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Ragnar's death

October 22, 2023 4 min read

The Death of Ragnar | How did the Viking King Lose His Life?

The Death of Ragnar | The Legendary End of the KING of Vikings!


Ragnar Lothbrok, the greatest Viking king, is undoubtedly the most astonishing character in Norse mythology. The legend, life, and death of Ragnar constitute the greatest royal legends of the Viking civilization.

Yet numerous mysteries remain surrounding this emblematic figure, especially regarding the circumstances of his death!

The main character of the TV series Vikings, the tragic end of Ragnar has sparked strong reactions from fans. This has brought back a question that is still debated among historians: how did Ragnar Lothbrok really die?

How did Ragnar of the hairy breeches die?


Although the name Ragnar means the warrior god, he was ultimately just a man who met a rather horrific end. Indeed, there are numerous historical sources recounting Ragnar's death, but this does not prevent it from remaining a true enigma!

Although Viking mythological references relate differently to Ragnar's life, they all agree that he perished in a snake pit. But before truly understanding the meaning of Ragnar's death, you need to know the decisions that led him to this end.

The sin of a Viking king: Ragnar's pride!

Ragnar, descendant of the Viking hero Sigurd Hring and the demi-goddess Alfhild, was destined for greatness from birth. Promised to be the king of Viking kings, his destiny soon came to pass. Through victories and conquests, he became the undisputed sovereign of the Viking kingdom.

It is quite normal for the greatest Viking king, who would have divine blood flowing through his veins, to believe himself invincible and immortal. It is this blunder on Ragnar's part that will inevitably lead him to his downfall.

Ragnar's ultimate expedition to Northumbria sealed his fate. With only two ships, he claimed he could conquer all of England. Both defying the success of his sons and to prove once again that he was a true god of war, he committed the ultimate folly.

This story is recounted by all 13th-century Icelandic sources, the main ones being:

  • The Deeds of the Danes, written by Saxo Grammaticus. This book is considered the greatest treasure of Viking history;
  • The Saga of Ragnar with the Hairy Breeches. This is a collection that traces the reign and death of Ragnar Lodbrok;
  • The Tale of Ragnar's Sons, this saga complements the previous one. It tells how Ragnar's sons avenged his death.

Under what circumstances did Ragnar perish? Who killed him? Did he die with bravery and honor? That's what we're going to find out.

King Ælla of Northumbria: The Murderer of Ragnar

The Death of Ragnar | How Did The Viking King Lose His Life?


Despite being outnumbered, Ragnar fought valiantly until the end. He could not resolve to lose this battle, but he was only delaying the inevitable. This defeat also marks the last battle of Ragnar, who eventually fell into the hands of the King of Northumbria, Ælla.

King Ælla, wanting to make an example of Ragnar, throws him into a snake pit. However, he did not know that Ragnar was protected by a magical shirt sewn by Aslaug, the king's wife. This enchantment repelled the snakes, which could not bite him.

As soon as Ælla realizes this, he removes Ragnar's shirt and throws him completely naked to the snakes. With the enchantment gone with the tunic, the beasts bite him and inject their deadly venom. Ragnar loses his life in excruciating pain.

Realizing that his end was near, he utters his last words as a prophecy and warning. They are recorded in a skaldic poem, the Krákumál. This is the song of his wife Aslaug, who is also called "Kraka". She reports Ragnar's words and his last wishes to their sons.

However, this tragedy could have been averted! Did you know that Ragnar could have avoided this gruesome death? Indeed, this may surprise many, but his wife had warned him.

The Prophecy About the Death of Ragnar Lothbrok

Ragnar's online store

Although Ragnar's last expedition to England was doomed to fail, Ragnar Lodbrok would not listen. Not even to the voice of reason from his wife, Aslaug.

Being the daughter of a Viking hero and a Valkyrie, she had the power of clairvoyance. In Norse mythology, Viking women endowed with this ability were called "Volva".

She had predicted his defeat in England, and that it could lead to his death. However, Ragnar, carried away by his pride and desire for domination, did not heed Kraka's warnings.

Stubbornly going his own way, Ragnar paid a high price for his obstinacy, with his life!

The Revenge of Ragnar's Sons: The Blood Eagle!

The Death of Ragnar | How Did The Viking King Lose His Life?


In the Krákumál, or Song of Kraka, Ragnar, uttering his last words, prays to the gods that his death be avenged. It is his sons, led by Ivar the Boneless, who will answer these last prayers!

They will avenge their father's murder with the worst Viking punishment there is, "The Blood Eagle". This torture is so atrocious that it will only be used twice throughout Viking history. And, King Ælla will be the second victim of the blood eagle.

A revenge worthy of the crime he committed!

The Death of Ragnar in the Vikings TV Series: Between Fiction and Reality

The Death of Ragnar | How Did The Viking King Lose His Life?

Fans of the Vikings TV series watch in horror as Ragnar Lothbrok dies. With a season 4 that left a lasting impression, many wondered what the future of the series would be.

That being said, his death was planned for the end of the first season. As the series aimed to stay as close as possible to the historical facts about the life of the Viking king, it was only a matter of time.

Although this story marks the end of Ragnar's reign, his memory is immortalized through the exploits of his sons. All the Icelandic sagas describe this semi-legendary Viking king as a true hero.

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