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A good treason- a closer look at betrayals

As promised- I have calmed down, watched a second time and am now ready to deal with all of the various levels of betrayal. Before we get into the more serious issues and intense drama of the week, I just want to hand out a few small awards.

I know you all assume that Rollo’s behavior was the most disgusting and lowest of all… but really that award would go to our other treasonous traitor, Einar. Einar gets the prize for not only being a conspiring traitor but displaying the ultimate in cowardly behavior!

award for ultimate cowardly behavior

The next award is a much more prestigious one… Our Frankish knight Roland showed himself to be a true gentleman, a fine example of calm in the middle of a storm and grace under fire. Obviously, this man has dealt with Gisela’s outburst before. Her antics and behaviors did not appear to phase him in the least. He took a spit in the face from the little shrew and was gracious enough to thank her for it! 

roland gives thanks for a spit in the face

 

Now, unfortunately we need to move on to the more serious issues going on, the betrayals- the many levels and versions of betrayal besides the one that everyone was so outraged by. On the surface level, Rollo’s betrayal appeared to be so over the top and outright extreme that it may have caused one to not pay attention or look closer at everything else that was taking place. I admit that on the initial viewing, I was so shocked by this blatant in your face act of treachery that I focused only on that one scene and the rest of it seemed to fade in relation to this act.  When I watched a second time, I was determined to watch closer, pay attention to all of the little details that so often add up and mean something later on. 

levels and layers of betrayals

I mentioned previously that something felt off, didn’t make sense and it felt like I was missing something about the whole situation or event of  Rollo’s action against his men. After much discussion with others who shared my feelings and a second viewing of the episode, I think it has begun to make more sense for me.

Since Rollo’s betrayal was by far the most controversial and talked about one, I am going to deal with it first and get it over with. First of all, I want everyone to understand that I am not looking at this event from the perspective of a glossy eyed fan girl as a few have accused me of being. I am not a fan of Rollo based on Clive Standen’s looks. I have done research into Rollo’s history and I do understand that Rollo in history was as cut throat, power hungry and violent as any other leader or warrior of that time was.  So, I am not sitting here gasping in shock and horror that “my” guy Rollo could or would have done such a vicious act if he felt need to. Rollo is a battle hardened warrior with sometime dubious morals and ethics… yes, we all know that. Many people want to assume that he is just a big dumb oaf with no thought, no brain in his head and that he can’t survive or win without Ragnar or some other leader guiding him or setting ideas in his head. I am also not sitting here defending him or denying that he’s a betrayer because he is, most of them are! I do have doubts about his outright slaughter of his own men without some underlying reason that we as viewers may not have been informed of in a tell everything way… 

When I first watched the episode, I was appalled and furious at the direction Hirst just took Rollo down as if proving everyone else right in their assumptions. I was also annoyed with Hirst’s action because of his assurances to stick closer to Rollo’s truer history. I know from my own research that Rollo did not become one of the Franks, and that he had a group of Vikings who remained loyal to him throughout life and into the future of Normandy. Now after this second viewing, I realize that there may be far more going on with this situation than what we first saw on the surface.

In order to understand this situation better, we need to look at the events in Paris closer. Perhaps once I’ve provided this closer look, you will see the underlying issues and events that help to make more sense of this “betrayal”. I am not going to address the wedding here other than in the terms that it corresponds to people and events leading up to the final act. One of those people involved is Sinric.

At the wedding we see Sinric still with Rollo, still helping him along with understanding the ways of the French. Things seem to be fine with them during this time. Sinric guides him through the intricacies of the wedding and the bedding ceremony… until Rollo gets fed up and kicks everyone out. So, as far as we could know or tell things are still good with Sinric and Rollo.

sinric is still around to provide assistance

when rollo looks over to sinric in some confusion sinric nods to the bench for him to kneel

rollo follows the cue and kneels not all that happily himself

sinric is still here giving cues to rollo

rollo needs no instruction on preparing for this part

Some time after the wedding, we witness a sudden change and tension in the air between Sinric and Rollo. 

sinric seems ill at ease about something back in paris an odd meeting takes place between rollo and sinric

