Historical fiction vs Historical fantasy

historical fiction

As we wait through the long off time for another raiding season of Vikings, we are offered various glimpses, previews and rumors of what’s to come in the future. We also must find other ways to entertain, amuse, and enlighten ourselves.  For some that consists of re-watching past seasons and catching up on what me might have missed or re-watching in some attempt to understand portions that have left us confused about the ongoing story.  For others, the off season provides time to learn more about the actual history or legends behind the creation of this story. And for many other fans it provides time to indulge in other shows or books.  I try to provide some of that more factual history and or legend here and hopefully, I inspire you to do more of your own research on what ever parts of the story intrigue or interest you the most.

bjorn and aslaug

I am a loyal, devoted fan of the Vikings series and what Michael Hirst has created so far but that does not mean that I do not have some concerns, reservation or criticisms of the story and where he might be headed with it.  These thoughts do not mean that I will not watch it in the future or that I do not enjoy it for it’s story telling purpose. I am going to share my thoughts today because I know that there are any number of other viewers, or non-viewers any longer, who share my feelings on this subject. I also think it is an important subject to consider in light of the upcoming alternative version of the Vikings vs English story, The Last Kingdom based on the series by Bernard Cornwell.  If this new series closely follows the books, it will present a slightly different version of  the events that took place around the same general time period.  Both of these stories are considered historical fiction and both Cornwell and Hirst take some creative license and liberty in playing with the events and the timelines. This creative license is to be expected when telling any story of the past since none of us were there to actually give our own personal accounting of what did or did not happen. This is why it is called historical fiction, I think we all understand and accept that!

My personal theory or thought on the difference between historical fiction and historical fantasy is this… When I read or view something as historical fiction, the actual factual event or historical figures included within the story remain intact and recognizable as who and what they were as much as possible. The creator does not change the actual outcome of the event or the factual outcome of the historical figure involved. The timeline might be adjusted to fit into a writer’s storyline and various personal perceptions of the historical figure might come into play but the real event along with those real figures involved in such an event  remains relatively unaltered. In historical fantasy, the timeline may be completely manipulated, historical figures may also be so played with and manipulated that they may no longer be recognizable as the figure they are representing. Historical fantasy would also include the mixing of myths, legends, folk tales into the story that you are creating. In historical fantasy, you may start with a basis or premise of some  historical event or person but what you choose to do with the event or person is completely up to your imagination for the purpose of telling a story.




My current thought and question for debate is as follows.  When does something no longer fit as just historical fiction, but cross over into historical fantasy, or is every piece of historical fiction just a form of historical fantasy? Is there a point when one has bent or twisted the events and the timeline so much that there is little or no relevance or foundation left for the actual historical even being presented? Is Michael Hirst going toward this route, has he already crossed this invisible line, and if so does it really even make any difference as long as he is telling us a good story?  In some respects, I have to say, No it makes no difference at all as long as he continues to tell us the excellent story and we all understand that it is just that- a good story with no need for historical accuracy. The result though, with that reasoning for me personally, is that the story then moves out of the realm of historical fiction into that of historical fantasy. Now, that is not such a bad thing either as long as everyone clearly understands that difference, including the creator!  Take for example the various books and legends about King Arthur… most of which would be considered the stuff of historical fantasy rather than just historical fiction. We all know for the most part before we even read such a book or watch such a movie that it is going to be more fantasy than reality so we don’t really expect much as far as historical accuracy in such works.

