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Vikings: Sagas vs. Series

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Vikings saga and series image
Amazon Prime

Well, that’s it, we’ve come to the end of another fantastic historical drama. The Vikings series first hit our screens in 2013 and gave us six incredible seasons, a hell of a saga. 89 episodes. Some amazing characters and, arguably, one of the best theme songs (If I had a Heart by Fever Ray).

Even though some characters and plots had been stretched, dramatised and even fabricated. There are a lot of stories from as far back as the 9th century that back up what we saw on our screens.

We’re not totally ready to stop learning about Ragnar and his family. We decided to do a little bit of digging to find out how close to the Icelandic, Scandinavian, Danish and Norse Sagas Vikings really took us.

Obviously, there is a lot of stories out there. Some conflicting and some expanded by hearsay, as they were only just starting to record the history around this time in the Middle Ages. But below are some of the biggest differences and the most interesting similarities.

So, make sure your curved horn is full and settle in to find out more about our favourite Viking kings, queens and shieldmaidens.

Skål.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the show, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel)

As you can imagine, there are a lot of stories and myths surrounding the legend of Ragnar Lothbrok.

The majority of the stories that cover him, his wives and his sons are found in the 13th-century sagas: The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons and Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum.

Unlike the Vikings character, Ragnar was not a Norwegian farmer. According to Norse and Icelandic legend, he was the son of King Sigurd Ring of Denmark and Sweden. His last name Lothrok (or Loðbrók) was not because of a farming status but rather because of the hairy cowhide trousers he wore into battle. Loðbrók translated means Hairy-breeches’ or ‘Shaggy-breeches. This is where myth starts to creep in. According to Old Norse Sagas, these trousers offered him magical protection against his enemies. Which obviously didn’t help him in his final moments with King Aella.

Death

The one thing that the series did kind of stick to was the stories around his death. The sagas tell us that Ragnar was indeed thrown into a snake pit by King Aella, but, it didn’t go down exactly as the episodes suggested. The sagas tell us that Ragnar was captured after his forces were overwhelmed by King Aella’s army. While the programme showed him giving himself up to the King in the hope that his sons would avenge him. But, in both series and stories, his sons did indeed invade England to avenge his death.

The raids and sieges on England were Ragnar’s first focus in the TV series, in historical findings. It was actually The Viking Siege of Paris, which was believed to be Ragnar’s first leading voyage. According to the timeline on ancient.eu, Viking forces led by one Reginherus (sometimes equated with Ragnar) first invaded Paris in 845CE. But withdraws after being paid off by the Frankish King Charles the Bald. He then went off to invade Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of England in 865.

In the series, Ragnar’s army was not paid off by King Charles, but defeated them instead, as his brother, Rollo, swapped sides and helped the Franks win. As a reward, Rollo became Duke of Normandy. As entertaining as this was, it was fabricated.

Rollo (Clive Standen)

Rollo was based on a famous Norse Viking who did become the Duke of Normandy, but Ragnar and Rollo were not brothers. In fact, far from it, as Rollo’s birth has been noted as around 870 whereas Ragnar’s death has been reported to have been around 852 to 856.

Rollo was around the same time as another Viking character, King Harrold Finehair of Norway (Peter Franzén). According to Scandinavian sagas, we found that:

Rollo, making himself independent of King Harald I of Norway, sailed off to raid Scotland, England, Flanders, and France on pirating expeditions.

In doing this, Rollo and his Danish Army established an area along the Seine River in France. But like with Ragnar, France pushed back and held Rollo’s army off Paris, and King Charles the Simple made a treaty with him where he could keep Normandy. In turn, Rollo had to be baptised and lead a Christian life. He is said to have settled and married in Normandy, and died there too. An extra fact on Duke Rollo is that some say he is William the Conqueror’s great-great-great-grandfather.

