This last Wednesday the popular History Channel show Vikings returned for its fifth season, and like every season so far it’s a mix of legend, historical fact, and fiction. Because of that you should take what you see with a grain of salt, and do some research of your own before believing what you see to be historically accurate. Here is what we know about some of your favourite characters in the show.
In the series Lagertha is played by former Real Style cover girl Katheryn Winnick. She’s a shield-maiden and Queen of Kattegat. At one time she fought alongside her husband Ragner, but has remained independent even after his death. In reality, not much is known about her. It’s said that she first met Ragnar when he fought against Sweden, and she fought beside him. At first Ragnar wanted to marry her, but she wasn’t interested until he proved himself. The marriage didn’t last though, and eventually he left her. Lagertha continued to fight beside him though, even during the civil war he faced when he returned home from his exploits. One bit of history that does match the show is Lagertha killing her husband Sigvard by stabbing him with a weapon hidden in her gown, and taking over his lands and estate.
Ragnar was a warrior, the King of Kattegat, and founder of House of Lothbrok, and in the series he is played by Travis Fimmel. In reality, it’s hard to figure out who the real man was. He seems to be a composite of a number of warriors, but it looks like the Viking King Reginheri is the main inspiration. Throughout his life he had three wives, Lagertha, Aslaug and Thora Town-Hart, and many offspring. Lothbrok wasn’t really a last name, and more of a nickname. It meant hairy breeches, and came from him wearing cowhide pants during a battle. Even his death has different versions. One stating that he was eventually seized by his enemy King Aelle of Northumbria, and killed in a pit of snakes, and the other that he died of a disease possibly caused by dysentery.
In the series Rollo (Clive Standen) is the older brother of King Ragnar, and eventually a traitor to him. In reality there is no evidence that he had any relation to Ragnar whatsoever. It can be argued that he is actually more famous that Ragnar, because he eventually rules over the area that eventually became Norway for a decade. He was also the great, great, great grandfather of William the Conquerer.
Bjorn in the series is the son of Ragnar and Lagertha, and is played by Alexander Ludwig. He’s followed in his father’s footsteps and become a great warrior, leader and explorer. History tells us however that Bjorn was the son of Ragnar and Aslaug, not Lagertha. After his father died he became the King of Sweden, and eventually captured Pisa, Italy. At one point during his conquests he faked his death and claimed to have converted to Christianity to make his way inside the well defended city of Luna, and take it for his own. In the TV series it was Ragnar who faked his death to take the city, thus changing history once again.
In the Vikings TV series Ivar is selfish and cruel, and treated differently than his brothers. He’s just started appearing in the series and is played by Alex Høgh Andersen. History tells us that he is indeed the oldest son of Ragnar and Aslaug. He was a ruthless, yet wise cunning and strategic warrior. After the death of Ragnar, Ivar made peace with King Aelle and asked for some land only as large as an Ox’s hide could cover. Aelle thought he was a fool and granted the request. Ivar cut the hide so finely that the Vikings were able to build a fort in the provided land. The next year he invaded Northumbria and captured and executed Aelle. 6 years later Ivar died suddenly of a disease.
Vikings continues each Wednesday at 9pm on the History Channel.