March 28, 2011

Ragnar Lodbrok Day – Scandinavia

On this day wayyyyy back in 845 A.D., Viking raiders under the leadership of Ragnar Lodbrok sacked Paris. This means that they stole all the valuables they could find.

In other words, the Vikings looted. They pillaged. They plundered. They robbed and stole and took booty.

Paris was ruled at the time by Charles II “The Bald,” who paid Ragnar lots of money to just take the spoils and leave, rather than destroying the city—he paid the Viking 7,000 pounds of silver to go along with all the rest of the loot, just so the raiders wouldn't burn everything down!

Ragnar did leave Paris, but he continued to attack France all the way up the coast.

By the way, Ragnar was nicknamed “Hairy Breeks” (or “Hairy Breeches”) because he is said to have wooed his second wife by wearing thick, hairy leather pants in order to protect himself as he killed poisonous snakes that were infesting part of Sweden. Strangely, he eventually died because of snakes: when he went to Britain to pillage and loot, the Northumbrian king captured him and put him to death by throwing him into a pit of venomous snakes.

Much of what we “know” about Ragnar and the sacking of Paris comes from Old Norse poetry and legendary sagas. In other words, we only know what this Viking was like from Viking poems and tales. Naturally, the sagas made Ragnar sound better than he really was—stronger, more daring, more clever. But he just sounds like a bully and a thief, to me!

Explore the Viking Age

There are several good links to be found at the BBC website, including a Viking Quest game.

Listen to an illustrated Norse creation myth and other stories of the Vikings here

To learn more about Vikings, check out this and this earlier post.

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