Outlander 2014 Outlander 2014

Another example of historical fantasy would be any book or movie that deals with time travel. These books and shows usually fall into the category of sci-fy or paranormal no matter how they attempt to deal with the subject matter. When we decide to read or watch one of these, we’re generally not focused on any sort of historical accuracy, though I am probably an exception in that department because I feel that if an author is going to sweep me into the past in any such way, I still expect them to maintain some level of historical accuracy or authenticity regarding the time period or event that they have place me in the middle of!  The idea of time travel may be far fetched and full of fantasy but beneath all of that, I want some level of believability about the events taking place, and our reason for being there. These books and shows are difficult to pin down to any one particular category and often suffer some because of that. There are of course a few exceptions to that, one of them being Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series that has achieved a great deal of success despite not being able to put it into one specific genre. Much of that success is due to Diana Gabaldon’s ability to tell the story so well and pay such close attention to those historically accurate details that are so much a part of the story! She does such an excellent job of weaving the events, the people and the history into the story that you are never really sure which parts are factual and which are her story telling. What she does not do however, is stray too far away from the actual facts of any well known or well documented event within the history. She maintains the integrity and accuracy of each historical person and event as much as possible.  This is what, on some levels, makes her saga more believable even though she is dealing with a fantasy type genre. As you read the saga, you become immersed in that history that she is presenting and the time travel becomes less of a focus factor. She also uses enough historical legends and such to create more of an interest in the fantasy of the time travel itself.  That all being said, it is still of the fantasy realm and we know full well that is what it is, so it is falls into that historical fantasy realm. Even Ron Moore’s great re-creation of this epic time travel/history saga has some difficulties in being taken seriously and in my estimation, suffers some because promoters, critics, and potential viewers are still not quite sure which category this show fits into. To be fair, the book series also has had this ongoing problem as well.  Diana herself has made comments in the past about not wanting it labeled as any one particular genre and does not see it as a romance novel- which it often ends up being categorized as.  The problem for this series is that those who want to see it as just a grand romance are often disappointed further into the series when it becomes much more than that one specific romantic tale. Those who might appreciate the historical content often get tired of wading through the romance and vice versa… Then comes the time travel, the paranormal side to it, and that  causes the entire series not to be looked at seriously by some critics. All of this comes into play when attempting to gain a bigger audience, and receive critical credit that is necessary for a show to reach that higher level, be taken more seriously and thus warrant a larger budget and reason for being continued.  My personal belief  for this show in particular, they need to find a way to break through the genres to reach a larger audience. They need to work seriously on promoting it as more than a timeless fantasy romance and focus on that history that it so richly encompasses.  Does that mean that fans of the Jamie and Claire erotic romance will be disappointed, yes some of them probably will be. Many of the book readers stopped reading the books after about book 3 when the series shifts the focus from their romance to the realities of the history they were involved. But, by shifting that promotion and focus towards the incredible detailed history, I think they will gain more fans who want to see the historical accuracy of the events taking place during that time. In order to reach that wider audience, it needs to be seen and promoted as more than just the Jamie and Claire show.  I think it is definitely a series that combine those differing genres and hold a wide viewing audience if it is promoted for those other aspects rather than just the romantic fantasy.


As I’ve have mentioned many times, I have no problem with an author taking some creative license with events and timelines of actual historical people and events… especially when the facts are limited and timelines are not quite so clear surrounding given events or people. I understand that, accept it and relish the differing perspectives of each author who attempts to tell the story.  My problem or concern comes when well documented events, people and timelines become so altered  that they may as well not be included in the story. I also have the personal view that in many instances, the true history is just as interesting or more so than anything an author could make up, so why not include that truer accounting rather than create some other version of it? A few examples of this in the case of the Vikings Saga are the characters of Judith and Kweni. The truer version of Judith’s history involves her being the second wife of Athelwulf, then marrying her stepson when Athelwulf dies. After the son dies, she then returns home to Flanders and marries again rather than retreat to a nunnery- she would become the ancestor of William the Conqueror’s wife, Matilda. Not that I don’t appreciate Hirst’s version of Judith, because I do- she has become one of my favorite characters! As for Kweni, there are a few real life women of that time frame who could have been Kweni- all of whom had just as interesting back stories as our Kweni. One of those women was tied closely to Ecbert’s bid for power… you can read their  stories here.

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn


Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled


I don’t mind that an author alters a timeline to fit into their particular story but I do mind when an entire event is altered and the historically documented actions of people are altered so much that the outcome of said event is changed. That is the point for me when it truly becomes fantasy rather than any sort of historical tale. In my opinion, if one is going to go that route then that’s fine but if you choose to go that path in your story, really why bother to use real events or historical figures at all in your story? I guess that is the biggest issue for me, the biggest difference between historical fiction and historical fantasy.  If I am going to read or view something that references real people and real events then I expect those specific events and people to reflect or portray the actual event or person being referred to, at least in some basic recognizable way. If not, then leave them out of the story and give me pure fantasy, I am fine with that as well!

