If you have been catching up with the Vikings, chances are that you have heard about Ivar Boneless. The success of the recent movie series has brought the fame of Ivar rock to stardom. But what about the historical (or at least the legendary) Ivar?
Ivar Boneless was a Danish son. In Old Scandinavian, his name is Ivar inn beinlausi. He died in 873 somewhere in Dublin. This Viking king had his life intertwined with legends and myths. According to many historians, while many Viking kings came to new land to plunder, Ivar came to conquest.
Background and “Boneless”
Legend had it that Ivar was the son of Ragnar Lothbrok and Aslaug. Unlike in the movie, the legendary Ivar was the brother of Bjorn Ironside by Ragnar and Aslaug. Some of his brothers included Hvitserk, Halfdan Ragnarson, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, Ubba.
Several sources described Ivar ass “leg-less”. Simply, many agreed that this Danish king lacked of bones or legs to walk properly. Also, one legendary source about Ragnar’s sons claimed that Ivar had an excellent military prowess.
In Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, the state of being physically disabled of Ivar the Boneless was because of his mother’s curse. Aslaug, Ivar’s mother, was a volva who could see things that other people couldn’t. On one occasion when Ragnar returned from his voyage for months, Aslaug warned him to wait for three days before consummating their marriage.
But Ragnar never listened to Aslaug. Accordingly, Ivar was born with weak bones.
Many sources claim that the Vikings would put an end to any child who had a physical disability when born. But somehow they skipped Ivar.
Ivar the King
In 865, Ivar the Boneless formed the Great Heathen Army and this did become a nightmare to people in Anglo-Saxon. Ivar and his brothers determined to take revenge on King Aella of Northumbria for the death of their beloved father Ragnar Lothbrok. King Aella allegedly threw Ragnar into a pit full of snakes and this was the ultimate end for the legend of Ragnar. Grieving the brutal death of Ragnar, sons of Ragnar declared eternal war on Northumbria. They carried out the blood eagle on King Aella by cutting off his ribs when he was still alive.
The ribs of King Aella were stretched out making it resemble the wings of an eagle. This ritual was to pay tribute not only to the deceased Ragnar but the Norse Pantheon as well.
Later in 867, the Great Heathen Army moved to the south and turn the kingdom of Mercia as their next prey. They captured Nottingham town and overwintered there. King Burgred of Merica did not tolerate the army of Ivar and turned to ally with King Aethelred of Wessex. Yet, they failed to seize back the town. But the Danes agreed with a peace treaty whereby they would withdraw to York. In York, the army of Ivar remained for more than a year to gather their strength for further assaults.
In 869, Ivar and his army turned back to East Anglia. They executed the East Anglian king, Edmund the Martyr for refusing their demand. Records of Ivar the Boneless disappeared sometime after 870.
Death of Ivar Boneless
According to some legends, Ivar died in 873 due to a mysterious disease. Those enemies he had made in his life were happy for the death of this “brutal” warlord. They claimed that this was the punishment of their God on the man who violated the will of God. But this is merely a Christian viewpoint.
Legend had it that Ivar on his deathbed ordered his people to bury him somewhere exposed to the attack. Then he promised his people that they would never be defeated by their enemies.
And Ivar kept his promise for many years later, no one could ward the Vikings off the land of Dublin. Until King William I dug up the corpse of Ivar and burnt him in the pyre to ashes. Then the Vikings finally retreated fom this land. But this is merely a part of the legend.