So, unfortunately, even though the character was based on a real person, most of his storylines have been made up for the series. At least that means he would never have betrayed Ragnar or met Lagertha. He couldn’t have been Bjorn’s dad… That is if Bjorn was Lagertha’s child anyway…

Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick)

There is a lot of conflicting stories about the number of wives and sons Ragnar Lothbrook had. Some sources say he had just the two, Lagertha and Aslaug, who were portrayed in the series. However, according to Icelandic and Norse Sagas, Ragnar was married three times: his wives being Lagertha, Thora Borgarhjort and Aslaug. In the series, there was a Thora, yet, she was seen to have been Hvitserk’s lover who was later killed by Ivor the Boneless.

Staying true to the sagas, as the series suggests, Lagertha was Ragnar’s first wife. A shieldmaiden, fearless warrior and, at one point, ruler of present-day Norway. It’s also been noted that, like in the series, she was firmly by Ranger’s side long after their separation, coming to his aid and fighting battles with him.

But, there are three very big differences between her stories in the saga and her character in Vikings. Firstly, and probably the most disappointing, Bjorn wasn’t Lagertha’s son, according to the Danish The Gesta Danorum. With Ragnar, she had two daughters who have never been named and one son, Fridley, who doesn’t seem to have that much written about him. Secondly, she was not a farmer, but instead of noble birth. As she was said to have been related to Norwegian King Siward and was a fireless shieldmaiden before she met Ragnar. In fact, it was her courage that sparked the attraction. Lastly, in the series, Aslaug was the reason behind Lagertha and Ragnar’s separation. But, as I’ve already mentioned, there was supposedly a wife between the two.

Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland)

In actuality, according to Nose mythology, Ragnar was the one that sought out Aslaug and even asked her to visit him. He even gave her a task to test her wits. He asked that she came neither dressed nor undressed, neither hungry nor full, and neither alone nor in company. In answer to this test, Aslaug, who is depicted as a more intelligent warrior than she was in the TV series arrived dressed in a net, eating an onion and accompanied by a dog. They married soon after – this Viking dating malarkey seems a lot easier than Tinder.

As Vikings suggested, she was indeed the heir of Sigurd and the shieldmaiden Brynhildr. Where the series, and indeed all the different sagas, differ is with the number of children and their names. In some, they had four sons together, in others, they had five, and with older tellings of the stories, they only had three. It’s very hard to differentiate the order of the sons as there are no definitive dates of birth. But, like with the series, the names Ivar the Boneless, Hvitserk, Ubba and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye are all there along with Björn Ironside.

One of the main fabrications around this character was her demise, as there is nothing in any of the sagas around her death, so nothing to suggest it was by Lagertha’s hand. Thus, none of her sons would have wanted revenge on Lagertha…

Hvitserk / Halfdan (Marco Ilsø)

In some sagas, there is a brother called Hvitserk. And in others, there is one called Halfdan. As they never appear together in any of the stories, historians have come to the conclusion that he could have been the same person. With Hvitserk as his nickname. As in the show, he was one of the leaders of The Great Army that avenged Ragnar in England. But, just like his name, there are also some conflicting stories about his whereabouts after that. It was said that he could have been King of Dublin for a short time. But there are other stories that have said that he was the one that had dealings with the Rus Vikings, not Ivor. In the sagas, it was Hvitserk that raided with them, most of the time unsuccessfully.

Even though his location changes story by story, his death seems to match across the sagas. After a raid went wrong, he was captured and asked how he wanted to die. He asked to be burned alive and that’s what happened… I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that was a wise choice!

His ending in Vikings couldn’t have been more different from the sagas. He was seen being captured by King Alfred the Great (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and converted to Christianity. Yet, there is some truth to that story as there was a battle involving Hvitserk and King Alfred, but he was not captured. It has been said that in his efforts to defeat the Vikings, King Alfred did capture Viking fighters to learn about their techniques, but this has never been proven.

Like the series, it does seem that Hvitserk did raid with his brother Ivar The Boneless too.

Ivar The Boneless (Alex Høgh)

Like his character in Vikings, it was written that Ivar The Boneless was a formidable person and warrior. He was also the leader of The Great Army that invaded Northumbria to avenge his father’s death. But, in the Danish sagas, it was written that Ivar was the one that blood-eagled King Aella, not Bjorn. Also, there might have been some truth around his inability to walk, but nothing has been proven. It was also joked that his name could have been a euphemism for impotence, rather than an inability to walk, as he was so cold-hearted. In a lot the tellings of his story, he was portrayed as tall and strong.

