Vikings have come to be known as a multitude of things in popular culture. Some depict Vikings as horned-hat wearing, constantly drunk Neanderthals, some as comic book characters like Marvel’s Thor; sadly, the majority of people do not know that much about what a true Viking was. Vikings were violent, that’s true; they raided and plundered coastal communities to earn a living, but most of their time was actually spent farming to sustain their families.
Vikings were skilled in combat, but not barbarians. It was a Viking’s advanced and expert technology in seafaring and shipbuilding that allowed them to sail the coasts and discover parts of Eastern Europe, Greenland and of course North America. The ten Vikings on this list are well worth remembering.
10. Ragnar Lodbrok | Tough Vikings You Should Remember
Ragnar Lodbrok became known when, at 15 years old, he killed an entire brood of snakes in order to win the hand of a girl. He was successful in this endeavor and went on to not only kill the snakes and win the girl, but build a career raiding the coats of France. He was even paid by a French King to NOT sack his town. After an unsuccessful raid on England, Ragnar Lodbrok was captured and executed by being thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes.
9. Freydis Eiriksdottir | Tough Viking
Freydis Eiriksdottir was the ruthless daughter of Erik the Red and was kin to Leif Eriksson. She was also an intrepid traveller and explorer who found herself, along with her husband, on Vinland, where she gained her first notoriety by fighting off a band of native Vinlanders by herself, while pregnant. She was as greedy as she was vicious, killing off anyone she would consider guilty of a crime, and their family.
8. Bjorn Ironside
Bjorn was a career raider, plundering the coasts of North Africa, France, Sicily and Italy for his entire Viking career. Bjorn Ironside ultimately retired from raiding a wealthy man after a disastrous loss in which forty of his ships perished in the Strait of Gibraltar.
7. Eric Bloodaxe
After cutting his teeth on raiding and murdering throughout the Baltic Sea during his teen years, Eric returned to Norway to seek the throne for himself. The problem was, Eric Bloodaxe had plenty of brothers also vying for their father’s crown, so he did what any Viking would do and murdered them. Eric Bloodaxe invaded Northumbria, where he ruled as king until his death in battle.
6. Gunnar Hamundarson
Gunnar Hamundarson was renowned for being an equally deadly swordsman regardless of the hand he chose to wield the weapon with, giving him the ability to fight with both hands. Gunnar also purportedly never missed when aiming his bow at another mans chest. Raiding the Nordic coasts for his entire career, Gunnar Hamundarson ultimately suffered the same fate many Vikings and Norse men in general met. He was killed in a blood fued, which was a very common practice at the time.
5. Harald Hardrada
Harald Hardrada, or Harald Sigurdsson as he was born, began warring at the young age of 15. After a loss in battle, he spent the next 15 years travelling through Eastern Europe, settling in Constantinople where he became the leader of the Emperor’s revered Varangian Guard. Ultimately, power of the throne and a longing for his harsher homeland called Harald, and he returned to Norway where he seized the throne. Harald Hardrada was killed in battle at Stamford Bridge when an arrow pierced his throat.
4. Sweyn Forkbeard
Sweyn Forkbeard rebelled against his father in 987, killing him and taking the throne of Denmark as his own. From there, England became his primary object of affection, raiding the English coasts for nearly a decade before deciding to turn a little more local when be began raiding rival Norway in 1000. Sweyn also terrorized England until his death.
3. Egil Skallagrimsson
For Egil Skallagrimsson both poetry and killing were favorite pastimes. The young Egil allegedly wrote his first poem at age three and killed his first person at age seven, beginning a life of both the written word and massive bloodshed. Egil Skallagrimsson terrorized Norway in between writing epic poems, and it is said he killed men in any manner possible, by sword, axe, ripping out throats with his bear hands and even gouging opponents’ eyes out.
2. Ivar the Boneless
A brutal conqueror, Ivar the Boneless did not let a genetic condition that made his bones more fragile stop him from reigning blood upon the United Kingdom. Often carried into battle on a shield where he would fight with a bow, Ivar the Boneless first conquered Dublin in the mid-800s before deciding to sack the English city of York. In the above photo Ivar the Boneless is portrayed by Kirk Douglas in the 1958 film The Vikings.
1. Erik the Red
Potentially the most famous Viking of all time, Erik the Red was a murderer through and through. He was exiled, and during his exile Erik sailed further west and found Greenland, where he set up a colony. After his ban from Iceland was over, he returned and gathered more men, ships and supplies in an attempt to firmly establish a community on Greenland where he would rule. He fathered numerous children, one of which was Freydis Eriksdottir, also on this list, and Leif Eriksson, the first man to discover North America.