Ragnar Lothbrok was a Danish Viking warlord and a renowned hero of Norse history who lived in 9th century. Both the name Ragnar and the surname/nickname Lothbrok had many variations in the accounts of the age. Sometimes his name could be written as Regnar or Regner whereas his surname could be written as Lodbrok or Lodbrog.
The word “Lothbrok” could be interpreted as “hairy breeches” in the Old Norse language and it was believed that this name was derived from his breeches which he wore while fighting against a serpent that breathes poison (or a dragon according to some stories).
Stories and historical accounts in medieval literature regarding Ragnar Lothbrok differ from each other in terms of details, however, the essential part about him being a fearless Viking warrior who raided France and England seems to be almost identical in every story.
In addition to that, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a chronological account of the age which is considered a highly reliable source, confirms the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, his deeds, which made a significant impact on the history of 9th century, and his sons carrying on his legacy.
According to the accounts of French historians, Ragnar ruled as a king in Denmark and he and his sons raided France ruthlessly. Another account links Ragnar to Reginheri (Reginherus), the Viking who attacked Paris, hanged 111 Christians and died of a disease shortly thereafter. Also, some stories claimed that Ragnar was the son of Danish King Sigurd Ring (or Hring)
Ragnar Lothbrok became famous as a warlord and made his fortune by raiding the lands and kingdoms in the west. He allegedly attacked people when they were in the church.
He was told to be a witty leader and ruin the well-organized and disciplined forces of France with his furious army sometimes using blitzkrieg (sudden charge) tactics to surprise the enemy. He captured Paris and made King Charles pay 7000 pounds as ransom on one occasion.
As a common point in many stories telling us the legend of the great Viking hero, Ragnar Lothbrok had three wives; Lagertha, the shield maiden, Aslaug, the warrior queen and Thora Town-hart (Borgarhjort), a noblewoman who was the daughter of the earl Herrauðr of Götaland. Ragnar’s wives gave him many sons; the most famous ones being Bjorn Ironside, Ubba (Ubbe/Hubba), Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ivar the Boneless (Inwaer).
Ragnar Lothbrok’s Death – How did Ragnar Lothbrok die?
There are two versions of the story about Ragnar Lothbrok’s death. One identifies him with Reginheri and suggests that he died of a deadly disease similar to diarrhea right after the ravaged Paris. The second version is a more believable one since it is told in the same way in most of the historical accounts, particularly, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
According to this version, on his way back home after he was forced out of Paris, Ragnar’s ship washed ashore on the coast of the Kingdom of Northumbria where he attacked and held to ransom numerous times.
Longing for getting revenge on Ragnar for a long time, King Aella of Northumbria captured and threw Ragnar into a pit of snakes, leaving him to a painful and gruesome death. Legend has it that, right before he died, Ragnar sang a Norse hymn and warned King Aella that his sons would come for vengeance. The Great Heathen Army (the Great Viking Army, a combined army of Vikings from Denmark and Sweden) led by Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons invaded England and killed King Aella in 866.
Ragnar’s legacy continued and his descendants actually kept on making an impact on the structure of the region even long after he was dead. Around two centuries after Ragnar’s passing, some of the Vikings, who descended from his sons, settled in the west coast of France turning this area into “the land of Northmen”, Normandy as we know it in the present day.