The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: Uncertain Hour


“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network


Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings.

Follow us on twitter, #ShieldGeeks, where and Lissa and I live-tweet during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One.

146a6-lissa-bryanLissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominionis a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future.


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Sandi: For reasons that will become obvious, I am half-inclined to add “In vino, veritas” to this week’s episode.

Lissa: This episode had a lot of… strange moments for me.

Sandi: Oh, it really did. On some of them I concur, even. Some humor, some pathos, some awkwardness, and some boot soles. It was a strange night.

Lissa: Lagertha is cheered as she walks through Kattegat’s main street toward Aslaug. Aslaug, adorned in her queenly robes, is standing there with the Shiny Sword on her palms. Even the Seer has come out to watch. Aslaug starts out by playing the victim. “How strange, Lagertha, that you should play the usurper. One woman against another.”


Sandi: Even from the initial words, it was plain that his was not the showdown that had been hinted at in previews. History Channel VIKINGS previews are, though, notoriously misleading. Seeing the Seer out of his ritual space was a surprise. He’s taller when he’s upright than one is accustomed to seeing.

pic-two-epi-14Lissa: Lagertha sheathes her sword. “I was never the usurper. Always the usurped.”

Sandi: Now, that’s a lie, really. Lagertha could be said to have usurped her own demesne of Hedeby, back in the day. She provoked her husband into hurting her badly enough in public that she was able to strike him down and usurp his power and authority. This would be well known by each and every one of her listeners, as well. I think that here, she is laying a case for her vengeance in Kattegat alone, by saying she’d been wronged. In public. Which would be the right thing to do in terms of the law.

Lissa: Lagertha says that Aslaug stole her husband, her home, and her happiness. Aslaug retorts that Ragnar wanted to be with her, and Lagertha accuses Aslaug of bewitching him. Aslaug says that women have power over men sometimes, but she didn’t use any magic on him. Aslaug tells Lagertha that Ragnar is dead. Lagertha doesn’t want to believe it. Aslaug tells her she saw it in a dream. Lagertha retorts that she doesn’t KNOW for sure he’s dead. Aslaug doesn’t try to defend her völva powers. She smiles and says that Lagertha may be right. It was only a dream. In any case, Lagertha can have her home back. She will not fight. She’s not her mother, or her father. “I have fulfilled my destiny. The gods foretold Ragnar would have many sons. I have given him those sons. I am as much a part of his saga, Lagertha, as you are.” She tosses the sword at Lagertha’s feet. All she asks is that Lagertha give her safe passage to go wherever she wishes. Her sons, she says, will be grateful to Lagertha for it.

Sandi: I see in their exchange the equivalent of a courtroom proceeding, ending with an abrupt acceptance of the verdict as Aslaug tosses the sword at Lagertha’s feet. And then, we were expecting, perhaps, a cheer or a farewell scenario or something.

Lissa: Lagertha agrees and Aslaug struts away, her lips curved in a triumphant smile.

Lissa: She pauses at the end of the street, and her smile freezes. She starts to tilt forward and we see an arrow protruding from between her shoulder blades. As she falls, we see Lagertha standing behind her with a bow in hand.


Sandi: I confess I was startled that Lagertha had done this herself. When I saw the arrow, I assumed that Lagertha had set up someone on a rooftop as she had done in the battle prior, someone who was ready to handle things if the legal proceedings got ugly. But that’s clearly not how it went down.

Lissa: I was shocked by this. It honestly didn’t seem to be Lagertha’s “style” to give safe passage and then shoot an enemy in the back. Every revenge slaying she’s ever done has been face-to-face and she’s kept her word about it. I could see her killing Aslaug on the spot, or even hunting her down afterward and making her life a misery, but this just didn’t seem “Lagertha” to me.

Sandi: Though I was startled, I was not put off by Lagertha’s action, here. I don’t believe it was the wisest thing she could have done (LagerthAthena she isn’t, apparently, owl companion not withstanding), but I got it. She had waited. She had bided her time. She had arranged her people and provided an appropriate venue, and she took her revenge on the woman who had basically been the impetus for upending her entire life.

That Ragnar is the ultimate guilty party is a given, but Lagertha will always love that man so she took her vengeance on the other woman.

Lissa: Aslaug is given the cinematic version of a Viking funeral – the boats and flaming arrows thing. Here’s where I wish they would have inserted one of those little historical nods and had Aslaug’s interment be the Oseberg ship burial.  The chanting was beautiful, though, as the Viking ladies add jewelry and other items to her pyre boat.

Sandi: Notice the absolute lack of horror at Aslaug’s public murder. Notice the apparent acceptance of Lagertha’s actions. This is, as Hirst is showing again, the 9th Century and the world was a different place back then.

Lissa: It was sort of an anti-climactic end to the queen people loved to hate. As I’d mentioned in our podcast, I was hoping they would continue with the Sagas, and Aslaug leading an army to avenge Ragnar’s death (in the Sagas, her sons, but since they didn’t die and Ragnar seems destined to…) I was hoping Aslaug and Lagertha could come to a truce and work together to avenge the man they both loved. What a journey that could have been! But, alas, it shall have to be explored only in fanfic now…

Sandi: Anti-climactic indeed, and a bit disappointing for that. But as you say, there’s always fan fiction! If History Channel had chosen to follow the female lines, this could have been an epic tale, but it is evident that the future story will follow the males and the legends and histories told of them. It is best that the show focus more tightly; exploring everything can be confusing.

Lissa: Ragnar tells the soldiers at the city gates to take him to Ecbert, and they will be rewarded for treating one of his friends well. He is soundly thrashed while Ivar watches. We next see him in a small iron cage, suspended off the ground a few inches. I couldn’t figure out why they’d bother with suspending the cage such a small distance off the ground, and Sandi swooped in to offer the answer:

Sandi: The imprisonment is clearly a petty (and effective) treatment, here. Ragnar’s entire demeanor is quiescent. The beating he received was vastly overdone under the circumstances and the imprisonment unnecessary except as a means to humiliate and unman him.

Lissa: Aethelwulf questions Ragnar, demanding to know where the rest of his men are. Ragnar says he killed them. He asks Aethelwulf to be kind to Ivar and appeals to Aethelwulf as a father himself. Aethelwulf snaps that Ragnar is an animal who deserves to be in a cage.

Sandi: Aethelwulf is suffering from an inferiority complex, and I can’t really blame him. Even beaten, filthy, locked up, and at the mercy of his captors, Ragnar exudes serenity and confidence as to his position. Aethelwulf has never had that kind of personal strength; he’s been held back for too long in his life.

historys-vikings-season-4-part-2-episode-14-ragnar-lothbrok-in-a-cageLissa: Ecbert has Ragnar, and his cage, brought into his hall. He wants to chat. Ragnar pleads to see Ivar, because he doesn’t know if his son is alive or dead. Ecbert nods, and two soldiers carry Ivar in and deposit him in a chair. He’s well-dressed and clean, and has no visible wounds. Ragnar asks him how he is, and Ivar tells him he’s fine. Ecbert offers Ivar some food and says that Ivar is his guest. He orders the soldiers to have Ivar treated well. Ivar is taken from the room. He calls over his shoulder to his father as he is carried away, “Don’t [mess] with them.” (The Viking wording might have been a little rougher, but both of our blogs are PG.) Ecbert asks what Ivar said and Ragnar replies that Ivar said “Thank you.”

Sandi: This was a nice little scene that did a few things. One, it reinforced Ragnar’s purposeful projection of his son being weak and unable to handle himself, which Ragnar is keen on making the public perception as we the viewers are aware. Ivar plays along, but only on the surface, as his native tongue conveys his true feelings. In a non-PG manner. 😉 This father and son are contrasted definitively with Ecbert and Aethelwulf. Ragnar might be the dominant figure, but he respects his son and works with him.

Lissa: Ecbert tells Ragnar that he’s sorry the Wessex settlement was destroyed by Aethelwulf, but it was, of course, done on Ecbert’s orders. He regrets it now. “Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.” But it was part of a much larger, long-term strategy.

b-historys-vikings-season-4-part-2-episode-14-ragnar-lothbrok-and-king-ecbert-670x447Sandi: His sincerity is as ersatz as Splenda® in my coffee. Which is to say, not at all effective or believable in place of the genuine article. And Ecbert knows Ragnar will feel this way (with appropriate, 9th Century equivalents) but he says so regardless because he also knows that Ragnar is a self-confessed corrupt fellow. Just like Ecbert himself. They understand one another so the words can be said for form without belief and, somehow, this works for them as a means of communication.

Lissa: He has Magnus brought in to meet Ragnar. The boy’s eyes are full of wonderment. Magnus tells Ragnar that his mother told him stories of his amazing father, and he can see now that the stories are true. Ragnar tells Magnus that his birth was truly a miracle, since he never had sex with Kwenthrith. After the boy leaves, Ecbert says he always had his doubts about the boy’s paternity. He asks Ragnar why it took him so long to return, and why he’s here now. Ragnar replies with Ecbert’s own words from earlier: it’s part of a larger, long-term strategy. Ecbert cracks up.

Sandi: Well, Magnus certainly looked as if he could have been lo, another Ragnarsson, but no! I wonder if the wonderful Amy Bailey knew that Kwenthrith hadn’t had sex with Ragnar in that memorable, erm, healing scene? I felt dreadful for Magnus here, as he was confronted with a fat lie. Ecbert, unsurprisingly, appears to have not a care in the world for how his charge-to-date might be handling the abrupt disclosure.

pic-four-epi-fourteenLissa: In Hedeby, Margrethe opens the door to Ubbe and Sigurd’s prison. She tells the boys they need to get back to Kattegat. The boys ride there and find Lagertha sitting in the great hall. She is wearing a red dress with a high black collar that immediately went into our “Boot Sole File” of anachronistic costumes. History Channel… There is just no excuse, man. No excuse.

Sandi: Yeah . . . No. The official title for this episode is An Uncertain Hour Before Morning, and I really feel the “uncertain” refers, in large part, to Lagertha. Or at least our perception of her. I wonder where her character’s arc is heading?

Lissa: They demand to know where their mother is and Lagertha is simple and direct: “I killed her. She took Kattegat from me. I wanted it back.” The boys ask why she didn’t kill them too, and she tells them that it’s not their fault their mother bewitched their father. Ubbe says it was a mistake not killing them. The enraged boys start fighting their way through Lagertha’s guards.

Sandi: One has to believe that Lagertha had known this confrontation was inevitable, hence her utterly calm demeanor as it went on. She had her defenses in place, as it were, from the implacable gaze to the bodyguard. Ubbe taking the lead in the attack, going so far as to shove his younger brother aside, did surprise me. Why not take the extra pair of arms? I think perhaps that Ubbe was just furious and he wanted to be uninhibited, not thinking about the defense of anyone else as he went on the attack.

Lissa: But they’re eventually taken down, and dragged out of the hall, unharmed except for some bruises. They lick their wounds with some mead by the fire. Ubbe wants to attack Lagertha. Go into the hall and finish her off. Sigurd scoffs. Aslaug wouldn’t have done the same for them. Her favorite was Ivar. And Harbard. He reminisces – or rather bitterly recollects – what a fool she made of herself over Harbard. Ubbe says that Lagertha should be made to pay for killing their mother, and Sigurd says Ivar will do it… If he’s still alive. They both heard what Aslaug said about the ship sinking and Ragnar and Ivar being killed. Sigurd laughs at that.

Sandi: This is part of the “in vino, veritas” theme that I found in this episode. Okay, so they’re drinking mead (have I mentioned before that it’s a favorite of mine?), but still. The young men are coming down off the adrenal rush of combat, imbibing alcohol, and they’ve a common enemy. Of course they’re talking rather more freely than usual and of course past experiences color everything. Sigurd carries a grudge against Ivar and his mother, having lived with the inequality of the various mother-son relationships in a more intense way than Ubbe did. He saw what Harbard did to Kattegat as a whole and in his own house in particular. Resentment will linger always, I think, though he knows that Ivar would be better at making anyone pay for wrongs against the family. Ivar has, after all, killed before. But he doesn’t believe his legendary father would die. And he likely believes that if Ragnar lives, so does Ivar.

Lissa: Back in Wessex, Ecbert is justifying himself. He says he’s united all of the small warring kingdoms in England. Which… he didn’t. And using “England” itself is kind of an anachronism, but we’ll just roll with it, because it’s that kind of episode. He tells Ragnar that he’s considered by the people to be the most dangerous man in the world. . He shares some food with the ravenous Ragnar, and some wine, and then unlocks the cage. Ragnar collapses to the floor when he tries to straighten up after several days in such cramped accommodations. It’s a reminder that they’re both older men, beset by bodily infirmity. Ecbert says he has to decide what to do with him. From his position on the floor, Ragnar says that the Seer prophesied he would die on the day that the blind man could see him. That means Ecbert must kill him.

Sandi: More of Ersatz Ecbert, here. Met by Realistic Ragnar. They are older, though, so there’s no invitation to bathe in the communal Roman pool. (Though I really wish Ragnar could get cleaned up a bit!) There’s merely the testing of weapons, verbal only, on the familiar foe.

Lissa: Aethelwulf escorts young Magnus out the gate of the city and hands him a small leather satchel. He tells Magnus it’s time for him to go off and learn to be a man.

Sandi: This scene, to me, is the most heartbreaking and troubling of the whole episode. The young man—boy, really—had been raised by a king, told he was the son of a legendary king, and he was innocent of harsh realities. Soft in feature and manner, his aspect also spoke of elegance of condition. He was a pampered scion. Until he wasn’t. And then he ws kicked out on his own without warning or any preparation whatsoever. This was deplorable, in my view, as the lad had done nothing wrong.

Lissa: Magnus is understandably bewildered. He asks where he’s supposed to go. Athelwulf essentially tells him that’s his job to figure out, and if anyone troubles him, to tell them that he’s Magnus, son of Ragnar Lothbrook, and everything will be fine.

Sandi: Really, I was speechless. My whole mind, as the mother of sons, was occupied with all the many ways in which Magnus could be hurt out there in the 9th Century.

Lissa: Magnus is like a dog dumped beside the road, with the owner blithely saying it will be fine, hunting rabbits and such, and driving away. He stands there sobbing in the rain, clutching his only earthly possessions, wearing clothes on his back worth more than the average highwayman will see in a lifetime.

Kid is frickin’ doomed.

Lissa: Aside from the cruelty of the situation, it doesn’t make much sense. He may not be the son of Ragnar, but he’s the son of Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia, and no one aside from Ecbert knows Ragnar disavowed his parentage. They can say whatever they like. And if they want the kid dead, why not kill him right there? After all, he could later return with an army at his back and press for his birthright from his mother’s line. Stranger things have happened throughout history. (Perkin Warbeck, anyone?)

Sandi: As you say, this makes no sense plot-wise (after all, Magnus was basically a non-entity before, so forgetting about him again in the show would work) or character development-wise unless it’s to show how heartless King Ecbert is. But we already knew that, right?

Lissa: Ragnar and Ecbert are drunk and having an existential debate about religious faith and our purpose here on earth. Ragnar says, in essence, that he’s come to Wessex to die. Ecbert throws up his hands. “You Vikings are incorrigible. You emerge from the womb with only one thing on your mind: How to die!”

Sandi: And here we have the beginning of another “in vino” scene!

Lissa: As we discussed last night, preparing for death was an important aspect of life in both cultures, especially in an era in which death was omnipresent, and could strike for seemingly no reason at all.

Sandi: Basically, it’s true. Ragnar made the point about the Christians being obsessed with death and the afterlife in this time as well, so the men are, once again, on par. Which they knew in advance of this part of the discussion. Their verbal fencing seems endless.

Lissa: The conversation turns to Athelstan, whom both of them loved. Ragnar says that Floki killed him for jealousy’s sake – because Ragnar loved Athelstan more. Ecbert says he, too, felt jealous, when Athelstan chose to leave with Ragnar instead of stay with Ecbert.


Lissa: Ecbert brings in someone special, and he doesn’t need to identify him, because Ragnar instantly recognizes Alfred. The scene is incredibly tender, a moment of genuine emotion so rarely found in movies and television. Ragnar embraces the boy. It was a wholly unexpected kindness that Ecbert would share Alfred with Ragnar, giving him a living glimpse of the man they both loved and lost.

Sandi: I loved this scene. I had real tears and everything. Casting for Alfred was well done; the lad could indeed have sprung from Athelstan and Judith. We don’t know what the future Great King might have thought, for this moment was—unlike Magnus’s—not for his benefit. It was all for Ragnar.

Lissa: That night, Ragnar sits at the foot of his bed sleepless and we see visions of the sunlight sparkling on waves. Ecbert, too, is sleepless, kneeling before an altar and quoting Ecclesiastes. The King James Version, I might add. History Channel… We need to talk.

Sandi: I am wondering if the intent was not to have him quoting the KJV but a Latin translation from the Greek—which would have come from the Hebrew, in all likelihood. It would have been far less of a History Channel faux pas if they had had Ecbert at least begin quoting in Latin, transitioning to English for those of us who watch VIKINGS in that language.

joan-jett-epi-14Lissa: Ubbe and Sigurd wake up, probably with severe hangovers, and see Joan Jett perched on the edge of the bed they didn’t sleep in. She’s perky and resplendent in a gorgeously woven tunic. She tells them if they harm a hair on Lagertha’s head, they’re dead men. Ubbe replies that if they don’t fear Lagertha, why would they fear her? Joan Jett smiles slightly and flounces out.

