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Ivar Ragnarsson

October 22, 2023 8 min read

Ivar Ragnarsson | The great Viking chief of strategy!

Ivar Ragnarsson | The Great Viking Leader of Strategy!

The Viking Civilization has many legendary figures who, through their exploits, have forged the history of this people. There are plenty of examples, but one character in particular stands out from the common Vikings: Ivar Ragnarsson, known as the Boneless.

Ivar Ragnarsson is undoubtedly the greatest Viking war chief in all of Scandinavian history. Both feared and respected by all, he commands the largest armies alongside his legendary father Ragnar Lodbrok. He will lead the Viking kingdom to its greatest victories thanks to his intelligence and unique strategic talent.

The Story of Ivar is both surprising and intriguing. This illustrious Viking will overcome all challenges to gain the glory he deserves. In this article, we reveal everything you need to know about the history and origins of Ivar Ragnarsson, known as the Boneless.

Ivar the Boneless: The Story of the Greatest Viking Chief

Ivar the Boneless: The Story of the Greatest Viking Chief

Ivar Ragnarsson is presumably born towards the end of the 8th century, in the year 794 AD. According to legends and sagas, he is the first son of Ragnar Lodbrok, the famous Viking king. This character has always aroused interest, as he has defied all laws since his birth.

Indeed, according to some, he was born with a disease that made him disabled. While for others, he has unique physical abilities. Nevertheless, everyone agrees on Ivar's unparalleled intelligence, and his gift for war strategy. This earned him the title of the greatest Viking war chief over the years.

Like Ragnar, the historical sources on Ivar Ragnarsson are controversial. Sometimes described as a fictional legendary figure, sometimes painted as the greatest leader of Viking troops that ever lived. To understand the complexity of Ivar the Boneless's story, one must go back to the very beginning of his journey.

The Origins of Ivar Ragnarsson, known as the Boneless

Ivar's online store


Ivar Ragnarsson is, in many accounts, described as the eldest son of Ragnar Lodbrok. Contrary to what the "Vikings" series claims, Björn I is the younger brother of Ivar the Boneless, both born to the same mother. Indeed, all the sagas agree that Björn and Ivar are the sons of Ragnar with Aslaug or Thora.

Unlike Björn Ironside who is renowned for being an unparalleled warrior, it is Ivar, as a war chief, who leads Ragnar's troops to victory. Unlike his brothers whose sole goal was to plunder the treasures and riches of countries, Ivar wanted to conquer new lands. This deep desire for conquest allowed him to take control of England and numerous other lands.

Being endowed with both incredible intelligence and a keen sense of analyzing war tactics, only strengthened the reputation of Ivar the Boneless. Despite that, in some stories, Ivar could not participate in combat due to a disability. He was a great Viking conqueror, without ever earning the title of warrior.

Origin of the Nickname "the Boneless"

The epithet of Ivar Ragnarsson "the Boneless" has always intrigued lovers of Viking mythology. There are numerous theories to explain this nickname:

1 — Ivar Could Not Procreate

In many stories and sagas, there is never any mention of Ivar's marriage or of him having children. This is why some historians assume that the nickname "the Boneless" or Boneless in English means "impotent."

However, this theory is the least retained of all. Indeed, other historical sources claim that Ivar settled in Ireland and took the name Ímar, the king of Dublin. He founded the Dynasty of "Uí Ímair" which means in Old Norse "the sons of Ivar."

2 — He Had a Unique Combat Skill

The second theory is that Ivar Ragnarsson was a warrior with a unique talent: he had great physical flexibility in combat. Indeed, a 12th-century poem describes him as a boneless fighter, as flexible as a serpent. This ability would have made him a Viking warrior as formidable as his younger brother Björn Ironside.

It is for this same reason that some sources describe Ivar as a Berserker, hence his famous title "Berserker King." A Berserker, or wild warrior, can enter a trance state of madness to invoke his animal spirit. He becomes almost unstoppable on the battlefield.

3 — Ivar Had a Disability

This last meaning of the nickname Ivar the Boneless is the most widespread, and the most accepted by historians. According to numerous sources, Ivar could not walk and limped from a young age. A multitude of theories have emerged, but only two are essentially retained:

  • The most modern theory stipulates that Ivar suffered from a pathology called "osteogenesis imperfecta." This condition means that the bones do not solidify in childhood and break easily;
  • The second theory is that Ivar was cursed due to the impatience of Ragnar Lodbrok. Indeed, this curse is mentioned in the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok.

According to the historical saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, Ivar's mother is none other than "Aslaug" or "Kráka." She would be the daughter of a legendary Viking hero, and a Valkyrie goddess. Aslaug was a völva, a woman who had the unique power of clairvoyance and the ability to predict the future.

After his union with Ragnar, he left for an expedition that would last more than 2 years. Upon his return, Aslaug warns Ragnar that they must wait 3 days before having intercourse, at the risk that their child would be cursed. Ragnar did not bother to listen to her.

Thus, a curse fell upon their first son, Ivar Ragnarsson, who was born with fragile legs.

