History With Crusader Kings: Ivar ‘the Boneless’

Ivar ‘the Boneless’, as with the numerous other Viking rulers, is a highly popular pick in the Crusader Kings community. Ivar starts with a collection of territories by the coastlines of the British Isles. What makes him an easy choice for beginners is the special 5000-man host under Ivar’s command. This special retinue, though only filled with regular levies, will be very much capable of defeating the local Kingdoms through numbers alone. Your brother and ally, Halfdan, will also be lending a helping hand with the aid of his own special host. The two together begin at war with the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of Britain under an oath to avenge their father. The game seems to present the challenge of winning all his wars before death comes for the Viking chieftain.

The game tries to depict Ivar as a master of cunning and war tactics; giving him high stats in both martial and intrigue. As a man who is attempting to avenge the murder of his father, the vengeful trait is also very fitting to his character. For other traits, it might perhaps be time to look into the past.

The Origin Story
Image Credit: History101.com

Ivar was born as the son of the legendary Viking ruler Ragnarr Loðbrok and Aslaug. It is said that the moniker of “the Boneless” was to do with his father’s over-eagerness to consummate his marriage. Aslaug warned Ragnarr not to until at least three days had passed, else their newborn would be born boneless. It’s unsure as to what this meant, but apparently, Ivar would always have to be carried atop something. Despite this, Ivar stood out for his cleverness and strategic insight, often depicted as a leader among his brothers. Traditionally, his brothers are Björn Ironside, Hvitserk, Rognvald, and Sigurd. They’d go raiding together and Ivar would be the one to come up with a plan. Some Latin sources, however, would mention that Ivar had no such disabilities. They would also claim different genealogies and would even include a different cast of siblings.

The Deeds
[Painting, 1857] King Ellas messenger in front of Ragnar Lodbrok and sons.

Despite his “bonelessness”, in the Saga of Ragnarr, it seems to depict him with great upper body strength. It demonstrates a scene where Ivar orders his men to make a massive bow out of a large tree. He’d then proceed to use it with ease as if it were a twig. If that isn’t a mythical exaggeration, then I don’t know what is.

In The Tale of Ragnarr’s Sons, Ragnarr would sail to Northumbria and die in a snake pit by King Ælla. This would prompt the invasion of the British Isles by Ivar and his brothers, seeking to exact vengeance. The tale would tell that once the fighting broke out, Ivar would not take part. Once the brothers are defeated, Ivar would have an audience with Ælla. The king decided to compensate for the murder of Ragnarr by granting him land. Ælla told Ivar to find the biggest bull-hide he could and use that to determine his plot of land. Ivar cleverly cut the hide into small strips, letting him cover a larger area than expected. The tale claims this was the founding of the city of York. Ivar would form a network of connections before re-inviting his brothers to pounce upon Ælla once more.

The Tall Tale
Image Credit: (Landing of a Viking Fleet at Dublin, by James Ward (1851-1924), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

After exacting revenge, Ivar would stay in Britain as a local king. He allegedly did not have any children and would die without an heir. The Latin source would say that Ivar settles back in Denmark, leaving his brother, Agnar, in charge of Britain.

It must be said, however, that many sources were written hundreds of years after the alleged man existed. King ̤Ælla was indeed an actual historical figure, and it was said he died in battle against the Viking army. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle also mentions names that could be identified as Ivar, Ubba, and Halfdan as Hvitserk. There are also Irish texts that mention an Imhar (pronounced similarly to Ivar). They would often pillage and plunder the country around the same time as Ivar’s exploits in other sources. But the theory does have its own contradictions, thus not a concrete source of identification. In conclusion, many of the stories surrounding Ivar may or may not in fact be mere exaggerations, inspired by deeds of Vikings in past centuries.

Source: WorldHistory.org

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