Ragnar Lodbrok

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Ragnar Lodbrok
Harley MS 2278, folio 39r excerpt.jpg
Lothbrocus and his sons Hyngwar and Ubba. 15th century miniature in Harley MS 2278, folio 39r.
Father Sigurd Hring[1]
Mother Álfhildr Gandálfsdóttir of Álfheimr[1]
Ragnar meets Kráka (Aslaug), as imagined by August Malmström.
19th century artist's impression of Ælla of Northumbria's execution of Ragnar Lodbrok

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old Norse: Ragnarr Loðbrók, "Ragnar Shaggy-Breeches") was a legendary[2][3] viking leader and hero of Old Norse poetry and sagas from the Viking age. According to this traditional literature, Ragnar distinguished himself by many raids against Francia and Anglo-Saxon England, during the 9th century.

According to traditional sources, Ragnar was:

According to the antiquarian Hilda Ellis Davidson, writing in 1980, "certain scholars in recent years have come to accept at least part of Ragnar's story as based on historical fact". [5] On the other hand, historian Katherine Holman, wrote in 2003 that "although his sons are historical figures, there is no evidence that Ragnar himself ever lived, and he seems to be an amalgam of several different historical figures and pure literary invention."[4]

Sources and historicity

The most significant medieval sources that mention Ragnar include:

As a figure of legend whose life only partially took place in times and places covered by written sources, the extent of Ragnar's historicity is not quite clear.

In her commentary on Saxo's Gesta Danorum, Davidson notes that Saxo's coverage of Ragnar's legend in book IX of the Gesta appears to be an attempt to consolidate many of the confusing and contradictory events and stories known to the chronicler into the reign of one king, Ragnar. That is why many acts ascribed to Ragnar in the Gesta can be associated, through other sources, with various figures, some of which are more historically certain. These candidates for the "historical Ragnar" include:

So far, attempts to firmly link the legendary Ragnar with one or several of those men have failed because of the difficulty in reconciling the various accounts and their chronology. Nonetheless, the core tradition of a Viking hero named Ragnar (or similar) who wreaked havoc in mid-ninth-century Europe and who fathered many famous sons is remarkably persistent, and some aspects of it are covered by relatively reliable sources, such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

In popular culture

Ragnar Lodbrok features prominently in:


  1. 1.0 1.1 Sögubrot 1200.
  2. Magnusson 2008, p. 106.
  3. Harrison 1993, p. 16.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Holman 2003, p. 220.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Davidson 1980, p. 277.


Saxo Grammaticus (1980) [1979]. Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis (ed.). Gesta Danorum. 1 & 2. Translated by Peter Fisher. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer. Chapter introduction commentaries. ISBN 978-0-85991-502-1. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Harrison, Mark (1993). "Viking Hersir 793-1066 AD". Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85532-318-6. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Holman, Katherine (2003). Historical dictionary of the Vikings. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-4859-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Magnusson, Magnus (2008). The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-340-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum. c. 1200.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

Legendary titles
Preceded by
Sigurd Ring
King of Sweden
in West Norse tradition
Succeeded by
Eysteinn Beli
Preceded by
Harald Greyhide
King of Denmark Succeeded by
Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye
Preceded by
Siwardus Ring
King of Denmark
in Gesta Danorum
Succeeded by
Siwardus III