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Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye
Legendary kings of Denmark
Reignc. 877 - ?
PredecessorHalfdan Ragnarsson
SuccessorHelgi or
Olaf the Brash
Born9th century

Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye (Old Norse: Sigurðr ormr í auga) was a Viking warrior and Danish King active from the mid to late 9th Century. According to multiple Saga sources and Scandinavian histories he is one of the sons of the legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok and Aslaug.[1]

Early life

"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]

As a boy, Sigurd was close to his father and accompanied Ragnar on a hazardous expedition through Rus' 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 and the Great Heathen Army

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, with the exception of Sigurd, crossed the North Sea with a stor hær ("Great Army"). Traditional accounts claim that a first attack on Ælla failed. Sigurd's 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.[3][4][5]

Sigurd's descendants

Ragnarssona þáttr states that when his father died, Sigurd inherited Zealand, Scania, Halland, the Danish islands, and Viken. He later succeeded his brother Halfdan Ragnarsson as king of Denmark in about 877. Sigurd married Blaeja, the daughter of king Ælla of Northumbria and they had four children: Álof Sigurðardóttir, Þora "Tora" Sigurðardóttir, Áslaug Sigurðardóttir, Helgi Sigurðarson.

Helgi may have briefly succeeded his father as King of Denmark before being overthrown by Olaf the Brash in about the year 900.

The Ragnarssona þáttr also states that Danish king Harthacanute was also a son of Sigurd. Harthacanute succeeded Sigtrygg Gnupasson as the king of Zealand, Scania and Halland, in about 916, 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.

Gorm's son, Harald Bluetooth succeeded his father as king and married possibly three times with Gunhild, Tove and Gyrid. Harald 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 (and after the brothers of Harthacnut also had died), Harthacnut became king of Denmark and England. Upon his death, Edward the Confessor became ruler of England in 1042.[6] Sweyn Forkbeard also had a daughter, Estrid, from whom all ruling kings and queens of Denmark after 1047 descend.

Sigurd's daughter Áslaug married Helgi the Sharp of the Dagling dynasty. They had a son named Sigurd Hart, who married a woman named Ingeborg. Sigurd Hart and Ingeborg had children named Guttorm Sigurdsson and Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter. When Sigurd Hart's uncle, king Fróði of Ringerike died, Sigurd Hart supposedly went to Norway to succeed him as king of Ringerike.[citation needed]

In popular culture

Sigurd Snake-in-the-eye features prominently in History Channel's historical drama television series Vikings played by David Lindström.[7]


Legendary titles
Preceded by
Halfdan Ragnarsson
King of Denmark Succeeded by
Helgi Sigurdsson or Olaf the Brash


  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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "Den store hær 865–878" [The Great Army 865–878]. Danmarks histori (in Danish). December 13, 2016. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  5. ^ Kessler, Peter (April 1, 1999). "Anglo-Saxon Britain: The Kings of Northumbria". The History Files. Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  6. ^ Lunga, Peter. "Hardeknud – av England og Danmark" [Harthacnut - of England and Denmark]. Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Retrieved December 15, 2016.
  7. ^ "Sigurd Snake in the Eye - Vikings Cast | HISTORY". HISTORY.

External links

Related reading