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Vikings: Was Ragnar Lothbrok a real King?

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Travis Fimmel played the role of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok in the first four seasons of Vikings. Season five and six have focussed on the ventures of his sons and their battle for the throne of Kattegat. Was Ragnar Lothbrok a real King?

Was Ragnar Lothbrok a real King?

Vikings is the epic historical drama series from The Tudors creator, Michael Hirst.

Hirst has blended historical fact with fiction to tell the story of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel) and his sons.

The show is inspired by the Norse sagas written about Ragnar and other medieval sources including Norse poetry, poems and myths.

There is no physical evidence to prove Ragnar Lothbrok existed in real life but he is has been portrayed throughout history as a legendary Norse hero, who led successful raids across Anglo-Saxon England and France.

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In Vikings, Ragnar is portrayed as a poor farmer who becomes notorious amongst the Vikings for leading successful raids into England.

He eventually became a Scandinavian King, holding the prestigious throne of Kattegat.

Ragnar is first mentioned a Scandinavian King in the Gesta Danorum, written by 12-century author Saxo Grammaticus.

The Gesta Danorum is a work of Danish history and one of the oldest known written documents about the history of Estonia and Latvia.

Ragnar is also described as a Viking king in Old Norse poetry, contemporary chronicles and Icelandic sagas such as The Tale of Ragnar’s sons, Heimskringla, Hervarar Saga, Sögubrot, – as a powerful Danish and Swedish King.

According to the sagas Ragnarssona þáttr and Sögubrot af nokkrum fornkonungum, Ragnar Lothbrok’s father was the legendary king of the Swedes, Sigurd Ring.

The Icelandic Sagas focus less on his position as a Scandinavian King and warrior and instead focus on his marriages.

Viking shield-maiden Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) was Ragnar’s first wife. They had two daughters together whose names were unrecorded and one son, Fridleif.

His second marriage was to Thora Borgarhjort (Eve Connolly), who in Vikings is portrayed as Hvitserk’s lover.

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With Thora, he had two sons – Erik Weatherhat, and Agnar.

After Thora’s death, he married Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), a woman living with a poor peasant couple in Norway.

Aslaug gave birth to their sons Ivar the Boneless (Alex Høgh Andersen), Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig), Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø), Ragnvald and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye (David Lindström).

Danish sources, particularly the Gesta Danorum refer to Ragnar’s position as King.

In the Gesta Danorum, following the death of his father Sigurd Ring, his cousin and his rival, Ragnar was elevated the position of the King of Denmark.

He then went on to defeat Swedish King Frö, who has killed Ragnar’s grandfather, alongside Lagertha.

According to the Gesta Danorum, his sons were installed as sub-kings in the territories they along with their father had conquered.

After many successful raids on England, Ragnar was defeated by superior English forces.

The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok, Tale of Ragnar’s Sons and the Heimskringla detail how King Aelle of Northumbria (Ivan Kaye) captured and executed Ragnar by throwing him into a snake pit.

In the TV series Vikings season, four Ragnar dies this exact way.

Following his death, his sons formed The Great Heathen Army and revenge their father’s death against King Aelle of Northumbria.

Ivar the Boneless was the leader of The Great Heathen Army from 865 to 870, followed by Halfdan Ragnarasson who led invasions into Wessex.

Vikings is streaming on Amazon Prime now

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