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Vikings: What Was Wrong With Baldur (& Why Ivar Killed Him)

Ivar the Boneless (sort of) had a son in Vikings season 5, but left poor baby Baldur to die in the forest after seeing his facial deformity.

The character of Ivar the Boneless (kind of) had a son in Vikings season 5, but due to a facial deformity, the baby Baldur was left in the forest to die. It’s the fate that Ivar narrowly avoided as a baby, when Ragnar Lothbrok saw that Ivar had a deformity in his legs and took him to the woods to be left to his fate. The season 5 death of Baldur brings Ivar’s story full in this way.

Ivar was the youngest son of Ragnar and Queen Aslaug, and he was born with a genetic disorder known as osteogenesis imperfect, also known as brittle bone disease. He had narrow odds of even surviving the harsh life of 9th century Norway with this condition, so Ragnar felt that killing Ivar was the best choice. He turned out to be unable to cut baby Ivar’s throat, so he simply abandoned the boy in the woods. Once Aslaug discovered their son was missing, she brought him home, so that Ivar survived against all the odds – going on to eventually become a king, and even a self-proclaimed god.

Related: Vikings: What Illness Ragnar Lothbrok Had After The Siege of Paris

In addition to his non-working legs, Ivar was also impotent. However, his wife Freydis secretly conceived a child with another man and then convinced Ivar that he had successfully impregnated her when she drank some of his blood. Believing himself to be a god, Ivar decided to name the baby after Odin’s beautiful son Baldur – but while Freydis saw the beauty in Baldur after he was born, Ivar saw only a son who was deformed. Baldur’s face is never actually shown and it’s not explicitly said what deformity he had, but based on his widwife’s warning that the baby will not be able to feed from Freydis’ breast, we can conclude that he was born with a cleft lip. This is a birth defect that results in the lip and sometimes the roof of the mouth improperly forming, resulting in a split that – in severe cases – can be so large that it opens up into the nostril.

Vikings Ivar Holding Baldur

While babies born in modern times with a cleft lip or palate are able to be treated with supported and eventually have corrective surgery, in the time in which Vikings is set, Baldur’s facial deformity would have been close to Ivar’s brittle bone disease in spelling certain death. While some babies who are born with a cleft lip or palate can breastfeed with assistance, Ivar and the midwife’s reaction to seeing the baby suggests the issue was quite severe with Baldur. The strong parallels that can be drawn between Ivar and Baldur might suggest that Baldur could have survived had his father been willing to give the boy a chance.

Ivar’s decision for leaving Baldur to die is somewhat complicated. As he says goodbye to his son, he tells him that he’s doing it so that Baldur won’t experience the same suffering that Ivar himself went through growing up. However, it’s clear that Ivar is also interested in protecting his own pride and image; he has presented himself to his people as a living god, and he fears that having a son with a facial deformity will remind people of his own crippled legs. When he reports Baldur’s death to his people, he tells them that the baby was beautiful and perfect in every way. Sadly, it’s soon revealed that foxes dragged baby Baldur into their den and destroyed any evidence to the contrary.

The death of Baldur is ultimately the result of Ivar’s failure to heed his father’s advice. During their two-man “raid” of Wessex, Ragnar told Ivar that his deformity had made him the strongest out of all his brothers, and that it was a blessing rather than a curse. But when Baldur is born, Ivar allows his insecurities to get the better of him. Had he let Baldur live, the ensuing battle against his brothers would have ended with their crippling defeat. But in killing Freydis’ baby and turning her against him, Ivar paved the way for his own downfall.

More: Vikings: Why Ragnar Lothbrok Plotted His Own Death In Season 4

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