person, assuming that they existed at all. In order for this to be the case, we must make the following assumptions:

(1) We must assume that Adam of Bremen (late eleventh century) was correct in giving "Lodparchus" (i.e., Lothbrok) as the name of the father of Ivar (late ninth century).

(2) We must assume that the "Coghad Gaedhel re Gallaibh" ("The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill", ed. by Todd, London, 1867), a twelfth century Irish source, is correct in stating that Halfdan of Dublin (killed in Ireland in 877, according to the Annals of Ulster) was the son of a certain Ragnall, and that this Ragnall was the same as the Ragnall who appears in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland.

(3) We must assume that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is correct in stating that a brother (unnamed, but called Ubbe in later sources) of Halfdan and Ivar was killed in England in 878, despite the contradictory testimony of Aethelweard which gives a very different reading for the same event (see 4).

(4) We must assume that the chronicle of Aethelweard is wrong in stating that Halfdan brother of Ivar was killed in England in 878, for otherwise that would prove that Halfdan of Dublin (d. 877 in Ireland) was a different person from Halfdan brother of Ivar.

(5) In addition to assuming that Halfdan of Dublin was the same person as Halfdan brother of Ivar, we must also assume that this Ivar was the same person as Adam of Bremen's Ivar, keeping in mind that Aethelweard's chronicle, if correct, would imply the existence of two Ivars in the British isles at this time.

(6) We must assume that the philological argument making Lothbrok(a) a feminine name is incorrect.

(7) If Ari, the earliest author to mention Ragnar Lothbrok, is to be considered a reliable source on this matter, then we must also assume that Halfdan of Dublin was the same person as the Halfdan brother of Sigifrid who appears in the Annals of Fulda for the year 873, despite the severe chronological problems which that would cause with Ari's genealogies.

Of the above assumptions, numbers (1) through (6) are crucial if one wishes to argue that Ragnall and Lothbrok were the same, and (7) is needed also if it is to be assumed that the information given by Ari is accurate. Given the noncontemporary nature of the first two items, along with the contradictions present some of the others, there is a very small chance that all six of the crucial assumptions are correct. However, if any one of the first six items is false, then the case for Ragnall being the same as Lothbrok collapses, and we must conclude that the "Ragnall Lothbrok" attempt for a historical Ragnar Lothbrok is unsatisfactory. [Note: See R. W. McTurk's article "Ragnarr Lothbrok in the Irish Annals?" (Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, 1976, pp. 93-123), where a different, but much more rigid, list of the same type is given.]

CONCLUSIONS

Since all of the above attempts to find a historical Ragnar Lothbrok fail to satisfy the mentioned criteria, Lothbrok and Ragnall come from noncontemporary sources which are themselves open to suspicion, and the historical records show nobody else (as far as I know) who could be plausibly identified with Ragnar Lothbrok, it must be concluded that Ragnar Lothbrok is not historical according to the terms described above. In fact, if there is any historical basis to Ragnar Lothbrok legend, it is quite likely that Ragnar Lothbrok is the result of combining two or more distinct individuals into a single character having the attributes of both, in much the same way as Ragnar Lothbrok's legendary "father" Sigurd Ring is in fact a composite of two different men who fought against each other for the Danish throne in the year 814, Sigifridus ("Sigurd") and Anulo (of which "Ring" is a translation of Latin "Annulus"). However, such composite characters cannot be considered as historical, and there is no evidence which comes close to being contemporary which shows that either Lothbrok or Ragnall existed.

FURTHER READING

The most ambitious attempt to portray Ragnar Lothbrok as a historical figure is "Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850-880" by Alfred P. Smyth (Oxford University Press, 1977). For a very critical examination of Smyth's views, see "High-kings, Vikings and other kings", by Donnchadh O' Corrain, in Irish Historical Review, vol 21 (1979), pp. 283-323 (very highly recommended). Both of these sources cite numerous other relevant sources for those who are interested in further details.

[Note: The usual apologies if my transliterations from the Old Norse alphabet into the alphabet available to me is a bit sloppy.]

Stewart Baldwin -------------------- Was RAGNAR LOTHBROK historical?

