Ragnar Lodbrok

I have a special affection for Ragnar, but not for the reasons you’d think. I’m a volunteer curator at Geni.com, but several years ago I got thrown out of the site by another curator, Anette.

We have a Ragnar Lodbrog project at Geni, as you might expect. Anette started the project. A bunch of us worked on it. Until Anette got mad. Then she threw me out of the project, along with at least one other guy. Not satisfied, she also threw me out of Geni itself, then (so very strange) removed herself from the project.

Wow. Some strong feelings there.

That whole tantrum was my fault, I suppose. I said no real academic thinks Ragnar Lodbrok is real. It turned out Anette did think he was real and did think of herself as an academic. So.

Geni let me back into the site but not back into the project.

Coming back to reality, there are a few different choices for dealing with Ragnar academically.

The majority view of experts was articulated by Stewart Baldwin as far back as 1997. He argued for a Ragnar who is a composite of different figures from different stories. This is also the view expressed by Hilda Ellis Davidson.

My own view, for what it’s worth, is that the father of the leaders of the Great Heathen Army who invaded English in 865 is likely the core of Ragnar’s legend. His story grew because their stories grew. Everything, including his ancestry, is likely an accretion, although the name Ragnar might be authentic.

More Information

  • Stewart Baldwin, Was Ragnar Lodbrok Historical? (rev. 1997), at Scangen.se, visited Nov. 17, 2019. Ragnar is probably a composite of different characters.
  • Jackson Crawford, The Sons of Ragnar (Oct. 4, 2018), at YouTube.com, visited November 17, 2019. Already in the sagas Ragnar is the quintessential viking, more than he is any sort of historical personage.
  • Jackson Crawford, Who was Ragnar Lothbrok? (Dec. 28, 2016), at YouTube.com, visited November 17, 2019. He might be a historical figure if he was the Reginheri who raided in France in 845 but if so his story has been much expanded.
  • Hilda Ellis Davidson (editor), Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes (1980).
  • Arith Härger, The Truth About Ragnar Lothbrok (Nov. 14, 2018), at YouTube.com, visited Nov. 17, 2019. Ragnar is probably a composite of different characters.

Great Heathen Army

They found it. Or more accurately, they’ve decided what they found in 1979 really is it. I’m talking about a mass grave at Repton in Derbyshire. The experts have solved a dating problem. Now it seems very likely the bodies are from the Great Heathen Army.

Here’s the short version.

In 865 vikings from coming from the Continent joined forces to invade the kingdoms that comprised what is now England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle called them the Great Heathen Army. In legend, the army was led by the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, who had a grudge against King Aelle of Nlorthumbria because he had killed their father.

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the army wintered at Repton 873/4, and thereafter split up. The mass grave discovered there contains (probably) 264 bodies, of which 80% are males between the ages of 15 and 45. Many of them have signs of violent injury.

That looks like an army. There doesn’t seem to be any historical record that would explain the mass grave. The likeliest explanation is that members of the nearby military camp suffered some sort of epidemic.

More Information