*this is just a part of a series of posts. Starting with Ragnar and eventually moving onto other heroes and Sagas. I'll add more as i get the time to.
"we struck with our swords!
so long ago, it was
we had gone to Gautland(1)
for the ground-wolf's(2) slaughter
then we won fair Thora,
thus the warriors named me Lodbrok (3)
when i laid that heather-eel(2)
ended the earth-coil's life
with inlaid shining steel!"
-The Krakumal - Ragnar's death song (Ben Waggoner translation)
Before he was called Lodbrok, Ragnar was an adventurer - a sea king. he likely would have been called Ragnar Sigurdsson (after his father, Sigurd Hring, a legendary king of Sweden), and he got himself a ship and some men as soon as he was old enough (fourteen or fifteen years old). he was known to be such a great warrior that there was no match for him.
Soon after, he heard that Jarl Herrud, a powerful Jarl in Gautland, offered his daughter, Thora's hand in marriage to anyone who could save her - many years before, he gave her a serpent as a gift. the serpent grew and grew until it couldn't fit in her room, and he had a second hall built to house it, and her with it. eventually, it grew so great that no one could kill it, and Thora was trapped.
Ragnar had heard that news, but pretended that he hadn't. instead, he had some strange clothes made for himself - shaggy pants and a shaggy cape. once he was given them, he boiled them in tar and hid them away. then he sailed to Gautland, near where the Jarl lived. he got up early in the morning, so that all the men were still asleep and donned the clothes that were made for him. he brought a large spear with him and loosened the rivets that held it to the shaft. then, he went to the hall where the serpent laid, and a vicious battle ensued between the two. eventually, Ragnar stabbed the snake with such force, that it left a mortal wound and the spearhead stuck inside it. the serpent shook so violently that it thrashed around with such force and wailed so loudly that the entire hall shook. Ragnar left the spearhead, stuck in the derpent's wound, and headed back to the ships. Thora saw him leaving, and asked his name and why he had come. Rgnar spoke,
"I've gambled my life,
girl of fair complexion
fought the fish of the land(2)
though fifteen winters old.
I have conquered, cleaving the coiled heath-salmon(2) to the heart
unless its bale should bite, bringing me sudden death." Then, he left and said nothing more to her, and bringing the shaft of the spear with him back to the ship.
The noise was so great that it woke Jarl Herrud and all his men, and they went to investigate the noise, quivering in fear for Thora's life. they entered the hall to find the serpent, laying dead with the large spearhead, thrusted so forcefully that it shattered the serpent's spine and stuck in the body. The Jarl took the point out and it was so big that few could wield it properly. in jest, Herrud said he was right to say that no man could kill the beast, as he wasn't even sure if a human had wielded the spear.
The Jarl held a thing(4), where he invited all his vassals and local warriors. The news of the Thing reached Ragnar, and he went with all his men. they sat somewhat away from the others, as his party was quite large.
Herrud spoke, saying that if anyone said they had killed the serpent, they would have to prove it by presenting the shaft that belonged to the spearpoint. the head was brought around the assembly, and no one had spoke up. until it reached where Ragnar was seated. he said that it was his, and presented the shaft. everyone realized he must have been the one to kill the serpent, and this deed had made him the most famous man in all the northlands. He asked for Thora's hand, and she was given to him.
Ragnar and Thora went back to Ragnar's home and ruled the kingdom. They had two sons - Eirek and Agnar. they were both stronger than most, and learned many skills and were the best at many sports. a few years later, Thora became ill and died. Ragnar was so hearbroken that he couldn't rule the kingdom, and appointed others to rule along with his sons. He took up raiding, and never lost a battle.
(1) Gautland - southern Sweden
(2) ground-wolf, Heather-eel, Fish of the Land, Heath Salmon - serpent
(3) Lodbrok - translates roughly to "hairy pants," he was nicknamed for the shaggy pants he wore.
(4) Thing - Assembly
The Sagas - Lodbrok Pt.1