Death of Lodbrok, According to Roger of Wendover

Edmund the Martyr is killed by the Danes.

Edmund the Martyr is killed by the Danes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an interesting version of Ragnar Lodbrok’s death I found in Roger of Wendover’s Flores Historiarum from the 13th century. Traditionally, the story goes that after coming to the Northumbrian court, Lodbrok is thrown into a pit of vipers by King Aelle, resulting in his children attacking York years later in revenge. Rodger of Wendover however, writes that it was King Edmund’s court in East Anglia where Lodbrok met his end, and that this was the reason why this king was killed and later made a saint.

“There was, not long ago, in the kingdom of the Danes, a certain man named Lothbroc, who was sprung from the royal race of that nation, and had by his wife two sons, Hinguar (Ivar) and Hubba (Ubba). One day he took his hawk and went out unattended in a little boat to catch small birds and wild fowl on the sea coast and in the islands. While thus engaged, he was surprised by a sudden storm which carried him out to sea where he was tossed about for several days and nights, and at ast, after much distress, he was driven to the English coast, and landed at Redham, in a province of the East-Angles called Norfolk by the natives.
The people of that country by chance found him with his hawk, and presented him as a sort of prodigy to Edmund, king of the East-Angles, who for the sake of his comely person gave him an honourable reception.
Lothbroc abode some time in the court of that monarch; and as the Danish tongue is very like the English, he began to relate to the king by what chance he had been driven to the coast of England. The accomplished manners of king Edmund pleased Lothbroc, as well as his military discipline and the courtly manners of his attendants, whom the king had industriously instructed in every grace of speech and behaviour. Emulous of the like attainments, Lothbroc earnestly asked permission of the king to remain in his court, that he might be more fully instructed in every kingly accomplishment ; and having obtained his request, he attached himself to the king’s huntsman, whose name was Berne, that he might with him exercise the hunter’s art, in which he was well practised ; for such was his skill, both in hawking and hunting, that he was always successful in the pursuit both of birds and beasts. And being deservedly a favourite with the king, the hunts-man began to envy him exceedingly because of his superiority in these arts ; and giving way to deadly hatred to Lothbroc, he one day, when they went hunting together, attacked him by surprise and wickedly slew him, leaving his body in a thicket. This done, the wicked huntsman called off the dogs with his horn and returned home.
Now Lothbroc had reared a certain greyhound in king Edmund’s court, which was very fond of him, as is natural, and which, when the huntsman returned with the other dogs, remained alone with his master’s body. On the morrow, as the king sat at table and missed Lothbroc from the company, he anxiously asked his attendants what had befallen him ; on which Berne the huntsman answered and said, that as they were returning from hunting the day before, the other had tarried behind him in a wood, and he declared that he had not seen him since ; but scarcely had he so said, when the greyhound which Lothbroc had reared entered the king’s house and began to wag his tail and fawn on all, and especially the king ; who on seeing him exclaimed to the attendants, ” Here comes Lothbroc’s dog; his master is not far behind ;” He then in his joy began to feed the animal, hoping quickly to see his master ; but he was disappointed, for no sooner had the greyhound appeased his hunger than he returned to keep his accustomed watch by his master’s body.
After three days he was compelled by hunger to come again to the king’s table, who, greatly wondering, gave orders to follow the dog when he returned from the hall, and to watch whither he went. The king’s servants fulfilled his commands, and followed the dog until he led them to Lothbroc’s lifeless body. On being informed thereof, the king was greatly disturbed, and directed that the body should be committed to a more honourable sepulture.”

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