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Vikings: Sagas vs. Series

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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

Loki Episode 6 – Review

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Marvel Studios

Episode six of Loki from Marvel is here, streaming now on Disney Plus. It’s time for the series finale. Here’s our review.

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

More to come

The post-credit scene showed that a second series has already been ordered, meaning this finale is essentially the end of Part One. Thank goodness it is. Because if this was the denouement of the entire Loki story then there’s a good chance it would go down in television infamy as one of the more unusual series endings.

Introducing the big bad

We pick up from Sylvie and Loki’s defeat of The Alioth as they look at the citadel upon the rock at the end of time. They make their way to the entrance, and upon being invited in they’re met by Miss Minutes. It’s been widely predicted that ‘she’ would be an agitator in this series. And at last her role has been revealed. She is an emissary of Kang The Conquerer, embedded within the TVA.

She offers Loki the earth, almost literally, as she tries to coax him to betray Sylvie. Her offers of infinity stones, defeating Thanos etc. Happily, Loki rejects all the trinkets that she offers. Instead, he and Sylvie head into the lift where they meet ‘He Who Remains’ aka Kang The Conquerer. A 31st-century scientist and the true timekeeper.

Loki fight

Sylvie attempts to kill him but he quickly demonstrates some of his powers by dodging and weaving her before she gives in and the three of them sit down for a very long discussion. To sum up what was a lengthy and occasionally fairly tedious scene. He Who Remains (HWR) asks Loki and Sylvie to kill him and take over the role of controlling the timeline. Loki is extremely reticent but Sylvie, angry at what HWR’s meddling has done to her life, is desperate to do so.

Meanwhile, back at TVA HQ, Renslayer is informed by Miss Minutes of HWR’s plan. Showing her dual role and playing on Renslayer’s desperation to keep the TVA active and relevant.

Loki and Sylvie get into a physical fight over what to do with HWR. With Loki recognising how the timeline will fragment with branches springing up all over the place. But Sylvie is consumed by her rage and eventually overpowers Loki, sending him back to the TVA and then kills He Who Remains.

Setting up season two

Loki finds Mobius and tries to explain what has happened. But then discovers the terrible effects of what Sylvie has done by apparently killing HWR. Mobius has no idea who Loki is. This situation is then made worse when Loki looks out to see a statue of He Who Remains adorning TVA HQ. Loki realises that he is in a different timeline branch. One where HWR or Kang is in control of everything. Sylvie has been manipulated into apparently killing him which has enabled him to increase his power further.

Jonathan Majors was masterful as He Who Remains. Which is what you’d expect from someone with a Masters in acting from Yale. He was flamboyant, powerful and mesmerising, which is exactly what you want from a major villain. He will be back in AntMan 3 as Kang The Conquerer and is set to be the key villain in the next phase of the MCU post-Endgame and Thanos.

I have been extremely positive about this series, as I think it has been the strongest and most cohesive of the Marvel series so far this year. But I can’t disagree with anyone who felt short-changed by this finale. My 11-year-old son was pretty vocal in his disappointment the moment the credits rolled, and he was absolutely right. He is one of the most obsessive Marvel fans around and if he was underwhelmed, I feel pretty sure he was reflecting the majority view. Nothing I’ve seen online since has dissuaded me from that either.

Phase 4 groundwork

It seemed that the finale was essentially an exercise in introducing He Who Remains or Kang to our screens ahead of AntMan 3. While this isn’t necessarily a problem, it meant that the focus shifted away from being the climax of this series. Instead of being a prologue for the next phase of the MCU, which does seem a peculiar decision.

There are those who feel that the series original premise of Loki and Mobius teaming up to find Variants dotted around time and space was dropped after the first two episodes. Instead, it was replaced with a love story between Sylvie and Loki and a voyage of discovery with Mobius reduced to a bit part for the rest of the series.

But, the cliffhanger at the end of the series as Loki returns to the TVA does give me hope that Series Two will be an even better follow up.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 6/10


Thank you for reading our review of Loki episode six. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read our Loki episode five review HERE.

Read IMDB information about Loki HERE.

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