Sinric suddenly announces, “I have to leave!” When a puzzled Rollo asks him why, he rambles on his speech about being a wanderer, “I am a wanderer, I do not belong here, I do not not belong in Paris… I am a wanderer, I belong to the wide wide world…”

Sinric suddenly stands up and announces I'm leaving

Sinric suddenly stands up and announces I’m leaving

sinric gives an answer of I don't belong here, I don't belong in paris

sinric gives an answer of I don’t belong here, I don’t belong in paris

sinric continues with I'm a wanderer I belong to the wide wide world

sinric continues with I’m a wanderer I belong to the wide wide world

 

rollo of course answers sinric with I don't want you to leave

rollo of course answers sinric with I don’t want you to leave

When Rollo says he wants him to stay, Sinric’s reply is a little over the top or extreme… “If you want me to stay, you’ll have to cut off my feet!” It’s obvious that something is bothering Sinric and he wants to get the hell out of Paris

sinric's response if you want me to stay you will have to cut off my feet. obviously sinric wants to get out ofhere

sinric’s response if you want me to stay you will have to cut off my feet. obviously sinric wants to get out of here.

sinric's advice We may meet again after all everything that goes around comes around

sinric’s advice We may meet again after all everything that goes around comes around

Sinric also leaves Rollo some rather odd parting words, “We may meet again, after all everything that goes around comes around.”  It was an odd meeting and conversation that didn’t quite make sense at first. 

As soon as Sinric left, one of the Viking men from the camp showed up. Rollo was  happy to see his friend Eirik, greeted him and welcomed him. 

as soon as sinric leaves Eric shows up rollo is happy to see Eirik but Eirik does not look same

Rollo was happy to see Eirik but  Eirik didn’t  seem quite as happy to be meeting with Rollo. Now, on the surface at first glance we could assume that would be because Eirik has difficult news to share with Rollo and is worried for his “friend”.  I mentioned previously that something just did not feel right about any of this and after watching a second time, I paid closer attention to both Eirik and Rollo during this meeting.

Eirik is uncomfortable throughout the meeting where he says he has come to warn his friend about dissent in the camp. 

Eirik looks uncomfortable even before any discussion takes place

Eirik looks uncomfortable even before any discussion takes place

Eiric will not sit and immediately states we've had a meeting at the camp I thought you should know about

Eiric will not sit and immediately states we’ve had a meeting at the camp I thought you should know about.

Eirik evades rollo's question of how many and continues they don't want to fight for the franks, they don't want to fight against king ragnar

Eirik evades rollo’s question of how many and continues they don’t want to fight for the franks, they don’t want to fight against king ragnar.

Rollo quickly realizes this is not a friendly meeting and begins to watch Eirik closely as he asks him again how many men…

rollo quickly realizes this is not a friendly meeting between friends

rollo quickly realizes this is not a friendly meeting between friends

He asks Eirik again how many men are involved and watches Eirik as he answers

when rollo insists on an answer of how many Eirik responds with maybe half

If you watch both of their facial expressions closely throughout the conversation, it seems like Eirik is hiding something and Rollo knows it. Rollo is probably putting this together with the earlier odd conversation he had with Sinric and is coming to the conclusion that something is not right about any of this? This is the point where you need to understand that Rollo is not stupid.  He has spent years watching, observing, making his own mistakes and learning from those mistakes. Perhaps the adage of “it takes one to know one” might apply here. If we go with the notion that Rollo is or has been disloyal and a betrayer, then he might certainly recognize one who is being disloyal or attempting to betray him?

rollo then asks what about you eirik

rollo then asks what about you eirik

rollo's question to eirik what about you... you are so unhappy

rollo’s question to eirik what about you… you are so unhappy too?

remember rollo is watching eirik's response closely as eirik shifts his eyes and says no that's why I came straight here to warn you

remember rollo is watching eirik’s response closely as eirik shifts his eyes and says no that’s why I came straight here to warn you

rollo has an underneath the breath laugh at Eirik's statement that they want him to come back to the camp so they can talk to him Rollo knows

rollo has an underneath the breath laugh at Eirik’s statement that they want him to come back to the camp so they can talk to him. Rollo knows a set up when he hears one…

Rollo has been part of more than enough underhanded betrayals on his own and in dealing with those of others including Ragnar. His under the breath laugh or sigh at Eirik’s responses are a clue that he knows full well there is more to this than just a friendly meeting. 

