“Ivar the Boneless”: Marauding Danish Conqueror

Still reading — no, devouring — Brian Sykes’ Saxons, Vikings, and Celts.

The Romans abandoned Britain to the tribes sometime in the fifth century AD. Increasingly, raids came from the North, led by Vikings.  On p. 261, self reads:

In 835 there was a large raid in Kent, then annually after that until, in 865, there was a full-scale invasion.  The Danish Great Army landed in East Anglia led by Ivar Ragnusson, better known as Ivar the Boneless.  I have rather a soft spot for Ivar the Boneless, because he was said to have suffered from the same genetic disease which I once researched myself.  He was born, so it is said, “with only gristle where his bones should have been.”  From this description, Ivar almost certainly suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, an inherited form of severe brittle-bone disease.  If Ivar was anything like osteogenesis patients I got to know he would have been very short, unable to walk without aid and with badly deformed limbs and spine.  His head, however, would have been of normal size and his mental functions not impaired in the least.

The mystique of a fully mature mind in the broken body of a child is very powerful.  I am not surprised that, even with this great physical disability, which would have prevented him from any combat himself, he was able to command an army by his legendary wisdom and force of personality alone.  He was carried into battle on a shield.  It must have been a disconcerting sight for the enemy.

Ivar forced the East Anglian king to supply him with food, horses, and winter quarters, and next spring marched his troops north and captured the Northumbrian capital of York, beginning the long association between this city, renamed Jorvik by Ivar, and the Vikings.  The Great Army then moved south to invade Mercia, then east to complete the invasion of East Anglia, which culminated in the brutal murder of Edmund, the Anglian King who had supplied the Great Army when it first landed.  In three short years the Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and East Anglia had been utterly destroyed.

Oh, heck!  Bring on those gristle-instead-of-bones Viking commanders!  Self can never get enough of reading about such oddities.

She also learned, from this book, that similar structures to Stonehenge were found up and down the outer coast of Britain.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, self is convinced, is coincidence.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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