Sandi: I’m still trying to get a handle on Joan Jett, here. Lagertha certainly hasn’t demonstrated a need for a bodyguard, but it seems Joan Jett is thus appointed. Her woven garment was indeed intricate and well made, but I took exception to the extraneous fabric on her left arm. It served no purpose other than for show, unless Joan Jett was trying to make an impression on Ubbe and Sigurd beyond the threat of violence.

Lissa: Ecbert tells Ragnar that he can’t kill him. He can’t let him live, but he can’t kill him, either. He just can’t. Ragnar suggests that Ecbert hand him over to Aella, and “wash his hands” of Ragnar’s death. More Christian anachronisms in my Vikings. Ragnar tells Ecbert to send Ivar home with a message for Ragnar’s other sons: that Ecbert did everything he could to stop Aella from harming Ragnar. Then the boys will focus their vengeance on Aella. You can see the wheels turning in Ecbert’s brain. What a lovely, convenient way to destroy Aella, and get rid of Ragnar, too.

no-ship-logoSandi: There is also a reference to lung ripping, and I am reminded that in legend, Ivar performs a blood eagle on Aelle. We discussed it a bit on the podcast we did with the awesome folks at No Ship Network. And Ragnar did use what we see as a Christian reference but the washing of the hands would have been a Jewish phrase in its initial use and, it is possible that Athelstan had used the phrase in the time that Ragnar had known him, so I’m leaning toward Ragnar’s using the phrase on purpose. Part of a larger, long-term strategy.

Lissa: He leans forward and says to Ecbert, “Do not be afraid.”

Sandi: And if we’re thinking of Christian phrases used out of place, this might be another one. Almost whenever an angel appears to people in the Bible, the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” This is often a harbinger for news from on high, but here . . .why does Ragnar say this? His aspect as seen below is hardly angelic.

 Season’s Greetings to all!

Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4

The #ShieldGeeks Talk s4, E12: The Vision

VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

“100% more evisceration talk than expected.” 

“These chicks are machines!” 

– Steve No Ship Network
Heillir! The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fourth (point five) season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on Twitter, #ShieldGeeks where and Sandi and I will be live-tweeting during each episode, as has been our custom since Season One. We’ll follow up with a more detailed discussion on our websites the following day.

We are SO excited! So, Warriors and Shieldmaidens all, get your weapons and armor ready, because it’s going to be an amazing season!


Lissa Bryan is a delightful historian as well as being a wonderful writer. Her latest book, Dominion, is a dystopian romance taking place at a time in the not-too-far-distant future.



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Lissa: This episode wasn’t quite as strong as the one before it. It was sort of a “getting ready” episode, like packing for a vacation, turning off all the lights, getting the pets to the kennel… that sort of thing.

We begin with Ragnar in Kattegat, walking through the marketplace. The hustle and bustle reminds us what a busy place it is. One of the traders drives a cart through the streets. Its cargo is a live emu.


Sandi: Yes, you rather liked the emu! Really, it spoke well to the internationality of Kattegat, but then we’d also seen that before, with a host of culturally diverse people selling their wares in the market square.

Lissa: Ragnar stops to speak to a man he knows. He tells him he’s getting a crew together to go back to raid in England. The man draws back with a smile and says he’s a farmer. Just like his brother was, and his brother went to England to live in one of Ragnar’s settlements. He found out that his brother had been slaughtered years after it happened, but Ragnar had known all along, hadn’t he? He leans forward and spits in Ragnar’s face.

Ragnar stands there for a moment, and a small smile ghosts across his lips. He thanks the man for his time and walks away. At his back, the man shouts that no one loves Ragnar any longer, not even the gods.

Sandi: That was expected. We needed to see this kind of response. The interesting thing, to me, is that there weren’t more Kattegatians (I can’t call them villagers anymore, can I?) who were up in Ragnar’s face about the Wessex slaughter/failure/tragedy. But still, note that Ragnar can walk about in Kattegat without being on the defensive. He isn’t otherwise assaulted, and people make way for him. He is still Ragnar, and that name means something. Even his sons, who might not all appreciate him entirely, nor agree with him, bank on that name.

Lissa: Ragnar speaks with Björn about his plans. It’s a sad exchange, in a way, because Ragnar can see how the Seer’s prophecy is coming true before his eyes… Björn has a great destiny before him, and seems destined to go on to greater things than Ragnar ever achieved. Ragnar tells him he needs ships. Björn agrees to give him some of the fleet he’s assembled to go to the Mediterranean. It had to be very galling for Ragnar to have to go to his son – hat in hand, so to speak – and ask for ships that were built by the man who used to craft ships for Ragnar.

Björn mentions having to pass by Rollo’s lands, and says he intends to see how much of a Viking his uncle still is.

Sandi: Galling, yes, but I think too that Ragnar is proud. I mean, he raised Björn until Björn was granted his armband. He and Lagertha created a strong son who is now doing what men do: make their own way. And even if he does become bigger and better than his father, Björn is also carrying Ragnar’s name with him as he does so. It’s hard for the older generation, too, to make way for the younger, but it is the natural way of things and a Viking will bow to that. They’ll all meet in Valhalla and share stories one day, would be a way to acclimate himself to that.

Lissa:  At the midday meal, Aslaug tells Ivar she’s happy to see him with Margrethe. She tells all her boys they should be having children.

Sandi: Odd, but I don’t really see Aslaug as a grandmother. She might be!

Lissa: Ubbe blithely says he probably already has a few and the boys laugh. But Aslaug insists they should marry and father legitimate heirs. Sigurd asks his mother if she married Ragnar because she loved him.

Aslaug replies tartly that love has little to do with it, but when he presses, she snaps that she did love him.

Sandi: This is odd, in the cultural context. A marriage in this society would not be based upon love, as a rule. A marriage was most often an arrangement between families, for the better fortune of them all in terms of land, influence, wealth, or all of the above. Marrying for love would be a foreign notion. Why would her sons even inquire about it? I could just slide this into the Boot Sole File.

And Aslaug married Ragnar because she was bearing his child. I mean, it’s not a romantic story at that point, not really. Perhaps, though, Aslaug is trying to keep a legend alive with her sons. They are her closest companions at this juncture.

Lissa:  He then brings up the rumor that Aslaug bewitched Ragnar into marrying her.

Ivar starts to defend her, Sigurd wonders aloud if she loved anyone except for Harbard. Ivar says he knows Aslaug always loved him. Sigurd retorts that Aslaug felt pity for him – like the rest of them do, but sometimes they wish that she’d left Ivar to the wolves.

Sandi: Sigurd really takes the proverbial bull by the horns, here. Ivar is defensive of Aslaug—for good reason—and the sequence is indicative of the long-festering unease/antipathy that has developed between the two brothers over the years they’ve lived together.

Lissa: Ivar tries to attack him, but he has to drag himself along the furniture to reach him. He finally gets close, and Sigurd jerks away the chair he’s using for balance. Ivar falls to the floor as Sigurd walks away. He crawls after his brother crying out in rage as Aslaug tries to soothe him.

Sandi: Sigurd was not playing fair, but then I imagine he’s seen Ivar favored during his whole life. And Ivar really let his guard down, or was overwhelmed by his feelings, here. To show so much emotion, genuine emotion, makes him vulnerable.

Lissa: That evening, there’s a feast in the great hall.

Sandi: Gotta say I enjoyed seeing that. This is a different kind of feast than we’ve perhaps seen in a while. Good to see all the Northmen in their fantastic costumes (History Channel continues to impress in the wardrobe department) and to have a feel for the atmosphere of the Great Hall.

Lissa: Harald and his brother Halfdan are in attendance – they’re going on Björn’s journey.

Björn mentions Harald’s old ambition to become King of Norway, but Harald says he doesn’t think it’s possible to depose Ragnar. Which is a bit odd, since Ragnar is obviously reduced to begging his own child for the boats he needs for a small raid, but perhaps Harald was just being diplomatic, considering his current plans.

He mentions how tall the Ragnarssons are, and Ivar says he’s tall when he stands up. Harald is a bit – well a lot – patronizing when he says that he bets Ivar wishes he could go with them. Ivar tells him to go to hell.

Sandi: Ivar has to be seething, here. Regarding Harald, I think he might be a bit behind the times, perhaps, in terms of the current political climate. Unless he has spies?

Lissa: Lagertha enters with Joan Jett at her side.

Joan seems very popular amongst the people of Kattegat.

Sandi: This is a bit surprising. Lagertha resides in Hedeby, does she not? But Lagertha is a woman of substance, a jarl, and if Joan Jett is seen as her Current S.O., then it is likely that others court her for her favor. Even those who aren’t beholden to Hedeby in any way.

Lissa: Aslaug makes her way over and Lagertha tells her that since their sons are going on a journey together, they should both ask the gods for their blessing.

Aslaug says they should make a sacrifice. Jointly, Lagertha tells her. Aslaug reminds her that she is the queen of Kattegat. Lagertha replies she never forgets anything.

Sandi: Aren’t they so polite, here? slanted smile I like the edge that the actresses gave the scene. The time was short, but the animosity was well-played.

Lissa: After the feast, Margrethe runs outside and pleads with Sigurd for protection from Ivar. She tells him that Ivar tried to kill her, and she tells him Ivar’s terrible secret, that he cannot pleasure a woman. She begs Sigurd not to tell anyone. Suuure he won’t.

He tells his brothers immediately, of course.

Sandi: I was making all kinds of rude sounds during this sequence. What was she thinking? Here I thought Margrethe (Hey, I went to the IMDb page to make sure I spelled it properly!) had a sense of self-preservation. She had taken time to connect (cough!) with each of Aslaug’s sons. And she had used her wits to save her life when it seemed certain Ivar would kill her. So why on earth did she go to the one brother she knew had a serious hate-on for Ivar? She acknowledged that Ivar was crazy, we all know he’s murderous (has been since childhood), so why do this? I was flummoxed. It does, though, make for more drama.

Lissa: The sacrifice ceremony begins. As with the other Viking ceremonies we’ve seen, this one is beautifully – reverentially – cinematic. Aslaug’s face is painted red and black. She slices each of the animal sacrifices and drains their blood into a basin.

As Floki did long ago, Ivar approaches the basin and strokes the blood over his face.

Sandi: They really do give good ceremony on this show. This one is darker than previous sacrifices we’ve seen, merely in terms of the time of day and such. It makes everything smoky, more potently ominous.

Lissa: Aslaug appears to be as high as a kite, her eyes rolling back into her head and her lashes fluttering, but Lagertha leans down to whisper in her ear. “I want you to know that I can never forgive you for taking away my husband and my world. Look what you’ve done with it. You call yourself Queen, but you will never be Queen in Kattegat.” She flicks some of the blood in a dismissive manner in Aslaug’s face.

Sandi: I honestly thought Lagertha had sliced off a piece of Aslaug’s ear, there. It would have worked for me.
Lissa: Ivar follows his father out into the hills where Ragnar digs up his hoard of treasure from the earth, intending to use it as a way of buying himself men for the voyage since no one seems willing to volunteer.

Sandi: Ragnar teases his son in a not-too-kind manner, calling him his “crippled son” and so on, but Ivar seems to find this as a form of affection. And, to be honest, it likely is. Ragnar loves his children. It is one of the defining characteristics that continues to endear him to us even when he’s making us crazy.

Lissa: Ivar picks up a coin and turns it in his fingers. He points to the face on the front. “Who is this?” Ragnar tells him its King Ecbert, and Ivar asks if he can keep the coin. Ragnar closes Ivar’s fingers over it.

Sandi: And here we have more from the Wisdom of Ivar, for which he will become famous. Again, kudos to the History Channel for their attention to detail.

Lissa: Ivar warns him that buying men will only get him the dregs.

In town, Ragnar sits at a table, handing out his treasure to a long line of people who’ve come to take it.

Ubbe tries to stop him, says he’s embarrassing himself, but Ragnar flings it out into the crowd, saying he doesn’t care.

Sandi: A king is expected to share from his wealth, but it is tradition that the sharing is done amongst those who have shared in the work. All those on a raid, from the warriors to the navigators to the shipwrights, get gold. But here? These men haven’t worked with Ragnar. He hasn’t chosen them. It is a lowering thing for Ragnar to give his gold away. “Embarrassing” indeed.

Lissa: In preparation for the voyage, Ivar has iron crutches made. He’s able to “walk” with his arms alone, dragging his legs along.

Sandi: I discussed this with my spouse, as I thought iron was not perhaps the best choice for a seafarer. But Spousal Unit is a craftsman and he reminded me that the Vikings would have known that regular wooden crutches would be soaked repeatedly and swell and become unusable unless they were coated in pitch—at which point they would become flammable.

Lissa: The swelling of the wood is an excellent point. Iron really would be more durable and easier to maintain in sea-faring conditions. If he kept the metal well-greased and used a pumice stone to remove any rust that began to build, he could probably keep them in good condition for years.

Sandi: It pays to have to connections, for those iron crutches would have been costly.

Lissa: He trips and falls at one point, and his brothers start over to help him up. Aslaug – very correctly – stops them, and Ivar pulls his own way up.

Ragnar smacks him on the shoulder and tells him nonchalantly that they have a ship to board.

Sandi: I appreciate that Ragnar handled this so casually. It could have been a lot uglier.

Lissa: That night, Ivar creeps to Margrethe’s bed. She cries out in terror when he puts a hand over her mouth. He tells her he knows she told his brothers. She swears she didn’t and pleads for her life. Ivar tells her he believes her, and he just wants to lie next to her.

Sandi: Ha! I bet she didn’t get any sleep that night . . .

Ragnar comes to visit Aslaug as she’s removing her hairpins to go to bed. He gently caresses her neck as he speaks. “Love was not what brought us together. But you endured me. You suffered my words and my neglect. And you never turned our sons against me.” He’s grateful for that. Aslaug’s eyes fill with tears.

Sandi: Ivar asked when Ragnar was going to see Aslaug, and here he does. The “farewell” visit such as he made to the other people in his life.

Lissa: In her own bed, Aslaug has a vision of Ivar floating over the sea, and his limp form swept up by a tornado of water. She tries to run into the sea and save him.

In the morning, she warns him if he goes on this journey, he will drown.

He tells her he finally has a chance to prove himself to the gods, and that one day at his father’s side – as a true Viking man – is worth a lifetime of pity. She cannot tell him what to do. He’s going and doesn’t care if he dies. Aslaug kisses his head and tells him to go.

Sandi: This was a GREAT scene. The episode is titled “The Vision” but I think this moment is more indicative.

Lissa: At the docks, Lagertha has a tender goodbye with Björn.


Torvi tells Björn that he cannot come back without winning glory because what will she tell their children of him, the great Björn Ironsides? “Tell them I loved them,” Björn says.

Sandi: Torvi seems to really lay it out for him, here. I don’t know how much was spousal-teasing and how much was sincere “With your shield or on it!” Spartan-wife/mom thing, but she seemed quite determined.

Lissa: The small fleet sails, only a handful of boats with Ragnar, the rest with Björn.

Sandi: It really is a small fleet, as well. Not an impressive flotilla, but just a few ships. Well, that is what was requested, no?

Lissa: As they sail away, Ragnar notices Ivar clinging to the side of the ship. Ivar confesses that he’s terrified of water. Ragnar sits down beside him and tells him there’s worse ways to die than drowning. Ivar retches over the side, apparently seasick as well as afraid.

Sandi: Being terrified of the water makes sense for a man that would have to rely solely on his arms to keep himself safe in the ocean. Ivar is, though, determined to win his sea-legs and Ragnar lets him.

Lissa: Ragnar’s new men are obviously not sailors. Their oars only shallowly dip into the water as they head out to sea. It’s gonna be a long voyage, it seems!

Sandi: This was a great detail. As Ivar predicted, Ragnar got the dregs to crew his longships. Older men. Weaker. Perhaps even a bit lazy. Not determined warriors. Even in Season One, the older warriors had more to them than this bunch.

Lissa: They’re beset by a storm, as Aslaug predicted. The men are being thrown from the vessel by the massive waves. Ragnar grabs Ivar and tosses him over his shoulder as he struggles toward the mast. He lashes Ivar to the mast with rope, and as Ivar roars in fear, Ragnar puts his hand over his mouth. He meets Ivar’s eyes, and Ivar calms.

Sandi: Ragnar saves his son here, and it’s another good moment. Ivar will have learned much, I’m thinking, during this part of his life.

Lissa: While this is happening, Aslaug is rocking in her room, her face contorted in agony. Her lap is soaked with blood. We had a lot of discussion last night over what we were seeing. In the Sagas, aslaug has a vision of her sons dying and is so agonized that she weeps blood, but this appeared to be more along the lines of a miscarriage. But we haven’t seen Aslaug with a lover since the time jump, or any indications that she’s pregnant.

A massive wave overturns their ship. Ragnar struggles through the water to try to untie his son. The last scene we see is Ivar going limp.

