Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye

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Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Old Norse: Sigurðr ormr í auga) was a Viking warrior in the middle of the 9th Century. He was one of the sons of the legendary Viking Ragnar Lothbrok.[1]

Early life[edit]

"Snake-in-the-eye" as part of Sigurd's name denoted a physical characteristic. He was born with a mark in his eye, described as the image of the Ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail) . The snake mark had been prophesied by his mother Aslaug, the daughter of the Valkyrie Brynhildr.[2] In modern times, it has been suggested that the mark in Sigurd's eye was a result of a congenital mutation of the PAX6 gene.[3]

As a boy, Sigurd was close to his father and accompanied Ragnar on a hazardous expedition through Russia to the Hellespont. Later on in life he is said to have sojourned for a time in Scotland and the Scottish Islands.[citation needed]

The death of Ragnar & the Great Heathen Army[edit]

According to most sources, King Ælla of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lothbrok, in about 865, by having him thrown into a pit of snakes According to traditional accounts, Ragnar is reputed to have exclaimed, as he was dying, "How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!" Sigurd and his siblings were reportedly informed of their father's fate by an envoy from Ælla. As he heard the news, Sigurd was supposedly so affected that he cut himself to the bone with a knife he held in his hand; his brother Björn Ironside supposedly gripped a spear so tightly that the imprint of his fingers was left in the wood.[citation needed] Sigurd and his brothers swore they would avenge Ragnar's death.

In 866 the brothers crossed the North Sea with a store hær ("Great Army"). Traditional accounts claim that a first attack on Ælla failed. Sigurd's younger brother, Ivar the Boneless, devised a strategy in which the Great Heathen Army occupied and sacked York, to provoke Ælla into engaging on the Vikings' terms. Under Ivar's plan, the Vikings feigned retreat, leading Ælla to underestimate them and become encircled. According to The Tale of Ragnar's Sons (part of the Sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok), Ælla was captured alive and executed afterwards by blood eagle.[4][5][6]

Sigurd's descendants[edit]

Ragnarssona þáttr informs that when his father died, Sigurd inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He married Blaeja, the daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria and they had four children: Álof Sigurðardóttir, Þora "Tora" Sigurðardóttir, Áslaug Sigurðardóttir, Helgi Sigurðarson.

Sigurd's daughter Áslaug married Helgi the Sharp of the Dagling dynasty. They had the son Sigurd Hart, who married Ingeborg, the daughter of the Jutish chieftain Harald Klak. Sigurd Hart and Ingeborg had the children Guttorm and Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter. When his uncle king Fróði of Ringerike died, Sigurd Hart went to Norway to succeed him as king of Ringerike.[citation needed] Ragnarssona þáttr and Heimskringla relate that a berserker from Hadeland named Haki (Hake) killed Sigurd Hart, but lost a hand in the fight. Then Haki went to Sigurd Hart's residence at Stein and took Sigurd's children Ragnhild and Guttorm. Haki returned with the children and all the loot to Hadeland. Before Haki (Hake) recuperated from his wounds and could marry the 15-year-old Ragnhild, she was captured a second time, by Halfdan the Black (c. 810 – c. 860). Halfdan and Ragnhild were the parents of Harald Fairhair (c. 850 – c. 932).[citation needed]

The legendary Danish king Harthacanute (born c. 880) may have been a grandson or a great-grandson of Sigurd, though neither claim is verifiable.[citation needed] Harthacanute succeeded Sigtrygg Gnupasson as the king of Zealand, Scania and Halland, but he lost Viken (Oslofjord). He was the father of Gorm the Old (born before 900), the king of Denmark. Gorm succeeded his father as king and married Thyra, the daughter of the Jutish chieftain Harald Klak. When Harald died, Gorm took his kingdom too and united Denmark.[7] Gorm's son, Harald Bluetooth (born c. 935) succeeded his father as king and married Gyrid of Sweden. They had a son named Sweyn Forkbeard. Sweyn succeeded his father as king and married Gunhild (Świętosława of Poland). They had a son named Cnut the Great. Sweyn also ruled England in his lifetime and established the Danish Empire. When Sweyn died, his elder son Harald Svendsen became the King of Denmark, while England's former king, Ethelred reclaimed the throne. Following Harald's death, his brother Cnut the Great became king, re-established the Danish North Sea Empire. He married Emma of Normandy with whom he had a son named Harthacnut. When Cnut died, Harthacnut became king of Denmark and England. Upon his death, Edward the Confessor became ruler of England in 1042.[8]



  1. ^ "Þáttr Af Ragnars Sonum" [Tale of Ragnar's sons]. Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda (in Icelandic). March 1998. 
  2. ^ Jurich, Marilyn (1998). Scheherazade's Sisters: Trickster Heroines and their Stories in World Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-31329-724-3. 
  3. ^ "Sigurd "Snake Eye" Ragnarsson d. 794". Rodovid. April 26, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2015. ... he was born with the image of the ouroborous, a snake or dragon biting its own tail, encircling the pupil of his eye. For this to be the case, both parents would have to be genetic carriers of the congenital Pax6 Mutation ... 
  4. ^ McGuigan, Neil (March 2015). "Ælla and the Descendants of Ivar: Politics and Legend in the Viking Age". Northern History. 52 (1): 20–34. doi:10.1179/0078172X14Z.00000000075. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Den store hær 865–878" [The Great Army 865–878]. Danmarks histori (in Danish). December 13, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  6. ^ Kessler, Peter (April 1, 1999). "Anglo-Saxon Britain: The Kings of Northumbria". The History Files. Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  7. ^ Lund, Niels. "Gorm den Gamle". Den Store Danske, Gyldendal (in Danish). Retrieved December 15, 2016. 
  8. ^ Lunga, Peter. "Hardeknud – av England og Danmark" [Harthacnut - of England and Denmark]. Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Retrieved December 15, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Related reading[edit]

Legendary titles
Preceded by
Ragnar Lodbrok
King of Denmark Succeeded by
Harthacnut I