Michael Hirst has chosen to tell us a Viking story based on both mythical legendary characters and real history. I understand his intent and his concept to somehow integrate the myths and legends with the real history. I appreciate his attempt to draw us into that time period and present both the legends and the history together but I am at the point where I feel like he has gone too far over that vague line between plausible, acceptable historical fiction and outright historical fantasy. He has blurred the lines of historical accuracy, played with historical figures and timelines so much that it becomes difficult for those wanting some historical basis and foundation to a story to watch it as it continues to unfold. I find myself often trying to figure out what is true history, what is legend and what is purely his imagination. To his credit, he has woven the story so well that it becomes difficult to tell the differences, but in some ways it becomes frustrating and confusing as well!  I believe he has stretched the boundaries of the fantasy/imagined portions almost to their limits and needs to return in this next season to some of the more factual history basis of what happened.  While the show is enjoying an upswing in ratings and fans, it does still draw much criticism for it’s representation and portrayal of history. It gets much promotion for it’s depiction of the events and people of the Viking era and there is such a great emphasis on it’s being close to historically accurate. This has a tendency to disappoint  a lot of potential viewers interested in the historical content and value who watch for a while but then drift away as the story takes so many off twists and turns, and does so much playing with those events and characters in history. Many viewers give up when they have too much difficulty following such a varied and altered timeline of events. To the show’s and Michael Hirst’s credit, this show is a first, a ground breaker in it’s attempt at such an epic depiction of overall history. That attempt has been a major success and brought much more attention and interest in this early medieval time period so I applaud them for that. With that success and added interest though comes the fact that those fans become interested enough to go off to do some of their own research, and return to their viewing with a desire for more accuracy in the details of that history.


Hirst continuously reminds us, assures us that many of the events he presents are rooted in and based on historical accounts, and accounts taken from the Norse Sagas. The problem with Hirst’s depiction or representation of those accounts is that he often buries them so deeply within the  many storylines that they are not easily picked up on or apparent to the general viewer. Finding those factual events or accounts becomes a search for buried treasure… one which most people are not inclined to search for. Another result of his assurances is than many viewers will then take his word, his version of the story or event as the factual one. With historical fiction books, the authors will most often give some notes on the factual history, some evidence or reasoning for why they chose to go a certain direction with an event or historical figure. Unfortunately, with movies or television stories, this option or explanation is never readily available to the viewers. I do give Hirst credit for pointing out some of his reasons or his historical evidences in various interviews but it does still feel like he is stretching some of those historical boundaries.

 The show is promoted as having that historical value and I would hope that this next season reflects more of the historical accuracies that become more documented as they move into the next generation.  He has made assurances that stories such that of Rollo will reflect more of an accurate history… I really want to believe him and trust him on this but I am not sure how that will play out or how it will be based on well documented events of the time.  Along those lines of history are how he will deal with the events in England which are fairly well documented even though greatly biased on the side of the English. The question arises for me in that aspect is how much he will play with those events to suit his version of the story more than he already has? Will his version of events have that basis or root of accuracy once he moves on to the next generation of Ragnar’s sons and the Great Heathen Armies fighting against Alfred the Great for control of England? How much more will he have to alter the time line and the events to tell us the story of the Viking era?  Now, he is also bringing in the stories of Norway and King Harald Fairhair or Finehair as Hirst has labeled him… how will his story be altered to fit into Hirst’s story?  One mistake that I feel Hirst had made with this story is one that he as commented on as well. He has emphasized a number of times that this not the Ragnar Lothbrok story but a story of the entire Viking era. He has admitted that initially, his intent was to be finished with Ragnar’s portion after season one and then move on to the other stories. Instead, given the increased popularity of Travis Fimmel and the character of Ragnar, he has chosen to keep Ragnar’s personal story alive for what will be four seasons. He has invested so much time in telling Ragnar’s story that yes in some sense, it has become the adventures of Ragnar rather than the story of the Vikings. Fans are now so invested in that particular story that it will be extremely difficult for Hirst to make the transition needed to tell the rest of the stories.

Last Kingdom official artwork


I know that Hirst is trying to present us with an overall story of the Viking era and so far he has done well with it. I just feel like he may be stretching the limits and the story too far beyond the realms of plausibility, thereby removing the historical accuracy context and putting it into the realm of fantasy.  This move could result in many of those who watch it for it’s historical value to give up on it. Those who want something with a bit more of historical context or accuracy may find themselves drawn into the BBC America production of Last Kingdom. As I already suggested, if the production sticks close to Cornwell’s story, they will see what might be a more historically accurate portrayal of the events taking place in England during the battle between the Great Heathen armies and Alfred. They will also see a more condensed story of just one area, England, during that time frame rather than Hirst’s epic attempt to cover the entire scope of what was happening. For many viewers this may be preferable to  keep track of than the many stories that Hirst is trying to tell with the Vikings saga.

