List of Famous Vikings
The Most Powerful and Influential Vikings in History
Ragnar Lothbrok (c. 9th Century)
Danish and Swedish King. What separates the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok from other Viking myths and legends—and which leads some historians to insist that he was an actual historical figure—is that a handful of known historical figures claimed that Ragnar Lothbrok was their father. Known as the “Sons of Ragnar,” these Vikings included Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, all fierce Viking warriors who left their own mark on the world.
List of Famous Vikings:
Norse Explorers, Raiders, Merchants, Pirates, and Seafaring People from Scandinavia
- Ragnar Lothbrok (circa 9th century): According to legend, Ragnar Lothbrok (or Regner; also Ragnar Lodbrok or Lodbrog) was the most famous Viking of his age. A cunning strategist and courageous warrior, Ragnar Lothbrok remains one of the greatest heroes of Viking history. To learn more about Ragnar Lothbrok, check out Classic Influence Podcast CIP 023: Construct Your Own Heroic Life History: Ragnar Lothbrok, The Everlasting Legend of the Viking Leader
- Lagertha the Shieldmaiden (c. 9th century): Believed to be a Viking shield-maiden, a ruler in Norway, and the first wife of the famous Viking Ragnar Lothbrok.
- Floki Vilgerdarson (c. 9th century): Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, also known as Floki Vilgerdarson, was a real Viking who lived in the 9th century A.D. He was an early Norse settler in Iceland and is credited with being one of the first to sail to Iceland with the goal of settling there. According to the sagas, Floki and his crew sailed from Norway to find a new land to settle. They found Iceland and named it “Snæland”, meaning “snow land”, because they encountered large amounts of snow and ice. Floki then explored the land and reportedly climbed a mountain, where he saw a fjord filled with icebergs. He named the fjord “Vatnajökull”, which is now the name of the largest glacier in Iceland. Floki’s settlement in Iceland was not initially successful, as he and his crew had difficulty finding enough food and resources to survive. However, he eventually established a successful settlement and became one of the early leaders of the Icelandic community. The life of Floki Vilgerdarson is the inspiration behind the character named Floki in the TV series “Vikings.”
- Björn Ironside Ragnarsson (c. 9th century): Believed to be the first ruler of the Swedish Munso dynasty. Björn Ironside was one of the six sons of Ragnar Lothbrok.
- Ivar the Boneless (c. 800-873): A legendary Viking leader who, also known as Ivar Ragnarsson, is believed to be one of the six sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. Ivar the Boneless was known for his ability as a strategist and tactician and his invasions of England and Ireland. Historians believe he was named Ivar the Boneless because he had brittle bone disease.
- Halfdan Ragnarsson (Died in 877): Also known as Hvitserk ("Whiteshirt"), Halfdan is believed to be one of the six sons of Ragnar Lothbrok.
- Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye Ragnarsson (circa mid-to-late 9th century): Viking warrior and Danish king, believed to be one of the six sons of Ragnar Lothbrok.
- Ubba Ragnarsson (c. 9th century): Famous Viking warrior and one of the commanders of the Great Heathen Army. Ubba is also believed to be one of the sons of the famous Ragnar Lothbrok
- Hasting (c. 9th century): Also known as Hastein, Hæsten, and even Alsting, Hasting was a famous Viking leader and crafty tactician who is known for leading, with Björn Ironside and 62 Viking longships, one of the longest, most spectacular Viking expeditions in history. Hasting also claimed to be one of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, but some historians question his claim. In their four-year long odyssey, these two seafaring, glory-driven, profit-seeking Viking leaders sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, leading raids and capturing cities along the North African coast, and into Spain, Italy, and possibly farther still. Hasting is also famous for faking his death in order to penetrate the impenetrable fortifications of what he and Björn Ironside (allegedly) believed to be the great ancient city of Rome, but turned out to be Luna (Luni, Italy)—which so angered the ruthless, glory-seeking Viking chieftain that he slaughtered every man in the city for his own error. Some historians say it was Björn Ironside who faked his death and was permitted a Christian burial within the walls of the city. Whichever Viking leader it was, it was a ploy to get inside and sack the city, which worked horrendously well. Some historians and archaeologists doubt that the Vikings mistook Luna for Rome, arguing that that bit was added on later to discredit the "heathen conquerors."