Other than his personal character and raid on England, his sagas read a little differently to how it was portrayed on screen. There is nothing written about his battle for Kattegat. And, although Prince Oleg (Danila Kozlovsky) was also based on a real Rus Vikings leader, it’s doesn’t seem that Ivar had dealings with them in the sagas. Ivar The Boneless did have an on and off again alliance with Olaf the White (Steven Berkoff) as they co-ruled the kingdom of Dublin together though.

There is also nothing is any of the sagas to say that Ivar Killed Sigaurd.

Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye (David Lindström)

In the sagas, after the successful siege on Northumbria to avenge Ragnar. Sigurd was given the title of King of Denmark and even married the daughter of King Aella. It’s said he raided with his army, but mainly resided in his kingdom and died of old age, not from a fight with his brother.

The one thing that is similar though was the story of his snake eye. In the series, Ragnar had annoyed Aslaug through his infidelity and she had promised. If he did it again, his unborn child would bear the mark of a snake, which happened. In the sagas, it was a similar story. Ragnar had planned to replace Aslaug with a new bride, but when she found out, she prophesied she would give birth to a child who bore the image of a snake. When Sigurd was born with the snake eye, Ragnar abandoned his marriage plans.

Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith)

In the TV series, Ubbe (or Ubba) ended up in North America after following his dad’s travelling and farming dreams. However, in the sagas, he is only mentioned around battles, raids, and as one of the leaders of the Great Army.

He did gain status as a famous Viking leader through his many sieges and raids across England and Europe. There is also no known spouse, which sadly means the character of Torvi (Georgia Hirst) was made up.

Bjorn Ironside (Alexander Ludwig)

It seems that Bjorn – the longest-running character in the series and, arguably, the most loved – has the most fabricated plot. As we have already discovered in the sagas, Bjorn was the son of Aslaug, not Lagertha. But, his characteristics ring true to how he comes across in the stories; an accomplished, strong and fierce warrior, living up to his given name – Ironside.

Again, he was one of the leaders in the Great Army. But other than that, almost everything else in Vikings is fictitious; in the sagas, there is no mention of wives, children or his death. Instead, it tells us that after he avenged his father’s death. Much like Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, he did some raiding in France. But mainly resided in his given kingdoms of Uppsala and central Sweden. There is also no record of an epic death, like his one in Vikings, or a shrine made in his honour, sadly.


So, there you have it, a quick insight into who these real Vikings were. How did we do?

Comment below with any other interesting facts you may have on the Vikings series or saga. Also, there is a lot more information about these historical figures out there, you can find out a lot more in our sources linked to this article.


Read about other fantasy series HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Vikings HERE.

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TV News

Squid Game – Review

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The Players and Games

Squid Game image
Netflix

On 17 September 2021, South Korean, Netflix series Squid Game was released. Unbeknown to many including writer and creator Hwang Dong-hyuk, this nine-part drama quickly became the most talked about and watched show around the world.

The extremely well written, staged and thought-out show is a mix of ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Battel Royal’ all rolled into one. To make an intense and binge-able series from start to finish.

The series can be watched with subtitles or dubbed. We would suggest watching it subtitled as some of the dubbed voiceovers don’t quite match up to the characters and you can lose some of the intensity in the scenes. With both options, however, you will still be able to get a good handle of the story, as you follow hundreds of money-poor contestants take on the deadly childhood games.

SPOILERS: If you haven’t watched the whole of Squid Game yet. Stop reading here as we are about to review the players and the games, with some hefty spoilers added in.

The Players

All dressed in green tracksuits the players are the focus of the story, and the costuming made sure they did just that. In Screen Rants video Squid Game: 15 Things You Missed, we find out that Dong-hyuk wanted the players in school uniforms. But after realising they would have to wear shorts and skirts, he went with the PE style tracksuits in green, the opposite colour to red on the colour wheel… to make sure the blood stood out.