Cornwell’s version of the events of that time frame also have an advantage for those who want more historical accuracy in that he presents us with a fictional character from the start and weaves this character Uhtred of Bebbanberg into the events unfolding during that time. He does alter some timelines as necessary to fit Uhtred into the events but overall he makes every attempt to present the events and historical figures in ways that do not change or alter the actual history so much. He remains for the most part, well within the boundaries of historical fiction and does not veer off nearly so much into the alternate version of history that becomes more fantasy than history. And, to Cornwell’s credit, he gives excellent historical references in the author’s notes that are included in his books. Granted, you will not get those notes when watching the show but my suggestion would be… Read his books! Once the show begins in October, I will also attempt to sort it all out for you.  I am a huge fan of Cornwell’s version of this history so I am already drawn to it, looking forward to seeing it and praying that will not disappoint me!

As for our Vikings, as I’ve stated, I am a loyal fan with some concerns about the future. I will be waiting along with everyone else to see how this next season plays out as to it’s historical content and accuracy. Here is a list of things that I am hoping to see in this next season as far as it pertains to that history.

Rollo's destiny

Yes, Rollo will have to betray his Viking roots in some way in order to succeed at his goal of a great destiny in Normandy. Hirst and others have mentioned numerous times a final confrontation between him and Ragnar, along with another possible conquest of Paris where Bjorn may be put in a position of having to negotiate terms with Rollo despite his feelings that Rollo has betrayed them. My hope is that this negotiation includes some reflection or representation of  how Normandy eventually came to be on the side of the Vikings allowing them access to the Seine waterway to England, thereby eliminating their need to continuously raid Frankish settlements. Normandy and the Vikings benefited from this arrangement as Normandy received a share of the profits that those Vikings carried out of England. I want to see Rollo’s story of success and his legacy passed on to his two children.

you betrayed my love of you

you betrayed my love of you

Ragnar needs to return to England yes, he eventually needs to die there one way or another whether it be by the more traditional well known version of a snake pit and King Aelle, or by some other means. Most accounts would suggest it is by Aelle’s hand and as he already has his snake pit prepared, I can not see any other reason to include that snake pit other than as a pre-cursor to Ragnar’s death.  I think too that in order to get to the next generation some time soon, there will need to be another time jump somewhere in the next season… possibly toward the end as the finale? I can see that finale including Ragnar’s death and leading into the next season as being that of the next generation. With that in mind, Hirst needs to focus on tying up many of these current storylines in order to move on to that next generation!

Bjorn:  I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn needs to come fully into his own identity and his own story during this next season… One that does not necessarily involve him remaining connected to Ragnar or Kattegat. Historically, Bjorn Ironside seemed to have followed a separate path to his destiny as a King that was not tied to Ragnar.

kalf and lagertha

I want to know more about Kalf, what his back story is, what his future is… it feels to me like he is bound for some greatness of his own. Whether that greatness includes Lagertha remains to be seen. Since these both are more or less fictional/ legendary characters, Hirst should feel free to tell their story as he sees fit- I don’t have a problem with doing what you choose to or for fictional creations! It would be interesting to see if he in any way represents or has a character foundation based on some real historical figure…

no tears from torvi she is resolute she is viking

I want to know more about Torvi’s past, her back story. For some reason, I think it will become an important factor somewhere in the future? She may be a fictional character but I feel like she represents or may be based on someone of importance in Viking history. I want to know more of her story and that of the deceased Jarl Borg.  I think their son is more important than we realize yet.  As for her current husband, Erlandeur, my only thought is as always…why the Hell is he even still alive? Why has someone not killed him in secret already???

athelstan's punishment begins

Floki, ahhh Floki needs to escape, find his own safety and what ever destiny awaits him far far away from Ragnar… I’ll just leave it at that.

judith holds her own in this game of power

That pretty much leaves us with the events in England. Hirst needs to tie up all of the loose ends here and prepare the kingdoms and their residents for the future onslaught that will come from the Viking armies. Loose ends such as Kweni in Mercia with her son, Magnus who Hirst hints will be so important to the future storyline, loose ends such as Ecbert and his desire to take control of Mercia and then Northumbria allowing him to be supreme ruler of all the kingdoms, loose ends such as his son Athelwulf who is beginning to have plans of his own that may not include listening to Daddy Dearest, loose ends such as Judith who is caught in the middle right now between Father and son.  Hirst needs to put this all together, and wrap it up with some slight nod to actual history if that’s possible so that we can move on to next chapters of this Saga and begin to see more history without having to dig quite so hard for it.  I do not mind the treasure hunt for those factual bits, but at some point I would like to see it much closer to the surface rather than buried beneath so many layers of the story.

