Monday, February 24, 2014

Fact in Fiction: Ivar the Boneless

I tried, I really did, but I’m just going to have to focus on the areas of my expertise, and the research I have been doing for one single post! Not event this post, it’s ruining my schedule and thus I forsake it. I will blog what I know and what I have time to write, I say it and so it shall be.

However, today we have important things to discuss. Ivar the Boneless, you may or may not know of him, I am assuming the latter unless you study Scandinavian or English Legend. Ivar is the semi-mythical figure that has been recorded as one of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, perhaps one of the most notorious names in northern Europe. Brief story time;
Ragnar Lothbrokm as depicted in History Channel's "Vikings" -

Ragnar Lothbrok is said to have been a viking warrior of some prominence which begat the first major raids of england from scandinavia, some say he was Danish, but he may have been Swedish or Norwegian, not that it matters since Sweden, Norway, and Denmark didn’t actually exist then as we know them now, instead being divided into many kings and cultures such as Ostlandet, the Geates, Sjaelland etc. Not to mention that Anglo-Saxons referred to all Vikings as ‘Danes’, adding to the confusion.

Regardless, Ragnar Lothbrok raided the eastern english coasts, and as legend hold, he was captured by King Ælla of Northumberland, Northumbria, Norþumbyrland, what have you, and tossed in a pit of vipers.

Ragnars sons, the ‘Sons of Lothbrok’, were notably Halfdan Hvitserk (whiteshirt), Ivar the Boneless, Ubba; various “Kings” in Scandinavia also claimed his blood for authority and prominence. That’s right, I’m calling you out, “af Munso”. They assembled “The Great Heathen Army” and invaded England in revenge, sacking Eoferwic (York), calling it Jorvik, and laying way for the Danelaw in the future.

I can already tell this will be a fairly lengthy post. Anyways, so Ivar the Boneless, why is he called that? Well, that’s why were’ here, since there are several theories regarding it.

  • Brittle Bones Disease
Reenactors carrying a man on a rack of shields -
There is some evidence that Ivar the Boneless may have in fact had the condition known as Brittle Bone Disease where your bones become very frail and easy to crack. This theory aroused out of rumour that men carried Ivar in and out of battle on their shields, which is usually a treatment reserved for the wounded.

  • Agility
warriorsinart depiction of a viking berserker -
Some people claim he is called “the boneless” because that was the way he appeared in battle. Ivar has been reputed to be a fierce warrior, due to his activity as a leader of The Great Heathen Army. Logically, if he was so great a fighter, he would be agile, giving us one explanation for the nickname.

  • “Legless”
As it turns out the Old English word for bone is a cognate with the German word ‘bein’ which means leg, so the moniker could actually refer to Ivar being “legless” or crippled, perhaps of a childhood injury or something more genetic. Personally in the story I have been working on, Ivar is paralyzed from his waist down, but that’s only based on conjecture and artistic choice.
  • Thin
In Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Saxon Tales’ (A wonderful series, by the way), Ivar is simply very skinny. Slightly related to my artistic choice, Ivar could just as well been very thin. When the protagonist, Uhtred, questions Ragnar about Ivar’s nickname, Ragnar responds by saying that “If he wanted to, he could wrap Ivar around his neck like a cloak” (paraphrasing).

Regardless of what Ivar actually was, or whether he actually existed, this conjecture is interesting, and we may never know, unless we were to find… the Boneless’ Bones.

1 comment:

  1. wow, interesting peice of work, Wyatt. And you are probably right when you claim that people may not know who he is. Although, I suppose that that is the point of the blog, is to inform. I enjoyed reading this section, especially because (for me, that is) I enjoy learning about this part of history/culture. I look forward to your next blog post!