Vikings and fierce are two words that always come together. They were known to be great traders of the sea, settlers, and explorers of lands. While they were often stereotyped to be wearing horned helmets (not true), had a huge and insatiable taste for war (not always true), they also spent most of their time peacefully raising cattle, goats, sheep, and plowing their fields for a good portion of their year. Although, there was no denying that when it came to battles, the Vikings bred some of the toughest and fiercest warriors of all time. Here are three of the fiercest Viking warriors in history:

Harald Hardrada

Harald would not be called Hardrada for no reason. The word can be translated to “Hard Ruler” or “Tyrannical” or “Resolute,” depending on how you see his ways. At a tender age, he was already involved in bloody power struggles. It was not a surprise that when he became a teenager, Harald joined forces with Olaf II of Norway, his half-brother who had been exiled by Cnut the Great of Denmark. When Olaf was later killed at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030, Harald was left to wander on his own as a warrior. He found himself in Constantinople, in Byzantine. There, he joined the Varangian Guard, a group of elite Norse fighters who protected the Byzantine Emperor.

Harald Hardrada
Harald Hardrada. (Colin Smith / Harald Hardrada, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

From there, he rose to power as a cold, ruthless, and ambitious leader. The result was a large sum of wealth that he was able to amass with his aggressive approach. He decided to conquer Norway, where Olaf’s son named Magnus was just recently crowned as its king. In the end, they decided to compromise and co-rule. When Magnus died just a year after their agreement, Norway was left in the hands of Harald.

As a king, the first thing he did was eliminate and crush the resistance groups to his reign. He turned to England and launched an invasion in September of 1066, where he was defeated at the Battle of Stamford Bridge by Harold II. It was said that Harald fought while in berserker trance without body armor. As a result, an arrow to the throat claimed his life, and his death marked the end of the Viking Age.

Ivar The Boneless

Invasion of England by Ivar the Boneless in 886. (Uriel1022, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ivar was said to be Viking Ragnar Lothbrok’s youngest son. There were a few speculations on his “beinlausi” nickname as it could be translated to “boneless” or “legless.” There were even some speculations that it could mean he was impotent. Based on sagas, he was so-called due to a medical condition that made his bones brittle. He was often depicted to be leading his brothers during battles while he was sitting on a stretcher and wielding a bow.

When King Ælla of Northumbria threw their father into a pit of venomous snakes, Ivar and his siblings vowed revenge and gathered what was known as the Great Heathen Army to invade England in 865 AD.

By 866, they successfully captured York and got a hold of King Ælla the following year. Other accounts claimed that the brothers tortured him to death through this blood eagle method. It was a Norse ritual that involved carving the shape of an eagle into the victim’s back and then pulling the ribs from the spine, pulling the lungs and spreading them out to create the eagle’s “wings.” Historians for long debated whether this practice existed at all or not.

Erik the Red

Erik the Red (950-1003/4). (Danish School, (17th century), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Erik the Red was a Viking who did not only gain his nickname because of his red hair and beard but also because his violent nature covered his repution in the blood of countless foes.

Erik knew brutality from a young age. His family was taken to Iceland when he was young because his father killed some people in Norway. When he grew up, he soon found himself exiled, too. This was after he murdered two of his neighbors who killed his slaves. Another rampage ensued after he returned from that exile to gather some of his personal belongings. In 982 AD, Erik went and discovered Greenland, where he managed to convince people from Iceland to join him in establishing a colony in Greenland. Twenty-five ships sailed, but only 14 made it to the land after the voyage. Around 500 people survived, and they established a colony that made it through until the mid-15th century. This leads many to believe that it was the Vikings that discovered the New World many hundred years before Christopher Columbus made his journey in 1492.

Erik died in an epidemic that swept through his colony during the time when his son Leif Erikson was on a voyage to the west, where he would become the first European ever to reach North America.