So, after all of these thoughts and commentary, the question remains… Is the Vikings Saga historical fiction or historical fantasy and does it really make a difference as long as it’s a good story? My personal thought is that at this point in it’s evolution, it falls more into the historical fantasy realm than into historical fiction. Despite all of Hirst’s assurances to the contrary and his insistence on it’s historical accuracies, I feel that he has taken too many liberties with the timeline and the historical characters involved for it to be taken too seriously in the historical context. He may have used historical documents and accounts as a starting point or basis but he has taken so much creative license with them that they are no longer clearly recognizable which takes away from the historical validity of the events. The only difference this makes is in the way we as viewers should watch it. It is an excellent story and for that reason, you should watch it for the story it tells- you should not take it at face value for any of it’s historical value but perhaps rather watch it as enjoyable historical fantasy… then please take some time to do your own research on the history of that time period! I will as always make my own attempt to help in that regard by sharing the results of my historical treasure hunting for well hidden or buried details!





30 thoughts on “Historical fiction vs Historical fantasy

  1. He has invested so much time in telling Ragnar’s story that yes in some sense, it has become the adventures of Ragnar rather than the story of the Vikings.

    Hirst’s prior successful show was “The Tudors.” Notice how he titled it “The Tudors” instead of just “Henry.” Yet, the show began and ended with Henry’s reign and never progressed to the lives of Mary and Elizabeth. I wonder if Hirst had originally intended to portray the lives of more Tudor monarchs, but just got mired in life of the inaugural protagonist.

    Part of me dreads the possibility that a similar fate awaits “Vikings.”

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    • I think it’s already happened. Everything seems to revolve around Ragnar even if there is no historical evidence or reason for it- such as the coming story of Harald Finehair.


      • What galled me at the end of Season 3 was Ragnar’s faked conversion and death ruse. Hirst keeps on promising that the show is supposed to be the story of all Vikings, and that Ragnar’s sons are going to “come into their own.” Yet, he takes one of the legendary deeds attributed to one of the sons and transfers it to Ragnar. If it ever gets to the point where Bjorn goes on his own great journey (which looks more doubtful by the day), his great feat will just be some trick he learned from dad. Hirst is now stealing from the sons to extend Ragnar’s profile.

        Hirst has said that in Season 4, Ragnar will actually start to resent his maturing sons because they signal his decline and he will resist passing the mantle. The story on screen may be starting to resemble the production behind it.

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  2. I remember that with the Tudors… it was like Hirst got so attached to Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his portrayal of Henry that it became the Henry VIII show… kind of like how this series has become the Ragnar show. It’s almost like Hirst is afraid to finally kill him off for fear of losing the Travis Fimmel fan base. He keeps insisting that he is bringing in new characters and giving others bigger stories but it all seems still tied to Ragnar. Like the character of Yidu… does Ragnar really need yet another love or lust interest, especially if he should be dying soon! Also I have tried researching Harald Finehair and Halfdan to see where there might plausibly be some justification or historical rhyme/reason for them being enemies of Ragnar, Kattegat, Denmark or even that southern portion of Sweden. So far I’ve found nothing so is this just another random fabrication in order to show these two historical figures. He just seems to be adding more stories and layers… I hope that with 20 episodes, he manages to clear up some of the stories he’s already left hanging.


    • Like the character of Yidu… does Ragnar really need yet another love or lust interest, especially if he should be dying soon!

      With his adulterous tendency and the cold state of his marriage to Aslaug, Ragnar leching on some poor captive girl is hardly surprising, even in his bitter, declining state.

      I have a faint hope that Yidu is there to play the Abishag to Ragnar’s King David, the sexual consolation object for him to cling to in his final days.

