It is the end of the 8th century.
Imagine yourself having a blissful summer afternoon enjoying the quiet, and looking out to the view of lush greenery everywhere as you take a walk or ride your horse.
Then you hear the sound of swords, axes and spears banging and drumming on shields. A Viking army has arrived—and they’re not there to say hello and have some tea. It means your summer afternoon and the rest European history will never be the same again.
Vikings is a historical-drama TV series produced by the History channel. The second season ended its run last May and the DVD was just released two weeks ago. A third season is in production and is set for early 2015.
It’s not easy for me to find a series I like, or that will make me want to go from one episode to the next like a hot knife through butter. What little free time I’ve had has gone to Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. However, I caught the flu and sprained my ankle, which left me time for something new.
I tried Sleepy Hollow (got to three episodes) and the new season of Doctor Who (got to half of the first one), then I tried Vikings. I wouldn’t quite put it in the same league as my top three but I did get reeled in.
Vikings gets compared a lot to Game of Thrones, however, it has a more basic storyline. Here we are following the exploits of one warrior, explorer and leader Ragnar Lothbrok. In Game of Thrones, Tyrion, Khaleesi and Jon Snow vie for our attention as we traipse through intertwining plotlines, and complex histories.
While nitpickers may find inaccurate things, I found myself learning about how Vikings raided sleepy abbeys (like the one at Lindisfarne) and made off with the gold of the church, how their beliefs centered so much on celebrating that “warrior spirit,” on how dying while fighting fiercely in battle can earn one a seat at Valhalla. I also found out what sort of basic instruments Ragnar had fashioned to help him navigate the seas and raid lands beyond Scandinavia and Russia.
I quite liked seeing Viking shield maidens in the battle scenes. The existence of these shield maidens is highly debatable but it is definitely ingrained in the folklore (Valkyries, Brynhilde).
One of my favorite characters is King Ecbert (played by Linus Roache)—he’s the King of Wessex and does not appear until the second season. Unlike Ragnar’s previous rivals, Ecbert is a visionary and a strategist who prefers to think two steps ahead of his foes.
While professing his Christian faith, he quietly finds things to appreciate about Viking beliefs and spirituality. I did too. For ages, people in the Philippines are taught by their mostly Catholic faith to be peaceful, to turn the other cheek. Which is probably why crooks get away with so much here. Everyone is busy being merciful. I wonder if we’d have so much corruption if we were not trained to be docile by those who have occupied our shores?