Who were Ragnar, Lagertha or Rollo really? Here is some information regarding their true stories, all epic and fantastic. What to wait before the release of “Vikings: Valhalla”, this February 25 on Netflix.
Over a year ago, we said goodbye to Vikings. Michael Hirst’s series, which accompanied us for six seasons, allowed us to explore Norse mythology and familiarize ourselves with some of its emblematic figures.
Surely you must know -a little- the story that inspired the events narrated in the series, but what do you really know about the legends behind the protagonists? To learn more about the great sagas of the North, nothing better than to look at five of its characters, at the origin, among others, of Ragnar by Travis Fimmel, Lagertha by Katheryn Winnick and Rollo by Clive Standen .
This is where the history lesson begins … before continuing in Vikings: Valhalla this February 25 on Netflix.
Given its importance, the story of Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) easily becomes enmeshed in myth, making it difficult for historians to be objective about it. There are so many sagas about him that some think he could be confused with various figures from Norse history. He would however be the son of Sigurd Hring Randversson, a Danish king who inherited territories in Sweden after the death of the monarch. His mother, Alfhild Gandolfsdatter, was also of the nobility.
Over time, Ragnar became famous for ending Christianity in many countries. During his travels, he often landed by surprise in cities which he took advantage of to plunder, forcing the inhabitants to pay tribute in exchange for peace. His first adventures focused on the Baltic States, quickly becoming a respected figure, without concrete enemies. Strengthened by his position, it occurred to him one day to besiege the city of Paris and thus acquire an unprecedented reputation.
Subsequently, his sons followed in his footsteps, also becoming great leaders and warriors. After the death of Ragnar during the conquest of Northumbria, it will be four of them -Björn, Ivar, Halfdan and Ubbe- who will be responsible for avenging the memory of their father.
Speaking of heirs, Ragnar indeed had several children, born to different mothers. The first was Lagertha, although some sources say she never had any offspring. The second is Thora, who did not appear in the series and with whom he had three children: Erik, Agnar and Olof. And finally the third, Aslaug, was the mother of Björn (Lagertha not being the one who gave birth to him as in the show), Hvitsärk, Sigurd, Guthrod, Rognvald and Ivar the Boneless. He also had three other children born to various women: Ingvar, Ubbe and Halfdan.
Lagertha, the strong character portrayed by Katheryn Winnick, is one of the greatest female warriors in Viking mythology. The saga – we speak rather of legends or myths in our culture – which speaks of it is in the ninth book of the “Gesta Danorum” (“The Dane’s Gesture”). It reads that the king of Sweden, Fro, invaded Norway and killed its king, Synardus, which led Ragnar to land with his best men to avenge the latter’s name, his grandfather.
After this invasion, Fro forced women of the nobility to work as prostitutes, but some managed to escape and join Ragnar’s group. Among them was Lagertha who, standing out among the warriors, won the heart of the hero. Their paths were then linked forever.
The proud Lagertha, however, placed a fierce dog and a bear in front of her house to ward off her suitor (!), two beasts that Ragnar killed, thus obtaining the right to marry her. However, it is said that this is also the reason that later pushed him to divorce the fighter, the leader having not appreciated having to pass these tests to prove his worth.
Rollo (Clive Standenlisten)), also known as Rollon Le Marcheur, is said to have inherited this nickname due to his tall stature as he was described as “so tall that no horse could carry him”. It is said that he even weighed more than 140 kilos and was over 2 meters tall. Different from the rest of the Viking rulers, he was indeed looking for something more than their typical plunder: his real mission was to find a place to settle.
Between the years 885 and 900, Rollo arrived in Paris where King Charles III the Simple ceded land to him in order to protect his kingdom. Adapting easily to his new life, he converted to Christianity, adopted the French administrative systems and married Poppa, the daughter of Count Béranger de Bayeux. He got along so well that he is considered to have been the first Duke of Normandy.
According to the Norse sagas, Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) was the daughter of King Sigurd and a female warrior named Brynhildr. However, she was raised by her adoptive father. After the death of her parents, her grandfather, worried for his safety, fled with the little girl hidden inside a harp fashioned for the occasion.
Finding refuge with a couple of peasants, the old man was however killed because of the value of his harp. Discovering Aslaug inside, the murderous couple decided to raise him as their own child, however trying to hide his beauty and unmistakable noble appearance, with soot and a hood.
As an adult, while Aslaug was bathing in a river, she was discovered by Ragnar’s men, who, so beguiled, burned the food they were preparing. Curious, Ragnar decided to test her intelligence and asked her to appear before him “neither dressed nor naked, neither hungry nor satisfied, neither alone nor accompanied”: Aslaug then arrived wrapped in a net, an onion in her mouth and accompanied by a dog. It was enough for the chef to fall in love with the young woman.
Bjorn & Ivar
Of all Ragnar’s offspring, here are the two names that will seem the most familiar to you, due to their importance in the series… but not only! Indeed, Björn and Ivar also played a vital role in the reality.
Björn Ragnarsson (Alexander Ludwig) was a legendary warrior who explored (and invaded) Spain as well as other Mediterranean countries. With his troops they tried to loot Seville, Orihuéla and Pamplona and even kidnapped King García Íñiguez. Upon reaching the Strait of Gibraltar, they were attacked by the Byzantine Navy and lost much of their fleet. Björn, alongside Ivar and Ubbe, led the Great Heathen Army, with which he and his brothers conquered York.
Ivar meanwhile, played by Alex Høgh Andersen, accomplished many other feats, including creating the dynasty called House of Ivar. Unlike Björn, who died rich, we don’t really know what happened to him. He would also be called Ímar and while Ivar’s name disappears from the records, Ímar’s is mentioned there. So it looks like he died of a sudden illness…