Sandi: We know, though, that Ivar lives a long life, and is a warrior of renown. So one can only imagine here that Ragnar saves his son again and brings him to safety in some way. Unless a supernatural agent steps in, that is likely to be the case.

It is somehow fitting that here, Ragnar is saving the life that he was prepared to let end when the lad was an infant. And that the mighty king is struggling in a storm on the way back to a village that he’s known has been gone for a long time, with only a ragtag crew.

As you said, Lissa, a “preparing to go” episode. I am hoping the next one, “Two Journeys” according to IMDb, will have a landing in Wessex and a journey for Björn. 

.¸¸•.¸¸.•´¯`• (¯`•ღ•´¯)•´¯`•.¸¸.•.¸¸.


Thanks for joining us! Tune in next ODINSday for another episode!
If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!
Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways! – Vafþrúðnismál 4

The #ShieldGeeks Talk Vikings: Death All ‘Round

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.


(Sidenote to the NoShippers: Yes, you pronounced it correctly. Well done!)

Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.

Lissa: This episode, I think was aptly named!

Sandi: I do appreciate the care they take to title them. I know I have a hard time with titles. The History Channel does a great job. Even if the titles refer to some horrible and sad things.

Lissa: We began with wonderful scenes of the Vikings porting the boats overland, rolling the ships over lubricated logs. It gave a great sense of how much effort and labor had to go into tasks like these, the engineering and forethought. Lagertha is helping haul on the ropes to pull the ships over the log rollers. She winces and grasps her belly at one point, but goes right back to pulling.

vikings s4 e9 heave ho

Sandi: They had a bit of a distance to go, here, but it was encouraging to show that they just did it. Marshaling local resources and getting down to business. Lagertha—yeah. The psychology of her behavior here is interesting. The Seer said she’d have no more children, yet she’s pregnant. It is possible that she’s decided to trust in Serendipity and do exactly as she would were she not pregnant, hoping that the chance of Fate would smile upon her. Or she’s subconsciously believing the Seer and his prophecy and determines to act in such a way that will not protect her unborn child to make it come true. I don’t believe she consciously is seeking to harm herself in any way. She’s just going to do what she feels she must.

Lissa: Two locals peek through the trees. They hope the Vikings will pass them by. It’s all any family could do at the time.

Sandi: The average local “peasant” or “villein” had no recourse when armed men moved through their territories. They were used like canon fodder, their lands were harvested bare and ruined, and their lives were considered as nothing to noblemen waging war.

Lissa: Finehair and his brother Halfdan take a breakfast break to go raiding a farm. The brothers are cheerful and playful as they loot. Halfdan lobs an egg at Harald and they share a laugh as it spatters the front of his armor. The residents are obviously hiding. Halfdan lifts a pillow and finds a jewelry below. He informs his brother there are women here, and they search the barn. A hard shove on the boards of the hayloft above sends the girls crashing down. They’re young – around Gyda’s age. The rest of the family pleads in French and Spanish – at least I think that’s what I heard. But both being Romance languages, I imagine Old French has some similarities.

Sandi: It really struck me how lighthearted Harald and Halfdan are, here. Like the village was created just for their amusement and plundering. I heard Spanish, too. The lines between people were more fluid in those days and the languages were still in development. Indeed they still are.

Lissa: We all cringed at the thought of what was going to happen to those girls, and mercifully, the scene cut away.  As they pack up to leave, we see more of that cheerful demeanor. Halfdan sings a Norse song and Harald joins in as they ride away. But we see the carnage as they’re leaving. The family has been slaughtered brutally, hacked to pieces.

Sandi: That’s actually a poem from the Irish. The Northmen were seen as an unstoppable force to the man in the village. They came in with their axes and shields, their belief that death in battle was a good thing, their unassailable confidence that raiding was their right, to bring treasure and slaves back home, where they were needed. A run-of-the-mill farmer (or miller!) couldn’t stand up to that. All they could do was pray, hope, and hide.

Lissa: Finehair later justifies it to Björn by saying the family would have told the Franks of the Vikings’ plans. He says Björn would have done the same, and Björn replies, “I’m not blaming you.” As Julie summed it up last night on Twitter:

Sandi: I think Hirst has been careful to show this, in his writing of this show. People are . . . people. With strengths and failings as a community as well as in individuals.

Lissa: The scene cuts to little Alfred on the road approaching the city of Rome with Aethelwulf and Prudentius walking behind him. Beggars line the pilgrims’ path, some more insistent than others. Aethelwulf functions as the bodyguard. Alfred meets Pope Leo X. An interesting aside – Do you realize the same actor playing the pope also plays the Seer?

aethelwulf proud papaSandi: Alfred, at this point, has walked over 1,000 miles. Okay, perhaps he’s been able to ride a pony for some of that, but still. A long, long walk. It’s taken months, even if they didn’t go souvenir shopping along the way. Still, the little guy is plucky, striding along with his wet hair in his face, ignoring the importuning people along the road. Aethelwulf does a great job and we noted last night that he’s been a good father to the lad, despite the more-than-awkward beginnings of that relationship. And I knew the pope looked familiar…(Yes, I hang out on IMDb and the Vikings Wikia on occasion!)

Lissa: The pope tells Alfred that he has an important destiny in defending Christendom from the pagan invaders.  The pope warns him, “If Christian people do not do penance, a great and rushing disaster will swiftly come upon you.” It’s a reminder that the Vikings were thought of by Christians as a scourge of God, a punishment for their sins. The pope shows little Alfred a sacred relic, one of the thorns from the crown cruelly thrust on the head of Jesus when he was being crucified by the Romans. Alfred kisses it in reverence.

Sandi: Alfred has been well-indoctrinated— I mean, taught!—of the tenets of the faith. At this time, that was handled by memorization, so one can imagine that the lad has a grand memory and is dedicated to learning. As indeed, King Alfred will prove in the fullness of time. I like that the show gives foreshadowing of Alfred’s lifelong commitment to faith and learning even at this stage, even including the trip to Rome Alfred did indeed make the pilgrimage. 

Lissa: The show already highlighted the early church’s reverence for relics. Remember Gisla and the oriflamme? I mentioned last night that there was also a terrible market for forgeries arising at this time, and a great many people got taken in by scammers who took advantage of their faith and trust that a fellow Christian would not lie about something so sacred.

Sandi: Even Chaucer had something to say about relics, having his Pardoner character in The Canterbury Tales, discuss how he (the Pardoner) cons people in the Pardoner’s Prologue. Not saying that the Holy Father was using the thorn of Christ’s crown of thorns as a moneymaking prop in this episode! Just a commentary that this practice did go on for centuries.

alfred and consul swordLissa: There was a wonderful scene of little Alfred being crowned as a Consul of Rome while Ecbert is being crowned as the joint king of Mercia and Wessex. The bishop anoints Ecbert’s head with oil and proclaims the kingdoms are forever and indissolvably joined, and Little Alfred is gifted a beautiful sword and a golden crown of laurel leaves. It would have been a moment that left a powerful impression on a young boy.

Sandi: Really nice display here by the History Channel. I enjoyed how these scenes were combined with some Gregorian Chant as background music. (Not sure if it was, technically, Gregorian, but you know what I mean.) Ecbert gets to wear the Where the Wild Things Are crown so I imagine we can let the Wild Rumpus start! 

Ecbert with the new crown

Lissa: Judith is, of course, all smiles, but Aella is displeased by Ecbert’s coronation and reminds him afterward that he and Ecbert were supposed to split Mercia equally. Ecbert betrayed him. And Aella mentions that Ecbert’s new domain borders his own. Ecbert essentially tells him to learn to live with it, because that’s how it is.

Sandi: Yeah.  ^^ That. (As an aside, @DeeDonuts always gives good GIF.) King Aelle is disgruntled and likely even angered by King Ecbert’s obvious duplicity. But he is in Ecbert’s court, surrounded by Ecbert’s men, and can do nothing. That has to stick in his craw in a bad, bad way.

ragnar and lagertha post miscarriageLissa: We return to Paris, where Björn and his father are hastily summoned. It’s Lagertha. When they arrive, they find her lying in her tent, her dress pulled up to her thighs and soaked with blood. She tells them she lost her child. She’d hoped the Seer might be wrong. She begins to sob and Ragnar pulls her into his arms to comfort her. He looks equally agonized as he holds his ex-wife and murmurs to her. But very quickly Lagertha sits up and tells him to go. “Just go away. Leave me alone.” Ragnar releases her, but he doesn’t leave. He retreats just a few feet behind her and sits down, and Björn sits down on her other side. In one of those gorgeous touches of cinematography conveying emotion, their body movements are in sync as Lagertha struggles to control her grief.

Sandi: That was heartbreaking for Lagertha, even though she knew it could happen. I really appreciated seeing how Ragnar supported her, and his own grief there even though the child was not his. As we said last night, these two are the great big One True Pairing for many VIKINGS fans and their chemistry is undeniable. And props to Björn, too. This is not a typical place for a son to be supportive, but he did very well. Sometimes, it’s right to ignore his mother’s wishes and do the right thing.

Lissa: Outside, Floki’s eyes roll back in his head and he has a vision of Aslaug wandering around in the rain, screaming Harbard’s name and falling to the earth in tears when she cannot find him.

Floki the SeerSandi: So now we see Floki as Seer, really. He’s not seeing the future, not here and not in the earlier episode when he seemed thrust into the sexual encounter between Harbard and Queen Aslaug. Instead, Floki Sees what is happening at the moment. I wonder how this will play out in the future of the show. I wonder if Kattegat’s Seer really has gone on, and that’s why the actor is now the pope?

Lissa: Simple Chuck is seated on the throne when Gisla and Rollo stride in. Since her marriage was consummated, Gisla’s style has changed to sleek and simple – and frankly, rather modern-looking. Beside her, Rollo is stylin’ in a shiny, shiny doublet. Simple Chuck announces Gisla’s pregnancy, and then has another announcement… He’s making Roland a count for his services to Frankia. Gisla doesn’t look very pleased by the announcement. The king dismisses everyone but asks Roland to linger for a moment. He has an important question to ask him. After everyone is gone, Chuck lays it out in the bluntest terms possible. Chuck wants Therese as his mistress and he wants to know if Roland would be upset about it.

Lissa: Not at all, Roland says with aplomb. In fact, she’d be the happiest woman in Frankia, he’s sure. He turns to go and Chuck tells him there’s just one more thing he’d like to ask about.

Sandi: I think the thing with Gisla’s wardrobe is that she isn’t having to prove anything any longer. Not to her father, not to the court. She’s married to a man she (finally) respects (though she finds it necessary to lecture him about How to be Frankish quite often) and she no longer has to build her reputation in her wardrobe. She is who she is, and that’s enough. I do concur, though, that her wardrobe does seem almost modern in its lines. (I am reminded of the wonderful series Robin Hood from the BBC, where the characters dressed in such a way as to call forth modern stylings using traditional means.) I will say though that I am getting rather tired of her pedantic manner. Still, there’s a lesson to be learned here: We often tend to think our own culture is the superior one. We should guard against this when dealing with others.

Lissa: We cut to Rollo and Gisla’s bedroom as they’re retiring. Gisla undresses behind a screen as she gives Rollo a lecture/lesson on… something. Sorry, it sort of just went in one ear and out the other. I did catch, though, that she’s unhappy about her father honoring “those people.” She puts on a white cottony-looking nightgown, complete with little satin bows and climbs into the very 18th century-looking bed with its scalloped headboard and pulled-back curtains. Rollo is also wearing a nightgown, and it has a shiny placard breast.

Sandi: Yeah. The use of nightwear was extremely rare, back then. A bridal couple on their wedding night might have something to wear, if they were noble, because there was an audience to their bedding ceremonies. But even then, it was rare to use valuable resources on a garment one wore only to sleep in. There are accounts of even kings holding court in their beds, naked under their bedding but for a cap on their heads. This was also rare, but it happened.

Lissa: The #BootSoleFile is swelling a bit, eh? And they were doing so well with the portage and such! Alas!

Sandi: It is! But, I remind myself that this is historical fiction, after all. 😉

Lissa: In any case, Rollo starts to get frisky, and Gisla rebuffs him. She’s pregnant, she reminds him. Yeah, he says, and he’s real happy about that. She tells him he cannot have carnal relations with her while she’s in this sacred state.

Lissa: I predicted this will not end well, and let me repeat that now: this will not end well. Rollo and Gisla had a good thing going here for a while, but it’s probably about to be seriously challenged because Rollo is not going to take to almost a year’s worth of abstinence well. How soon before his eye begins to roam? And how will Pepe le Princess take that? Considering her other views on marriage, I imagine she won’t accept it with a simple, “Well, that’s noblemen for you!

no sex vikings

Sandi: This will be interesting. Ah, the Royal Soap Opera! It was not uncommon, of course, for well-born men to take mistresses while their wives kept their sacred, baby-making selves away from them. Wives were often guided to look the other way when that happened, resting in the knowledge that they were providing an heir/ess and their position was secure even if their “husband had no self-control”. (Royal hmph! here.)

Lissa: At dawn, Simple Chuck rolls out of bed, dressed in his own nightgown, this one of a vibrant blue. 

Sandi: Another note on their clothing: Blue is a notoriously difficult color to make permanent in a fabric dye. It’s one reason why purple was considered a royal color. So using it for nightwear, again, is unreasonable. Sorry. I just had to get that out. 

Lissa: He strolls to the window, leaving a sleeping partner in the bed. It’s not until he glances back that we see who it is… Roland.

Sandi: That shocked me. A lot. I did a quick check and the Emperor Charles was not known to be a homosexual, even to history. However, he was noted to have a marked preference for a certain friend of his, giving him many favors and honors. So. That is a possibility as to where this came from, here in the show. I wonder if Roland considered this possibility when he told the emperor that he was ready to sacrifice all for him?

Lissa: At the Viking encampment, Torvi and Björn make love while Erlendur watches. When they’ve finished, Björn asks Torvi why she came with him when he asked. What does she want from this? Torvi says with a bit of amusement that it took him long enough to ask.

Sandi: I don’t equate Torvi with Salome, understand, it was just something I heard in my head at that point in the story. 

Lissa: She sees Erlendur aiming a crossbow at Björn, so she climbs back atop him and slides to his side, blocking Erlendur’s shot.

Sandi: Nice move! She is all about protecting Björn at this point, which was reassuring. The buzz in the VIKINGS fandom has included thoughts on whether or not Torvi is a spy for Erlandur—albeit under duress. It seems here that she is not willing for harm to come to Björn, which is a relief. (I mean, if they killed off Queen Kwenthrith, is anyone safe?)

Lissa: In Kattegat, Sigurd is floating a little boat down the creek when he comes upon a body laying on the bank. It’s little Siggy, and she’s dead, drowned like the woman she’s named after. Sigurd goes into the house. Ivar is playing a game with his mother. She’s drinking heavily. She’s gone full Circe Lannister in this episode, I swear. She makes a bad move on the game board and Ivar announces it was stupid. He’s won now. Aslaug retorts that he shouldn’t call her stupid. After all, if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t even be alive.

Sandi: SIGLET!  I mourn for the poor little girl who had nobody to truly care about her. 

And let’s take a moment to check out Ivar, shall we? He is the same boy who screamed in fear when he killed the other child with an axe. Blood all over his face, the boy was a mess until his mama told him it wasn’t his fault. Everything was going to be fine. Have a biscuit. And now, he’s going full-on psychopath here in this scene.

Lissa: Sigurd comes forward and announces he found Siggy’s body. Aslaug first says “Who?” before it clicks into place. Aslaug isn’t the slightest bit troubled by this news. She asks if someone was taking care of the child, and Sigurd says apparently not.

Sandi: Sigurd is the only one who seems to have known the little girl existed, at this point, and even he didn’t value her highly at all. One can only think that Harbard used this little girl as his sacrifice (of whatever nature) much in the way he took Siggy’s life before. I will miss Siglet.

Lissa: Ivar interjects. “Who cares?” Sigurd turns and stomps out as Aslaug gives a chilling smile. The happiest smile we’ve seen from her in a long while.

aslaug evil smileHere’s what throws me about this… Siggy was Ragnar’s granddaughter, daughter of his eldest son. Even if Aslaug was indifferent to her, you’d think the child would have some value in the community. Everyone knows how much Ragnar adores the children in his family. Ragmar is going to be very upset when he returns and finds out his first grandchild died of what is essentially neglect. Björn, too. The girl may not have “value” to Aslaug, but she will be a princess one day and her hand has value in marriage negotiations.

Sandi: These two have gone from sad figures to bad guys. They were to be pitied at one point, I feel. Aslaug as a neglected wife, for she did all that was asked of her and Ivar who was born with a deformity (in the show) and has to be tended as an invalid for a time. Now, she’s caught up in her Harbard-addiction and getting drunk in the presence of her children and he’s telling his mother she’s stupid and he doesn’t even care when a girl raised in his household is found abandoned and dead.

Lissa: The Vikings have reached the opposite side of the river. They all gather to cheer the sight of Paris in the distance.

Sandi: You have to feel for them, here. Though they are a seafaring folk, this might have been the longest distance any of them have had to transport their ships. What if Ragnar didn’t have it right? What if they climbed that last rise and found…more land? This was a vindication of sorts for Ragnar, but he doesn’t seem remotely aware of it. He’s in a bad, bad way, thanks to Yidu’s “medicine”.