rollo can play this game as well as eirik or kalf or others... go back and tell them I will come in due course

rollo can play this game as well as eirik,  kalf or any number of  others… go back and tell them I will come in due course

rollo goes on to eirik I will put all their minds at ease

rollo goes on to eirik I will put all their minds at ease

If you put all of this together and then watch the scene at the camp play out as Rollo arrives, it makes more sense… What you also need to think about is how and why Rollo might choose to deal with the men in the way he did. Eirik tells him maybe half the men are involved. Looking at this information from a military or battle perspective as Rollo would, he would have to ask himself these questions. Is Eirik being honest about that number? If he’s lying about the rest, he could be lying about the number involved as well. Then there is the question of which half? How does he know which half are involved and which half might be on his side? Rollo does not have the option as Kalf did to have a public meeting and weed them out… So Rollo has a dilemma on his hands. He is not about to just show up at the camp on his own if he has some gut feeling or warrior’s instinct that something about this meeting feels wrong. No, he is going to take what ever back up is available, and that would be his new allies- the Frankish forces. And, as difficult as this may be to swallow or accept, you need to understand another factor or thought involved in his decision making. He does not know which ones are the enemy so he has to assume that they all are. It becomes a matter of kill first ask questions later if there are survivors… it’s a matter of kill or be killed and Rollo does not plan on being the killed one on this day. This is where you see the beginnings of what a force Rollo and his Normans will become in the future. Is it cold hearted and vicious… yes that is exactly what it is, and that is what will win their battles in the future. Those who survive will not be quite so willing to go against such a force in the future.

What was going on in the camp as Rollo showed up?  First of all, look at the camp… it’s very large and spread out but the eventuall attack seemed to focus on one well guarded portion of it where a number of the men were.

the viking camp in paris

Let’s look at Eirik’s reactions and behavior… He tells his son, see I told you he would come. Eirik is basically admitting that his intent at that meeting was to get Rollo to show up here.  Eirik seems quite confident that Rollo believed all of his story and would be trusting enough to come to the camp on his own.

eirik tells his son I told you he'd come

eirik tells his son I told you he’d come

eirik and his family

eirik and his family

Now look at some of the people as Rollo arrives. A few appear happy to see him, are smiling and friendly… but not Eirik

rollo arrives at the camp seemingly alone rollo watches all of them there are a few men smiling at rollo's appearance but not eirik

Does this look like a man who is happy to see that his friend has shown up to make amends and mend differences?

this is not the look of a man who is happy that his friend has shown up to make amends or talk of peace

This is what Rollo sees waiting at the gate for him… does this group with Eirik look like they’re wanting to greet Rollo and sit down to any peaceful discussion with him? If you were Rollo, would you get down off your horse and walk into this group on your own?

 

eirik tells them to open the gates these men seem to be prepared for something other than a peacable sit down discussion

Rollo has put all of the odd suspicious fragments together and brought his newfound allies along with him. They are waiting in the woods for his signal… he is watching this group closely and has made his decision, whether right or wrong, that this was not a peace meeting he was invited to. He gives a signal to the men and a massacre begins. It’s bloody, gruesome,  unrelenting and in the end, yes Rollo has betrayed Ragnar and massacred his own people. I am not defending that action but I am suggesting that all is not quite what it appears and there is a very good possibility that some in that camp, such as Eirik were not as innocent as they may have seemed to be. Had some of those people not set about their own agenda of possibly betraying Rollo, it might not have come down to this final act of horrific bloodshed…

Eirik’s last words to Rollo were “You betrayed your own people, Ragnar will come… he will seek revenge for us” 

yes, there is a gruesome bloody and horrific massacre

In some way, perhaps Eirik was just as much at fault in setting up Rollo for a possible ambush and assuming that he could get away with it? It was an act some betrayal on both parts and had Rollo not listened to his gut instinct, his inner warrior self, he would probably be the one dead that day. In putting all of it together, Sinric’s parting words make more sense, have more meaning…” Sinric knew what was going to happen and did not want to be involved on either side of it. Far better to get the hell out of the way and watch to see what happens from a distance!

sinric's advice We may meet again after all everything that goes around comes around

sinric’s advice We may meet again after all everything that goes around comes around.