One of the things that makes this a difficult question to discuss is that the question "Was Ragnar Lothbrok historical?" is itself somewhat ambiguous. Thus, before the question can be discussed, the question has to first be more clearly defined. To mention two opposite extremes, a skeptic could ask whether or not everything which is said about the character of Ragnar Lothbrok is historically accurate, observe that the answer is certainly "no", and then claim victory. At the other extreme, a proponent of a historical Ragnar Lothbrok could ask if a Viking by the name of Ragnar ever existed, point out that a Viking having the correct name ("Reginheri") appears in the Frankish annals, and claim that Ragnar Lothbrok was therefore historical. Neither of these two extremes is acceptable in a serious argument on the subject, so I will discuss the subject from the following middle ground. The criteria which I will use are that in order for Ragnar Lothbrok to be considered as historical, there should be a historically documented person of that name who actually performed a significant number of the deeds attributed to the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok. I think these are reasonable criteria, and the remainder of this discussion is based on these principles. Now, to answer the question: No, Ragnar Lothbrok does not appear to be a historical figure, based on the above criteria. I will give some comments as to why I have this opinion, and then mention some reading material for those who want more.

RAGNAR

The contemporary historical records of the ninth century (when Ragnar Lothbrok supposedly lived) show only one Viking of the correct name, a Viking named "Reginheri" (a Latin form equivalent to the name Ragnar) in France WHO DIED IN THE YEAR 845, according to the contemporary Frankish annals. The emphasized words in the previous sentence are often conveninetly overlooked by those who wish to use Reginheri as a historical prototype for Ragnar Lothbrok. Since Reginheri died in France in the year 845, he cannot have participated in the later events which form the principal part of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok's exploits. In addition, there is no good evidence that Reginheri was the father of any of the individuals who later came to be regarded as sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. Thus, Reginheri fails to satisfy the criterion mentioned above. No other historical Norseman named Ragnar is known for the appropriate time period.

LOTHBROK

No contemporary record gives this name, and it is significant that when the name finally does make it appearance in the records 200 years later, it stands alone. (Ari, writing in the twelfth century, was the first known writer to make Ragnar and Lothbrok the same person.) The name first appears (as "Lothbroc") in "Gesta Normannorum Ducum", by William of Jumieges, writing about 1070, in which Lothbroc is called he father of Bjorn Ironside. (A Viking named Bjorn is verified by the contemporary chronicles, but without the nickname.) Adam of Bremen, writing soon afterward, called Ivar the son of "Lodparchus". Besides the fact that this Lothbrok is not attested in any of the contemporary sources, there seems to be another problem, and that is that the name ("Lothbroka") appears to be a women's name. See the article on Ragnars saga" by Rory McTurk in "Medieval Scandinavia: an encyclopedia" (New York and London, 1993). If this argument based on philology is correct, then this Lothbrok(a), if historical at all, would be a women, and clearly not identical with the legendary Ragnarr Lothbrok. (I do not have the background in linguistics to comment further on this gender argument.)

RAGNALL

The "Fragmentary Annals of Ireland" (edited and translated by Joan N. Radner, Dublin, 1978, formerly called "Three Fragments") has an item of interest which has frequently been pointed out as possibly relating to the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok. In it, a certain Ragnall (Rognvald) son of Alpdan (Halfdan), king of Norway, is mentioned, and his exploits prior to the fall of York to the Danes are given, in a context in which it is at least arguable that Ragnall and Ragnar Lothbrok were the same person. There are two problem with this interpretation. First, Ragnar and Ragnall are not the same name, even though they look similar. Second, and more important, the Fragmentary Annals are themselves not a contemporary source, and there is good reason to be suspicious about them. However, even if we were to allow that the events given there are historical (a concession which many historians would be unwilling to make), and then concede further that these events form the basis of the Ragnar legend, then we would still have that the person on whom the legend was based did not have the right name.

Could RAGNALL and LOTHBROK have been the same person?

We have already seen that the only historically attested Ragnar (Reginheri) cannot reasonably be regarded as a historical prototype for Ragnar Lothbrok. Thus, it appears that the best attempt to argue for a historical Ragnar Lothbrok is to propose (as has been done on numerous occasions) that Ragnall and Lothbrok were both the same person, and then assume that the similar (but different) names Ragnall and Ragnar were accidently confused. Thus, let us see what assumptions are needed in order to assume that Ragnall and Lothbrok were the same person, assuming that they existed at all. In order for this to be the case, we must make the following assumptions:

(1) We must assume that Adam of Bremen (late eleventh century) was correct in giving "Lodparchus" (i.e., Lothbrok) as the name of the father of Ivar (late ninth century).

