Who Was Ivar ‘the Boneless’? Prince Ivar (Igor) of Kiev.

Prince Igor Collecting Tribute in 945 by K Lebedev

In 914 AD, the Danish Prince Ivar (Slavic: Igor) of Kiev “attacked the Drevlians, and after conquering them, he imposed upon them a tribute larger than Oleg’s” (the prior Danish Prince Helgi).  This is quoted from the Russian Primary Chronicle and we have to go to the Byzantine Annals of Leo the Deacon to find out what happened next.  Ivar (Igor) was attacked while collecting even more tribute from the Drevlians.  “They had bent down two birch trees to the prince’s feet and tied them to his legs; then they let the trees straighten again, thus tearing the prince’s body apart.”  This form of execution is Roman based and called “Death by Sprung Trees”, but it is easily botched.  Slip knots tie down the trees and if they aren’t released at exactly the same time, or if the victim is wearing chain mail armour, as likely the prince was, then only the lower legs are torn away.This was the creation of Ivar ‘the Boneless’ (See Book 3, Chapter 7, Above, ‘The Creation of Ivar the Boneless’.

“For I think you are well aware of the mistake of your father Igor, who, making light of the sworn treaties, sailed against the imperial city with a large force and thousands of light boats, but returned to the Cimmerian Bosporos with scarcely ten boats, himself the messenger of the disaster that had befallen him.  I will pass over the wretched fate that befell him later, on his campaign against the Germans, when he was captured by them, tied to tree trunks, and torn in two.” 99  

Note 99:  Said by Roman Emperor John Tzimiskes (c.970 AD) from Page 156 of ‘The History of Leo the Deacon’ Translated by AM Talbot and DF Sullivan

Ivar was collecting excessive tribute to finance a military campaign to reclaim his maternal grandfather’s throne in Liere, to reclaim King Frodi’s realm in Denmark.  Prince Ivar (Igor) of Kiev disappears from the Russian Chronicle from 916 to 935 and suddenly appears in Denmark as King Harde Knute the First, who reigns from 916 to 936.  He is the first of the famous Knotling line of Danish kings.  He is also called Hardegon of Northmannia which may indicate that he conquered York and Northumbria in England, the home of King AElla, the ruler of York, who just happened to have killed Prince Ivar’s paternal grandfather, Ragnar Lothbrok.  King AElla supposedly threw Ragnar Lothbrok into a pit of poisonous snakes where he died of snake bites, but the more likely form of his demise was “Death by Cuts”, whereby Ragnar was slashed to death by poisoned blood-snakes (Viking kenning for swords).  Death by Cuts was typically used when no one person wanted to be blamed for executing an individual, especially an individual who had fierce warrior sons and grandsons who would be seeking revenge.

Prince Ivar was born circa 896, and was raised in the shadow of his older brother, Prince Helgi ‘Arrow-Odd’ Rurikson (Prince Oleg of Kiev).  Prince Arrow-Odd gained fame by attacking Constantinople in 907, resulting in the favourable treaties of 907 and 911 with the Eastern Roman Empire.  As prophesied, in 912 Arrow Odd died from the poisonous bite of a snake that had crawled out ‘neath the faded skull of his horse, Faxi.  Using poetic kennings, this may be interpreted as dying from the bite of a blood-snake (sword) under the faded horse-head carving on the forestem of his longship, Fair Faxi.

Young Prince Ivar (Igor) assumed the rule of Kiev, under the tutelage of his mother, Princess Eyfura (Efanda), and married a local princess named Helga (Olga).  Prince Ivar began a military campaign in Tmutorokan (1), but had to return to Kiev to put down a revolt of his Drevlian people north of the capital circa 914, and that is when he lost his legs and became Ivar ‘the Boneless’.

There is no historical information on Ivar’s reign from circa 920 to 941, a twenty year lacuna as it were (2).   Could it be that Prince Ivar (Igor) led a Rus’ army north to Denmark as Ivar the Boneless, grandson of both Ragnar Lothbrok and King Frodi?  If we look to semi-historical Denmark of that time, there is a king there with a very auspicious name: Harde Knute….Danish for Hard Knot.  And he ruled from circa 916 to 936, the same twenty year period that Prince Ivar (Igor) went missing from the Russian Primary Chronicle entries.  It would be a very hard knot, indeed, that tore the bones out of the legs of our young prince.  While in Denmark, Harde Knute seems to have attacked England as his grandfather, King Frodi, had done.  It may be in England that Ivar picked up the less complimentary nickname of ‘The Boneless’.  He may even have taken Blaeja, the grand-daughter of Ragnar’s bane, King Aella, as a second wife and she may have given birth to a son named Gorm (Serpent).  King Gorm the Old was the father of a Knute who died trying to conquer England and the father of King Harald Bluetooth (whom the Bluetooth wireless audio system is named after).

