Season 5 of History Channel’s Vikings have seen the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) pitted against each other as they battle for ownership of Kattegat. But, historically, did they really fight against each other?
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about Episode 19 (titled “What Happens in the Cave”) of History Channel’s Vikings Season 5. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet viewed this episode and wish to avoid spoilers.
“When I tell you to kill Bjorn, you kill him!” Ivar says at one point in the Season 5 finale of History Channel’s Vikings.
“You have to understand one thing: that Bjorn is not your friend; he is your enemy!”
As TV Guide points out, the Season 5 finale of Vikings was all about Ivar the Boneless (Alex Hogh Andersen) in his ruthless defense of Kattegat against his brothers, Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig) and Hvitserk (Marco Ilso). But, did the sons of Ragnar really fight each other during the Viking Age?
Most historians believe that Ragnar Lothbotk (or Ragnar Lodbrok) was a mythical character of the Viking Age or, alternatively, an amalgamation of several figures in history. However, some of his sons appear to be actual historical figures.
Bjorn Ironside is believed to be a Viking chief who was the founder of the Munso dynasty. Ivar the Boneless is believed to have invaded England. Although, there is debate over whether he was really “Boneless” or if this was a translation error. Ubbe was also considered a son of Ragnar and identified alongside Ivar as one of the leaders of the Danes when they were in East Anglia in 869. As for Hvitserk, this historical figure is more ambiguous and it may have been a nickname for another historical figure, Halfdan Ragarsson.
Some of Ragnar’s sons are believed to have fought in the Great Heathen Army, as seen in History Channel’s version of events in Vikings. But, as also depicted in the TV series, Ragnar’s sons fought alongside each other, rather than against. As Britannica points out, this army was formed, perhaps, in retaliation for the death of their father. However, historically, this has not been proven considering that Ragnar is not believed to be a real historical figure.
There is some evidence in the Viking sagas that Ragnar was jealous of his sons. In fact, one story, tells of how Ragnar and Ubbe battled against each other.
However, there appears to be little jealousy between his sons, especially to the extent seen in Vikings.
At one point, in the saga involving Aslaug and as translated by Ben Waggoner in The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar is considered on the outer when he refuses to attack the Swedish king Eysteinn. However, the brothers do not fight against each other, instead, they eventually side with each other.
So, it appears that there is little evidence to suggest that the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok were involved in a major conflict against each other. However, it is possible — as it is with most siblings — there was potentially some rivalry which has been played up considerably in Vikings.
Vikings will return to History Channel with Season 6. This will be the final season of their hit historical drama series. As yet, no premiere date has been announced.