Centuries before any Englishman set foot upon the soil that would be known as North America, the Vikings were supreme. The earliest Viking raids occurred in the eighth century and the Viking Age continued until the Norman Conquest of the eleventh century. The Vikings sailed most of the North Atlantic and traveled as far east as Constantinople; men under Leif Eriksson reached North America. In an ambitious production, the History Channel brings the story of Vikings to life in a 9-part miniseries beginning on March 3.
The word Viking has become synonymous with violence, brutality, and warfare. A civilization that prided themselves on overtaking their enemy in both sea and land combat, Vikings were mercenaries, looters, and conquerors of much of Europe during their Golden Age. Vikings on History sets to show that their history is much more complex, visceral, and powerful than the mythology that surrounds them suggestions. Unlike many historical dramas, creator Michael Hirst (Academy-Award winning film Elizabeth; and the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated series The Tudors), wanted to portray the life of these Dark Age raiders, traders, explorers – not from an outsider’s view, but through the eyes of Viking society itself, which may help it be more compelling.
VIKINGS follows the story of a man named Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a young farmer and family man, who finds himself frustrated by the policies of the local chieftain, Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne). Haraldson continues to send his raiders east every summer, to areas that are materially poor. This exercise in futility frustrates Lothbrook, who looks to break through barriers and discover new worlds to conquer. Through the course of VIKINGS, we will see if Ragnar is able to fulfill his ambitions. In addition to a thirst for conquest, the miniseries will also focus on their worship of the Norse pantheon, including the chief god Odin. Ragnar, claims that he is a direct descendant of Odin, god of warriors slain in battle, as well as the god of curiosity. Surely, this is how Lothbrook developed his trait for wanderlust.
Fimmel and Byrne are joined by Clive Standen, George Blagden, and Gustaf Skarsgard who portray Rollo, Athelstan, and Floki, respectively. They serve to round out the cast and aid Ragnar Lothbrook on his adventures. For many years scholars believed that the Vikings targeted Christian churches directly, as many places of worship were destroyed in the wake of raids. Athelstan is a Christian monk whose life, according to the makers of VIKINGS, is turned upside down by shocking culture brought on by the raiders.
Following in the footsteps of 2012’s Hatfields and McCoys, the miniseries that showcased the West Virginia-Kentucky feud of two families in the Tug Fork region, VIKINGS will be a grand portrayal of Viking society and conquest. Don’t expect it to follow history to the absolute letter. Because of a lack of well-rounded information about the society, this writer is assured that creative licensing was taken in this series. However, Hatfields and McCoys was a very well done drama, and The Tudors had a successful four season run on Showtime (and also starred Man of Steel's Henry Cavill), so I expect good things from VIKINGS, which premieres on March 3 on The History Channel. Check your local cable listings for more information.
If you are interested in learning an accurate history of Viking culture, check out A History of Vikings by Gwen Jones. The History Channel also has The Real Vikings Collection DVD set available in their store. If you're a fan of documentaries, you may want this for your collection.
This post was featured on Word of the Nerd Online on February 27, 2013. View more by me on WOTN!