In the television series, Ragnar has two wives, Lagertha and Aslaug. Lagertha is a fierce shield maiden and Aslaug is the princess daughter of the shield maiden Brynhildr. However, the history books place Ragnar Lodbrok with one more wife and several other mistresses. So, who were these women?
SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses History Channel’s Vikings. Please proceed with caution if you wish to avoid spoilers.
For fans of the TV show, Vikings, Lagertha is probably the most loved wife of Ragnar. She is an independent shield maiden who rose to fame along with Ragnar as they became the rulers in Kattegat. However, in the only Viking story that involves Lagertha, this wife was actually a noblewoman who was put into a life of prostitution before meeting Ragnar.
In the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum (also known as the History of the Danes or the Danish History Books) by Saxo Grammaticus, when Ragnar’s father, Sigurd, was killed by a man called Fro, the new king placed all the womenfolk into prostitution to deliver them into “public outrage.” Hearing of this, Ragnar was immediately drawn into conflict with Fro and many of the women in captivity dressed as men and joined Ragnar’s side, Lagertha among them. In fact, at one point after the battle, Ragnar deems the fight was won thanks to Lagertha and her warrior skills. If you ever wondered if shield maidens were real, this is a good indication that perhaps they were according to the Viking myths.
So, after Ragnar found out about Lagertha, he attempted to woo her. Lagertha, however, set a bear and a dog outside her home that Ragnar had to defeat before they could be wed. Needless to say, Ragnar was victorious. After they married, Lagertha gave birth to two daughters and a son before Ragnar decided he was tired of her and put her aside in order to pursue his next wife, Thora.
However, their story doesn’t end there. Later on, when Ragnar is involved in conflict over his land and title, he calls on Lagertha for her assistance. At this point, Lagertha is married to someone else. However, the Gesta Danorum notes that Lagertha helps Ragnar out because she is still in love with him. It is unclear whether Ragnar still has feelings for her or what her new husband thinks about Lagertha’s involvement with her ex-husband’s mess.
After she assists Ragnar and helps him to reclaim his title, Lagertha returns home and kills her current husband. She then decides to rule on his behalf, much as she does when she kills Kalf in the television series and takes over his earldom.
If you want to explore Lagertha’s story in greater detail, you can do so via my book, Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar.
After “changing his love” for Lagertha, Ragnar sets his sights on Thora, who is the daughter of King Herodd. Thora has been spoiled by her father and, as a result of this, has created a monster out of a heather snake.
Ragnar sets about working out how to kill this menace because King Herodd has offered the man who does this Thora’s hand in marriage. Many men are killed in the process and Ragnar learns much from them.
There are varying accounts of what Ragnar does but, basically, he dons some shaggy pants that he has tarred. These pants may have also been covered in sand or accompanied with a dress that he has wet and frozen for extra protection. Ragnar then sets about attacking the snake. Using not only these pants but also his shield as protection, he slays the snake and wins Thora’s hand.
When Thora’s father sees Ragnar’s attire, he gives him the nickname, Lodbrok, which pretty much translates to “hairy pants.”
After this point, Ragnar and Thora are married and they have two sons. Depending on the source, these boys names are Radbard and Dunwat or Eirik and Agnar.
After some amount of time, Thora dies and Ragnar is devastated. He takes to raiding to help ease the pain of losing Thora.
Fans of History Channel’s Vikings usually have a strong opinion of Aslaug thanks to the fact she ruined Lagertha and Ragnar’s marriage. In the sagas, however, Aslaug and Lagertha’s story never crosses. Ragnar comes across her after Thora dies.
Aslaug is the daughter of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and Brynhildr the shield maiden. However, thanks to a lot of conflict that results in the death of her parents, Aslaug ends up in the care of Heimir. He is concerned about her safety so hides her in a harp case and pretends he is a beggar in order to conceal their identities.
When Ragnar finds her, she is living under the care of Grima and Aki after they have killed Heimir, so he assumes Aslaug is a peasant. She does not correct this assumption.
Much like it occurred in the television series, Ragnar and Aslaug marry after Aslaug interprets his riddle and appears to him neither clad nor unclad, neither sated or hungry, and neither alone nor in company. They go on to have many sons, once again, just like in Vikings. However, unlike the series, Bjorn Ironside is actually her son and not Lagertha’s.
When Ragnar travels to England under the folly of becoming more famous than his sons, he is captured by King Aelle and thrown into a pit of snakes. Aslaug had seen that something horrible would befall Ragnar in England so had sent him off with a magical shirt that was blessed by the gods. So long as Ragnar wore this item, no harm would come to him. It didn’t take long for Aelle to work out the shirt was keeping Ragnar alive so ordered it removed. As soon as this was done, Ragnar died.
Aslaug’s story will be explored in more detail in my upcoming book, Vikings: The Truth about Aslaug and Ragnar.
THE OTHER WOMEN
While three women have been attributed to marrying Ragnar according to historical manuscripts, there are other women also that he was involved with.
Swanloga was a woman listed as his wife in the Gesta Danorum. However, it is possible this woman is Aslaug or Thora under a different name.
Ingibjorg was the daughter of King Eystein, a friend of Ragnar. When visiting Eystein, Ragnar becomes betrothed to Ingibjorg as those around him think Aslaug is below his standing. When Ragnar returns home, Aslaug confronts him about this betrothal and reveals her true identity to Ragnar.
Aslaug tells him if the child she is now carrying bears the symbol of a snake in his eye, then it will be proof that she really is the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhildr. When Sigurd is born, this turns out to be true and Ragnar breaks off his betrothal to Ingibjorg. This causes a rift between him and King Eystein.
Ubbe’s mother is an unnamed woman born to a man called Esbern. Ragnar dresses up as a woman in order to gain access to her chamber. This tryst results in the conception of Ubbe.
If you want to find out more about Ragnar and the women who loved him, why not check out my new book!
RAGNAR AND THE WOMEN WHO LOVED HIM
(Viking Secrets series)
Release date: October 12, 2017
Genre/s: Historical fiction, Vikings, Nonfiction
Kindle Price: $0.99
The famous Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok, accomplished many great deeds according to the Viking Sagas associated with him. However, for many, it is his personal life, and the women who loved him that garners the most interest. So, who were these women and why did they love him?
*Who the Vikings were
*Who Ragnar was
*How many wives he really had
*Who his other lovers and mistresses were
*Which of his famous sons were attributed to each woman
*Which historical texts tell Ragnar’s story
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