Vikings: the story behind the lead characters' awesome tattoos!

Ragnar Lothbrok (or Lodbrok) was one of the first (if not the first) Vikings to travel far beyond his native lands. Since Vikings blasted onto our screens in 2013, we've all been tuning into the History channel to follow the historically accurate story of this former king of Sweden and Denmark. The Vikings were famous for their large stature, strength, love of war and their impressive ships - also called Drakkars. They were also known to love body art in the form of tattoos that paid homage to their courage and strength.  Viking tattoos had a tribal feel and often made reference to nature, the Norse gods and their warrior culture.

Here's a fascinating closer look at 10 tattoos that feature on the leading cast members.

1. Ragnar's left-side head tattoo that first appeared in Season 3

Ragnar Lothbrok had his head tattooed with new designs being added as the series progressed. The intertwining friezes represent his warrior spirit and the interdependence of all things in life.  You'll also spot a Viking ship head in reference to their spirit of adventure and lust for travel.  Finally, there's a Yggdrasil, an eternal green Ash tree that in Norse mythology was also known as 'the tree of life'.

2. Floki, the boat-builder and Ragnar's friend


Floki's tattoo is a Runic band that references change, success, joy, responsibility and energy.

3. Ragnar's right-side head tattoo

As with the left-hand side of his head, Ragnar's right-side tattoos also evolved as the series progressed. Specific Runes are depicted on this side including the god of gods Odin on the nape of his neck, as well as the Norse deities of death, war and knowledge.

4. Rollo and the tattoo on his right flank

Rollo, Ragnar's brother, has an interlaced, knotted pattern that covers the top of his right arm and side of his body.  As with his sibling's designs, these represent the armor and shields worn by Viking warriors.

5. Ragnar's head tattoo in Season 1

You can see Ragnar's first tattoos in Season 1. The Runes feature strongly, including an 'N' shape design that represents 'change'. The other images are Hälsinge Runes that are of Swedish origin and have distinctive lines and circles.  There's also the image of a crow - Odin's winged messenger that represents thoughts and memories.

6. Leif's tattoos

You can spot Leif's tattoos when he strips off for the sacrifice scene in Season 1. Once again friezes, knots and interlaced details dominate the design and represent his fierce warrior character and, as with Ragnar's head tattoo, the interdependence of all things in life.

7. Laguertha and her thigh tattoo

Katheryn Winnick plays Laguertha, Ragnar's warrior wife. In the series her character sports several tattoos, but the actress herself decided to get a Viking-style tattoo inked onto her left thigh.  The image is of a Drakkar to symbolize travels and adventures, as well as several animal references. Overall the design represents strength and courage.

8. Jarl Borg's tattoos

Symbolic Viking tattoos featuring interlacing designs, shields and animals cover the adventurous Jarl Borg's body, once again referencing his warrior lifestyle.

9. The evolution of Ragnar's head tattoos

This photo beautifully embodies Ragar's tattoos and you can easily see waves, runes, animals and Viking symbols.  The '2-shaped' motif refers to change and transformation - two key elements in this character's life. 

10. Rollo's tattoos at the beginning of the series

The wolf design on Rollo's left arm pays homage to the wolves that the Vikings worshipped.  Judging by its size, this could well be the image of Fenrir, the huge marsh-dwelling wolf that killed Odin. This animal represents strength and ferocity during battle - a quick and resilient animal just like Rollo himself. There's a simple sun image alongside a Vegvisir or Runic compass.  Combined with the sun motif these represent a warrior who would guide his troops during the Vikings' various sea crossings.