It would be in this period of attacking England that Ivar the Boneless gained a reputation for being carried into battle upon a shield and for excelling as a tactician.  Perhaps when his son, Gorm, was old enough to rule on his own, that was when King Harde Knute returned to the land of the Rus’ to rule as Grand Prince Ivar (Igor) once more.  There he fathered a son named Svein (Sviatoslav) with his first wife, Helga (Olga).

The Russian Primary Chronicle resumes recording the activities of Prince Ivar (Igor) in 941, describing an Anatolian campaign of both the Kievan and Tmutorokhan Rus’ against the Romans.  There are Arabic sources for further campaigns in Bardha in 943 and a further attack on the Romans in the vicinity of the Danube River attributed to Prince Ivar (Igor) which led to a treaty in 945.  It is in 945 that the Russian Chronicle states Prince Igor was again attacked by the Drevlians and killed, again over tribute problems, but there is also a Swedish saga about Ingvar the Traveler, who dies of the plague in what could be Bardha.  He had a son called Svein who ended up ruling Russia.

See “The VARANGIANS Series” by Brian Howard Seibert at SeiberTeck.com for more on this decidedly distinct take on the Vikings of Northern Europe and the Varangians of Rus’ (Russia).


Book One, “The Saga of Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson,” recreates Book Five of Saxo’s ‘History of the Danes’ to show how Erik Ragnarson was Rurik of Novgorod and also illuminate the origins of the name Rus’ and how it evolved from Hraes’ in ninth century Russia and how the name Varangians originally meant Va Rangers or Way Wanderers of the Nor’Way (Northern Way).

Book Two, “The Saga of Helgi ‘Arrow Odd’ Hraerikson,” recreates Arrow Odd’s Saga of c. 1200 to illustrate how Arrow Odd was Prince Helgi (Oleg in Slavic) Hraerikson of Kiev.

Book Three, “The Saga of Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Hraerikson,” reveals how Ivar ‘the Boneless’ Ragnarson was actually Prince Ivar (Igor in Slavic) Hraerikson of Kiev (grandson of Ragner Lothbrok) and then King Harde Knute of Denmark.

Book Four, “The Saga of Svein ‘the Old’ Ivarson” demonstrates how Prince Sviatoslav ‘the Brave’ of Kiev was really Prince Sveinald Ivarson of Kiev, who later moved to Norway and fought to become King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark and England.

Book Five, “The Saga of Valdamar ‘the Great’ Sveinson” establishes how Grand Prince Vladimir ‘the Great’ of Kiev was also known as Prince Valdamar Sveinson of Rus’, who supported his father, Sweyn Forkbeard, in attacks upon England and later became King Canute ‘the Great’ of England, Denmark and Norway.


1 George Vernadsky, Kievan Russia, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948), p.33.

2 Vernadsky, p.33.


Author unknown. Arrow-Odd: A Medieval Novel.  Iceland, c.1200.  As translated by Paul Edwards and Hermann Palsson.  New York, 1970.

Author unknown. The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise (Hervor’s Saga).  Iceland, c.1200.  As translated by Christopher Tolkien.  Oxford, 1960.

Saxo Grammaticus. The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus. Denmark, c.1200.  As translated by Oliver Elton, B.A. London, 1893, with consideration toward the translation by Peter Fisher.  Cambridge, 1979.

Vernadsky, George. Kievan Russia New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948.

Leo the Deacon. The History of Leo the Deacon. Constantinople, c.980.  As translated by Alice-Mary Talbot and Denis F. Sullivan. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Washington, D.C. 2005

2 thoughts on “Who Was Ivar ‘the Boneless’? Prince Ivar (Igor) of Kiev.

  1. I read your blog post on Ivar the Boneless and I found it really interesting and thought-provoking
    The attack the Drevjane perpetrated on Prince Ivar could certainly leave him boneless! I like your idea bro! 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻


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