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Vikings: True Story vs. TV Show Adaptation

  • The Vikings series blends historical accuracy with fiction to create an entertaining narrative.
  • Key characters like Ragnar Lothbrok were a combination of multiple historical figures and legends.
  • The spinoff series Vikings: Valhalla also takes creative liberties with historical events and characters.

History Channel’s Vikings captivated audiences with its depiction of Viking warriors, their society, and their merciless battles and raids. While the series drew inspiration from Norse sagas and historical records, it also employed creative liberties to keep the story engaging and entertaining. The question of how much of Vikings was real often arises among viewers.

The series, created by Michael Hirst, initially followed the adventures and raids of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his Viking brothers, marking the start of the Viking Age with the Lindisfarne raid in season 1. Subsequent seasons focused more on Ragnar’s sons and their travels, especially after his death in season 4.

Was Ragnar Lothbrok a Real Person?

Ragnar - Vikings
Ragnar – Vikings

The existence of Ragnar Lothbrok, the central character in Vikings, remains shrouded in mystery. While his name appears in several accounts, including the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, the veracity of these sources is questionable. Academics believe that the Viking warrior portrayed in the series was likely a combination of different historical figures, such as Viking leader Reginherus, King Horik I of Denmark, and King Reginfrid, with a dash of fiction added for dramatic effect.

Interestingly, the character of Rollo, presented as Ragnar’s brother in the series, had no relation to the legendary figure. However, there are suggestions that Rollo participated in or possibly led the Siege of Paris in 885, an event depicted in the show.

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What the Vikings TV Show Changes and Adds?

Vikings
Vikings

To create a compelling narrative, the Vikings creative team took many liberties with characters and events. While the series is based on the sagas and sources surrounding Ragnar Lothbrok, some changes were necessary to extend his arc beyond a single season.

The raids, particularly those on Paris, underwent significant alterations, combining the raids of 845 and 885-886. Additionally, characters like Athelstan, the Christian monk kidnapped by the Vikings, were entirely fictional, despite sharing a name with a real historical figure.

Beloved characters like Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård) were based on historical figures like Floki Vilgerson, the founder of Iceland, but their portrayal in the series was largely fictionalized. The village of Kattegat, portrayed as the Vikings’ home, is also a fictional creation, as there is no record of a Scandinavian village by that name.

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Vikings: Valhalla’s Approach to History

Vikings
Vikings

The spinoff series Vikings: Valhalla, set a century after the events of Vikings, follows a similar approach to balancing historical accuracy and creative storytelling. While central characters like Leif Erikson (Sam Corlett), Freydis Eiriksdottir (Frida Gustavsson), King Canute (Bradley Freegard), and Emma of Normandy (Laura Berlin) were real, others like Jarl Estrid Haakon (Caroline Henderson) were entirely fictional.

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The uncertainty surrounding the real figures portrayed in Vikings: Valhalla allowed for creative liberties, such as placing characters at historical events they were not involved in, like the successful fall of the London Bridge orchestrated by Leif Erikson in the series.

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