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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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. She is mentioned as his wife,j when she dies of a plag.
Further, Saxo also records Ragnar having at least one child (Ubbe) with the daughter of Esbern / Hesbernus.
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.
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.
The sagas and contemporary sources name Ragnar's father as Sigurd Hring
The Skjöldunga saga and the Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum both name Alfhild, the daughter of king Alf of Alfheim, as Ragnar's mother
No source names brothers or sisters for Ragnar.
- Encyclopedia Britannica
- Book IX of Gesta Danorum an English translation of the work of Saxo Grammaticus.
- Ragnar's Saga - original and an English translation.
- Ragnarsson Saga - original and an English translation.
- Baldwin - on the likelihood that Ragnar was a historical person.
- McTurk - on the paternity of historical vikings Ivar and Hubba and the possible feminine source of Lodbrok.
Ragnar "Lodbrok" Sigurdsson's Timeline
Hord, Jutland, Denmark