Lissa: In his tent, Erlendur is sacrificing a rabbit, gathering its blood in a cup. Torvi crouches down beside him. She asks if she returns to him as his wife, if he will abandon his plan to kill Björn. Erlendur says he never will. He is a Viking; they don’t give up on vengeance. Ragnar killed his father. He must have his revenge. Something in the sacrifice makes him say that the gods have determined it must be Torvi who slays Björn. She tries to protest, but Erlendur threatens her son again. He presses his crossbow into her hands and forces her to drink the blood from the cup.

erlandur revenge

Sandi: I don’t believe that the gods said anything of the sort. I am sure that Erlandur chose this method as a punishment for Torvi, who had protected Björn before. Making her drink the blood makes this a religious communion, of sorts, as when all shared the blood of the cow in ritual before. 

Lissa: Torvi strides outside and sees Björn standing in the center of the camp. She has a dribble of blood running down the corner of her mouth. She tells him that she has to kill him to avenge Erlendur’s father. Björn gives a small sigh and asks her what she’s waiting for. Torvi lifts the crossbow, spins, and puts a bolt through Erlendur’s chest. Way to go, Torvi! As she told Björn many episodes ago, she is a Viking, too. Björn goes over to Erlendur’s gasping body and drops Erlendur’s ring onto the shaft of the crossbow bolt.

Sandi: I thought it interesting, here, that after all of Björn’s brooding on the matter, he is not the agency by which the Erlandur matter is ended. Instead, it is Torvi who has the opportunity and strength of purpose to end it. Forever, one hopes. 

Lissa: Ragnar is very ill and hallucinating. He thinks he’s vomiting up spiders.

Sandi: This is a bad, bad thing. When a king is seeing things, how reliable can he be? No one knows exactly what he’s seeing, which is something, but it is worrisome.

Lissa: Björn goes into his father’s tent and finds him smashing imaginary spiders on its floor, pausing now and then to vomit helplessly. Ragnar looks awful. Ragnar finally tells Björn the trouble: Yidu gave him something she called medicine, but now without it, Ragnar feels poisoned. It should be noted here that this is the only mention of Yidu in the episode, and Björn doesn’t follow it up by asking whatever happened to that girl, anyway? Though Yidu was “just a slave,” it seems odd that Björn wouldn’t at least mention her absence. After all, Yidu speaks French, and could reveal their plans if she’d run off.

Sandi: For all that Björn is growing into himself and learning leadership skills, he is not entirely savvy yet. It did seem strange that Yidu’s absence from Ragnar’s side is not more widely noted. So many did not care for her that one would think there’d be some kind of response to her absence. If only smiles and crossed glances.

Lissa: Björn is focused instead on his father’s illness. He asks, rather naïvely, why Ragnar doesn’t just take more of the drug if being without it makes him so ill. Ragnar says he has to save the little that’s left for the fight with Rollo. Paris doesn’t matter, he tells Björn. Only his fight with Rollo.

Lissa: Ragnar stands and starts to tug on his leather armor, but you can see it’s exhausting him. With tender hands, Björn helps him dress.

Sandi: This was a great moment, though not surrounded in pomp and noise. One is reminded that parents care for children and then, one day, children care for their parents. It’s a bond. It’s good to see Björn acting thus, here. But still, his neglected daughter is dead far in the north and he doesn’t even know it. That’s painful. 

Lissa: We see the ships on the water in the last scene. They were transporting the battle platforms between the longships, something I’d never seen before, but it was ingenious. Floki’s work, no doubt!

Sandi: The man is a genius in such matters, for all that I’m not a fan of his character. Fully maneuverable floating platforms were used by other Vikings as well as other cultures to facilitate fighting on the water while using advantages available on land, such as room to maneuver. The battle platform was indeed ingenious. For the Vikings in particular, these platforms were of great use when fighting in fjørds and lakes and rivers.

Lissa: On the prow, Ragnar mutters about Rollo. “I must kill youI have to kill you. I will kill you.”

Sandi: And next week, this confrontation might very well happen. 

So much to wait for next week! I hope you’ll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill on twitter!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!

Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál

The #ShieldGeeks talk VIKINGS: Profit & Loss

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.


Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.


Lissa: We opened with Ragnar seemingly back in his element, strategizing with the other Viking leaders about the new attack on Paris. Ragnar plans to sail down the river between the two forts that are perched on the banks while Lagertha leads a team over land to attack one of the forts. His speech is a little choppy, as though he struggles for breath. Ragnar’s lips are noticeably red as he talks, though no one mentions it.

Sandi: Opinion is divided about the reasons for these symptoms. Whether it’s the “medicine” that Yidu has him dependent upon or his injuries or a combination thereof, he is clearly not a well man.

Lissa: As Björn leaves the tent, he trots to catch up with Erlendur. He pulls the ring he took from the berserker assassin from his pocket and offers it to Erlendur, saying he believes it’s his. Erlendur pretends he’s never seen it before.

Sandi: Because of course Erlandur will look all happy and say, “Wow, thanks, Björn! I wondered where that went!” What did Björn expect to gain by confronting him, I wonder?

Lissa: Ragnar approaches Lagertha and says he wishes she wouldn’t fight. Sandi was right in her speculation last week that Lagertha believes what the Seer told her: she would never bear another child, and so it doesn’t matter. She tells Ragnar as much, her voice tinged with bitterness. Ragnar retorts that she seems to be doing everything she can to ensure the prophecy comes true as he walks away.

Sandi: He places great store in children, even if they’re not his. And I think part of him longs to see Lagertha pregnant. Maybe to vindicate his choice to keep Aslaug?

Lissa: Ubbe and Hvitserk approach Ragnar, their bows in hand. They ask Ragnar if they can go with him to attack Paris. Ragnar tells them they’re not strong enough yet before moving on to a more diplomatic tactic. He says he needs them to stay behind and guard the camp and its stores. The boys agree, obviously feeling that they’ve been tasked with something important.

Sandi: It can’t be denied that Ragnar wants his sons to be safe. He is all for giving them advancing responsibilities, though, as we’ve seen this season. Just responsibilities that will entail little risk. He truly thinks that “guarding the supplies” is a good thing for them. It does provide responsibility and the expectation of safety away from the battle. Additionally, there are a lot of adult women about, so Ragnar knew his sons would have eyes on them. He is, by and large, a good father to his young sons.

Lissa: Rollo and Gisla are atop one of the towers in the morning. Both of them look flat-out beautiful. Rollo has long, curled hair, and his molded leather armor is studded with gold.

Sandi: I gotta say, Rollo wears the look better than Darth Odious.

Sandi: On the longship. Björn says, “I hate my uncle. I want to kill him.” Ragnar stands beside him and says, “Good.” Because this indicates that Björn sees his error in leaving Rollo behind, I think, as well as affirming that Björn will not hesitate if the opportunity arises.

Lissa: Gisla has a breastplate of her own, and it’s molded to every curve as though it’s made from Spandex. Beneath it, she wears a pair of leggings and a split skirt. Her war outfit is somewhat of a departure for our prim Princess Le Pew.

vikings s4 e 7 gisla unafraid

Rollo asks Gisla if she is afraid. Gisla replies she wouldn’t be up there beside him if she was afraid. They watch Ragnar’s ships approach.

Sandi: Gisla must have half of Frankia making her outfits. Employment guarantor! Guarantess? Her signature smug expression has re-emerged. I was surprised when Rollo asked about her being afraid. Has he forgotten where he first saw her? Standing on a parapet, staring him down?

Lissa: From land, Lagertha approaches, but she looks down in alarm as her boots sink into the mud.

Lissa: I mean, come on… Lagertha is a seasoned warrior. She’s encountered mud before and knows how to handle it, or to go around, or to do anything but stand there and churn her feet like she’s never seen a mixture of earth and water before. She and Rollo exchange a look at one point, and it’s one of those looks which epitomize the saying of if looks could kill. Rollo hears her voice, giving her warriors commands as he orders the men atop the walls to fire the crossbows.

Sandi: Rollo had been paying a great deal of attention to the fleet of longships, that he hadn’t thought of the land behind his fortifications. He seemed a bit taken aback to see Lagertha & Co. on their way through the marshy land. I think the confusion she and her warriors experienced is due to the fact that they hadn’t encountered the marshland last time they visited. This could be due to weather or to the building of the towers; a large enough project to affect the groundwater in the vicinity.

Lissa: The battle comes to a head quickly, and it’s an out-and-out slaughter. Once the chain goes up, Ragnar’s boats are stopped dead in the water. Trebuchets throw Greek firepots and the crossbows rain death from above. Ships are tangled in the chain and overturn, hurling the occupants into the water.  As Rollo watches from above, he murmurs a haunting poem.

Sandi: The tension before the chains go up is palpable. You can see both Rollo and Odo fidgeting and giving everything a last look. Due to the shallow draft of the longships, they are not broken by the chains, but they are capsized. This is dangerous of course, but it doesn’t mean a loss of their transportation, which could have been the case if their ships had been differently made.

Lissa: Floki struggles in the water and sinks below its surface. A hand grabs him and hauls him back. It’s Ragnar. He has dived into the water to haul his friend back to safety. As he lays Floki down on the bottom of the ship. Floki looks up at him with something like wonderment in his features. He seems to have honestly believed Ragnar wouldn’t risk his life to save him… Not now. Not after everything that’s happened. Ragnar looks out over the carnage of wrecked ships, burning… floating bodies in the water and abject horror washes over his features.

Sandi: The Franks launched Greek Fire, or some form of naptha, here, in packages that look like Chinese dumplings. This was followed by fired arrows and caused even more chaos. But Ragnar didn’t let that distract him from Floki’s distressing predicament. It was right that the king see to his shipbuilder’s safety. I think Floki’s surprise speaks to their estrangement rather than a secret understanding.

vikings s4e7 lagertha retreat

Lissa: On land, Lagertha’s forces are decimated as they head toward the tower.  Driven back, they have to retreat. As the ships prepare to sail back, Ragnar shouts to his brother. He says he always defended him, even when others said he deserved death. And this… this is how Rollo repays his love. Rollo doesn’t reply and Ragnar sinks down to lay against the prow of his ship as they limp back to their encampment.

Sandi: It is the final end, I think, of the brotherhood, here.

Lissa: But there will be no rest there…. In the meantime, we see that the Franks have also attacked the Viking camp.

Sandi: It’s a slaughter, alternated with views of the retreat of Lagertha’s forces as well as Ragnar’s men in the water, slogging their way out of danger. An altogether depressing sequence. Excellent cinematography as the camera swings from Lagertha’s people in the swamps to the ships on fire in the river. And here, we do see the damage done to the Viking fleet.

Lissa: Rollo and Gisla come down from the fort and view the bodies lined up along the shore. Gisla is surprised there are so many women among them. Rollo tells her the Viking women warriors are just as fierce as the men – sometimes more. He tells her about Lagertha, and Gisla doesn’t seem to notice his tone.

Sandi: “The most fierce – her name is Lagertha.” “You know her?” “Yeah, I slept with her. Might have fathered her son. At least, that’s the rumor…” – Vikings American Apocrypha

Really, though, the scene is a brutal view of war. A great victory is proclaimed in the midst of the dead and dying. Rollo and Princess Le Pew step around corpses to have their civilized little discussion about the fierce females of the North.

Lissa: Gisla expresses interest in meeting Lagertha. Yeah. That would go well.

Sandi: Meeting the leaders of the opposing army was not unheard of, after a war was fought. Terms had to be discussed and such.

Lissa: In Wessex, Ecbert is meeting with the mysterious “W” who has taken Queen Kwenthrith’s kingdom from her.  He sees off a priest on his journey and draws his sword to kneel for the prelate’s blessing. What was entertaining was that the priest seemed to flinch a bit when Ecbert drew that blade, as though he wasn’t entirely certain what the king was going to do with it.

Sandi: The prelate has to remember that Ecbert is not the most reliable of men. His alliances are temporary. He lies and plunges in a knife. He is carrying on with his own daughter-in-law and is apparently sanctioning a relationship between his son and Queen Kwenthrith. The prelate is undoubtedly aware of these things; he’s not blind and no one’s hiding anything very well.

Lissa: The Vikings return to their camp to find carnage. Tents are burning and bodies lay everywhere. Ragnar first finds Helga among the wounded and shouts for Floki. Floki runs to her side and shakes her limp form. Helga is horribly burned. She doesn’t stir, but she seems to be breathing. The collective fandom sent up a shriek of despair when we saw her.

Sandi: Why didn’t Halfdan go closer to her when he saw her? To see if she was alive?

Lissa: Ragnar finds his boys unharmed. They hug their father as he stares around at the carnage.

Sandi: He eyed Yidu, who had run to greet him too, presumably, but he gives her no special looks or anything. His concern is all for his sons, for the moment. Though, of course, that will change.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Aslaug strolls with Harbard. She asks him where he’s been and he’s very vague about where his travels have taken him. He says he’s journeyed to the place between life and death. He heard about Ragnar’s sickness and wasn’t sure if he would survive.

Sandi: Thing is, there are eyes everywhere. And that Aslaug and Harbard kiss in public will not go unforgotten.

Lissa: We see him meeting with the village women under Aslaug’s smiling and approving gaze. He speaks to one who says she has no children. He teases her and asks her if she knows how to get them. He tells her she’ll have three children and then kisses her passionately. He “counsels” the other waiting women in the same way, kissing each one in turn. From the porch with his mother, Sigurd watches all of this. A while later, he follows Rasputin – I mean Harbard – as he goes into a house and makes love to the woman inside.

Sandi: The women are in awe of him. Enthralled. They see him as holy and close to the gods and are willing to have him avail himself of them. And the men that are crowded about him don’t seem in any way concerned about this behavior.

Lissa: Back in Paris, Ragnar is still dealing with the horrors of the battle and the attacked camp. The funeral pyres burn in a somber scene. Lagertha tenderly covers the face of one of her shieldmaidens before lighting her pyre and stepping back. Björn is angry. He says this is Ragnar’s fault.

Sandi: There are a lot of bodies being burnt, as one can see. The Northmen have taken a bad blow that day, both in battle and back in camp. Ragnar did not expect that, I’m sure.

Lissa: Ragnar strides through the camp and shouts for Yidu. She comes to the opening of her tent, and he demands the medicine. He says it’s been a terrible day and he needs it. She lies and says there isn’t any more and he proceeds to wreck the interior looking for her stash. It’s an absolutely horrible scene because it shows the raw and ugly desperation of an addict. Yidu finally pulls some from her bag, and he kisses her in gratitude. Yidu jerks away in fear. Ragnar gobbles the medicine down, then goes outside to sit in the rain to wait for it to take effect.

Sandi: This was so disappointing for me. I wanted him to be seeking the medication for Helga, I guess, and to find out it was because Ragnar was clamoring for it was disheartening. I hate to see him in the thrall of an addiction.

Lissa: We debated some last night over whether the relationship between Ragnar and Yidu has become sexual or not. I said I didn’t believe so, based on the way she cringed back after he kissed her. She doesn’t seem to accept his touch the way one would expect from a mistress or a thrall.

Sandi: She needs to remember that his loyalty to her is now bounded (I think) by her ability to get him what he craves. If she can’t, he might forget any other thing he had found pleasing about her.

Lissa: Floki visits the injured Helga and gives her some of his carved runestones to aid her in healing. Heart-struck, he slowly staggers his way out of the camp into a grassy meadow.

Lissa: He sinks down onto the grass, and that’s when we see Aslaug approach him. She kneels down beside him and gives him a tender smile before kissing him. The kiss turns into passion and she climbs atop him. Floki’s eyes are wide with shock, but he goes with it, and they make love under the sky. This scene cuts back and forth to where Aslaug is in Kattegat, making love with Harbard in the same fashion.

Sandi: Did you hear the church bells in the background? I noticed it on my second watching of this episode this morning. What is the significance of this, I wonder, for two such as they, who are violently anti-Christian?

Lissa: Floki isn’t sure what’s going on, but he’s enthusiastic about it. She says Harbard’s name after Floki falls back to the ground, replete. We weren’t sure last night who was directing this vision. Was it Harbard, sending Floki some kind of message, or joining minds with him in some way? (Remember Floki thought Harbard might be an incarnation of Odin.) Was it Floki himself, who seems to have been tapped as a Seer? Or was it Aslaug, with her völva powers?

Sandi: It is such an odd scene. I confess I was thinking how it was filmed. I mean, they had to go through the sequence with both men separately and then cut it. My kudos to the editors for the care that was taken in the exchanges. But what was the significance of this sequence, I wonder? For Floki’s spiritual awareness that all the kids that might be born in Kattegat are Harbard/Odin’s? A portend of a future with Aslaug?

Lissa: Ecbert rides to a crypt with a cross atop it. I thought it was a little chapel at first, but Ecbert walks down the stone steps to find burials inside. And the mysterious “W” lurking in the shadows. He steps forward and reveals himself as Prince Wigstan of Mercia. Wigstan details the brutal deaths his relatives buried here have suffered in the endless fighting around the throne. He wants peace to come back. He wants Mercia to be a golden kingdom as it once was, long ago, strong and powerful and secure. And to do that, he’s willing to combine his army with Ecbert’s in order to fight against the ruling council of nobles, whom he doesn’t describe in the most flattering of terms.