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      • Maybe Hirst is doing something with the language of myth. Maybe the real Ragnar did not die in a “real” snake pit. Ragnar just becomes more and more corrupt. Remember that scene where Ragnar and Eckbert ask each other if they are good men? They both think they are, but are they? Does becoming a king make someone corrupt? Gisla is the only one that seems to understand what it means to be a king. She says: I would kill myself for Paris. It would be good for her to run during the siege, but she doesn’t run. She lifts her mask to look at the people who need her. They NEED HER! She knows she can’t leave the people! Charles in some way understands what it means to be a king. He tells her, I am a father, but I am also the emperor. IT’s the emperor that asks you to do this. When Charles tells Gisla what she must do, he’s clearly not happy about it. Yet in the scene in the trailer, he looks happy at the wedding. Maybe the emperor plays a role, the people cannot see his true feelings. I think in that scene where Rollo first sees her he doesn’t know her true feelings. She gets to the altar and then she starts crying. So only Rollo and the Archbishop sees her face. Maybe this is the purpose of the mask. In some ways, maybe Judith understands what she has to do. She has those boys and she has to keep them alive so she puts up with the slimey Eckbert. Maybe, being king is like being bitten by a snake and the poison kills the true man.

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  3. I can’t help but wonder how much of Hirst’s wanderings beyond the historical accuracies are the result of ratings, and the series continuing past it’s original point as a result of ratings. I don’t know the back story, but I’ve seen several shows continue beyond their original “mini-series” timeframe due to their popularity. Or, as in the case of The Tudors, end earlier than anticipated, telling only a small piece of the story. Fans have become so fond of Ragnar that allowing him to die in the proper time frame could hurt the ratings considerably. I would like to see the show stick to the known facts more closely, but Travis Fimmel’s personal charisma with the character keeps people watching. I would guess that Hirst had an agreement to do the show on a season by season basis, depending on ratings. He started by showing Ragnar and Rollo as brothers, which made sense if one was trying to cram as much Viking history into a single season as possible. Now that the show has continued, it has to venture into fantasy in order to make sense.

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    • Carla, I agree with you on the wandering beyond historical accuracy to increase ratings. I do think that Travis Fimmel/Ragnar has become kind of like a double edge sword to the series. If Hirst follows the historical events, he needs to kill Ragnar off- which will upset the Travis Fimmel fans, some of whom insist that if Ragnar dies the show will be finished and or they will quit watching. If he moves further and further away from history into fantasy land, he loses credibility with viewers who watch it in the hopes that he will tell at least some portions of the saga accurately. The problem I think for him now, is that he has made so much of the idea that it is based on real historical accounts. Given those comments, it’s going to be difficult for him to go full blown fantasy mode with it. He’s caught himself somewhere in the middle and yes, now he does have to venture further into fantasy to keep any sense of the story.


    • Maybe Hirst is trying to grow up the sons of Ragnar and get the fans interested in them before killing off Ragnar. Or maybe he’s going for a symbolic death of Ragnar. You know how Ragnar is playing with snakes? Well he’s becoming more corrupt as time wears on. So maybe the “real” Ragnar, the good man from season one and two, dies and we are left with a corrupt king who dies at the end of the series of natural causes. See my theory and what it means to be a king.

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  4. WEll i think part of the problem is you can’t translate the story into t.v. without cutting out characters. It’s like the book Gone with the Wind, the movie cut out a lot of characters. For example, Aethulwulf may die or leave Eckbert and the Judith marries Eckbert, just to cut down on the characters. I think Hirst blended the characters of Gisla and Poppa. I am hoping that Hirst is doing something with the What it means to be a King theme. (god knows some politicians need the lesson) I am not sure why other people can’t see it, but I liked Ragnar at first, I think he was a good man. Now I am like the other Vikings need to take away his King card because he’s almost as slimey as Eckbert. It’s interesting to watch the character devolve. I am hoping he redeems himself. The only character that knows what it means to be a king, is Gisla. She’s the only one I saw that truly tried to help her subjects. The real Rollo is a bit of a mystery. I think he knew he wasn’t going to be able to exploit the disorganization of the Franks anymore. The real Rollo knew that the world had changed and he wanted a place in it. Nobody knows how he learned this.. So I guess that’s where fiction comes in. Perhaps, Gisla shows him what it means to be a king. I am hoping they do something with Floki and show him discovering Iceland. I think Floki knows the World has changed and that’s why he hated Athelstan so much. Maybe this King theme is why Hirst extended the Ragnar story and of course, you must have ratings to continue in t.v. The real history is much more interesting, so I am not bothered by it. Of course there will always be idiots, like the idiots that don’t know that Dan Brown DaVinci Code and Inferno is pure fiction and not based on anything at all.