 

Rollo’s betrayal may have been the most blatant, controversial and despised one of the episode but it was just one of many. Another betrayal had to do with Kalf and his people… one which also ended up in a surprise massacre of his own people. Kalf, however had the benefit and advantage of being able to do it in a more open and public manner while Rollo had to resort to more covert measures. Kalf was also in a more enviable position of setting up his massacre in defense of Lagertha and in killing of a much despised enemy of everyone. Does that make it somehow more ethical or moral? I suppose that is highly debatable as well but most would probably agree that the end result in this case was acceptable except for one possible exclusion in the massacre. We’ll get to that exclusion in a bit. First let us look at the initial betrayal- which many would say was not really a betrayal because it involved Lagertha getting her earldom back… But, realistically and truthfully as much as we hate to admit it- it was a betrayal and gag… Einar had a valid point. That admission is still gagging me! This situation involves a long list of betrayals. From disgusting Einar’s original betrayal of Lagertha, Kalf’s betrayals of Lagertha, and then Ragnar to Slimey Erlandeur’s betrayals and then back again to Kalf’s betrayal of Einar in favor of Lagertha… It’s difficult to keep up with all of the conspiracies in Hedeby! Let’s just look at the most recent one for now. Originally Kalf received Einar’s backing for the Earldom on condition that they would bring down the entire Lothbrok dynasty. The only problem with that was that Kalf really does care about Lagertha so he betrays Einar by deciding that Lagertha should rule equally with him over Hedeby. 

kalf invites lagertha to the front kalf Lagertha and I will rule as equals as your earl that is my determination

This news does not sit well with Einar, and one other person seems perturbed with the idea as well…

einar hears the news of Kalf and lagertha sharing the rule he is not impressed

einar hears the news of Kalf and lagertha sharing the rule he is not impressed

erlanduer listens to kalf's speech and it appears he is not impressed either

erlanduer listens to kalf’s speech and it appears he is not impressed either

Ahhhh yes, now we come to slimey Erlandeur the scum of so many betrayals and low life acts that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. Erlandeur is an example of the advice his own Father gave once and one which Ragnar failed to follow… always kill the heirs because they will grow up to seek revenge. Ragnar made the mistake of letting this child grow to adulthood and now he is the bane of our existence with everyone asking, pleading the same thing… Why is this disgusting piece of garbage still alive? Erlandeur who in his own slimey way, makes everyone else look a bit better when compared to him!  Erlandeur’s first betrayal might consist of just staying alive to spite Ragnar? Now, it seems he’s involved in some multiple betrayal scheme and it’s hard to say whose side he’s actually on other than his own. Einar assumed that Erlandeur was on his side- that didn’t work out so well in the end. 

 

einar greets erlandeur

einar greets erlandeur

In a discussion with Kalf, Einar makes the comment that Erlandeur is with his group.

einar reminds kalf of the original agreement to overthow entire lothbrok dynasty. We believed you and so did Erlanduer who is with us.

einar reminds kalf of the original agreement to overthow entire lothbrok dynasty. We believed you and so did Erlanduer who is with us.

In Kalf’s final betrayal of Einar and group, we discover that for the moment at least Erlandeur seems to be on Kalf’s side even though his disgust of Lagertha is evident.  Kalf sets up a public meeting to vote on whether Lagertha should be co-ruler and invites everyone to cast their mark against her… what ensues is a surprise massacre of those people who step up to the pole to cast their no vote. Kalf has now killed his own people openly in public view of everyone. His comment is “and this is my answer… ” 

the group is attacked by those archers Kalf looks on as the group is slaughtered

And one of those archers enjoying the event… None other than Erlandeur

erlandeur is standing outside the group watching the event erlandeur hestitates when lagertha calls him to stop

At the end of the slaughter, the last man standing is Einer. He is only standing because he’s pinned to the pole by an arrow.

Einar meets an arrow

Erlandeur is quick to step in for one last shot to do away with Einar but is stopped from his fun by Lagertha

Erlandeur steps in to take one last shot at einar but lagertha stops him

erlandeur hestitates when lagertha calls him to stop

Lagertha gets her final and ultimate revenge on Einar

lagertha takes her last revenge on einar lagertha's blood revenge is complete

 

Now, let’s look at one last situation with layers of betrayal… No discussion of cunning, deception, and more subtle betrayal would be complete without mentioning Aslaug!