The game starts with 456 players, but there are eight main characters, who we are invited to find out more about within the story.

Seong Gi-hun (player 456)

The very first player we are introduced to is gambling addict Seong Gi-hun, Played by actor and successful model Lee Jung-jae. Gi-hun lives with his mother, bets all her money on horses, has a lot of debts, and gets his own daughter’s birthday gift from an arcade game. Which cleverly links to the boxes they use for coffins, within the game.

Gi-hun, is a great main character because through his lies and bad habits, his narrative is written to show that he has a compassionate side too, which you can relate to.

Kang Sae-byeok (player 067)

The next character we meet is Kang Sae-byeok, portrayed perfectly by model Jung Ho-yeon, in her first ever acting role. The character arc of the strong, independent, pickpocket, is so interesting and endearing to watch. She goes from depending on herself to becoming part of a team and putting her trust in others.

Her back story is of wanting money to help her brother leave an orphanage and to move her mother from North to South Korea. This puts her in a very sympathetic light which urges us the viewer to root for her.

Cho Sang-woo (Player 218)

The next player we are introduced to is Cho Sang-woo, this complex character played by popular TV actor Park Hae Soo. His own story and mannerisms are what make him such an interesting and confusing character who one minute you like, for example when he helps the team out in tug-of-war game or the other minute you despise especially after the stunt he pulled with Ali, in the marble arena. This makes him one of the best characters to have in a show like this as he is unpredictable, like we saw at the end of game six.

Oh il-Nam (player 001)

The heart and soul of the team… or so we thought! Was Oh il-Nam player 001- we should have known!

One of the smartest players in the game was expertly played by actor and writer, Oh Young-soothe. The likable old man had us going all the way to the end and even made some of us cry in the marble game making the twist at the end of the series even better.

Jang Deok-Su (Player 101)

All good games need a villain, luckily there were a lot within the 456 players, but none were as bad as actor Heo Sung-tae’s portrayal of tatted Jang Deok-su.

Player 101, comes in hitting one of the female players and leaves being dragged down by another one! His well-written character had us shouting at the screen and hoping for a worthy death, and after his betrayal to Han Mi-nyeo before tug of war, she served him the cruel departure from the game we had all hoped for.

Abdul Ali (Player 199)

After saving Gi-Hun in the red light, green light game. Abdul Ali showed not only his strength but his love and trust in others which unfortunately would also become his demise…Thanks to snaky Sang-woo.

Actor Anupam Tripathi took his first big TV role and ran with it becoming one of the most loved characters in the series. Even getting a barrage of meme’s made for the character following his wrongful and underhanded death.

Han Mi-nyeo (Player 212)

Due to the copious amounts of death and blood, it’s always wise to have a little comic relief. Han Mi-nyeo’s character was certainly that, with her frequently used catchphrase of ‘I’m good at everything, except for the things I’m not’. Portrayed by Californian born actress Kim Joo-ryeong, the loud and obnoxious character really gave the competitive edge to the game, especially in the honeycomb games when she cheated, using a lighter to melt the candy! Her character, however, did get a little grating at times.

Ji-yeong (Player 240)

Our biggest issue with this character was that there was simply not enough screen time! Played by Lee Yoo-mi in her first major role, the character of Ji-yeong captured our hearts in just three episodes. Particularly as we got to know more about her harrowing backstory if only there was a way that both Ji-yeong and Sae-byeok could have left the marble arena together!

The Games

The main part of the story of Squid Game, is the six schoolyard games, which the players must play and win to get their hands on the life-changing sum of money.

Game 1: Red Light, Green Light.

The aim of the game is not to move when the ‘creepiest doll in history’ is looking, otherwise you are eliminated, and in this game, this doesn’t just mean out! When the ‘creepy doll’ isn’t looking you need to run as quick as you can and try and cross the line within the time frame. Sounds easy right? Not when you realise if you move… you die!

Red Light, Green Light is where the players realise what kind of game they are involved in and where we lost over half to the players too!