Sandi: Wigstan says, “If you think Kwenthrith is a calming influence? You’re insane.” (Sandi paraphrase.) This in response to Ecbert’s quick, “Hey I’m only backing her to keep things peaceful next door. I don’t like her, or anything!” Ecbert: Making up lies since before sunrise. Or something.

Lissa: Wigstan doesn’t want to see Kwenthrith on the throne because she’s unstable, both in her rule and in her judgment. Wigstan will fight and claim the throne for himself, with Ecbert’s help, but as soon as it’s achieved, he wants to renounce the throne and travel to Rome as a pilgrim. He will hand Mercia over to Ecbert to combine with Wessex into one vast kingdom.

Sandi: The interesting thing is that while Wigstan says he’s lost his faith in God, Ecbert never has, not really. Ecbert still believes heartily in God, but his view of the Almighty is not in line with, er, traditional teachings. Wigstan would not be surprised, I’m guessing.

Lissa: To prove his sincerity, he has his guard pull his mother’s coffin from the niche on the wall. He opens the casket and reaches down among the bones.

Lissa: He pulls out a dusty crown and holds it out to Ecbert. He says it’s the ancient crown of Mercia. And it’s his. Just like that, Ecbert is seemingly handed everything he’s wanted.  All he has to do now is reach out and grasp the opportunity he’s been given… and betray Kwenthrith.

Sandi: Wigstan says this, and is relinquishing the kingdom, apparently, but still refers to Mercia as his. “Both our countries forward,” he says. He will always identify with Mercia, and will likely – even from Rome – keep an eye on dealings there. I wonder how close this story in this show will run to the historical events?

Lissa: Wigstan is based on a real king by that name. He also preferred the religious life to ruling. History records that Wigstan asked his mother to serve as regent so he could go do his monastic thing. His mom attracted a suitor, but Wigstan refused the match because of consanguinity. The suitor was a mite bit miffed by this and went to have a talk with Wigstan, a chat which ended with the suitor bashing Wigstan over the head and stabbing him with his sword. Like a number of pious nobles of the era, Wigstan then became a saint. Supposedly, a great column of light shot up from the spot he was slain and stayed there for a month. Saint Arclight’s remains were moved a bit later to a monastery in Evesham, but that was destroyed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution. (This is why we can’t have nice things, Henry!)

Sandi: Ecbert, as a self-identified corrupt and ambitious man with dreams of having it all, is undoubtedly doing an inner Snoopy Dance here, but he contains himself admirably. He is, as always the definition of “urbane” – even before that was a word.

Lissa: Back at Ragnar’s camp, Björn goes to his father to ask what they’re going to do next. It’s been three days. What is the plan? His father is in bad shape. Ragnar is tense and sweating, rocking as he speaks in a tight, clipped tone. He tells his son they’ll depart on the morrow and head down the river. Yidu has either cut off his supply of drugs, or Ragnar has decided to kick the habit himself, cold turkey. Either way, he’s suffering badly from withdrawal. Every word seems like a painful effort as he spits it out. After Björn departs, Ragnar speaks, seemingly to himself, but he’s actually addressing a severed head that lies on the floor. I couldn’t make out who it was he was talking to.

Sandi: If Yidu has truly run out (which would be extremely foolish of her, as she got Ragnar to take her with him so she could be his supplier) then I am concerned for them both. If he’s decided to try to live without them, I applaud that. There is no twelve-step program here. No rehab clinic. No substitute pharmaceutical program. It will be ugly.

Regarding the retreat, this has to be upsetting to Björn. To have sat for three days, waiting, and then be told they’re to retreat? I imagine this will anger those who are hoping for more of the treasure they acquired last time they were there. Regarding the nameless head  on the floor, I haven’t any idea whom that is, either.

Lissa: So much is up in the air! Will Finehair see this as an opportunity to capitalize on Ragnar’s weakness as a leader? Will Harbard father a passel of children to greet the Viking warriors who return? And – most important to me – will our beloved Helga recover?

Sandi: Overall, this was a week of ups and downs. Great battle scenes – if you’re Frankish. Interesting developments in characters. But I’m still left with questions! I wonder how many will be answered by the end of the first half of this extended season?


So much to wait for next week! I hope you’ll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!

Congratulations to History Channel, as VIKINGS has been optioned for a fifth season!

season 5 graphic

Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál

The #ShieldGeeks Talk VIKINGS: S4E6

“These chicks are machines!” – The No Ship Network

(check them out for their podcasted recaps and feedback ‘casts!)
VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.


Lissa Bryan and I like to call ourselves the Shieldmaidens of History: Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms. We’re excited to bring you our recap and discussion of each episode of History Channel’s series VIKINGS.

Lissa Bryan is an awesome historian as well as a writer of historical and End of the World as We Know It romantic fiction. Check out the review I wrote for her book, The End of All Things here.

lagertha kalf burialLissa: We opened with a scene of Lagertha blessing Kalf’s grave, sowing its soil with blood. Erlendur approaches and asks her why she killed Kalf. Lagertha says she did it because she promised. She told him she would kill him for usurping her earldom and she did. She asks Erlendur if he’ll be leaving now that Kalf is gone and he says that he wants to return with her to raid Paris again. Torvi’s little son comes over and she tells him she’s going to be going away for a while. He should cherish his friends, because many of them will die soon, and those that don’t will betray him.

Sandi: Something that always strikes me about Lagertha is her willingness to get her hands dirty. She flinches from nothing. I love that about her. She met her oath, as well, even if part of her didn’t wish to do so. That she gives that advice to the boy is poignant, as she’s been betrayed and has, after a fashion, betrayed others.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Ragnar’s sons Ubbe and Hvitserk are given their arm bands by their father in a sweet and touching ceremony. The boys swore fealty to their father and became men in the eyes of the Viking culture. It was a lovely, warm moment, and Sandi contrasted it with the same scene in season one, when Björn was given his. Ragnar announces he’ll be taking the boys with him to Paris. Aslaug, not respecting their new status, protests that they’re too young. Ragnar – probably stung a bit by this – jabs back at her by saying the boys will probably be safer in his hands given what happened last time he was away.

lissa boys to men tweet

Sandi: Ragnar—sounding breathless, but happy—asks the boys to taste the offering of earth and salt. They then touch both dirt and salt rocks with their tongues. I’ll have to check, but I don’t remember if that was part of the ceremony in the first season. I love that Björn is the one holding the sword that is used in place of a salver that might be used in a Christian communion service. An interesting unspoken moment, I think, happens when Ragnar tells the boys they are swearing their allegiance “to your father” and Aslaug sort of starts in alarm. The tug-of-war between the king and his queen over their sons has been ongoing this season, and this is a part of it. Ragnar is holding, in essence, the threat of being barred from Valhalla if they aren’t loyal to him. Wow. By making them men, Ragnar has essentially cut their formal ties to Aslaug. A mother had the raising of her children when they were small, but young men were expected to gravitate toward their father and the male line as they matured.

ecbert and alfred pilgrimageLissa: In Wessex, another boy is becoming a man, but in this case, by going on pilgrimage. Burger King Ecbert is sending Alfred on a journey to Rome to meet the Pope. When Ecbert announces this, Judith’s eyes light up with excitement. With him is going Father Prudentius, and conveniently enough, Judith’s husband Aethelwulf.  Little Alfred isn’t quite as excited. He asks how long the journey will be. Prudentius tells him they’ll travel about twelve miles per day by foot and Rome is a thousand miles away. Ecbert gives a little speech about what a great thing a pilgrimage is. After the court applauds, the little boy dashes away behind a pillar and fights off a panic attack.

Sandi: This scene caused a minor flurry amongst our fellow raiders on twitter! It was not uncommon for a second son, as Lissa will attest, to have the Church presented as his occupation in life. As Aethelred is Aethelwulf’s son, he could be considered to be in place for being on the throne of Wessex. The “second son”—everyone knows about Alfred’s birth, as King Ecbert says publicly (again, I imagine)—is here being directed into what could be his profession. And his mum, Judith, doesn’t seem dismayed. Could it be that she will be relieved to have this living, breathing proof of her affair with Athelstan out from her sight, as well as the sight of every other person around who is reminded of events? I felt bad for Alfred. The lad hasn’t a clue, here, and the panic attack at such a young age—and that he knew a way to cope with it—speaks of a life that brings these forward often. How many times does Ecbert have to put “great” and “Alfred” together? I do wonder where the “Applause” signs are hidden in that audience chamber…

Lissa: I didn’t even think about the idea that Ecbert might be intending Alfred for the church. Good catch! You’re absolutely right. It would be very smart for Ecbert to push Alfred’s destiny in that direction at this point. As you noted, second sons were often pushed in this direction – willing or not! Ecbert already has the secular powers wrapped up. It’s smart to have a thumb in the proverbial pie of the church as well. Albert would be “fast-tracked” because of his rank and rise quickly in the church. He could be Pope one day. Of course, history tells us his destiny was something different, but Ecbert is thinking wisely, planning ahead for his grandsons and settling the balance of power in Mercia for the generation to come.

Ragnar goes to visit the seer before he leaves, and the Seer tells him of the day of his death: Ragnar will die the day the blind man sees. Later, we see him with Yidu. He asks for more of the medicine and says he’ll need a stash of it for the journey. Yidu says she can’t do that because Ragnar is like a greedy child with it; she has to control how much he takes. So Ragnar had best take her with him when he goes.

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Sandi: Everything about Yidu is now having my inner Robbie the Robot calling, “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” Her approach to Ragnar is seductive, making sure to expose her skin as much as possible, yet his attention is on the “medicine” she has made sure he’s very much into. Whether this is a true addiction (with withdrawal as a threat for the future) or just the wish to feel the release of it (with irritation and anger but no physical symptoms) remains to be seen. I hate to think of Ragnar in the thrall of any kind of addiction.

Lissa: The ships depart Kattegat and it’s one of those lovely scenes the History Channel does so well. Gifts they bestow upon us geeky little fans. A chanter sings and beats a drum as they depart, and I’d love dearly to know what song it was he was singing, because you just know the History Channel had him sing an authentic Viking poem as the ships departed.

fleet of skipniu

Sandi: Oh, I was smiling with one of those big, goofy smiles that belongs on a fangirl at a convention. It was awesome. I heard the Old Norse and swooned, even if I didn’t know what it meant. It is scenes like these that make me smile at our boot-sole file.

Lissa: Floki has chosen to take the ship occupied by Harald Finehair and his brother Halfdan, whom Floki calls his new friends. He says he’d rather sail with them than Ragnar because these men love the gods as he does and would never betray them. After he speaks, he gives one of those little Floki giggles, but there’s an odd edge to it. His tone is biting and bitter.

vikings floki on shipSandi: Did you get the feeling that Harald and Halfdan are courting Floki, after a fashion? Making much of him, wooing his pride, making him feel as comfortable as possible. Note the deference they pay him, the proximity they maintain throughout. If Floki were a woman, I’d think they were trying to bring her into a relationship of one sort or another. And yes, Floki’s giggle is bitter. Edged. Is he playing another spy game for Ragnar (as he’s done so effectively before) or has he truly “gone to the dark side” even as he seems to be groomed for the role of Kattegat’s new Seer?

Lissa: Oh, yes. Floki is being courted. But this time, I think he might actually be going to “the other side.” As some of our Twitter convos revealed last night, Floki has never lied to Helga before about his thoughts and motivations. Refused to speak, yes, but never lied. He’s telliung her now that Ragnar is no longer his friend. He humiliated Floki. Tortured him. Betrayed the gods. Floki may not turn out to be willing to work against Ragnar, but he seems no longer emotionally bound to him as he once was.

[Back] in Kattegat, Sigurd walks into the house and finds Aslaug breastfeeding Ivar. It’s an odd scene, because Ivar is obviously past the age where mothers have usually weaned their children.

Lissa: Aslaug merely looks back at Sigurd when she sees him watching, and tells him if he’s lonely because his brothers have departed, he should go play with Siggy.  Outside, Sigurd mocks Siggy for being dirty and asks her if she ever bathes. Siggy runs back into the house. It seems to imply the poor little mite is neglected, which seems strange.

Sandi: I keep looking, but there’s no indicator that Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye still has a snake in his eye. Sigurd must be feeling quite bereft, really. His older brothers in their father’s favor and gone on a raid. His younger brother in his mother’s favor and garnering most of her attention (as had long been the case, likely). He’s left with his “dirty” cousin as a playmate, but she’s not a playmate for a young boy. She’s a tag-along. This might build to resentment or something in the future.

Back on the ship at night, we see the Ubbe and Hvitserk wrapped warmly in furs. Yidu tells them not to be afraid and she starts singing. A tear tracks down her cheek, but I don’t know why. I did see Floki’s face when he heard her; he appeared quite unsettled. What is he sensing? An appeal to a different set of gods, perhaps? Or is it the foreign-ness she represents?

aslaug sees harbardLissa: Soon, Aslaug sees a stranger in the doorway. It’s Harbard. He’s returned. Aslaug asks him why he’s come back, and he tells her he can take away all of her pain and sorrow.

Sandi: The concept of “freedom” is raised again, here. Harbard promises Aslaug freedom if she comes to him. And . . . she walks toward him.

Lissa: On the ship, Ragnar uses his sunstone as the ships get parted and misdirected. When they approach the coast of France, the scarlet sails of the Vikings are unfurled, and oh… It was a magnificent sight. How it must have struck fear into the hearts of villagers! Onshore, Floki scoffs at the boats they pass.

Sandi: And back in Wessex, we see Judith’s sorrow as she bids her son goodbye. So maybe it’s sinking in that he’ll be gone? It’s quite an occasion, seeing the pilgrims off. Ecbert, who has been so protective of Alfred, must have something up his sneaky sleeves, here.

Lissa: They find some Frankish troops, and they do what Vikings do. Bodies are strewn about. We see Ubbe and Hvitserk practicing their archery on some hanging bodies. One poor soul is set adrift, strapped to a wide board. Floki and his “new friends” take a few others to a beacon post that’s been lit to warn Paris the Vikings have arrived. They say they have another warning to send Paris. They bind the men to the legs of the stand and set it on fire, celebrating as the Frenchmen scream. From the edge of the woods Björn watches this. His little brothers come up from behind and witness the spectacle, too. Björn doesn’t seem pleased by it.

Sandi: This is really the darker side of the Viking raiding culture. This is psychological warfare, and that’s never going to be pleasant. I wonder what Björn is thinking, here, and if he and his brothers will ever talk about it? Björn Ironsides wins renown in the future as a warrior, but did he use such tactics?

lagertha heart brokenLissa: Ragnar and Lagertha have a quiet moment. She’s sharpening her ax as he sits down beside her.  He asks her about Kalf’s death and whether it broke her heart. Lagertha gives him a small smile – more of a grimace – and says no, her heart was broken long ago. He asks her why she’s with them on this raid, risking her baby. So it does appear that Lagertha really is pregnant, but the Seer’s prophecy that he could see no children as far as he looked rang in our minds. Lagertha is pushing forty or so, by my reckoning. A dangerous age for a pregnancy in that era, and she had such a tragedy the last time she was with child.

Sandi: Is she acting under guidance from the prophecy, convinced that she won’t carry the child to term so it doesn’t matter if she fights or not? Or is she acting in defiance of it? It is interesting and, yes, I think it’s a bit sweet that Ragnar expresses concern for her. But she informs him indirectly that he broke her heart long ago and it never really grew back together in that way.

emperor charles to rollo save usLissa: In Paris, Simple Chuck talks to Rollo and says the Vikings have returned. He promises he – the grandson of Charlemagne – would get down on his knees before Rollo to plead with him to defend Paris. Rollo swears in the name of Christ that he will.

Sandi:  He swears he will not betray his wife, and Gisla flashes a bit of smug, right there. Rollo has pledged himself to this new life and he’s not going to betray them. I feel that this time? He’s firmly opposite his brother Ragnar and it will remain thus. How will they greet one another when they meet again? I am dying to find out.

Lissa: Therese is talking with Darth Odious in his chamber. He has changed his mind about trusting Rollo, a pagan, to defend Paris.  He’s working himself up into a rage. Therese finishes her wine and asks if he wants her to undress. He says he wants to chain her up clothed, and as he does, he reveals he intends to defend Paris, and then kill Simple Chuck and make himself emperor. Therese pretends to moan and get excited about Emperor Odious as he whips her savagely.

Sandi: I feel, here, that Darth Odious is more aware of the undercurrents, when he’s sober, than he lets on. That he knows of the plots and counterplots that are being worked out in the Frankish Court. He’s angry and he’s going to let this play out, perhaps. I think he can be patient, if he’s thinking. But here, he’s not.

athelstan in ragnar vision instaLissa: As the skipniu are sailing up the river, Ragnar has a vision. A white horse runs along the beach, and it leads him to… Ragnar’s old farm. Lagertha is standing there with Gyda in her arms. Athelstan is behind her on a small bridge. And Björn as he was when we first met him, a fierce, stubborn Viking boy. Lagertha beckons to him. Ragnar shakes his head to clear it and the vision vanishes.

