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Hvitserk Ragnarsson

October 22, 2023 6 min read

Hvitserk Ragnarsson | The son of the Viking Ragnar Lodbrok

Hvitserk Ragnarsson | The Son of Viking Ragnar Lodbrok

A great Viking warrior, Ragnar was a legendary Nordic king who left a significant mark on the history of this civilization. The only Vikings to have surpassed him are his brave and valiant sons. Although he is not the most well-known among them, Hvitserk Ragnarsson is one of his most loyal descendants.

Straddling the line between myth and reality, his story is as mysterious as his life. Although he is widely popularized by the hit series Vikings, his complex character has experienced many misadventures.

So, what are the origins of this mysterious character? What are the main events in which he participated? Without further ado, we tell you everything about the surprising legend of Hvitserk Ragnarsson.

The Mysterious Origins of Hvitserk Ragnarsson

Hvitserk Ragnarsson is a very controversial Viking character, whose story remains complex and very tragic. Indeed, the one we all know as the youngest son of Ragnar Lodbrok in the series Vikings, is a valiant Viking who is believed to have lived during the 9th century AD.

Hvitserk is said to be the third in his sibling order. He was born in the shadow of his two brothers, the most famous sons of Ragnar, Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless. However, it is alongside them that he takes command of the Great Pagan Viking Army and proves his worth as a Viking leader.

Moreover, the series Vikings depicts him more as a follower rather than a leader. In this regard, he is torn about which side to choose, inevitably leading him to a tragic end.

A character haunted by his terrible choices or a true Viking leader? Before discovering the story of Hvitserk Ragnarsson, we unveil the mysterious origins of this legendary figure in Viking civilization as recounted by the Norse sagas.

A Controversial Descent from Ragnar

There are numerous sagas and historical sources recounting the stories and exploits of Ragnar's children. Unlike their father, who remains a semi-legendary figure, the sons of Ragnar truly existed and left a significant mark on Viking civilization.

However, it is important to note that the stories attributed to them were compiled nearly 200 years after their death. As a result, the story we know of Hvitserk Ragnarsson comes from sagas written centuries after the end of the Viking Age.

That is why there are significant variations between the two main Nordic historical sources of that era:

  • The Danish History: In this saga, Ragnar is said to have had 4 wives. According to Saxo Grammaticus, the first is none other than the warrior Lagertha. Meanwhile, Hvitserk's mother would be his 3rd wife "Suanlogha," about whom very little is known, other than that she was a Nordic princess.
  • Ragnar with Hairy Breeches : this source tells a completely different version and stipulates that Ragnar only had 2 wives. The first is named "Thora", while his second wife is the famous Aslaug. It is with the latter that he will have his legendary sons Bjorn Ironside, Ivar the Boneless, and Hvitserk Ragnarsson.

Moreover, it is important to know that there is no precise list of Ragnar Lodbrok's sons. It differs depending on the source or the saga in question. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish between his real wives or even all his descendants.

This is why Hvitserk is confused with Halfdan Ragnarsson. So, are these characters really the same historical figure?

Hvitserk Ragnarsson or Halfdan Ragnarsson: What are the differences?

In reality, Halfdan Ragnarsson and Hvitserk Ragnarsson would be two sides of the same coin. They would be the same historical character presented under two different names. This explains why Hvitserk appears in the cult series Vikings, while Halfdan was excluded from it.

But how is such a thing possible? In fact, what partly explains this historical anecdote is that they do not come from the same historical sources. Although it is a single person, the two names have never appeared in the same historical source.

While Hvitserk is part of the Scandinavian sagas, Halfdan only appears in Anglo-Saxon references. Therefore, several authors consider them to represent a single character, the son of Ragnar Lodbrok.

If this theory is true, "Halfdan" was probably the name he was given at birth. "Hvitserk" would thus be a simple nickname he acquired later, as this Norse word means "bright or white shirt". The most likely reason is that he did not kill an enemy in battle early enough, hence this nickname that reminds of his purity.

