Jorvik Viking Festival

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Fearsome warrior, legendary son of Ragnar Lothbrok and Viking chief, Björn conquered lands across the world and killed King Aella, with his brothers, as an act of revenge for the murder of his father.

Fearsome warrior Bjorn Ironside

Björn lived in the 9th Century, but what we know of him was mostly written in the 13th Century sagas: The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok and The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons. These texts describe him as the son of Ragnar and Aslaug. His most frequently named brothers are Ivar the Boneless, Hvitserk and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. The sagas describe Björn as a capable and ferocious warrior, able to turn the tide of battle. He and his brothers went on numerous adventures, to Anglo-Saxon England, Normandy, the Frankish Kingdoms, Lombardy and towards Rome. With his brothers, Björn conquered lands across Scandinavia in Zealand (Denmark), Gotland (Sweden) and Öland (Sweden).

A number of Frankish, Arab and Irish sources tell us that Björn was involved in a large Viking raid into the Mediterranean in AD 859-861. In the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, Björn and his brother’s adventures are described with Ivar leading strategy and planning and Björn and Hvitserk leading on the military side. On one such raid, to Hvítabø, Rognvald was cut down and died, but the brothers were victorious nonetheless and pursued the fleeing townsmen. When they turned back to the town, Bjorn spoke a verse:

Our blades bit more than theirs,

our battle-cry was raised—

I must tell this truly—

there on the Gnipafjord.

Let every man who’d like to—

lads, don’t spare your swords now—

become, before Hvitabaer [Hvítabø],

the bane of a foeman.

Viking chain mail

When Björn’s father died at the hands of King Aella of Northumbria, he and his brothers sought out revenge and defeated the forces of Aella. The brothers led their army to seize York in AD 866. They were not satisfied by this though, and also tortured Aella to death. Their father’s lands were divided up between the brothers – Björn received Uppsala and central Sweden, and all the lands that belong to it. He spent a great deal of time raiding in England, Wales, France and Italy, until he reached the town of Luna in Italy, before he headed back to his newly acquired kingdom.

No tale of his death was ever recorded, but medieval sources tell us that Björn’s descendants ruled Sweden as kings.