Her first act of possible treason or betrayal- to mention the death of a King out loud, especially when that King happens to be her husband!

aslaug asking who will succeed after Ragnar's death

aslaug asking who will succeed after Ragnar’s death

Her more subtle acts of betrayal… well, anything that casts a possible bad reflection of her spouse the King could be construed as betrayal for a Queen and she does seem to have a habit of that. Even her son Ubba notices.

ubba comments on aslaug's less than enthusiastic reaction to ragnar being awake Father's awake don't you care

ubba comments on aslaug’s less than enthusiastic reaction to ragnar being awake Father’s awake don’t you care?

She tries to cover her inner thoughts and fakes an overly sweet smile to her son with a reply of “Of course I care, run tell everyone the King is awake!”  For some reason I have to assume that Ubba is a pretty smart kid and she has not fooled him at all!

aslaug tries to fake it... her thought no I don't care I was hoping he wouldn't wake up...

aslaug tries to fake it… her thought no I don’t care I was hoping he wouldn’t wake up…

aslaug to ubba too sweetly Of course I do

aslaug to ubba too sweetly Of course I do

Next we move on to her underlying deceptions and schemes which would amount to betrayal… Let’s watch her visit to the slave market where she inspects the merchandise with a stereotypical Alibaba type slave trader.

an Alibaba like trader is in kattegat with his merchandise

aslaug and alibaba discuss the merchandise

After much browsing, she happens upon one item that catches her interest…

one item in particular catches aslaug's eye

Something about this particular slave causes her to pause, think and smile her sneaky smile

something about this slave causes aslaug to think and smile

Now, really what could be so intriguing or interesting about this specific slave girl? Could it be a thought that she knows how intriguing or interesting Ragnar might find this obviously foreign girl from some other culture or part of the world…

what could be so special about this particular slave to interest aslaug so much

Aslaug takes her new slave home, cleans her up and sets about putting her in Ragnar’s sight… Slave girl is now a house servant for Aslaug and family

aslaug's new purchase is now clean and presentable in her new role as servant

Yes, Ragnar quickly notices and Aslaug sits back with a smile…

all it takes is a glance at her and ragnar's interested... aslaug sits back with a smile

slave girl is not impressed

Obviously Aslaug has purchased this girl for some specific reason and placed her within sight and reach of Ragnar, knowing full well that he will be interested in her. Aslaug apparently has some plan of deception in mind and this girl is a part of that scheme. I really don’t think she’s set the girl out just so he will bed the slave girl and thereby leave Aslaug alone. Aslaug knows as well as the rest of us that there is little chance that he is going to be wanting to bed with herself anymore and she’s probably glad of that. No, she’s got some other plan in mind for this girl.

We’re all already well aware of the betrayals, treason and reasons for Floki’s current predicament so I am not going to go into those here. Now we just have to wait along with Floki and his family for whatever Ragnar decides is suitable punishment.

floki's reaction to ragnar's illness

I do have to say that this was one of the saddest and difficult reunions to watch.

floki's family reunion helga knows floki is going to beg her to do something ragnar must deal with floki

My personal thought on the circle Ragnar marked around Floki… Ragnar seems to be marking a distance between the people and Floki as if in a way to say, he’s not for your public abuse. I guess his thought might be of he’s mine to torture, not yours. 

ragnar marks a circle around floki

Updated added information!

