Our Favourite Famous Vikings - Handy Info for Key Stage 2
Updated: Feb 10
Who was he?:
Leif was a Norse Explorer, famous for being the first European to find North America – 500 years before Chris Columbus.
His story was recorded in several different sagas (Viking stories).
Leif was born in Iceland but had to leave when his dad killed his neighbour (oops!).
After being exiled from Iceland, Leif and his family headed west and settled in a new area that nobody lived in.
They enticed new settlers to come and live with them there by calling the area Greenland, despite there being very little "green" about it (Greenland is mostly snow and ice - in fact 80% of it is covered by an ice cap!).
The stories on how Leif discovered America vary. One story states he was told a tale about a strange new land that he set off to find. Another story claims that Leif was sailing back to Greenland and discovered America after getting a little lost!
Either way he arrived in America and named this exciting new land "Vinland". Sadly, the precise location of Vinland is no longer known to this day.
Who was he?:
A Viking hero and warrior, known to have three wives and loads of fearsome children.
What did he do?:
A LOT of stuff. He featured in a whole bunch of Viking sagas. He even had a saga dedicated entirely to him (called "the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok" funnily enough!).
In one story, he killed a giant snake whilst wearing an interesting pair of shaggy trousers. This is where he got the name "Lothbrok", which translates as "hairy breeches".
Was he actually real?:
Debate rages over whether Ragnar existed or not, he may have been a legendary figure like King Arthur. He could just be a fictional character based on several people.
How did he die?:
Ragnar is said to have been captured by the King Aella of Northumbria who killed him by throwing him into a pit of snakes.
Sadly for King Aella, he had no idea that his actions would encourage one of Ragnar's fearsome sons, Ivar the Boneless, to sail a huge army of vikings over to England (the Great Heathen Army) to avenge Ragnar's death.
Ivar the Boneless
Who was he?:
One of Ragnar Lothbrok's sons and the leader of the Great Heathen Army.
Was he actually boneless?:
Good question. Nobody really knows. Perhaps he had an illness that caused very weak bones. Or perhaps the Vikings were being ironic and Ivar was actually really big, strong and scary.
The Great Heathen Army:
The Great Heathen Army was a collection of Viking armies that invaded England in 865 AD. This wasn't unusual - many Vikings had been raiding England before this time. But the Great Heathen Army was different - they weren't here to grab riches and return to Scandinavia, this time they intended to stay and settle in England.
Ivar the Boneless, led the army and aimed to get revenge on King Aella of Northumbria for the execution of his father, Ragnar Lothbrok. But he didn't stop there. Ivar and his army marched around the majority of England laying waste to everything they found. Most of the English kingdoms were either conquered by the Vikings by force or were forced to pay the Vikings to leave them alone.
This continued until they were defeated by King Aethelred of Wessex and his brother, Alfred the Great, at the Battle of Ashdown in 871 AD.
Who was he?:
Harald was a King of Denmark and Norway in the 10th century.
What was he famous for?:
Three different things really:
Bringing peace to Denmark and uniting the country.
Introducing Christianity to Denmark and allowing the Bishop Unni of Bremen and Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Corvey to teach Christianity.
Building lots of Trelleborg ring forts, one of the most important archeologically remains from the Viking Age.
Did Harald have a ‘blue tooth’?: We're not sore. It probably wasn't blue, think of it more like a discoloured bad tooth.
Bluetooth Wireless, the technology for wirelessly connecting electronic devices, is named after Harald, and its logo is the runic symbols for his initials. Harold united Denmark and Norway, whilst Blue Tooth unites smart phones with computers!
If you are a Primary School teacher then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their 'How to Launch a Viking Raid' Interactive workshop to your school.
Have your students got what it takes to launch a successful Viking raid?
In this award-winning workshop, our practitioners will use interactive activities with a drama and performance twist to teach your students everything they need to know to raid the Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne. Your students will:
Create a timeline stretching from the first Viking raid to the end of the Viking era.
Construct a Viking Longship using just their bodies.
Interact with replica Viking Weapons, Armour, and tools, including a sword, shield, spear, and sunstone.
Use their teamworking skills to test out Viking navigation techniques
Launch a raid on Lindisfarne & outsmart the Monks to steal their treasure.