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Vikings: Sagas vs. Series

Sarah Casserley

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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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The Good, The Bad And The Classic

Sarah Casserley

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Star From Disney Plus

Disney Plus Star image
Disney Plus

Disney Plus introduced Star to the service a little while ago now with loads of highlights. We’re sure, like us, you’ve had a good old delve into the catalogue and watched some of your faves. But, just in case you’ve missed anything, we have put together a little guide on what’s good to get stuck into. Also what’s bad and could do with being swiped past, and the classic must-see TV series and films that you probably didn’t even realise were there.

So, when you find yourself looking for something to watch on a Friday evening or binge for a couple of weeks, don’t scroll endlessly, just take a look at our guide of Disney Plus Star recommendations.


The Good

These are the films and series that have been released within the last 10 years, which you need to watch or should at least be on your ‘to watch’ list.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Atlanta (2016 – Present)

If you haven’t watched this series yet, why not? The creative and talented Donald Glover heads up the show as the main character ‘Earn’, and on the writing credits too (among 6 others, including his brother Stephen Glover), in this funny, gritty and realistic series which follows a rapper ‘Paper Boy’ and his manager Earn (Glover) as they navigate the rap business. If you have watched the show before, you may want to re-watch for a recap as season 3 has been promised to us very soon.

9-1-1 (2018 – Present)

This isn’t just any emergency service drama, this series covers the lives of several Los Angeles first responders: police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and dispatchers. It also has some big names involved, including Angela Bassett and, later in the series, Jennifer Love Hewitt. For some reason though, there’s only two of the four seasons of 9-1-1 on Disney Plus Star so far, but it’s well worth a watch and we’re sure the other two seasons should be along soon.

Doll Face (2019 – Present)

By the title alone, and the fact that it’s a weekly release, it initially looked like this series was set around a stereotypical break up and was destined for the bad list. However, the witty script, amazing female actors and relatable storyline made me put this series firmly within the good pile as I can’t wait to watch more. Kat Dennings takes the lead in the series and really brings to life upcoming writer Jordan Weiss’ story of female friendships after a breakup.

Films on Disney Plus Star

The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

This beautiful coming of age story, based on a book with the same name, is a great watch for all ages, not just teens. Be ready for oodles of romance, as well as teary and heart-warming moments, as you follow two teens affected by cancer as they set off on a journey of discovery.

The Favourite (2018)

We love a period drama, and this quirky look at the reign of Queen Anne is no exception. With starring roles from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult, it’s no wonder The Favourite had 336 nominations in award season and 182 wins. It’s definitely one of the best films from the last 5 years on Disney Plus Star.

Deadpool 2 (2018)

There are some examples coming up in these lists that give sequels a bad name, however, Deadpool 2 isn’t one of them. If you were putting off watching this one because of the sequel curse, don’t, it’s just as good – if not better – than the first. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is back as the foul-mouthed superhero and, this time, he brings some new friends: Domino (Zazie Beetz), Fire Fist (Julian Dennison) and Weasel (T.J. Miller) among others.


The Bad

There’s not as many on this ‘bad’ list as Star has done a pretty good job with their chosen titles. However, like any service, there are always a few bad eggs in our opinion… This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch these, it’s more of a warning that there may be better things to press play on.

Series on Disney Plus Star

Lost (2004 – 2010)

To be completely honest here, the first two seasons of Lost are very entertaining and interesting to watch, as you follow several people who try to survive a plane crash and have to adapt to life on a strange island. But, by the middle of season three, things start to get a little confusing and we found ourselves getting lost (pun intended) in the plot until the final sixth season, only to be hit with a heavily reported disappointing end… even worse than some people’s feelings about Game Of Thrones. So, we recommendation delving into some of the other series rather than this one.

24: Legacy (2017)

Trying to build another series from an established series can be very hit or miss – and this one was a huge miss. So much so that Fox axed it just after one series.

It takes on the same format as the original 24 series, where one season is just one day, however, this time they are trying to stop a terrorist attack. The format just doesn’t work with this storyline and you lose a lot of momentum and excitement, plus the acting just isn’t the best.

Films on Disney Plus Star

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Just like building another series off a series, sequels can also be tricky beasts… some are good, some are bad and, when it follows an absolute classic like ‘Independence Day’, it needs to be amazing. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite live up to the legacy of the first film; I mean, not even ‘Hunger Games’ Liam Hemsworth couldn’t get this to match up with the original. But it is still entertaining, so if you do decide to watch this one, just do so with caution.


