In the past, it was not unusual for crippled children to be killed at birth. However, Ivar the Boneless got all the protection he needed thanks to his father and he grew to become one of the most feared names among the Vikings in the whole of history. While his father was known as a great leader who led many battles, he was the one who was feared more than almost everyone else and is known for leading the war against Anglo-Saxon England as he sought to avenge the murder of his father.
Because myth and history sometimes have an uncanny way of getting lost in each other, the real story of Ivar has been diluted by many historical records that have been altered and also no thanks to History Channel’s series “Vikings“.
While it is quite hard to pin down the exact man he was, due to the many theories existing about him as a result of the myth and lore, we have tried to capture him as much as he was.
Ivar The Boneless’ Background
While there are some theories that believed it could be that Ivar was adopted, there are more facts to support that he was actually one of the three children of the Danish king Ragnar Lothbrok together with his two siblings, Halfdan Ragnarsson and Ubba.
The Viking leader was birthed in 794 to Ragnar Lodbrok and his third wife Aslaug Sigurdsdottir. He was born without bones as a result of a medical condition known as osteogenesis imperfect which causes one to develop very fragile bones that are easy to break. According to reports, his condition was a result of a curse that was placed on him at birth due to his father’s failure to wait three days before he consummated his marriage as was supposed of him.
This part of his story was also disputed with some theories insisting that he was not literally boneless since he was a warrior. That instead, he was said to be boneless, which could be a euphemism to suggest that he was impotent. The popular belief, though, is that he was actually boneless. Another theory claims he was a swift fighter who fought as though he had no bones like a snake, hence the name; “The Boneless”.
Nothing much has been revealed about his childhood and how he was brought up but as it would be obvious in his later life, Ivar Ragnarsson was not raised to cower because he was crippled. Because of this, he later became more ferocious and brutal than his two younger brothers.
Conquering Anglo-Saxon England
In 865, the medieval English King Ælla of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lodbrok by throwing him into a pit of snakes. Angered by this act, he and his brothers led a brutal army that was known as The Great Heathen Army to get vengeance against the English king.
Before leading the army, he demanded that the exact way his father was killed in a pit of vipers should be told to him so that he could use it in fuelling his revenge. Believed to be a very wise individual who made use of his mind rather than his body because he was crippled, Ivar The Boneless’ brutality would become known when he captured Ælla and from his back, he opened his ribcage from where he pulled his lungs out to make the shape of wings. He also had salt put to the wounds to make it even more painful.
After avenging his father and capturing Northumbria, he was too much into wars to return and so he decided to continue his war into the rest of England, leaving the trail of blood everywhere he raided.
By the time he conquered the kingdom of Mercia which was the strongest place in England, it was obvious that nothing would be left standing by the time he was done. Again, his brutal ways would be recorded in the manner that he killed King Edmund of East Anglia with all mercilessness so much that by the time he was done, England had to recognize Edmund as a martyr.
Death of Ivar The Boneless
Ivar and his shadow of brutality spread into 870 when he continued his war into Dublin. However, in 873 and according to Myths, he was said to have asked that his body be laid to rest in a place that was prone to attack so that enemies would not be successful there. It was claimed that this held until his body which was not corrupted was found and burned by William I of England and that was the only way that his army was sent out of Dublin although he is still regarded as the founder of the city.
Contrary to the myth, archaeologists discovered a burial ground believed to be his. The grave believed to be that of a respected Viking had things like a Viking sword, necklace, and Thor’s hammer.