- Olaf the White (Born c. 820): Olaf the White was born in Ireland. Some sources claim he was a descendant of Ragnar Lothbrok. In 853, Olaf was named King of Dublin. Olaf ruled jointly with another Viking named Imar, who some historians argue is Ivar Ragnarsson (i.e. Ivar the Boneless).
- Guthrum (c.835-890): Born in Denmark, Guthrum was a Viking raider and conqueror who became King of East Anglia in England between 878 until his death in 890. As one of the main leaders of the Vikings’ Great Summer Army, Guthrum fought against Alfred the Great of Wessex for years, often winning great victories, before he was finally defeated at the Battle of Edington in 878 and persuaded by Alfred to accept peace. Guthrum agreed to be baptized as part of the terms of surrender and Alfred became his godfather. Guthrum ruled East Anglia well until his death, issuing coins in his baptismal name, Æthelstan.
- Rollo of Normandy (c.835/870-928/933): One of the most famous Viking leaders in history and the founder and first ruler of Normandy, a region of Northern France. He was a great Viking warrior and cunning strategist who famously secured a permanent foothold on Frankish soil. After Rollo successfully besieged Paris and won a victory at Chartres in 911, Charles the Simple, the King of West Francia, offered Rollo his daughter Gisela’s hand in marriage along with considerable wealth, titles and lands if, in exchange, Rollo would agree to be baptized and, henceforth, protect the realm from other Viking raiders and external threats. The plan worked. Rollo, the fox, became the game warden, a hero in West Francia, and the first Duke of Normandy.
- Halfdan the Black (9th century AD): A Norwegian king who founded the Earldom of Lade and was the father of Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway.
- Harald Fairhair (c. 850-932): Also known as Harald Finehair, King Harald I Fairhair was the first King of Norway (872-930). A master strategist and visionary leader, Fairhair reigned from approximately 872 to 930 A.D. and succeeded at unifying the formerly divided petty kingdoms of Norway into a single kingdom. According to the saga, Harald Fairhair was born into a royal family but fled into exile as a child when his father was killed in battle. He grew up at the court of a Danish king and returned to Norway as a young man with the strategic goal of uniting the country under his rule. Harald is said to have fought a series of campaigns against rival chieftains, emerging victorious and establishing himself as the first king of a united Norway. He introduced systems of law, taxation, weights and measures to govern his new kingdom. A clever strategist, Harald also pursued Christianization to strengthen his power, getting baptized himself and urging his subjects to follow suit, though the process of Christianization was not fully realized until after his reign ended. Harald’s legacy as a strategist, builder of a kingdom, and promoter of Christianity make him an important figure in Norwegian history. His reign marks the beginning of the Viking Age in Norway, and his descendants went on to rule the country for centuries to come.
- Rurik (9th century A.D.): A Varangian chieftain who founded the Rurik Dynasty, which ruled over the Kievan Rus’ and later the Tsardom of Russia.
- Ansgar (9th century A.D.): a Christian missionary who is known as the “Apostle of the North”, and was instrumental in spreading Christianity throughout Scandinavia.
- Ketil Flatnose (9th-10th century A.D.): Legendary Norwegian adventurer and explorer who is believed to have traveled to Iceland and Greenland.
- Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson (father of Egil) (9th-10th century A.D.): Icelandic warrior and farmer, who is the father of Egil Skallagrímsson and the subject of many Icelandic sagas.
- Aud the Deep-Minded (9th-10th century A.D.): Icelandic woman who is believed to have played a key role in the settlement of Iceland, and is the subject of many Icelandic sagas.
- Helgi the Lean (9th-10th century A.D.): Legendary Icelandic warrior and poet, who is the subject of the Icelandic saga “Völsunga saga”. (9th-10th century AD)
- Thorolf Kveldulfsson (brother of Egil) (9th-10th century A.D.): Icelandic warrior and adventurer, who is the brother of Egil Skallagrímsson and the subject of many Icelandic sagas.
- Eric Bloodaxe (Died c. 954): Probably born c. 910 A.D., Eric Haraldsson or Eric of Norway was a 10th-century Norwegian ruler who was believed to briefly serve as the King of Norway (931-933). Eric Bloodaxe was also the King of Northumbria, a kingdom in northern England, from 947 to 948 A.D., and again from 952 to 954. He was the son of Harald Fairhair.