The schoolyard set and creepy doll voice just add to the tension of this game, which is also amplified by the visuals of the game in play accompanied by the switch over to the Front Man as he watched the game through monitors whilst listening to the song ‘Fly me to the moon’.

Game 2: Honeycomb/Dalgano Candy

To be safe in this game you need to successfully cut out a shape from Honeycomb, without damaging or breaking the shape. The only tool you are given to help you is a needle.

At the beginning of this game, we truly see the back-stabbing side of Sang-woo, as he realises what game it is, as the players start to pick their shape, before knowing what they need to do.

In the know, Sang-woo goes for the easiest shape, a triangle, and neglects to warn the others as Gi-Hun walks over to pick the hardest shape, the umbrella. This game separates the cheaters from the thinkers as Mi-nyeo and Deok-su use a lighter and Gi-Hun uses his brain and licks the shape free.

The climbing frames, bright colours, childish music and gunshots provide the perfect setting to make this whole scene completely unnerving for the players and the viewers.

Game 3: Tug of War

In teams of ten, it’s time for the players to play Tug of War. The main basis of this game needs no introduction, but instead of being pulled into a pile of mud like the classic game… you get pulled to your death.

Due to the Dr, Player 111, and his extra gameplay with some of the guards. (That involved selling body parts) Deok-su and his team know what game was coming up and managed to put together a team of strongmen to win their heat. Unfortunately, Gi-hun and his team didn’t have the same knowledge and in turn looked to have a weaker team than others. Luckily Il-Nam and Sang-Woo had solid gameplay ideas which saved the team.

The setting for Tug of War, took a bit of a dark turn and away from the schoolyard setting. With yellow and grey platforms set in a pitch-black room. Within this game, we lost half the players.

Game 4: Marbles

With this series, we all had the fear that at one point out favourites would be pitted against each other but not this early! Asked to pair up the players thought they would be playing together in teams like the last game, but that was not the case.

In the game of Marbles, the pairs were left to decide for themselves what game they wanted to play, with the loser being eliminated!

Probably one of the hardest games to watch as most pairs were playing a game of chance. If you were anything like us, we were hoping there was going to be another twist where some of the characters would survive in pairs but instead, we lost some big players and learned who were not to be trusted.

Having two games back-to-back where we lost half the players each time really helped keep the momentum of the story.

Game 5: Glass Bridge

To start this horrifying game of chance, the players had to pick their order, before knowing what the game was which led to a very tense moment where Gi Hun, almost went first. His indecisiveness helping him hugely here.

The aim of this game is for the remaining players to make their way across the glass bridge hopping from glass square to glass square, hoping to land on the tempered glass, rather than the normal glass which would break instantly sending them plummeting to their death.

Again, set in a pitch-black room with a few lights this game was intense! But it did however whittled the players down to three and showed Sang-woo’s ‘do anything for the money’ character again.

The added glass blasts at the end of the game also added an extra twist of tension as front runner Sae-byeok got severely injured.

Game 6: The Squid Game

With only two players left after Sang-woo eliminated Sae-byeok with a dinner knife, it was on to the final game and namesake of the series, Squid Game.

This game is divided into attacker (Gi-hun) and defender (Sang-woo). The attackers’ objective is to reach the “home” square marked on the opposite side of the field, while the defender’s purpose is to block them and push them out to win.

However, let’s be honest we saw very little gameplay as it ended up in a fight between the two finalists. The end of the game was gripping to watch, particularly with the knives in play and Gi-huns indecisive personality. Just as we think it’s all over, rather than putting his foot in the home square Gi-hun tries to get an injured Sang-woo to walk away from the game so they can both survive, giving up on the money.

But it a massive twist Sang-woo picks up the knife from the floor and instead of killing Gi-hun, like we anticipated, he kills himself. This was a great call from writer Hwang Dong-hyuk as it was unexpected and gave us a little extra from Sang-woos character. However, we can’t help but think that maybe it would have been a bigger twist if Sang-woo did kill Gi-Hun and won the games as no one was routing for him.


What do you think about our thoughts on the players and games within Squid Game? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out book to movie adaptations coming soon HERE.

Read IMDB information about Squid Game HERE.

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