Vikings & The Last Kingdom: How Accurate are these Shows Historically?
Updated: Jan 28, 2020
These two TV shows have brought droves of people into Asatru, like it or not. Therefore, those involved in the path of Asatru and/or Historically based Heathenry should be prepared to know a few facts about these TV shows. The Last Kingdom is by far the most historically accurate show of the two, as Vikings is just more Hollywood than "history." Vikings is coming to an end, with just the final half season to air. The once very entertaining show became far less entertaining when Travis Fimmel left (Ragnar was killed), as Ragnar's sons have not been embraced by fans of the show to the same level that Ragnar was, not even close. Lets take a look at the inaccuracy issues for both shows.
Vikings While I can repeat this about the Last Kingdom, the English peoples did not call themselves "Saxons" anymore than they called the Danes "Vikings." The English called themselves Anglisc, (pronounced "Anglish") which is why the English language and the country is named after the Angles today, i.e. English and England. The Anglish called all Northmen invaders "Danes" whether they came from Geatland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, or somewhere else.
Ivar was the oldest of the sons of Aslaug. Bjorn Ironside was a younger child of Aslaug, not Lagertha. The Norse Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok's children portrays Aslaug as a warrior queen. On Vikings, Aslaug is the opposite of a warrior, and Lagertha is a shield maiden. Saxo is the only source for Lagertha, who is not even mentioned in the Norse Sagas. Lagertha flat out murdered her husband, and was not abused by him, assuming Saxo is correct. Scholars consider Saxo in regards to Lagertha and Ragnar to be fictional.
It is "odd" to me that the sons of Ragnar are portrayed as having civil wars against each other as the focus of their lives, and not doing the exploits together that made them famous in the Sagas. The exploits the sons of Ragnar accomplish in the show are given very little screen time, the focus is on the "family drama." Sigurd was not murdered by Ivar, and the brothers did not try to kill each other or fight each other. In fact, they were together in what was called "The Great Heathen Army." It was Ivar, the eldest, who blood-eagled Aella, if we are to believe the sources. Ragnar invaded Paris in 846 AD, therefore, he could not have also raided Lindesfarne in 793 AD. Ragnar was 40 years earlier than Rollo, and Rollo was not Ragnar's brother. Rollo and Ragnar never met. Earl Haraldson rules like a feudal lord, dominating the “Thing”, bullying and threatening everyone. Ragnar wishes to raid the British Isles, but the jarl insists there is no such place. He threatens Ragnar with the confiscation of his property if he doesn’t get in line. This is not an accurate description of a Heathen Thing in the open air with a law-speaker. And the idea that Germanic and/or Norse peoples did not know where Britannia was (calling it "England" which is also an anachronism) is ludicrous. While people have always been sexually active with adultry etc throughout human history, the church strongly condemned it. King Ecbert did not have an affair with his daughter in law, and Ecbert's son was not the happy cuckold. Alfred the Great was not a bastard child. If Alfred the Great were born a bastard, he would have been shipped off to a monastery and history books would not have mentioned him. Those "sins" were hidden from the people, and there was no better place to hide your sins than in the church. Then the Princess is put on trial for adultery, has an ear lopped off, only to later have an adulteress affair with the King responsible for chopping her ear off for adultery, is "odd" to say the least. Making a king out of a bastard and claiming Alfred the Great was a bastard son, is the most egregious historical inaccuracy in the show, as the people in that time period, hypocrites or not, did publicly refute all sorts of sexual sin, and feared their sins (sexual and non-sexual) were the reason why "God" was punishing them with Viking raids. No horned helmets. Well, glad the show got that right. But no helmets at all? 100% of the rest of the weapons and clothing is flat out wrong. Almost all used spears and axes historically. Biker "sons of anarchy" leather was certainly not how "vikings" looked historically. Norse peoples had all sorts of dyes, and preferred red, yellow, blue, green, etc. Vikings pretty much has everyone in black and very dark brown. They have no leg wraps, footwear that is too modern, no chain mail, and no helmets at all... Why? The Seer could easily be cast in Star Wars or Star Trek, literally. In terms of hair styles, Scandinavians would be aware of the incredibly biting cold. To deliberately remove the hair from ones’ head when living in often icy conditions and sailing the open seas, would be insane. Bjorn Ironside going to the extreme North Norway in biker leather and no furs or skins to keep him warm, no hat, etc was just silly... No Norwegian would have done such a thing, much less dive naked into the freezing cold waters while having no furs later to keep him warm. Death by hypothermia would follow quickly...
The Uppsala temple pictured as a wooden stave church in the mountains. Nope, not at all accurate. Crucifixion by Christians? Would not have happened.
