Ivar the boneless

Ivar the Boneless (Old Norse: Ívarr hinn Beinlausi; Old English: Hyngwar) was a Viking leader and a commander who invaded what is now England. According to the Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, he was the son of Ragnar Lodbrok and Aslaug. His brothers included Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, Hvitserk, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye and Ubba.

The origin of the nickname is not known. The sagas describe him as lacking bones. A genetic disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, is known to cause the body to seem ‘as if lacking bones’ because the body and limbs can bend off beyond the usual joints limitations, and produce other ill effects and degrading functions. It was known by the Ancient Greeks and Romans reported it as common in the British Isles, although little understood until the early 1900s. According to the Tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar’s bonelessness was the result of a curse. His mother was Ragnar’s third wife and had powers of sorcery. She said that she and her husband must wait three nights before consummating their marriage, but he ignored this warning, and the result was that Ivar was born without bones.[2]

While the sagas describe Ivar’s physical disability, they also emphasise his wisdom, cunning, and mastery of strategy and tactics in battle.

He is often considered identical to Ímar, the founder of the Uí Ímair dynasty which at various times, from the mid-9th to the 10th century, ruled Northumbria from the city of York, and dominated the Irish Sea region as the Kingdom of Dublin.[3]