The Vikings have a reputation as fierce and bloody warriors that burned and pillaged their way through Europe in the 9th and 10th centuries.
The surviving evidence suggests that their reputation is well deserved, and that just the sight of a Viking warrior could strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. But to rise to the top of Viking society, you had to be more fearsome and ferocious than the rest!
Here are the 15 most ferocious and famous Viking warriors from history and the bloody stories that have earned them a place on this list!
1. Bjorn Ironside
He was expelled by his father for being the youngest of his sons, but took a great fleet of Viking warriors with him and raided England, Spain, France and Italy, getting as far south as Gibraltar.
When he returned, he divided his father’s kingdom with his brother and became king of Sweden.
2. Egil Skallagrimsson
Living in the 900s, Egil Skallagrimson was an Icelandic Viking warrior and poet. He is said to have killed for the first time at the age of just 7, killing a boy who cheated him in a game with an axe. Later, as a result of another insult, Egil killed a retainer of the King Eric Bloodaxe.
Declared an outlaw in Norway, further Viking warriors, including the king’s son, were sent to kill him in vengeance. Egil killed every man who came after him.
When Egil was eventually captured, he evaded execution by composing a poem that impressed Erik so much that he spared his life.
3. Eric Bloodaxe
Eric Bloodaxe was a son of Norway’s first king, Harald Fairhair. He later became king of Norway, and gained his name, by killing all but one of his brothers.
He was a hard and unpopular king, and soon his sovereignty was challenged by his sole surviving brother.
Eric fled to England where he conducted bloody raids around Scotland and the Irish Sea, gaining his reputation as a famous Viking warrior.
4. Erik the Red
Erik the Red was a 10th century Norwegian Viking warrior who fled Norway for Iceland after being exiled for manslaughter.
An avid explorer, Erik later found Greenland and established the first Viking settlements there, which lasted 500 years.
5. Freydis Eiríksdóttir
A daughter of Eric the Red, Freydis is proof that Viking women could be just as fearsome Viking warriors as men.
Along with her brother, she was one of the first Europeans to visit North America at the start of the 11th century. She was said to be fearsome and have a terrible temper that petrified the Native Americans.
One story says that she fought off a Native American raid single-handed while eight months pregnant.
6. Gunnar Hamundarson
Gunnar was a 10th century Icelandic Viking warrior who was said to be capable of jumping his own body height while wearing full armour. He was also described as one of the most famous Viking warriors and as being the most beautiful man in the world.
Unlike most Vikings, as well as fighting in close combat, he was a skilled archer and stone thrower.
Gunnar died after he killed two men from the same family. Rather than fleeing, he decided to stay at his home, where there was an epic battle in which he was eventually killed.
7. Halfdan Ragnarsson
A son of Ragnar Lodbrok, alongside his brother Ivar, Halfdan led the Viking warrior army, known as the Great Heathen Army, that landed in England in 865 and conquered Northumbria.
His many conquests gained him a reputation as a famous Viking warrior and he later became king of London.
8. Harald Hardrada
Widely considered to be the last Viking ruler, sitting on the Norwegian throne in 1046, he is said to have overseen a period of prosperity despite being a militaristic and brutal ruler.
Harald Hardrada is said to have led the last great Viking raid of England in 1066, where his army was defeated and he was killed.
In his youth he worked as a mercenary within the Byzantine Empire. When he returned to Norway he played an important role in the spread of Christianity. Harald Hardrada was consider as the last viking in history.
9. Ivar the Boneless
Another son of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ivar the Boneless apparently owes his name to a condition that caused his bones to fracture easily, making his reputation as a fierce Viking warrior particularly impressive.
He was another leader of the Great Heathen Army that invaded the British Isles to avenge the death of his father.
After many successful conquests he set himself up in Dublin as king of the Norsemen of all Ireland and Britain.
10. Leif Erikson
Son of Erik the Red, Leif led the first Viking expeditions to America in around the year 1000.
However, it seems that the new world was in fact discovered by a merchant called Bjarni Herjolfsson about 14 years earlier, but Leif Erikson, hearing about the discovery, set up the first Viking outposts in the area.
Leif took the Viking warrior lifestyle with hi to America and raided the local Native American communities.
11. Ragnar Lodbrok
Probably the most important Viking leader and the most famous Viking warrior, Ragnar Lodbrok led many raids on France and England in the 9th century.
The archetype Viking warrior, Ragnar is said to have successfully fought a dragon, and to have led an invasion of England with just two ships – which failed and led to his death.
Ragnar is also famous for having several wives and fathering many sons who went on to become fierce Viking warrior in their own right.
12. Rollo of Normandy
Rollo was a famous Viking chieftain who became the first ruler of the Normandy region in France. He is famed for having been a savage Viking king that later converted to Christianity and became an example of Christian virtue.
13. Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye
Yet another son of Ragnar Lodbrok, Sigurd was apparently born with a mark on his eye that looked like a snake eating its own tail. Sigurd was also part of the Great Heathen Army expedition that took on Britain in order to avenge the death of Ragnar Lodbrok.
He later married the daughter of King Aella, the man responsible for the death of his father.
14. Sweyn Forkbeard
Sweyn Forkbeard was a famous Viking king of both Denmark and England and one of the most important Vikings when it comes to English history.
He formed an imposing Danish North Sea empire in about 1000 and conquered England in 1013, only a year before his death.
While his death saw the end of his Norwegian empire, his son and grandson continued to rule in England until 1042.
15. Ubba Ragnarsson
One more son of Ragnar Lodbrok, Ubba also went to England following his father’s death in order to exact vengeance.
He is said to have been involved in the conquest of York, as well as supporting his brothers on several of their campaigns.