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Ragnar succeeds his father as king of Sweden and Denmark. While he is still a youngster, he kills a giant snake, wearing special clothes made of fur for protection, which earns him his nickname Lodbrok - “Hairy-Breeches” - and also the jarl’s daughter that the monster guarded, Thora Hart-of-the-Town.
But Thora dies young, and Ragnar takes another wife – Kraka, a mysterious girl raised by a poor couple, who will eventually reveal a lofty heritage. Thora’s sons are Erik and Agnar; Kraka’s sons are Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Hvitserk, Rognvald, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye.
While Ragnar is away making conquest around the Baltic, his sons, hungry for fame and money, set up their own business and start conquering for themselves. Driven by ambition, Erik and Agnar attack Eystein Beli, Ragnar’s vice-king in Sweden. But Agnar is killed in battle and Erik captured. Eystein offers Erik to make up with him, but Erik prefers to die rather than to live with the shame, and Eystein grants his wish.
The sons of Kraka decide to avenge their half-brothers and so, invade Sweden, defeat the Swedish army, and kill Eystein. Now drunken with success, they embark on a raiding rampage along the coasts of Europe, plundering all the way to Italy, where they set their eyes on sacking Rome – but because of divine intervention, they only make it to the city of Luni in Liguria.
Ragnar, returned to Sweden victoriously, is not happy about what happened – worried not only about the rebellious behavior of his sons, but even more about the enormous fame that they have amassed – fame which, Ragnar fears, is about to eclipse his own. Determined to not allow that to happen, Ragnar hatches a project to set the record straight: To conquer England – with no more than two ships and an army of five hundred. Bloodshed ensues.