(2) We must assume that the "Coghad Gaedhel re Gallaibh" ("The War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill", ed. by Todd, London, 1867), a twelfth century Irish source, is correct in stating that Halfdan of Dublin (killed in Ireland in 877, according to the Annals of Ulster) was the son of a certain Ragnall, and that this Ragnall was the same as the Ragnall who appears in the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland.

(3) We must assume that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is correct in stating that a brother (unnamed, but called Ubbe in later sources) of Halfdan and Ivar was killed in England in 878, despite the contradictory testimony of Aethelweard which gives a very different reading for the same event (see 4).

(4) We must assume that the chronicle of Aethelweard is wrong in stating that Halfdan brother of Ivar was killed in England in 878, for otherwise that would prove that Halfdan of Dublin (d. 877 in Ireland) was a different person from Halfdan brother of Ivar.

(5) In addition to assuming that Halfdan of Dublin was the same person as Halfdan brother of Ivar, we must also assume that this Ivar was the same person as Adam of Bremen's Ivar, keeping in mind that Aethelweard's chronicle, if correct, would imply the existence of two Ivars in the British isles at this time.

(6) We must assume that the philological argument making Lothbrok(a) a feminine name is incorrect.

(7) If Ari, the earliest author to mention Ragnar Lothbrok, is to be considered a reliable source on this matter, then we must also assume that Halfdan of Dublin was the same person as the Halfdan brother of Sigifrid who appears in the Annals of Fulda for the year 873, despite the severe chronological problems which that would cause with Ari's genealogies.

Of the above assumptions, numbers (1) through (6) are crucial if one wishes to argue that Ragnall and Lothbrok were the same, and (7) is needed also if it is to be assumed that the information given by Ari is accurate. Given the noncontemporary nature of the first two items, along with the contradictions present some of the others, there is a very small chance that all six of the crucial assumptions are correct. However, if any one of the first six items is false, then the case for Ragnall being the same as Lothbrok collapses, and we must conclude that the "Ragnall Lothbrok" attempt for a historical Ragnar Lothbrok is unsatisfactory. [Note: See R. W. McTurk's article "Ragnarr Lothbrok in the Irish Annals?" (Proceedings of the Seventh Viking Congress, 1976, pp. 93-123), where a different, but much more rigid, list of the same type is given.]

CONCLUSIONS

Since all of the above attempts to find a historical Ragnar Lothbrok fail to satisfy the mentioned criteria, Lothbrok and Ragnall come from noncontemporary sources which are themselves open to suspicion, and the historical records show nobody else (as far as I know) who could be plausibly identified with Ragnar Lothbrok, it must be concluded that Ragnar Lothbrok is not historical according to the terms described above. In fact, if there is any historical basis to Ragnar Lothbrok legend, it is quite likely that Ragnar Lothbrok is the result of combining two or more distinct individuals into a single character having the attributes of both, in much the same way as Ragnar Lothbrok's legendary "father" Sigurd Ring is in fact a composite of two different men who fought against each other for the Danish throne in the year 814, Sigifridus ("Sigurd") and Anulo (of which "Ring" is a translation of Latin "Annulus"). However, such composite characters cannot be considered as historical, and there is no evidence which comes close to being contemporary which shows that either Lothbrok or Ragnall existed.

FURTHER READING

The most ambitious attempt to portray Ragnar Lothbrok as a historical figure is "Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850-880" by Alfred P. Smyth (Oxford University Press, 1977). For a very critical examination of Smyth's views, see "High-kings, Vikings and other kings", by Donnchadh O' Corrain, in Irish Historical Review, vol 21 (1979), pp. 283-323 (very highly recommended). Both of these sources cite numerous other relevant sources for those who are interested in further details.

[Note: The usual apologies if my transliterations from the Old Norse alphabet into the alphabet available to me is a bit sloppy.]

Stewart Baldwin

view all 53

Ragnar "Lodbrok" Sigurdsson's Timeline

765
765
Uppsala, Sweden
765
Uppsala Svitjod
765
Uppsala Sweden
773
773
Age 8
775
775
Age 10
Möre, Romsdal, Norway
777
777
Age 12
Denmark
784
784
Age 19
786
786
Age 21
Danmark
786
Age 21
Denmark
786
Age 21
Denmark