Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye

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Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Old Norse: Sigurðr ormr í auga) was one of the five sons of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Early life[edit]

The "Snake-in-the-eye" part of Sigurd's name denoted the fact that he was born with a mark in his left eye, described as the image of the Ouroboros (a snake biting its own tail) encircling the pupil of his eye. The snake mark had been prophesied by his mother Aslaug, the daughter of the Valkyrie Brynhildr.[1]

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.[2]

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 Great Heathen Army[edit]

In 865 King Ælla of Northumbria killed Ragnar Lothbrok in a pit of serpents. When Ragnar was suffering in the pit he is reputed to have exclaimed: "How the young pigs would squeal if they knew what the old boar suffers!"

Sigurd and his siblings learned of their father's death when the king Ælla sent an envoy to alert them of it. When the brothers heard of their father's death Sigurd is said to have cut himself to the bone with a knife he held in his hand and his brother Björn Ironside gripped his spear so tightly that the imprint of his fingers was left in the wood.[citation needed]

Sigurd and his brothers swore they would avenge his killing in time-honoured Viking tradition. The legend says that their first attempt failed, but through the cunning of the youngest son of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar the Boneless, Ælla was duped into a battle he could not win. In 866 they crossed the North Sea with a large army. This Great Heathen Army sacked York, met King Ælla in battle and captured him. According to 'The Tale of Ragnar's Sons' (part of the 'Sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok'), King Ælla was sentenced to die according to the custom of the blood eagle, an exceedingly painful and drawn out death.[citation needed]

Sigurd's descendants[edit]

Ragnarssona þáttr informs that when his father died, he inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He married Blaeja, the daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria and they had two children: Harthacanute and Aslaug, who was named after his mother Aslaug.[citation needed]

Harthacanute and his descendents[edit]

Harthacanute succeeded Sigurd as the king of Zealand, Scania and Halland, but he lost Viken (Oslofjord). He was the father of Gorm the Old, 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.[citation needed]

Harald 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, as England's former king, Ethelred reclaimed it. However, as Harald did not marry, his brother Cnut the Great became king, re-established the Danish Empire, and married Emma of Normandy. They had a son named Harthacnut. When Cnut died, Harthacnut became king of the Danish Empire, however, he lost England to Edward the Confessor in 1042.[citation needed]

Aslaug and her son Sigurd Hart[edit]

Sigurd's daughter Aslaug married Helgi the Sharp (the great-great-grandson of king Ring of Ringerike) 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. When his uncle king Fróði of Ringerike died, Sigurd Hart went to Norway to succeed him as king.[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. Halfdan and Ragnhild were the parents of Harald Fairhair.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Template:Cite Jurich, Marilyn (1998).Scheherazade's sisters: trickster heroines and their stories in world literature (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 160.ISBN 9780313297243
  2. ^ "Sigurd "Snake Eye" Ragnarsson d. 794". 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2015-02-02. ... 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 ... 
Legendary titles
Preceded by
Ragnar Lodbrok
King of Denmark Succeeded by
Harthacnut I