No fortifications? There are scenes of massacres of civilians, women and children, depicted in Vikings. However, these are not of Anglisc civilians killed by Norse invaders, but Norse settlers killed by brutal and treacherous Anglisc people! In a bizarre twist, the History Channel portrays the Vikings as settling without any semblance of security, with indefensible villages spread out in the open, without any form of stockade, fortification or protective measures. Not even towers are erected. Considering that the Vikings were invaders, they took extraordinary measures to erect comprehensive fortification structures, normally in circles, surrounded by a moat and sharpened stakes, with all their habitations neatly organised within this fortification. The Missionary Ansgar was not the failure that Hirst (creator of Vikings) depicts being executed by queen Aslaug when he failed a test. In fact Ansgar (801-865) known as The Apostle to the North, not only lived a long life, but succeeded in winning many to Christ. This test is "borrowed" from Continental Saxon sources, in the writings of Widukind of Corvey, his book "Deeds of the Saxons" from the 10th century. Pitched battles were rare. Very rare. Extremely rare. Even sacking of monasteries is not a pitched battle. It is hit and run, get in, get the treasures, and get out, before the warning bells bring in troops. Norse tactics were to only fight when they had the advantage, took their enemy by surprise, and to avoid the death tolls of pitched battles. They did fear "losing too many men" as The Last Kingdom portrays.
Rollo (846 – 932 A.D.) seized Rouen in 876 A.D. and led the Viking fleet that besieged Paris 885-886 A.D. He was baptized as a Christian, married a French princess and it was his great, great, great grandson, William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066 and became William I of England. Therefore, Rollo is one of the ancestors of the present-day British Royal family. Chronologically, there is no way he could have been contemporary with Ragnar Lodbrok, let alone his brother, as stated above.
What do we know of Ragnar Lodbrok? The Norse Sagas identify Ragnar Lodbrok as the father of Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Halfdan Ragnarsson, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye (but not Ubba). He was married three times: to the shield maiden Lagertha (3rd wife, assuming Saxo is not fictional, as scholars believe him to be), to the noble woman Dôra (first wife), and to Aslaug (2nd wife). Ragnar was the son of the Swedish king Sigurd Hring and a cousin of the Danish king, Gudfred. He distinguished himself with many raids and conquests, including the first siege of Paris, 846 A.D. He was seized by King Aella of Northumbria and killed by being thrown into a pit of snakes. His sons avenged him by invading England with the Great Heathen Army in 865 A.D.
The Last Kingdom Much like Vikings, the clothes are just wrong. No eye shadow (Lagertha and others in Vikings as well). The Anglisc did not use rectangular shields, but would have used circular shields. There would have been no back scabbards, as not only was that impractical, but also dangerous to those behind (friendly forces) anyone with a back scabbard. It’s just so much easier and quicker to draw from the hip, as soldiers of the time would have done, than from the back. The battle armor appears to be mostly leather scales when in fact iron chain mail or just normal clothes would dominate battlefields, and the Danish horses have headgear that gives the impression they have horns. No such horse armor has ever been discovered or even attested. The Danes all look like they haven’t washed in months. In reality Danes washed at least once a week. This is commented on by English sources who consider the Danes strange and effeminate for it. The Cornish appear to speak English. While Cornwall is now an almost-entirely English-speaking region, in the 9th century they’d have all spoken Cornish. English was the language of the hated English enemies who’d been conquering their land for the better part of 400 years, and even Cornishmen who spoke English wouldn’t have spoken it to each other. King Alfred had little control over Cornwall. He merely owned a few estates in the north-east. In 866, Leeds is a decent sized town, but in The Last Kingdom, it is a tiny farmstead with a handful of houses. Aethelflaed, The Lady of the Mercians, ruled the prominent English midland kingdom for seven years following the death of Aethelred. (Incidentally, there is no real evidence to support his portrayal in the Last Kingdom as a malicious, abusive psychopath). Evidence to the contrary, they were a happily married couple for decades.
Alfred the Great was very sick. Many suggest he had what is known today as Crohn's disease. The Battle of Edingdon: the Danes were driven into a fort and then besieged, and did not have an open battle on a plain as is depicted. Shield Walls in both Vikings and The Last Kingdom are completely wrong. Please see my blog on Shield Walls here: https://www.aldsidu.com/blog/shield-walls-of-our-heathen-ancestors The series shows the Danish and Anglisc armies using swords as their primary weapon in battle. In reality, the use of swords was extremely rare during this time period, as swords were typically viewed as being a status symbol for the wealthy as well as those of high military ranking. Spears and Axes were the weapons of choice, also bows and arrows. I can't resist mentioning this; the phrase "plowing a field" was a sexual phrase in Angle-land for sure. Better than Barley! Better than Barley! Better than Barley! Better than Barley! The depiction of the Anglian King Edmund being captured and killed by the Danes could very likely be accurate. He was not however, roped to a cross inside a church. But he probably was filled with arrows, and did have a gruesome death. Please join us on the Facebook Group "Saxon Heathenry." Please check out our other blogs at www.aldsidu.com.