Sandi: I think it made Ragnar teary, too. I miss that First Season Ragnar. Back when it was just him, his sunstone, his ambition, but also his farm, his goats, his new slave Athelstan and his daughter still alive. But his story is a story of a life fully lived, I think, with all its ups and downs. Writing-wise, this was a poignant scene and I wonder if it’s prophetic in any way.

Lissa: As the Saga Thing Podcast said last night, Ragnar saw the doors of Valhalla shut to him earlier in the season. Now, he has also seen a glimpse of the Heaven he wants so badly, but it seems he’ll also be denied.

Lissa: In Kattegat, Aslaug leads Harbard over to the bed of her sleeping son, Ivar. They wake the boy and she asks him if he remembers Harbard and the child giggles.  What in the world could they have in store for him?

vikings giggling ivarSandi: I don’t know, but the giggling reminds me of Floki.

Lissa: The ships near Paris. Björn notes with a tone of concern that they haven’t seen Rollo’s camp. Lagertha looks up to see Rollo on horseback with French troops around him. Björn roars at him, “Uncle!” but Rollo does not reply.

vikings reactions to rolloSandi: Indeed, we get reactions. Floki looks unsurprised but disappointed. Ragnar hits a mast with his arm. Erlandur is all, “Is that Rollo?” As if he didn’t know. Lagertha seems impassive, but her mind is working for sure. And Björn’s whole aspect speaks of betrayal. Yes, he left Rollo behind and yes, Ragnar chewed him out about it, but I think Björn still hoped to see his uncle, there. The one who supported him when he was a boy, who helped him learn how to fight, who spoke with him man to man. Who fought with them when they both needed the outlet. And that man, Uncle Rollo, is now Frankified. Björn is betrayed as well.


So much to wait for next week! I hope you’ll join us @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!

If you’re looking for incisive comments, please check out ProjectFandom. @DeeDonuts on twitter is the chick in charge, there, and she always has sharp things to say!

Congratulations to History Channel, as VIKINGS has been optioned for a fifth season!

season 5 graphic

Heill þú farir, heill þú aftr komir, heill þú á sinnum sér!
Hale go forth, hale return, hale on your ways!  – Vafþrúðnismál

VIKINGS w/ Historical Fiction Authors: A Good Treason

VIKINGS banner

This and all images from Vikings are the property of the History Channel. I use them only for illustrations regarding their show.

The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our review series on the History Channel show Vikings.

UTRS3 lissa bookLissa Bryan, author of the Tudor-era love story, Under These Restless Skies, and I are once again live-tweeting during each episode of this show and discussing it—at some length, as you can see—afterward.

Lissa: The show did not disappoint with its season opener, that’s for sure. We saw Ragnar riding in a valley below the mountains, and I got excited. Ragnar has recovered!

Sandi: I got excited, too! I was thinking, “Wow! This must mean Ragnar’s back on track. Dying? Who says?” But alas…!

vikingsinuppsala gifLissa: Tricksy Hobbitses, these show producers! We soon discovered it was a dream, and Ragnar was approaching the door to Valhalla.
And it was beautiful. A glowing hall of the fathers.
Valhalla image tweet
Lissa: But it slowly begins to close. Ragnar runs as fast as he can, but the doors shut before he can reach it. He falls on his knees and roars in despair.

Sandi: It was a good dream, for us as well as for Ragnar, though we would have been saddened to see him enter Valhalla in the first minutes of the new season.

Lissa: Interspersed with Ragnar’s dream, we saw Aslaug approach the Seer in the forest where he was picking… something from the soil. Lissa thought it was worms, but I thought mushrooms. Aslaug asked him if a woman would rule Kattegat after the death of Ragnar, and the Seer confirmed it was something he had seen in his visions, but he refused to answer her question as to whether that woman would be her.

Sandi: During this whole exchange —alternating, remember, with Ragnar’s supposed dying thing—I was struck by the hardness Aslaug displayed. I know she’s spent a very long time as a disappointed woman, but really, she’s a queen (and she’s done a great job at that in recent times) and her position would traditionally have been dictated by her spouse. That her concern is now Kattegat is a lessening of her sphere. But she is deeming it of great import. And why did she seek the Seer outside of his domain?

Lissa: We saw Ragnar’s children greet Björn, including little Ivar the Boneless, from his chair.

Sandi: Wasn’t it a wagon? It looked like an early rendition of a Radio Flyer. Wheels keep him mobile!

Lissa: Despite the apparent weakness in his legs, Ivar is a fierce little fellow. It appears several years have passed during the Paris raids, because the children are about four years older.

Sandi: I’m still trying to figure out what year this is on the show. If I remember correctly, the first episode of the first season began in AD 792. Björn was fourteen at that time, and now he’s a daddy with a girl who looks to be maybe two or three years of age.

Lissa: Björn is affectionate with his little brothers, but doesn’t spend time with his daughter, Siggy. 

Sandi: This was so sad, to me. Remember when Siggy was born? He was in awe of his little girl. Now he seems to be blaming her for Þorunn’s disappearance.

Lissa: Floki goes into Ragnar’s room and lays some bones with runes carved on them beside the unconcious king. He says he hopes the runes will heal him. It’s the Viking version of a “Get Well Soon!” card. Floki cares enough to send the very best.

Sandi: Are these the runes that he lamented having carved, later in his conversation with Helga? I think they might be.

Lissa: Aslaug, cool as a cucumber in her role as queen, fills Björn in on Þorunn’s departure. She is at Björn’s side as he stands on the rocks above Kattegat as Björn gives a Ragnar pep rally. After he has the crowd shouting his father’s name, he then says that it was Ragnar’s friend, Athelstan, who led them to the great wealth they acquired in Paris. The crowd doesn’t cheer for Athelstan – it’s more of a somewhat disgruntled murmur.

Sandi: This isn’t surprising, really. The last time Athelstan had an “appearance” with the general public of Kattegat, he was harassed and called out for having discarded his manhood arm ring. Still, it was good of Björn to remember him (for it does seem as if years have passed since, due to the ages of the kids) positively in a public manner.
nothing can stop us historyvikings
Lissa: But then Björn orders the arrest of Floki for Athelstan’s murder, and the crowd does his bidding, surrounding Floki with drawn blades. Floki fends them off for a moment and says he was justified in what he did, and then surrenders.

Sandi: This is very interesting, to me. Floki was known to have been a friend of Ragnar, known to be a talented shipbuilder and he had been instrumental in the Paris raid. He had standing in the community. That Björn’s words could turn the people against him speaks well of Björn’s persuasive ability but perhaps not so well of the fickleness of the populace.

yidu in snow

from vikinks on tumblr

Lissa: Aslaug is looking over the loot from the Paris raid, which also includes a cargo of female slaves. She walks down the line of shivering, weeping women and finds a lovely girl of Asian heritage. She grasps the girl’s face in her hands and looks her over with a thoughtful expression.

Sandi: Slavery was a common trade for the Northmen, to be sure. Traditionally, the Northmen would change the slave’s name “to something proper” (for the Norse/Swedish/Danish culture) and to distance them from their former lives. Since the Vikings page at History Channel lists the girl’s name as Yidu, I’m thinking that doesn’t happen, here, as Yidu is traditionally a Chinese name. The China of this time period was quite socially advanced, I believe, and I wonder how this might play in the show.

Lissa: We next see Floki in the center of town, being pelted with rocks by taunting children. Helga desperately tries to chase them off, darting after them one by one, but they are fleet of foot, spinning around her to thow their stones. It was a scene that stuck with me long after the show was over. The anguished desperation of Helga as she fought to defend this man who had been so harsh in sending her away in the past, rejecting her love and the opportunity to raise his own child. When last we saw them in the previous season, Helga had finally walked away from him because Floki had done something she could not forgive. But yet now, she fought a futile battle to save him.

Sandi: It’s a battle that has cost her, though. Helga—who was much more lighthearted in earlier seasons—has learned hard lessons about her husband. Her face is showing the strain in the (directed) deterioration of her eye makeup as well as the clear lines of suffering on her face and the dishevelment of her hair and clothes. These are visual cues as to her state of mind, and they tell a powerful story.

Lissa: In Hedeby, Kalf announces to the celebrating Vikings that Lagertha saved his life, and he saved hers during the Paris raid. Thus, they will rule jointly. Lagertha takes his hand in agreement. Half of her earldom back without effort!

lagertha promises to killSandi: I didn’t see it like that, I guess. I was all irked. He usurped her dominion and then offers her half back? Half? Because they’re sleeping together now? (Until, as Lagertha informed him last season, she decides to kill him…)

Lissa: Ragnar wakes from his illness and is himself enough to tease his son.
ragnar sarcasm wake up tweet
Lissa: The boy runs off to tell Aslaug, but she’s busy overseeing the bath of her new slave and only gives a cursory reply. Her son is offended that she doesn’t seem happier to know Ragnar is recovering.

Sandi: Ragnar has always been a fond father, even doting. His sons—sons he has been grateful to have and whom he loves, even if he doesn’t love their mother—are important to him and the boys surely know that. When he came home from battle, sorely wounded, I’m sure it was quite distressing to his kids. That he’s been apparently out of it since, feverish and unresponsive, perhaps, would have been cause of insecurity. It is no wonder, then, that the boy is irritated with Mum for not being more responsive.
floki and fam

from wildfloki on tumblr

Lissa: Helga brings Angrbo∂a to see her father. This had to be such a frightening and confusing experience for the little girl, who likely had no memories whatsoever of her father. And now she’s seeing him filthy and bruised, chained to a stake in the center of town. But she helps to feed her father. Later, Floki asks Helga to help him escape, and she jerks away from him. It seems that while Helga still loves Floki and wants to protect him from torture, she believes in justice.

Sandi: I concur. A painful scene for all of them, really. But I want justice, too, so I don’t feel too bad for Floki. I do, though, feel dreadful for Helga and Angrbo∂a.

Lissa: Kalf is told by his nobles – including the smarmy gent who once propositioned Lagertha in her bathtub – that they will not accept her as co-ruler. They supported Kalf in the expectation he would end the Lo∂brok rule over these lands.

Sandi: Einar is a problem, for sure. He always has been. And he proves this to be true in this season as well.

Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar is greeted by his cheering hall at dinner.

aging ragnarSandi: He’s aging, is King Ragnar, and his people seemed to give all heed to his son, yet still they are happy to see him and eager to welcome him home. The unrest that would result at his demise is likely not wished for by anyone.

aslaug saga tales

from jorindelle on tumblr

Lissa: Aslaug is telling the children tales of her father, whose deeds are immortalized in the Sagas. (Which hadn’t been written yet, as I pointed out on twitter, but perhaps the oral tales were circulating already.) Ragnar asks Björn about Floki’s arrest. The king is not best pleased by it and says Björn has forced his hand. Now he must get his vengence publicly.

Sandi: We’re not sure what Ragnar would have done at this point, if left entirely to his own devices. He said in a monologue last season that Floki should “beware of the fury of a patient man.” Now, sure, these are Dryden’s words but they apply very much in this case. Ragnar loved Athelstan and he had to be planning vengeance for his death. 

Lissa: Ragnar notices Aslaug’s Spiffy New Slave Girl.

Sandi: I believe mead made its introduction into our twit-versation at that time. 
ragnar mead tweet

Sent from @HistoryVikings, who have extremely awesome graphics gurus.

Lissa: It’s Rollo’s wedding day! He enters the cathedral and examines the priest’s cross until his interpreter nudges him over to kneel at the altar. Gisla enters, crying, and approaches the altar, still crying. She stops in front of it and just stands there until the priest tells her she has to kneel for the ceremony to continue.
princess in church tweet lissa
crying gislaSandi: Really, her histrionics are ridiculous. She’s had her time to protest in private. She made time to protest in public (bad form, Princess, bad form!) but by the wedding, she’s acting like a girl in leading strings, not the young woman who kept Paris fighting against the odds. This strikes me, honestly, as not cool on the part of the writers. Good soap opera, but not something I think one would see in real life.

Lissa: Gisla drops down onto the kneeler with less-than-regal-grace. Chuck the Simple (aka Emperor Charles, Papa of the Bride) steps forward and pushes her head down into a bow, telling the priest he may begin the ceremony. Gisla’s sobs have become full-out wails at this point.

Sandi: No comment. Really.

Lissa: She’s screaming and kicking her feet as she’s carried into the bridal chamber. The servants begin the bedding ceremony and start stripping the couple, but Rollo orders them to leave the chamber.

wedding night rollo historyvikingsSandi: As you pointed out last night, this normally would have been the “bedding ceremony” that was common for royalty. However, Rollo wasn’t bred as a royal and he’s just thinking of his wife. And yes, may we have more shirtless Rollo moments, or was this our last one?

Lissa: He kicks off his boots and approaches his bride, but she pulls a knife on him. Rollo laughs and takes it away from her and tells her to go to sleep. He’s so un-threatened by her blade that he doesn’t bother to open his eyes after she draws it down his skin while he’s trying to get comfortable. Not quite the wedding night Gisla expected with her “beast” of a new husband.

Sandi: I am thinking that, protest though she might, she is still expecting this “beastly” fellow to want to consummate their marriage. That he apparently doesn’t see this as a necessity at this juncture had to be insulting. “What? You don’t want to have sex with me? Princess Gisla? How dare you!” Or something to that effect. 

Lissa: In Hedeby, Kalf announces to his assembled people that his decision to give Lagertha co-rulership has been questioned. He gestures to a post in the center of the clearing and tells people to make a mark on it if they wish him to banish her from Hedeby.

Sandi: This was a nice/mean set-up by the writers, here. I was all ready to protest loudly and had all manner of things to say on the tip of my tongue.

Lissa: Lagertha stares at him in apparent shock as the men go up and slash at the post. As soon as everyone has made their mark, Kalf says it’s settled. He calls for his archers and they mow down the men who have demanded that Lagertha leave.

Sandi: What he had done, there, was create a killing field. He arranged a fenced-in space for the “enemy” to face his superior (because the “enemy” were largely unarmed at that moment) weaponry/firepower. This made it easy to kill them off. Messy and loud, too. I am not sure that this was the best way to handle the situation, but I don’t think Jarl Kalf plays a good game of chess. . .

kalf smirks

from laugertha on tumblr

Lissa: Lagertha gives Kalf a little smile and he returns it with a nod of his head. Lagertha approaches Einar, who is present, and who was the slimy gent who leered at her in the tub ages past. He’d been pinned like a butterfly to a post by an arrow through his throat. Lagertha says she should have done this a long time ago. By “this” she means geld him. Her face is sprayed with his blood.

Sandi: This was a surprising moment for me. I really had thought/hoped that the person who was going to be on the tip of her knife was Kalf. 

Lissa: The new Duke of Normandy—the Northman formerly known as Rollo—is bored. He’s throwing coins into a gold bowl. Clank. Clank. Clank. Rollo’s translator stands up and abruptly says he’s leaving. He’s not meant for life in Paris. He tells Rollo if he wants him to stay, he’ll have to cut off his feet. #ChallengeAccepted

Sandi: This was interesting, too. The translator, Sinric, is a wanderer, sure. His status otherwise is uncertain. He seems to be a free man, but he is “held hostage” to some degree at least once in the course of this entire series. Is he dependent or independent? How much freedom is he granted wherever he wanders. I’d like to know more about him.

Lissa: But no, Rollo doesn’t pull out an axe. He watches him go. A Frank comes in and says something to him, to which Rollo can only spread his hands, as if to say, “What?”
The Frank brings in one of Rollo’s men from the camp outside Paris. It seems they’re restless. Half want to leave.

Sandi: This is almost like a vote of no-confidence as far as Rollo’s leadership is concerned. His men signed on as King Ragnar’s men, in service to Rollo to maintain a presence on foreign soil. And here, they’ve been a victim to something akin to a bait-and-switch, as Rollo has apparently changed sides. And not to another Northern lord, either, but to The Enemy.
slave poultry tweet tweet lissa
Lissa: Back in Kattegat, Ragnar watches Shiny New Slave girl (Yidu) as she struggles to take hold of a chicken. The chicken seems to be winning this particular battle. Björn comes over and tells him he’s going off on a Vision Quest.

ragnar advises bjornSandi: Okay, not exactly. He says he’s going off to find Þorunn, his wife. At least, that’s what he says first, but really?

Lissa: Why? Because Ragnar doesn’t think he can survive on his own, and Björn wants to prove himself. Ragnar gives him a bit of advice and sends him on his way.
bjorn vision quest tweet lissa
Lissa: After Björn leaves, Ragnar goes over to Floki, still bound to the post, and slowly draws a circle in the sand with his staff as he speaks. He says Floki betrayed his love for him. Floki says he was trying to save Ragnar from a false god.

Sandi: Floki is entirely sincere, here, and not trying to wheedle his way out of punishment, even though he’d wanted to escape. Floki sees Ragnar’s affiliations significant to their very way of life and Floki likes things how they were, he wants the traditions to be maintained and for Ragnar to be in good standing with the gods.

aslaug son commentaryLissa: As Ragnar walks away, Aslaug has to stop him. She asks him about Björn’s leaving and says it may be the last time Ragnar ever sees his son. Ragnar reacts with horror and demands to know if Aslaug has Seen anything. He was casually dismissive of his wife’s völva powers in the past, but now it seems he believes her. She says she hasn’t and he snaps, “Why would you say something like that?” as he stomps away. All is not well between Mr. and Mrs. King!