Ivar The Boneless, a Warrior with Surprising Powers


In most of the accounts of the saga Ragnarr in Hairy Breeches and the Tale of the Sons of Ragnarr, Ivar the Boneless is described as a cripple who is carried on a shield by his men. However, this did not prevent him from participating in battles with a bow.

Indeed, according to these sagas, Ivar Ragnarsson had an extraordinarily strong upper body. This allowed him to wield a bow better than anyone else. A legend tells that during the battle against King Eystein of Sweden, Ivar used a bow made from a giant tree to bring down the animal that protected him.

The Mother of Ivar Ragnarsson

The two historical sources that trace the life of Ivar the Boneless are the Saga of Ragnar and His Sons and the Gesta Danorum. Even though these historical sources agree on many criteria and events in Ivar's life, one major fact does not match. The mother and origins of Ivar differ:

  • In the Saga of Ragnar: Ragnar's first wife, Thora, will only give him two children. It is after her death that Ragnar meets Aslaug and makes her his 2nd wife. Consequently, he will have his 4 legendary sons with her: Björn, Sigurd, Hvitserkur, and the eldest who is none other than Ivar Ragnarsson;
  • In the Gesta Danorum: Ragnar first marries Lagertha, before leaving her for Thora. According to this source, he will have 7 sons with the latter, of which Ivar is the youngest.

In the Vikings series, Ivar is in conflict with Lagertha and his brother Björn, because the former would have killed his mother. Nevertheless, this rivalry between Ivar and Lagertha has never been mentioned in any of these sources.

The Revenge of the Death of Ragnar Lodbrok

The Revenge of the Death of Ragnar Lodbrok

After all his great victories and conquests, Ragnar believed himself to be invincible. His arrogance was such that he claimed he could invade England with just two ships. His wife Aslaug asked him to give up this idea, as she had had a vision predicting his death.

Despite Aslaug's warnings, Ragnar decides to lead this expedition alongside his son Ivar Ragnarsson.The raid was a failure. Ragnar is first taken prisoner, before being killed by King Ælla of Northumbria.

Ivar the Boneless, accompanied by his brothers, decides to avenge their father. He gathers a Viking army and prepares an infallible military stratagem to invade England and kill King Ælla. As expected, Northumbria could not resist the Viking fury and King Ælla will be killed with the worst Viking torture "the blood eagle".

The Exploits of Ivar Ragnarsson in England

The exploits of Ivar Ragnarsson in England

Ivar the Boneless, accompanied by his two brothers Halfdan and Ubbe, will invade England in the year 865. They quickly plunder the East Anglia region before heading north to seize York. After their overwhelming victories, Ivar considers conquering the entire country. However, he quickly faces resistance from numerous English kings:

  • Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex: he decides to suspend the civil war and ally with the king of Mercia to stop the Vikings. This attempt was in vain in front of Ivar's command, which annihilates all resistance. Unexpectedly, he allows them to keep their territories in exchange for a generous ransom and thus returns to York;
  • The king Edmund of East Anglia: did not want to have any relations with pagans. In the year 869, Ivar the Boneless decides to make an example of his disobedience. For this, he chains him to a tree to kill him with arrows.

Shortly after killing King Edmund, Ivar Ragnarsson withdraws from England and from the command of the Danish Viking army, leaving it to his two brothers Ubbe and Halfdan.

The death of Ivar the Boneless and the dynasty of "Uí Ímair"

Very little information remains after Ivar Ragnarsson's exile from the command of the Danish Viking troops. Some sources briefly mention what might have happened to Ivar:

  • The Anglo-Saxon historian Æthelweard claims that Ivar died in the year 870 in England, a land he never left;
  • The Annals of Ulster as well as other Irish annals report Ivar's death in the year 873, almost 4 years after his departure from England.

Ivar, the Vikings' guardian spirit

According to legend, before dying Ivar asked to be buried in places exposed to enemy attacks. He promised his men that as long as his body was in that place, nobody could defeat them.

Indeed, nobody was able to drive the Vikings out of Dublin until the English king William I unearthed his body. He had to burn it to ashes to finally reclaim the English lands.

The dynasty of "Uí Ímair", the descendants of Ivar

In the Annals of the Four Masters, a book on the history of the kingdom of Ireland, Ivar dies suddenly. An unknown disease struck him down swiftly. Historians assume that it was the same pathology that caused the fragility of his bones that was to blame.

In these Irish annals, it is written that: "Imhar, the king of the Vikings of Ireland and Britain, ends his life.", Imhar being the Irish translation of Ivar. According to these same annals, he ruled over this region until his death.

During this period, Ivar Ragnarsson will have 3 sons, all of whom will be killed in the following years:

  • Bárid mac Ímair died in the year 881;
  • Sichfrith mac Ímair is betrayed and assassinated in 888;
  • Sitriucc mac Ímair will be killed by Vikings in the year 896.

It is the grandsons of Ivar who will form the Dynasty of Uí Ímair, meaning the "descendants or grandsons of Ivar". This lineage of kings will reign over all of Ireland as well as the north of Great Britain for 2 centuries.

The genius and greatness of Ivar the Boneless will forever be associated with the victories and Viking conquests of the time. This emblematic figure brings a whole new dimension to the Nordic civilization.

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