The Classic

As you have probably already noticed there are some absolute classics on Disney Plus Star, so this is going to be the longest list, full of series that you can binge from start to finish and films that stand the test of time and can be re-watched repeatedly. Most of these titles don’t need much explanation as you’ll have already watched or heard about them, but you might not have spotted them yet on Disney Plus Star as some were buried deep in the archives.

Series on Disney Plus Star

X Files (1993 – 2001)

If you were born in the 90s or 00s, this one may have gone under your radar; however, once you watch the first season full of aliens, wired going ons and the brilliantly disjointed relationship of FBI agents, conspiracy theorist Fox Mulder and realist Dana Scully, you won’t want to stop watching. Granted some of the special effects are a little dated and unbelievable, but you will soon forget about that as you get sucked into the narrative.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2002)

I know, I know, it’s hard to think there are people out there that haven’t watched a single vampire slaying, kick-ass, sci-fi loaded episode… but there is. If you are one of those people, what are you waiting for? Every single episode is here wating for you to binge. If you don’t fancy delving into the full thing, I would recommend at least taking a peek at the seventh episode of the sixth series (Once More, with Feeling: Buffy the Musical).

24 (2001 – 2014)

Before Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) burst on our screens in 2001, this kind of format for a series had never been attempted before and it just worked, so much so it ran for 9 seasons. It may seem odd at first, as each series is just one day, but you really do get sucked in.

Grey’s Anatomy (2005 – 2018)

Within its almost 13 years of being on air, this series has offered every heart-warming and breath-holding moment you need from a hospital-based drama. This would be a perfect series to start if you want something that will last you a while.

Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014)

Bikes, leather and action: what’s not to like? This series ran for a glorious 7 seasons, and within these episodes, there is storyline upon storyline that will keep you hooked and wanting to know more about the motorcycle club that straddles the line between legal and illegal.

Films on Disney Plus Star

(We’re pretty sure you will have watched most of these films, but they are well worth a re-watch)

Planet of the Apes (1968)

The film that started them all. Since the release of this film in 1968, there have been seven more sequels and remakes of the original sci-fi movie, two of which you can also watch on Disney Plus Star: Planet Of the Apes (2001) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).

Jewel of the Nile (1985)

It could possibly be that the countless TV showings over the have passed you by, but if you’ve not seen Jewel of the Nile, you should definitely give it a go. Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito are fantastic in this pure 80s romantic action comedy.

Cocktail (1988)

Sticking within the 80s romantic comedy realm, you’ve also got Cocktail, which is full of love ultimatums, with a dash of cheese. Come on, you know you want to watch a young Tom Cruise at work.

The Fly (1986)

One name – Jeff Goldblum. Watch it.

Pretty Woman (1990)

We were just as excited as the first time we watched it when we saw this classic on the service. To not watch this again would be a big mistake. HUGE.

Toys (1992)

This wonderfully wacky story by Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson comes alive with the help of one of the best comedic actors of all time, Robin Williams, alongside the wonderful Joan Cusack and, bizarrely, LL Cool J.

What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Whether you love Tina Turner’s music or not, it does not matter. This is one of the most interesting and inspirational biographical movies that you will ever watch. Word of warning, the incredible Angela Bassett and Lawrence Fishburne are so great at their roles that some of the more sensitive scenes are very realistic.

Braveheart (1995)

With any new service, there are glitches, and we found one! Whilst watching this absolute classic a few weeks ago, about two and a half hours into the film the screen when to the small screen format as if the credits had come up, making it difficult to watch the last part of the film. However, when we went to finish the film off a week later the glitch had been fixed and you can now watch the whole film without interruption… FREEDOM!

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

We all know that when it comes to film, Baz Luhrmann is a genius and he doesn’t disappoint with this abstract take on the story. It’s worth watching for the soundtrack alone.

Independence Day (1996)

90s Will Smith doing what he did best: lots of running, fighting and shouting – need I say more? Oh yes, you can also watch another one of his masterpieces, Enemy of the State (1998) on this service too.

Con Air (1997)

‘Put the bunny back in the box’ and sit down and watch this classic… we all know Nicholas Cage films can be a little unpredictable, but this film is definitely a hit, especially as he is joined by other legends of the screen, including John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, John Cusack and Ving Rhames.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Well if it’s at our fingertips, why not watch this film for the 56th time… this year.


So, there you have it, these are some of our highlights and must-miss titles from Disney Plus Star. Are there any that we missed? If so, comment below and let us know what category they belong in.


Check out the top 10 hidden gems in the other Disney Plus feeds HERE.

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