Study Guide

Ragnar Danneskjöld in Atlas Shrugged

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Ragnar Danneskjöld

Ahoy mateys! It's time to discuss everyone's favorite pirate: Ragnar. (He even has an "aargh" sound in his name!)

OK, so actually Ragnar is an odd duck. He's like the Ron Weasley of Galt's Golden Trio. Francisco and John hog all the attention, though given how the narrative often filters through Hank and Dagny, this is understandable. They interact most often with John and Francisco, since Ragnar is off pirating. We hear of Ragnar mainly through gossip and the fearful discussions of people commenting on his pirate raids. Ragnar is sort of a mythic figure who inspires dread and confusion.

The pirating itself is confusing, though. Let's check out Dr. Akston's description of Ragnar:

"And Ragnar – you didn't know what profession Ragnar had chosen, Miss Taggart? No, it wasn't a stunt pilot, or jungle explorer, or deep-sea diver. It was something much more outrageous than these. Ragnar intended to be a philosopher. An abstract, theoretical, academic, cloistered, ivory-tower philosopher." (

He's a bit like MacGyver – the mild-mannered, quasi-pacifist who often ends up beating people up and getting in and out of "ultra sticky situations" (though technically that's SNL's MacGruber). Ragnar is also eye candy; Dagny describes him like he's a Norse god. So he's a hot, Viking-philosopher-pirate. Is this guy trying to be some sort of perfect Harlequin romance novel hero? Well, not really.

Akston nails it when he describes Ragnar's intended profession as "outrageous." In a world run by looters, being a philosopher and living a life of the mind is a much more risky undertaking than running around as a criminal. In this respect, the bold and dangerous lifestyle Ragnar leads as a pirate with a cause is not very far removed from the lifestyle of a bold and uncompromising philosopher. In both instances, Ragnar is standing up to the looters' bad regime and challenging their values.

In his two big scenes, Ragnar gives a concise and interesting spin on his morals and his role in the strike. As he explains, in the opposite day that is the looters' world, men of the mind become men of the sword:

What I actually am, Mr. Rearden, is a policeman. It is a policeman's duty to protect men from criminals – criminals being those who seize wealth by force. ... But when robbery becomes the purpose of the law...then it is an outlaw who has to become a policeman. (

Ragnar's moral crusade has specific targets and beneficiaries as well.

"I'm after a man whom I want to destroy. "

"What man?"

"Robin Hood. ...He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Well, I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich – or, to be exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich."

More than any of the other strikers, Ragnar has a very concrete notion of justice, and he is on a quest to pay back those who have been "robbed" with bars of gold. It seems the other strike leaders don't fully approve of Ragnar's methods, but that's rather fitting for a would-be renegade philosopher. He's not afraid to go against the crowd.

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