The Story of the Viking King Ragnar's Son

According to the Norse saga "The Tale of Ragnar's Sons", it is customary in Scandinavian culture for a Viking with several wives to send his younger sons to make their own fortune. Therefore, only Eirek and Agnar, Ragnar's eldest sons with his first wife Thora, are the legitimate heirs to the throne and the wealth of their father.

Thus, Hvitserk Ragnarsson, accompanied by his other brothers, embarks on raids and expeditions around the world to make their glory. This is how Hvitserk's story as a merciless Viking warrior begins!

Hvitserk Ragnarsson, the Youngest Viking Raider

After long expeditions, Ragnar's sons decide to settle in a strategic region of the Netherlands to conduct their raids. Ivar leading them, they besiege all the surrounding regions and expand the territory of King Ragnar like never before.

This domination puts even more pressure on the King of Sweden, Eysteinn Beli, who sees in Ragnar's sons a real threat to his reign. That's why Eirek and Agnar want to take advantage of the situation to ask the king to swear allegiance to Ragnar.

However, he refuses to bend the knee and a terrible war breaks out between the two camps. When Eirek and Agnar lose their lives in their battle against Eysteinn Beli, the other sons of Ragnar lead an assault against Sweden from which they emerge victorious.

In this historic battle, Hvitserk Ragnarsson proves his worth as a warrior and worthy heir to Ragnar. This is how Hvitserk goes from a young raider without glory to a real Viking legend!

Hvitserk at the Head of the Great Viking Army

Hvitserk Ragnarsson | The Son of Viking Ragnar Lodbrok


Several years after this victory, Ragnar embarks on the crazy mission to conquer England. In a burst of arrogance or madness, he sets out to conquer the entire country with only two boats and less than a hundred men.

This expedition marks Ragnar's last battle, where he will perish at the hands of King Aella of Northumbria. The latter executes him by throwing him into a pit of snakes.

Upon hearing the terrible news, Ragnar's sons gather the largest Scandinavian army. This army is so large that the English give it the name "The Great Viking or Pagan Army."

Ivar, Bjorn, Ubbe, and Hvitserk Ragnarsson lead this army to avenge their late father's honor. They kill King Ælle of Northumbria by inflicting upon him the terrible Blood Eagle torture.

After this victory and numerous conquests of English territories, Ivar the Boneless decides to leave the Great Viking Army in 869 AD. It is at this moment that Hvitserk Ragnarsson becomes the leader of the largest Viking battalion in existence!

He leads his warriors to glorious victories, making him the first Nordic king of Northumbria!

Moreover, it is important to note that English sources mention Hvitserk under the name Halfdan. However, from the year 875 AD onwards, he is not mentioned in any of these sagas.

But, this is far from the end of the legend of Hvitserk Ragnarsson!

A Conqueror and Viking King

Hvitserk becomes a true synonym for glory, as he emerges victorious from all the wars and conquests he leads. Although he is no longer mentioned in English sources from the year 875 onwards, his traces can be found in Irish and Scandinavian sagas:

  • The King of Ireland: When Ivar leaves England, he goes to Ireland to become king. His reign is short-lived after dying under strange circumstances. Hvitserk Ragnarsson claims his brother's throne, after killing the illegitimate sovereign, and becomes the King of Ireland.
  • The King of Scandinavia: Other sources suggest that after numerous raids, Hvitserk and his brothers return to Scandinavia to bring back all these riches. He then becomes the King of Jutland and Wendland and is even said to have become the co-sovereign of Denmark.

Furthermore, another source suggests that he rather went to the Eastern countries, called "Garðaríki" in Old Norse. Thus, he would have plundered the region of Rusʹ of Kiev where he was captured and sentenced to death. After being asked how he wanted to be executed, he chose to be burned alive.


Hvitserk Ragnarsson, son of King Ragnar, is a character who has marked the entire Viking civilization. Although he has become very popular thanks to the Vikings series, his story contains a great deal of mystery. However, one thing is certain, he lived up to his father's glory and succeeded where Ragnar failed.

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