Sandi: It certainly isn’t. And Aslaug doesn’t even mention having spoken to the Seer at this point. Her concerns were largely selfish in that regard. Her whole demeanor seems to have been, this episode, more self-oriented. So I wonder at her concern for Björn and/or Ragnar’s relationship with this eldest son. She has sons of her own and traditionally, a queen fought for the prerogatives for their own progeny.

Lissa: We return to Paris, to the Viking camp, which is situated in enfilade position in the bottom of a small creek area, for some reason.

:  gunfire directed from a flanking position along the length of an enemy battle line – “Enfilade.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

Lissa: It makes it easy for them to be decimated by Frankish archers, firing down into the small area, slaughtering the men, women, and children indiscriminately. Rollo rides in as the last of them fall, and is warned by a dying man that Ragnar will avenge them.

Sandi: We were quite in shock on twitter as we witnessed this. Rollo’s own men from Kattegat and the environs are no longer “his” men. They are seen now as the enemy and Rollo is a Frank. The difference in body armor and grooming between the Franks and the Northmen is broadly drawn in this scene, making it more effective for all it was unspoken. A brutal ending and a brutal but intriguing beginning for Season Four.

I cannot wait to see what the History Channel has for us next week! Join us on twitter during the episode and see what tweets we DON’T post (oh my!) here @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!
LATE ADDITION: Check out the recap on No Ship Network. It’s really thought-provoking.

We’re Talking Aslaug on VIKINGS


By elithanathile on Tumblr


The Shieldmaidens of History (Protecting the Innocent from Anachronisms) welcome you back to our series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

Historical fiction author Lissa Bryan is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Lissa has written a fantastic historical fiction story of her own, and she is an amazing historian and storyteller. (You can read my review of her Tudor love story, Under These Restless Skies here on my site.)


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Heillir! We—Lissa Bryan and Sandi Layne—are two historical fiction authors with a serious thing for Vikings. And for VIKINGS, the amazing series that is going to begin its fourth season on HISTORY CHANNEL.

Follow us on twitter, #ShieldGeeks, at 8pm Eastern for the next couple of weeks as we talk about the main characters of the show, including special features for Thorsdays, er, Thursdays, as well as We Ship It day on the 14th and even a Favorite Dead Character feature.


Today we’re going to be discussing Ragnar’s controversial second wife, Aslaug.


Princess of Legend, Daughter of the legendary Brynhildr and Sigurd, Aslaug is the fabled and fecund second wife of Ragnar Lo∂brok.

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She is portrayed by the stately and striking Alyssa Sutherland, who brings the perfect air to a character initially roundly despised by many fans.

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Sutherland, though, is amazing as a woman of strength and power in the show and I’m looking forward to seeing what is in store for her as her husband’s role grows in the wider world.

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Aslaug was introduced in Season One. She appeared in Ragnar’s life when he was away from Lagertha (whom he clearly loved, even if he was disappointed over the recent loss of a pregnancy).

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She is gifted with the Sight, it would seem. She would be considered a völva – a seeress who has visions.

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Ragnar was definitely attracted—much to his son’s disgust—and before we knew it, Aslaug sailed up to Kattegat, pregnant with Jarl Ragnar’s child.

Her time at Kattegat has been at times very hard on her. She supplanted the popular and mighty Lagertha in a place that, to the princess, seemed quite primitive and dirty.

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She’s borne sons for her husband without possessing the entirety of his heart, and she has often been considered an interloper during her years in Kattegat.

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Aslaug might have others issues. She had an affair with a mysterious stranger called Harbard (whom Floki thought might be Odin in disguise.)

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She tried to seduce her husband on his last visit, but he rebuffed her advances.  There might be a Little Stranger on the way and Ragnar would know the baby couldn’t be his.

But now, her husband is King, as we begin the fourth season. I’m thinking her earlier life will be of great assistance as their life changes.

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The series hasn’t yet explored Aslaug’s childhood as it’s described in the Sagas. It would add some depth and dimension to her character, and explain some of her very-understandable fears of instability and abandonment. She’s built the kind of loving home for her children that she never had… but will she be able to shield them from the storm that’s coming?

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What are your thoughts? Join Lissa Bryan and me, Sandi, tonight as we chat at 8PM EST on Twitter about Aslaug and what the series might have in store for him. Use the hashtag #ShieldGeeks to join in the fun!

Two Historical Fiction Authors Talk VIKINGS – Episode 9

All Vikings images herein are the property of History Channel and are used solely as illustration.

All Vikings images herein are the property of History Channel and are used solely as illustration.

a2alissapicCannot believe this was the penultimate episode for this season of Vikings! Thanks to everyone who came to tweet with Lissa Bryan and me last night! It was quite the evening. Between the battle and the reunion between Athelstan and Ragnar and more signs of betrayal… All kinds of plot-packed goodness. Lissa and I have our thoughts below, with hers being in purple.
Lissa: Athelstan translating Caesar for Ecbert was a lovely scene, with Ecbert pacing and analyzing Caesar’s battle strategies. I like his character more with every episode.

Sandi: I confess I wonder about his motivations, but I cannot help but honor a man who seeks to learn about the history of his land, for whatever purpose he may intend. He treats Athelstan well, too. I know I tend toward suspicion, so I’m trying not to be too paranoid about King Ecbert’s plans, but so far Athelstan seems to be benefiting by the arrangement as well.


Horik isn’t interested in talking with Ecbert. He wants battle and he wants revenge.


In this, he is very much a man of his time, I believe.


Ragnar and Björn have a talk that evening where Ragnar reveals part of what the Seer told him about Björn’s future… That he would marry a princess and sail a tideless sea. He didn’t tell him, however, that he was destined to outshine his father in fame and glory. It gives Björn a little boost of confidence to know he’s not destined to die in this battle.


I very much enjoy the times that Ragnar spends with his children. This father/son moment is no exception. As you say, Ragnar withheld some information from him, but I’m cool with that; a man has his pride and there is no reason to encourage cockiness in a mostly untried warrior.


vikings_episode9_Horik Floki plotHorik seems to be hinting around to Floki that something needs to “happen” to Ragnar. Floki smiles at him, but I wonder if Floki is being a bit of a trickster, here. After all, he has seemed willing to go along with dastardly plans in the past, only to be revealed as truly faithful.


Well, this is a weird place for the character to be. Floki has demonstrated his dissatisfaction with Ragnar to Helga, in private, in such a way that I have no doubt that he feels that way. And Horik is playing up to Floki in a lot of different ways, encouraging the divergence between the friends. But then, Horik kept referring to Loki, in the old story, as “The Sly One” which leads me to believe that we the audience are being reminded that Loki is a trickster and that Floki could be one as well. A very interesting character to play, I’m sure! The majority of the evidence, though, is currently pointing to Floki being a malcontent who is at least letting his mind react to Horik’s blandishments, even if his heart hasn’t entirely given way, yet.


vikings_episode9_Shirted Rollo battleBut the battle does not go well. Aelle’s forces plus Ecbert’s are too much for Ragnar’s men and he has to order a retreat, leaving a gravely injured Rollo behind.


The way this was presented was wonderful. The division of the Northmen’s infantry as Horik clearly was expecting all the troops—his, Ragnar’s, and Lagertha’s—to follow him into the fight. But the jarls chose to hold back and make their stand a bit apart from the king’s. And then in comes the Wessex cavalry, all with their shiny plating and big horses. The kings, Ecbert and Aelle, barely have to do a thing but kick back and watch. I almost expected popcorn. The contrast between the dirt, mud, and blood of the Northmen to the pristine cleanliness of the kings was vastly understood.


Let’s discuss a bit about medicine of this era. Rollo seems to have a gut wound of some kind. (I’m glad he wasn’t left to the tender mercies of English medicine! “Bleed him. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll bleed him again. And then give him a purgative.”) 


vikings_episode9_Athelstan Rollo battlefieldThe study of medicine outside of Rome wasn’t highly structured at this point. The universities of Europe weren’t a settled thing until the 11th Century, really, so medical practices were as varied as the people who were considered physicians in the lands of Wessex and Mercia – and Scandinavia, too.  A gut wound was generally considered fatal, but the healer would often check for that by having the patient drink something with a large amount of garlic (or something equally noisome) to see if the odor could be detected as coming through any bandaging and indicating that the stomach or intestines were compromised. If so, there wasn’t a lot that could be done, at that time. If not, the patient was often given poultices and teas and hoped for the best.


We didn’t see too much of it, but later, it was cauterized, which I asked you about in our Twitter discussion. Cauterization didn’t seem like the best choice, here. What did the Vikings use for infections?


Burning was actually considered one good way to deal with infection. It was accompanied by a poultice, generally, that would have included what we now consider antibacterial herbs. Burdock, garlic, goldenseal – these are among remedies that would be used to treat an open wound in a topical manner. After a cauterization, a poultice of burdock would have been considered wise, but it would have been alternated with the wound being allowed to scab over, too. A messy, time-consuming process.


We also see another scene of a “Viking funeral” of a pyre set alight and sent out to sea. Both you and I raised a brow at that, because it seems highly unlikely they would pause in the midst of defeat and what had to be a hasty re-entrenching to do such a thing. 


I concur. After a retreat such as they had just made, taking the time for a full-on funeral would not have been the usual practice. However, it seems clear that they hadn’t taken the encampment down or planned to high-sail it (see what I did, there?) back him to Kattegat, either. Still, I think burial would have been better, even for warriors going to Valhalla. The burning of valuable wood which could have been used in weapons-making, is out of character for a people who are accustomed to shepherding their resources wisely.
Found on tumblr at FortheAllFather

Found on tumblr at FortheAllFather

I’m not sure if you and I discussed this before, but the “flaming-boat-on-the-water Viking funeral” is mostly a myth. Vikings were usually buried, though there are a few accounts of cremation on land, with mounds built over the ashes. Brunhidla – Aslaug’s mother – immolated herself on her husband, Sigurd’s, funeral pyre. There are also some burials where the deceased was actually buried on a ship (the famous Oseberg burial is one of those).


Rulers might have been set alight in a longship, but that was largely before the era in which VIKINGS takes place. In Éire’s Captive Moon, I do have a burning boat for a funeral, but that was for wealthy, high-ranking people in their own home who had died defending their land. It was still more common to bury folks or to set up a pyre. But again, that fire takes wood and wood was a valuable commodity.


Vikings gods friendsWhen Rollo sees Athelstan, he tells him if he had the strength, he would kill him. He sees Athelstan as a traitor. When Athelstan is sent to present King Ecbert’s offer to the Vikings, he encounters a great deal of suspicion. Floki mocks his priestly garb. Ragnar offers to walk part of the way with him, and they are tracked by a mysterious figure with an arrow notched to fly. Athelstan confesses that he still retains a belief in the Norse gods as well as the Christian faith. Ragnar expresses the wistful hope that the gods can all become friends. It’s obvious that Ragnar still retains a lot of affection for Athelstan.


Rollo may or may not have known that Athelstan was likely the one to whom he owed his life. A man of this era wanted to die in battle—it was an honor and a privilege to go to Valhalla (since we all know Rollo did not accept his Christian baptism with a real belief, and he is still a follower of the Northvegr). So even if he knew Athelstan had “saved” him, he might still be mad because he, Rollo, hadn’t been allowed to die.


ragnar athelstan reunionThe reunion was understated, but I got all “Awww…” when Ragnar gave Athelstan his arm ring back. That he had kept it, had it burnished clean, and was ready to return it without hesitation speaks worlds of Ragnar’s faith in his friend. Athelstan was not as comfortable accepting it, but he understood the negative implications wearing it might have with King Ecbert & Co.


King Ecbert makes an offer to Ragnar, Lagertha, and King Horik. He will give them 5,000 acres of land and treasure, as well as returning Rollo to Ragnar. Princess Kwenthrith will also employ any Viking as a mercenary. Lathertha and Ragnar immediately accept. Horik seems less well-pleased, but what could he do at the moment?


The rapid acceptance astonished me, I confess. It served, though, to unite Ragnar and Lagertha against Horik in terms of goals and expectations, which cannot have been misunderstood by anyone at that table.
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Princess Kwenthrith upsets me. This show has been great with keepig its characters in line with their roles in society, belief systems, and customs… Then comes this girl. I characterized her as an English Messalina in the last episode. It’s worse than that. No princess would have ever behaved like that, groping men in public.  As in any era, the rich and powerful can get away with a lot more than the average person, but this is preposterous. It’s crass, and it’s a blight on an otherwise enjoyable show.


Yeah… Her Royal Majesty of Mercia irritates me as well. In the prior episode, her predilections were displayed more or less in private. This made her strong and using the weapons (as it were) at her disposal without being more than a Messalina-type of character.
Exactly. We all know that what went on behind closed doors could have been entirely different than the pious face presented to the public. But a female of that day, even a princess, would have been under the control of a man. Even if the men in her immediate family (father, brother) were dead, she would have had some male relative or godfather that assumed guardianship over her until she was safely married. Becoming femme sole (an independent woman able to make decisions about her life in her own right) was a status usually only accorded to elderly widows.


A princess of her wealth and power probably would have been married off very soon after her father/brother died. Eleanor of Aquitaine faced this when her father died in 1137 (about 200 years after this story takes place.) He had no legitimate son, and so Eleanor – who may have been as young as twelve – was a great heiress. She was married within a couple of months of her father’s death to make sure no other lord kidnapped her to force her into marriage.


But her behavior in front of the mercenaries was crass and out of character in my opinion. One, the Northmen would have had no respect for any female who was so blatant in her public behavior. She would have been seen as loose, a prostitute, a woman of little value.
As free men, the Northmen would have objected to being handled like slaves. They might have been all right with her admiringly stroking their muscled arms, but rooting around in their smallclothes?

And Ecbert seemed to ignore her behavior, which I didn’t quite understand, either. I’m not sure what the writers have planned for her, but at this juncture, who would respect her? Not me and likely not the men whom she’s hired to go fight for her.

Perhaps Kwenthrith’s motive in the story is to make herself as unattractive a marriage prospect as possible with her behavior, but even in that era, her wealth and title would have made her attractive enough, and her husband could have locked her away. 
vikings_episode9_Aslaug braidedBack in Kattegat, Aslaug has set Porunn free. Coming right after the girl expressed a desire to be like Lagertha, I have my suspicions it wasn’t out of the goodness of Aslaug’s heart. Is she trying to get Lagertha’s son to marry beneath himself, to diminish his dynastic importance?


This is possible.  Aslaug hasn’t really said Word One about the fact that Ragnar has a firstborn son who could become jarl after Ragnar himself. And a woman in that time and place mostly exerted political power through the men in her life (Lagertha being a recent and notable exception). So if Aslaug’s sons do not take leadership, then she will not be in such a nice place if they all live that long. Discrediting Björn by having him perhaps marry for emotional reasons a woman who was merely freed and not adopted, say, into a family of status, could injure Björn’s reputation as a leader. Well, at least before he was given the name Ironside. 😉
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One episode left! Can you believe it? This season has just flown by!


It has! I cannot wait to see the finale!

Burnish those weapons, braid that hair, and find Lissa and me on twitter next week!

@LissaBryan and @sandyquill

VIKINGS with Two Historical Fiction Authors – Episode 6

All Vikings images herein are the property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

All Vikings images herein are the property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

Well! I did not have a good Thursday night blush so didn’t live-tweet with friend and author Lissa Bryan during this episode, but I caught it first thing Friday morning. (You can do that, too! Just go to their site and check VIDEO!)

a2alissapicThis week’s episode was titled “Unforgiven” — ominous enough all by itself, no? See what Lissa and I had to say about it here. Her comments are in purple. 🙂

Lissa: Crazy episode, huh? 

Sandi: For real! Ragnar and Rollo were playing a deep game.

First and foremost, it was great to see Siggy come clean about her motives. She wants her former position back and asks the Seer if the gods will ever smile on her again. He tells her the gods always favor brave women. Siggy is not a warrior, but she will fight in her own fashion to get what she wants.

Siggy’s time with the Seer at the outset was revelatory and totally in character. At this point in the season, it’s good for the audience to be in on her motivation.

It turns out you were right about what a poor decision it was to burn the grain stores. Kattegat is suffering hunger, and Ragnar has to apologize for his poor hospitality when King Horik comes for a feast. King Horik recounts what happened in England after Ragnar left and Ragnar asks about Athelstan.

Winters were hard in the north. Infant mortality was up to 30%, and much of that was due to a paucity of food. And Horik…! Well, yeah. He intimates that Athelstan is gone, and Ragnar’s quickly hidden reaction was great. Another tribute to the actor’s craft.

vikings_episode6_rollo to borgFloki announces his delight that Athelstan is gone. He says he never believed Athelstan was loyal to their gods. Horik wants to re-unite with Jarl Borg because they need his ships and men if they’re going to go a-viking and raid England again. Aslaug is opposed to the idea. They decide to send Rollo to talk to Jarl Borg because he “knows him best.” Considering Rollo punched him last time they chatted, I’m not so sure this is a great idea.

