Home Blog Ancient History The Great Heathen Army and the Truth about Ivar the Boneless (Video)

The Great Heathen Army and the Truth about Ivar the Boneless (Video)


In the realm of Viking lore, Ivar the Boneless emerges as a formidable, if mysterious, figure. Born to Ragnar Lothbrok and Aslaug, Ivar led the infamous Great Heathen Army during the Viking Age. The origin of his enigmatic epithet, “Boneless,” remains elusive, fueling speculation about possible genetic disorders such as Osteogenesis Imperfecta or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Some narratives paint him as a disabled strategist compensating for physical limitations with cunning intellect, while others depict a formidable warrior on the battlefield. Historical records intertwine with myth as tales unfold of Ivar’s birth foretold by a seer and his subsequent conflicts with his father. Ivar’s strategic acumen manifested in the formation of the Great Heathen Army alongside his brothers, Halfdan and Ubba and their invasion of the Anglo-Saxon territories.

Ivar’s ruthlessness manifested in gruesome acts, such as the infamous Blood Eagle torture method. His influence extended across Northumbria and Mercia, contributing to the formation of Danelaw. Despite his violent exploits, Ivar’s role in unifying three English kingdoms under Viking rule showcased a keen political mind.

Speculation surrounds his later years, with conflicting accounts suggesting a peaceful death in Dublin or potential connection with the Uí Ímair dynasty in Ireland. Whether Ivar the Boneless was a disabled strategist, a fierce warrior, or a cunning political unifier, his legacy remains etched in the annals of Viking history, marking a crucial chapter in the broader narrative of the Viking Age.

Top image: A depiction of Ivar and Ubba setting forth to avenge their father, Loðbrók, as it appears on folio 47v of British Library Harley 2278.          Source: Public Domain

By Robbie Mitchell





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