- Haakon the Good (c. 920-961): Haakon Haraldsson was the son of Harald Fairhair and Thora Mosterstong. He reigned as the third king of Norway from c. 935 to 961. King Harald was 70 years old when he fathered Haakon the Good, according to Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), the Icelandic historian, poet, and politician who wrote the Saga of Harald Fairhair. Haakon the Good is also remembered for his efforts to introduce Christianity to Norway.
- Egil Skallagrímsson (c. 904-995): was a Viking Age war poet, sorcerer, berserker, and farmer. Egil Skallagrímsson is the subject of many Icelandic sagas.
- Sigrid the Haughty (10th century A.D.): A Norwegian queen who was known for her beauty, intelligence, and political acumen, and played a key role in the consolidation of Norway under her husband, Sweyn Forkbeard.
- Harald Bluetooth (10th century A.D.): A Danish king who is credited with the unification of Denmark and the introduction of Christianity to the country.
- Gorm the Old (10th century A.D.): A Danish king who is credited with the unification of Denmark and the establishment of the Danish monarchy. (10th century AD)
- Thjodhild (wife of Eirik the Red) (10th century A.D.): A Viking woman who is credited with introducing Christianity to Greenland.
- Thorvald Asvaldsson (10th century A.D.): Father of Eirik the Red and one of the first settlers of Greenland.
- Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir (10th century A.D.): A Viking woman who was a member of the Vinland expedition, and is believed to have been the first European woman to give birth in North America.
- Hallgerda (10th century A.D.): Icelandic woman who was married to several prominent Icelandic chieftains, and is the subject of the Icelandic saga “Laxdæla saga”.
- Skarp-Hedin (10th century A.D.): Legendary Icelandic warrior and poet, who is the subject of the Icelandic saga “Grettis saga”.
- Thorgest (10th century A.D.): Icelandic chieftain who was involved in a feud with Erik the Red, and is the subject of the Icelandic saga “Eiríks saga rauða”.
- Orm Storolfsson (10th century A.D.): Legendary Icelandic strongman, who is said to have carried a 1,411 lb (640 kg) mast on his shoulders.
- Erik the Red (c. 950-1003) Erik Thorvaldsson or Erik the Red was a Norse explorer who is believed to have founded the first settlement in Greenland, according the Icelandic sagas. He was also the father of another famous Viking explorer, Leif the Lucky Erikson.
- Olaf Tryggvason (c. 960s-1000): Also known as Olav Tryggvasson, he was the King of Norway (995-1000) and the great-grandson of Harald Fairhair (1st king of Norway)
- Sweyn Forkbeard (963-1014): King of Denmark (986-1014), Sweyn Forkbeard was the father of Harald II of Denmark, Cnut the Great, and Queen Estrid Svendsdatter, a Danish princess, a Russian princess and a duchess of Normandy by marriage.
- Leif Erikson (c. 970-1020): Known as “Leif the Lucky” Erikson (or Eiriksson), the famous Norse explorer and son of Erik the Red is believed to be the first European to discover North America, predating Columbus by nearly 500 years. There is some archaeological evidence that he established a Norse settlement at Vinland, an area on the coast in North America, circa 1000 A.D.
- Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Born c. 970) daughter of Erik the Red, Freydís is believed to have accompanied her brother Leif Erikson in the earliest European explorations of North America, becoming one of the first colonists in Vinland. Freydís Eiríksdóttir is mentioned in both of the Vinland sagas, the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik the Red. Freydís was a bold and strong-willed woman known for defying the odds.
- Thorkell the Tall (c. late 900s): Believed to be one of the first mentors of Canute the Great.
- Gunnar Hámundarson (c. 10th century): Described as a god-like warrior who was invincible in battle, Gunnar Hámundarson features prominently in the thirteenth-century Icelandic saga known as Njáls Saga
- Canute the Great (Died c. 1035): Also known as Cnut or Knut, Canute was one of the greatest Vikings in history. Canute was King of England (1016-1035), King of Denmark (1018-1035), and King of Norway (1028-1035), together these three kingdoms were known as the North Sea Empire.
- Harald Hardrada (1015-1066): Harald Hardrada (“Hard Ruler”) Sigurdsson, also known as Harald of Norway was the King of Norway from 1046 until 1066, when he was defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge by Harold Godwinson—Godwinson was defeated and killed just a few weeks later by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings, bringing an end to the Viking Age.
By JOHNNY WELCH, Ed.D., M.B.A.
Dr. Welch teaches a leadership course at Columbia University. His leadership development practice focuses on the strategic application of the wisdom of history. Learn More.