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  5. I was thinking about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. She did base the characters on historical people. Ashley was Doc Holliday. John Henry Holliday was Margaret Mitchell’s cousin. The Melanie character was the woman that Doc Holliday loved. He got TB and she became a nun. Belle Watling was based on Doc’s girlfriend/common law wife, Big Nose Kate Elder. Mrs. Mitchell said the Character of Scarlet was based on several people. The only thing that Margaret did that is different from Michael Hirst is she changed their names. Perhaps Michael has created something new a kind of historical fiction amalgamation. I am not sure if Mr. Hirst is creating this on purpose or what. First Ragnar had a loving family, then he had a trophy wife, and now it seems he’s just got a servant. Rollo starts out as a womanizer, then he gets a wife but treats her poorly….so he keeps moving up. In season 2 Rollo could not kill Ragnar. Borg told him to do it, but he could not. I guess he decided he would rather be dead than someone like Queen K, or Borg who was lugging his dead wife’s skull around. When he left the villagers to die in season 2, I think that bothered Rollo a lot. I think that incident haunts him. Ragnar barely even thinks about it, when he murders the old man, when he escaped from the English settlement.. There’s also a parallel between Athelwulf, and Bjorn. Both are desperate for a father’s attention. Both fathers ask their sons to do things that aren’t in their best interest. I am not sure where they are going with this, but Athelwulf really doesn’t trust dad. Neither man speaks up against their father. Then there’s the parallel with Gisla who does tell her father, I don’t think so. She told daddy to get his butt up off the floor and act like a man! The emperor will probably make her pay for that, but I think the dad part of him knows she was right. Charles is interesting, because he’s two people. He knows he’s two people in one. He knows what it means to be a king, but the dad part also knows he’s not doing it right. Michael Hirst called him a tormented man.

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    • I don’t have any issue or problem when an writer creates a character based on the attributes or what ever of a real person. My only minor problem comes when the real person or event becomes a part of the story. I just feel that if you are going to use a real person or event within the story, then that real history should be kept intact as much as possible- especially if you are making a bid for historical accuracy. I don’t even have issue with changing the outcomes or characters if you are going for the fantasy realm! I just wish Hirst would go one way or the other, not blur the lines between quite so much!


      • I know what you mean. A lot of things just don’t play well on film. It’s just that Ragnar is really kind of a mythical character to begin with. Some people think he might be an conglomeration of people. I am not sure there was any real historical Snake Pit in England. Perhaps it’s a metaphor. I know it’s wikipedia, but snake pit is a metaphor for being surrounded by untrustworthy people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_pit From his point of view, he sort of is surrounded by “snakes”. He can’t trust his brother, or his friend Floki. It could be a metaphor of a king dying in old age, but he is surrounded by people he cannot trust and has no more friends.

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      • That’s a possibility. I did think of that considering how fond Hirst is of using symbolism and such. I’m wondering now if he put the snake pit in those early scenes when he was intending to kill Ragnar off early, then changed his mind… and now he’s still stuck with having introduced the actual snake pit scenario rather than just a symbolic idea of one!


      • Oh ya I forgot about the real snake pit at first in season one. Maybe Ragnar will die in a real snake pit.. I wondered because they keep showing Ragnar playing with snakes, so that’s why I thought it might be symbolic. He was playing with the mouse while deciding what to do with Floki. Watch this clip. This is Bender from the the Breakfast club. He’s the quintessential black sheep. AT the end of the movie, Claire gives bender the diamond earring and he wears the diamond. It’s their secret. She affirms he’s not the “criminal”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsZkkqLDFmg Also watch John Candy in Uncle Buck. He’s the black sheep. His family has cast him out, but now they need him. Note he’s an excellent parent. As I said before, the kids of the black sheep tend to turn out normal, because the recovered black sheep works to make that happen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w46VMg-pG_I

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  6. Speaking of fiction, have you noticed some of those dubious press reports about “Vikings”? Usually from the same second or third hand websites, like International Business Times, MasterHerald, ChristianToday, etc.

    Normally, Michael Hirst or somebody else from the show will give some information to a mainstream entertainment site, like Entertainment Weekly or Hollywood Reporter. Then the lower tier sites will just link to the mainstream article and repeat it ad infinitum like it is a brand new press release. But then I noticed that some of these sites don’t just stop there. Some of them start conjecturing or hypothesizing unfounded plot twists, claiming to be based on press releases or trailers.