Floki’s stance was very clear to me. He was honest about his perceptions and he remains a loyal friend to Ragnar – even if he cannot abide Ragnar’s Christian friend.  The actor is fantastic. Horik’s position is, to my mind, ridiculous. The Northmen had a saying about revenge: A wise man takes his time to plan his revenge and a fool never takes it at all. So if Ragnar had never taken revenge for the serious wrong done to his people—not just himself, but all those beholden to him—he would have been deemed a weakling and a fool. He couldn’t let Jarl Borg’s invasion just slip into the mist.  Now, we don’t get a lot of Ragnar/Rollo discussion about a revenge plot in here, but clearly, it happened. I just wondered if it was before Rollo’s visit to Jarl Borg or after!

Horik goes to talk to Siggy, and brings along his son because he says he wants the boy to learn the game of politics…. and something a little more. He also wants Siggy to teach the boy about the delights of the flesh whil Horik watches. There’s no doubt in my mind this is all about his dominence over her and later Horik confirms this when siggy says she’s no whore, but Horik tells Siggy she’s his whore. Floki witnesses the exchange and Siggy goes over to ask him, “Can you keep a secret?”

Floki giggles. “No.”

Siggy picThat made me snort. Perfect, and it clearly disconcerted Siggy who likely needed a sympathetic ear. Women do like to talk out their problems.

Now, the Siggy/Princeling Sex? As soon as I saw that Horik had his son with him, I was thinking, “He wants Siggy to ‘make him a man.'” But watching? Ew? That put a whole new and dirty level on it, in my opinion. Ick.

Meanwhile, Lagertha has returned to that drunken lout of a husband. He says, with heavy sarcasm, how delighted he is to have his wife back, but is very unhappy she’s left his stepson with Ragnar. He tells her she’ll be sleeping alone that night, and sends in four of his men to her room to beat her unconcious. Lagertha fights like the shield maiden she is, but even she cannot fight off four warriors.

Oh, I was so thinking of you, Lissa! Lagertha was fantastic. It was clear she knew that something would happen, because she was tense in her solitary bed. (As a side note: What is up with the elaborate headboard? Did it say Game of Thrones to anyone else?) It was so hard to watch her just give up at a certain point in the fight. It was wise that she did, of course, but hard to see.

Ha! I noted the modern-style headboard, too. Looked like something you would find in one of those rustic home decoration catalogs for twelve thousand dollars, and think, “I could make that with some twine and kindling from my wood pile.”

But now that you mention it… There have been people on Tumblr noting some set pieces re-used from Game of Thrones

vikings_episode6_BjornandslaveIt seems Björn has fallen in love! A slave girl named Porunn has caught his eye. As you mentioned, there’s a bizarre little anachronism when Bjorn asks her if she has a “boyfriend.” 

The term “boyfriend” took me out of the moment. He could have asked if she were spoken for or if she belonged to another man. As a slave, it was highly likely her body was held to account somewhere.

Yes, as a slave, she more likely belonged to another man who had claimed her, not involved in a romantic liaison of her own choosing. Ragnar and Aslaug watch this exchange. She starts questioning him about trusting Jarl Borg again after everything he put her through. She had to sleep in a dirty house! OMG! Okay, I’m being sarcastic, but she has a point. There is some serious bad blood there. 

vikings_episode6_ragnaraslaugsonOh, pile on the sarcasm. I was rolling my eyes. A lot. “Daddy would have done it so much better!” Gak. There is bad blood, but Aslaug isn’t trusting her husband in this instance, in the purview that was rightfully his in the Northern view of marital responsibilities. She has dominion on all home and family matters; he has the authority on the military and farming matters.

I think Aslaug yearns for him to respect her mind, too, not just her domestic capabilities. She knows of his deep love and respect for Lagertha, and wants to try to attain the same position. But she just doesn’t have it. She’s not a warrior, and she never will be.

Rollo is talking it over with Jarl Borg and discovers the guy has more than a few screws loose. (Or, should we say wood pegs, to fit in with the time period?) He has the skull of his dead wife, which he kisses, passionately, and asks what he should do. Skull Wife seems to approve of Borg returning to Ragnar’s side. 

I was really creeped out by the kissing of the skull. And I thought, How Humiliating! to be the jarl’s new, pregnant wife. She had to watch and appear to give her tacit consent. Not nice.

vikings_episode3_gallery ecbertAthelstan is also talking to a king. Egbert reveals he’s deeply interested in the pagan Romans who conquered this land before him. He takes Athelstan into a room of scrolls and sculpture. I cannot describe the intense lust I had for that room. I yearned for it to be real and for them to discover it again one day, still stuffed with all of thos scrolls! Egbert tells Athelstan that his job is to decipher and preserve all of this knowledge, but if he ever reveals Egbert has it, Egbert will allow them to execute Athelstan.

Scene change! First, it was good to see Athelstan looking well. No visible scarring. No limp. A smile on his face as he got to work on the illuminated manuscript. Ecbert’s interest in Things Pagan was a surprise—but the threat to have Athelstan crucified if the monk breathes a word of it was not. And yeah…the depository was swoon-inducing. 🙂

Rollo and Jarl Borg arrive back in Kattegat, and after they agree to re-unite, Ragnar orders all of Jarl Borg’s men to be treated as honored guests. This ends up being the biggest issue I had with this episode. Rollo embraces Siggy, and then grabs an axe.

Well, here, Ragnar and Rollo have clearly conspired. But when? That’s what I wanted to know. That Ragnar had this planned out is clear by the end of the episode, but I missed chapter two or something.

Wonder if there’s an important “cut scene” or two out there that they’re hiding from us Americans!

Ha! Yes! And I wonder…does Rollo trust Siggy? Hmmm.

Good question. I wondered if he has suspicions about her and Horik. For a moment, I wondered if that was where he was going with that axe.

Lagertha’s face is terribly battered after what her husband’s men did to her. He stands up during dinner and announces how pretty her breasts are, and rips open her blouse to display them. Lagertha grabs the knife from the table and sticks it in his eye. One of his own men finishes him off with a blow from a sword.

Oh, this was marvelous. Her husband was being such a horrible person. It is clear he is attempting to prove dominance, but any man that has to resort to force and humiliation is not a real man at all. Lagertha’s swift and sure response was awesome. She had perfect aim.


The historical Lagertha stabbed her husband to death with a knife she had hidden in the folds of her gown. The Saxo Grammaticus implies she did it because she wanted to rule alone. I wonder why the show’s producers decided to do it this way?

I didn’t know that until I read what you wrote. I just saw it as as Well Done by the show, and saw that Lagertha had the apparent support of those around her husband’s table for her actions.

A motive for the marriage, perhaps? “Allow him to abuse me publicly until no one would question whether he deserved it…. And then I’ll be QUEEN!”

Björn has brought Porunn to his room, and it becomes clear why in just a few minutes, but the girl thinks it’s because he intends to have sex with her. She strips and asks “Master” if this is what he wants. But Björn wants her to be willing. 

The reason why he put her in there is because her usual lodgings – the barn – isn’t the safest place to be at the moment. Jarl Borg’s men are blocked inside. One of Ragnar’s men tells them they’ll be safe if they remain silent … right before Rollo torches the barn. He asks Floki where Björn is and Floki shrugs.

Now, see, at this point I wasn’t sure if Björn was in on his father’s plot or if this was just a fortuitous circumstance. How far had Ragnar taken his son into his counsel at this point? I hadn’t any idea. I think having Floki not know makes sense because, wonderful as he can be at times, he is not always big on discretion.

Jarl Borg remembers the Seer’s prophecy about the eagle right before Rollo comes in. “I told you I always look for revenge,” Rollo tells Borg, before Floki beats Borg to a bloody pulp.

That scene was very much about the eyes. Watching Rollo was an education. He seemed a bit distant in his expression, but entirely committed as well. He is really a fascinating character.

They drag Borg into the room where Ragnar and Horik are waiting. Horik asks if he’s dead and Ragnar says not yet… Looks like we’re going to see Jarl Borg become an “eagle” after all.

bloodeagle tweet historyThat was an evil place to leave off! I wonder if they are going to do the notorious blood eagle? I cringe to think of it, but… I put nothing past History Channel. They’ve done a great job thus far.

I think they will. They sent out a Tweet during the show explaining what the term meant, but not mentioning that its authenticity was in question. 

Here’s what troubled me: the Vikings had very firm beliefs and customs regarding hospitality. Of course, there are stories in the old legends about people violating it, but they were sort of like our movies about weddings being interrupted by crazy stunts where the bride runs off with another man. It has happened, but it’s an extreme rarity, and not something that would be looked upon with approval.

Not only did Ragnar and Rollo violate the rules of hospitality, they also broke their word. That wasn’t looked upon lightly in their culture. 

ECM_GirlI think, here, it comes down to the need and expectation for revenge. Hospitality is good, but men sought revenge. Even for a stolen weapon, it was sanctioned. So this? I think that the hospitality was more of a surprise than anything to anyone who observed Ragnar’s actions. That he wreaked such utter revenge did, to me, make sense in terms of the expectations of the day, as I referenced above. A wise man bided his time, but he took revenge thoroughly. This was why I had my character Charis do so in Éire’s Captive Moon. It gained her stature even among the Northmen; and no one seemed to think it was out of place.

I didn’t think of it that way, so I suppose you’re right. More of a trap than an actual guest/host situation.

Vikings with Two Historical Fiction Authors – Episode 5

Answers in Blood

Last night’s episode was, as always, amazing. Battles and bloodshed, balanced with family relationships and the search for faith. Fascinating stuff! Lissa Bryan (Under These Restless Skies) and I live-tweeted (and it was GREAT to hear from different folks during the episode! Thanks for joining us!) along with author Angel Lawson (Odin’s Murder, along with Kira Gold).

vikings_episode5_stern lagertha

Vikings images property of the History Channel. Click here to go there.

a2alissapicLissa: Lagertha is back! Siggy seemed genuinely happy to see her as the two embraced. She was also warmly greeted by the people of Kattegat, which seemed to make Aslaug a bit jealous. I imagine it has been difficult for Aslaug to win the people’s respect after Lagertha left. As hard as it is for me to have sympathy for her, it can’t have been easy.

Sandi: I really enjoyed Lagertha’s homecoming. Rollo’s greeting was, perhaps, a bit warmer than necessary, but he didn’t overdo it. Much. Siggy might feel a more genuine kinship to Lagertha at this point, as both women are kind of in the “deposed leader’s mate” category. And yes, you’re very kind to Aslaug. I don’t imagine it’s been easy for her, either, but she rejoices in her ability to provide numerous sons to the Jarl. Did you see how she had them gathered about her when Lagertha entered the hall?

Lagertha stands at the head of the table to discuss strategy. It was a wonderful scene which showed the respect they had for her, not only as one who had come to their rescue, but as a formidable warrior in of herself. 

Yes. She is a shieldmaiden of note and she has come with armed men at her side. Plus, Ragnar’s grown son!

tweet destroyed foodIt seems Ragnar is a member of the “It’s so crazy, it just may work,” school of military planning. We see him sneaking in with Björn and a few others to attack the grain stores at Kattegat.

Now, this approach bothered me, and I said so on twitter. Kattegat is their home, the home in which they’ve lived for a long time. Yes, Jarl Borg ran them out of it and they’re in exile, but the people of Kattegat are his people, and he is/was their jarl. I understand the “burn their resources” idea, but how could he do that to his own people?

I loved seeing the flint and steel. This show has been great with little details like that. (Except for the occasional boot heel, eh, Sandi?) I just saw a post online from someone complaining about one of the horse bridles that appeared last week. Apparently, there are people who make note of which horses appear over and over in the show, so that means there are actually people geekier than we are. 😀

This is a relief. 🙂 And you might notice that we haven’t seen a lot of boot soles this season…

image found on Flickr

image found on Flickr

Anyway, the flint and steel was great for building tension in the scene. Gather round little ones, and learn that arson was a much slower process in the “olden days” before Sure-Strike matches.

In this time, there was actually a tool called the fire-steel.  I round a picture of one on Flickr. The Northmen could use this and often had a tinder kit that included the flint, some rope, and maybe even thin bark that they could use to start a quick fire at need. It didn’t take too long, really, compared to other methods.

Even with the addition of Lagertha’s men, I wasn’t sure Ragnar was going to be able to pull off the coming battle for Kattegat. And a heck of a battle scene it was, too. That’s another thing the History Channel has excelled at here, too. They’ve struck a balance between “cinematic” and “gritty.” It was great to see Jarl Borg scuttling away in retreat. Not so great to see Ragnar ciritcize Bjorn for his performance. I thought the boy acquitted himself well for his first battle.

vikings_episode5_rollo bjornThat was a great battle! Did your TL enjoy it? I did wonder. I thought at first that Ragnar had managed to kill Jarl Borg, but alas, no. The intruder ran away with this tail between his legs. The battle had different stages and it was evident that planning had gone into it from both sides. I really appreciated the axe work exhibited, too. Swords were quite expensive and axes and spears were much more common. And Björn’s performance was very good. He did get disoriented when he was knocked down, but he recovered well. He’s at least seventeen at this point, which makes him a man and of an age to go raiding and all those other manly-man things, so Ragnar’s treatment of him as if he were a child irritated me.

Afterwards, the victorious Vikings offer a sacrifice to Thor, and Ragnar indicates that Bjorn should swing the axe. He does, without flinching, though Lagertha looks away, seemingly unhappy about it. You and I have discussed that human sacrifice doesn’t seem to have been common by this time period. But in the context of the show, she should have been happy her son was given the honor.

Honestly, I’m not sure what purpose was served by that particular scene, unless it’s to showcase the difference between the treatment of Rollo and the treatment of Björn. There didn’t seem to be a purpose for the sacrifice. Thanksgiving? Well, there are other ways to express this and a human sacrifice felt out of context for this time.

lissa tweet hostThis scene was interestingly contrasted with scenes of high mass … Floki’s state of euphoria as he smeared the blood on his face, versus the communion ritual. In yet another of those deft touches, they had bits of wheat bread for the host. I envision someone at History Channel saying, “Ah, a communion scene. What type of bread would they have been using as the host at the time…?” From what I saw online, there seemed to be a lot of confusion about whty Athelstan didn’t take communion, but that was – of course – because he was unconfessed.

Athelstan’s character is so complex right now. I’m very much enjoying him raveling and unraveling.

Athelstan is in a very disturbed state right now. He’s trying to regain his faith in Christianity, and his visions have taken on a terrifying edge. Is it his guilt manifesting, or has his mind broken beneath the pressure? Does he consider himself “home” now? There was a strange moment when he met the woman with the disfigured face. He thought for a moment he was having a vision of the Virgin Mary, but she had come to thank him for interceeding with King Ecbert in explaining the rights of pagan women under their laws. She kissed him on the cheek, and suddenly, not-so-religious thoughts seemed to befilling his befuddled mind.

As the History Channel said, Athelstan has a history of such “trips” and I think that they’re bringing them all in, here. He suffered severe trauma when he was enslaved years before. And he’s had to undergo deep cultural displacement. It is not to be wondered at that he is walking on an uncertain edge at this juncture. I do hope, though, that he can find peace within himself this season.

And a romance wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all!

vikings_episode5_ragnar aslaug babyRagnar, too, is in a quandary. He still loves Lagertha, and he wants both women. Neither seems willing to entertain the notion. I liked the Seer’s response that Ragnar was fooling himself if he thought it was his choice.

Ragnar remains true to character, even here. He has goals, but they’re unclear—even to himself. He  loves Lagertha, of course. He has come to care for Aslaug, but in a different way (I think) than he does Lagertha. He wants to honor both women as his wife, he wants all his children around him… He wants a very great deal. But his methods of choosing what is top priority lack finesse, to say the least.

Lagertha comes into the hall and says she has an announcement. Ragnar looks around, a little nervous, and asks if it would best be told to him in private. Lagertha replies she wants to tell everyone. She’s returning to her husband, as is her duty. She tells Ragnar to take care of Björn. 

I get the purpose of her announcement, but I find it odd that she was formally entrusting the care of a fully adult (by their time) male into the care of his father. It was more a statement to the people than it was to Ragnar. And Björn was clearly prepared for it, though his body language seemed to indicate he was quite concerned for his mother. And, oh yes, I got a bit of a tear in my eye during that scene, I confess.

vikings_episode5_Lagertha AslaugAslaug gives Lagertha a heartfelt thank-you for saving Kattegat and her family. She tells Lagertha she is in her debt. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this wasn’t just an expression in those days. Lagertha could have called in a serious favor at some point because of Aslaug’s statement, but she declined it by saying the debt had already been paid.

A debt was a serious thing, whether it was a debt to the positive or to the negative. That Aslaug and Lagertha discussed this in front of the village folk was like saying it in a court, of sorts. It had weight, as you indicated. And though I felt bad for Lagertha, she was completely awesome in this. Her beauty and strength of character are exemplary. She’s not taking second place, she’s showing honor to the sons of Ragnar, she didn’t snipe, she didn’t do anything to denigrate the woman who had, in fact, usurped her. I have nothing but admiration for her. But I am still wondering what is up with her current husband!

This season has been exceedingly well-paced, thus far, and I am excited about what is to come! Look for us next week on twitter @LissaBryan and @sandyquill!