Ivar the Boneless was Prince Ivar (Igor) of Kiev.
In 914 AD, Prince Ivar (Igor) of Kiev “attacked the Drevlians, and after conquering them, he imposed upon them a tribute larger than Oleg’s” (the prior Kievan 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. 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, only the lower legs may be torn away. This was the creation of Ivar the Boneless.
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 (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 who would be seeking revenge.
The sagas are full of revenge cycles but perhaps we have here the greatest revenge cycle of all. Ragnar Lothbrok’s dying words were:
“If the porkers knew the punishment of the boar-pig, surely they
would break into the sty and hasten to loose him from his aﬄiction.”
The Saga of the Sons of Ragnar Lothbrok; Anonymous.
One might wonder why Ragnar Lothbrok, the warrior merchant who named his Nor’Way jumping off point to Russia Hrafnista (Raven’s Nest) and who flew his famed Raven Banner, would suddenly, finally reference the swine as representing himself and his sons. Perhaps it is a curse. There is an old Viking saying that goes, “If snakes are over-running your farm, let the swine loose into the fields for a few days and they will kill the snakes for you.” Indeed, swine are the mortal enemy of snakes. So, it appears Ragnar’s last words were a curse, calling upon his sons to avenge him. And that curse applied to grandsons as well.
The Angles of northern England learned to fear Ivar the Boneless as he was borne about on a shield while fighting to conquer them. He became known to the Anglish as a cruel tactician who captured York, perhaps even kidnapping King AElla’s granddaughter, Princess Blaeja, and taking her as his queen to Denmark. He named their son Gorm, meaning snake or serpent. When he returned to Kiev in 936, he had a son with his wife there, Princess Helga (Olga), and he named him Svein, meaning swine, thereby setting up the greatest vengeance cycle ever.
Svein would eventually leave Kiev for Denmark and kill Gorm’s son, King Harald Bluetooth, and take over the throne of Denmark as King Sweyn Forkbeard. England would learn to fear the son of Ivar the Boneless as well, for he would retake Northumbria and then conquer all of England in 1014 and his son, King Canute the Great (Grand Prince Valdamar (Vladimir) the Great of Kiev) would rule England for another twenty years. Canute’s natural death would be followed by a struggle for the English throne that would eventually lead to the deaths of the Norwegian King Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066) near York and the English King Harald Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the final conquest of England by the Norman Prince William Longsword, a great great grandson of Ragnar Lothbrok.
But the Sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, the Duke and Princes of Normandy, left behind in Rouen, would say, “It’s not over yet. There is still Constantinople (1204) …
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).
The VARANGIANS Series:
Book One, “The Saga of Hraerik ‘Bragi’ Hraegunarson,” recreates Book Five of Saxo’s work 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.
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 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 Svein 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 Gardar, who supported his father, Sweyn Forkbeard, in attacks upon England and later became King Canute ‘the Great’ of England and also King Knute ‘the Great’ of Denmark and Norway
Author unknown. The Russian Primary Chronicle – Laurentian Text. Kiev, c.1100. As translated by Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgor P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor, The Medieval Academy of America. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1953.
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.