    When Season 3 was ending, one of these sites was saying things like “Bjorn to Marry Gisla.” For the upcoming season, some of these sites say “Ragnar to Kill Rollo” or “Ragnar to Ally with Ecbert Again.”

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    • There are soooo many of them and they always say all new update, breaking news… when I go to it, it usually ends up being repeat of one we’ve already seen. As you point out, they then make their own hypothesis or conjecture and claim it’s based on press releases. Bahhhh! At least when I make a guess, I usually try to warn everyone that it’s just my own personal thought or opinion!


    • I did read a recent interview with Diane Doan (Yidu) though where she does reveal that they acquire her during their stay in Paris. I guess that means she is part of the war plunder or payment… maybe Charles couldn’t quite scrape up enough gold and silver so started tossing in slaves as well to count towards the payment!


      • At the end of Season 3, when Roland delivered the payment, he said that “all” of the treasure was there as promised. So unless the Franks were lying, that means the ransom was paid in one lump sum, not in installments. And since the Vikings raided Paris despite the payment, I wonder if the Franks would feel obliged to keep paying installments if there were any. And since Charles correctly assumed that the Vikings plan to attack again anyway, he probably would not see much point in paying more in the interim.

        I am wondering if Yidu will be acquired during the new raid in Season 4 or if she was taken in the prior raid during Season 3. Maybe the Vikings abducted her during their lightning raid into the city after Ragnar’s funeral?

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      • I would think that last raid shows the Franks that Ragnar can not be trusted and Charles would feel no obligation to pay anything more. What’s interesting is that historically, when Ragnar raided Paris, he went against a treaty or promise that King Horik had previously made with the Franks. When Horik found out about it was when all trouble started for Ragnar and he kind of disappeared after that.
        It almost sounds like they acquired Yidu during that first attack on the city. I am wondering if in some way, she might be instrumental in healing Ragnar? The Asian cultures were more advanced in some of their healing knowledge and maybe she knows enough to help him.


      • What’s interesting is that historically, when Ragnar raided Paris, he went against a treaty or promise that King Horik had previously made with the Franks. When Horik found out about it was when all trouble started for Ragnar and he kind of disappeared after that.

        Yes, I think this is another point on which Hirst veers into fantasy and disregards what little historical sources we have. In the show, Horik is portrayed as reckless, arrogant, aggressive, and anti-Christian, while Ragnar is portrayed as considerate, deliberate, and ambivalent or sympathetic about Christianity. The actual accounts we do have are at odds with those portrayals. Horik was said to be civil and cordial to Christian missionaries in his realm, and also cautious about provoking the wrath of neighboring Christian kingdoms, while Ragnar was categorized as a more strident enemy and persecutor of Christians.

        As you mentioned, Ragnar’s raid of Paris ran afoul of Horik’s treaties. After Ragnar’s reputed death, Horik was supposedly so afraid of reprisals from Christian monarchs that he condemned the Paris siege and executed Ragnar’s confederates and lieutenants.

        That brings us to a larger issue of historical fantasy versus fiction. The historical sources we have repeatedly suggest that both Ragnar and Horik had prior encounters and dealings with Christian domains before these famous raids and sieges occurred. In the show, Ragnar, Horik, and all the Vikings are depicted as parochial people who never heard of England, Frankia, or Christianity, except as whispers from mystical wanderers. And they only encounter these places by raiding them, while staring in wide-eyed wonder.

        When Ragnar announces they they will attack Paris, he speaks of it as if it were some mythical, fantasy place and wants to do it out of curiosity and the glory of raiding such a grand city. All the other Vikings have never heard of Paris or Frankia and are enthralled by Ragnar’s pitch. Meanwhile, the historical sources say that Ragnar actually had prior negotiations with Emperor Charles to acquire land in Frankia. Allegedly, Charles reneged on the land deal and Ragnar launched the raid on Paris as retaliation. That is a more conventional and down-to-earth explanation of the raid.

        Hirst probably thought that depicting Ragnar and the Vikings as “innocents” of a sort who are discovering these places for the first time was more dramatic and compelling.

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  7. I heard a rumor that Vikings will end this year at the death of Ragnar and Rollo taking over the duchy of Normandy. I heard he’s making a new series with the sons of Ragnar. That might make sense. You know how people say they won’t watch if Ragnar dies, well they won’t watch because it won’t be on anymore. That actually makes a lot of sense. I heard new series is called Valhalla.


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