 I recently had a very interesting discussion with someone connected to the show. Of course he could not give out any specifics- and I do not expect him to! But, he did provide some general information and insight on Hirst’s reasoning and rationale for this recent event with Rollo. Hirst has mentioned often that he is presenting Rollo’s story in a more historically accurate context so naturally for many of us this recent event was a little confusing. It is confusing unless you keep in mind and remember that Hirst is framing the story from a Viking perspective, and he has used various Norse Sagas and the Irish Annals as part of his reference. In most of those sagas it does refer to Rollo as a black sheep, one who was banished or exiled, or one who was not a legitimate ruler. This last reference comes from part of the Irish Annals on invasions and refers to some event where he tried to claim a crown or rule that he was not entitled to. Some of those sagas make mention that he was considered a traitor or betrayer to his people at some point in time. This is the frame of reference that Hirst is working from.
The sagas references to him as a betrayer of his people could also be looked at in the context that to them, his conversion to Christianity at that time would have been seen as a betrayal of his people and their beliefs. This is also the line of thinking that Floki is trying so hard to stand by with his justification for killing Athelstan. It also brings us to the issue of Ragnar’s relationship with Athelstan, his fake baptism and conversion to Christianity that his people witnessed and were aware of. Eirik brings up the fact that Rollo is now a “Christian” and that bothers the men… yet, it was okay with them for Ragnar to be a fake “Christian”.
In a last added thought, I am pretty sure this will probably be the last year for Rollo as part of the Vikings because Clive Standen has just been offered a leading role in another series! He has signed on to a role in a new series, Taken being produced for NBC!

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Catching up with Wessex… and Judith

I have recently realized that with all of the events going in France at the end of our last raiding season, I failed to catch up on Wessex, and with Judith’s situation. I do apologize for that, but in my defense, things were and are still a bit messy to say the least in Paris right now! The events of Wessex were not of  high importance to those of us remaining in France with Rollo.  Now that things have calmed down somewhat and we are playing a waiting game whilst trying to establish ourselves here with the Franks, I can take some time to share what is taking place in Wessex and ponder what the future might hold for my friend Judith.

Judith the daughter Judith the wife Judith the pawn

You can read much of Judith’s story so far here:

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Judith’s admission of adultery with the Priest Athelstan, and the resulting birth of her son Alfred, has put her in a very precarious position. Ecbert was able to save her and the child by citing it as a miracle, and convincing his son Aethelwulf  that it was just that, a sign from God that this was a blessed event and this is a holy child. Now, we all understand that Aethelwulf is a devoutly religious man but surely he would not be so completely gullible as to not have his own personal doubts and resentments remaining about this whole sordid affair.   Ecbert has managed to save Judith and the precious little Alfred, save face with the church, and avoid some tearing apart of their family reputation but rumors will continue to abound about Aethelwulf  being a cuckhold to Judith’s adulterous affair. This will most likely always haunt Aethelwulf in some ways and no matter how hard he might try to forgive, I think it will always remain there in the back of his mind and his heart… causing him even more inner turmoil in his attempts to be closer to God.  For Judith, the events have placed her even more in the middle of this underlying battle between Father and son. And, make no mistake, there is a underlying battle brewing between Aethelwulf and Ecbert.

Ecbert gives a clear clue that in his mind, realistically anyone is dispensable or disposable if they interfere with his plans… including family.

I don't have any friends it's better that way.

I don’t have any friends it’s better that way.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

We have seen so many times in the past that Ecbert is indeed corrupt… ruthless and manipulative, willing to go to any lengths in order to maintain his control of Wessex and achieve his goal of becoming King or Bretwalda of all the Kingdoms. His plan is to conquer Mercia, then move on to Northumbria… with those two kingdoms taken, it would be an easy undertaking to then take East Anglia- which no one so far has made any mention of in this particular story. We’ve seen Ecbert use his son to accomplish some of these goals and as we see with the last event in Mercia, he is willing to sacrifice his son towards this end. Ecbert sees  Aethelwulf as weak and easily manipulated into doing his dirty work for him in the name and reason of religious right. The best example of this was when Ecbert convinced Aethelwulf to go forth and take care of that situation in the Viking village. For Ecbert, it had little to do with religious right or beliefs but more to do with realizing he might have made a mistake with allowing that settlement in the first place. But, in refection, he did need those men to help him beat down Mercia. If it took promising and placating them with a settlement then he was more than willing to play that card at the time. The one thought or question remains in the disasterous outcome of the village. Would Ecbert have went to the same lengths had Lagertha and or Athelstan remained? Ecbert is one who needs to be in control of every situation at all times, much like Ragnar… Ecbert and Ragnar both made serious errors in judgement with this whole situation. I believe they both under estimated the outcomes and each other even though they both know how corrupt each other is.  Would Ecbert resorted to such slaughter if he did not feel some rage and resentment at both Lagertha and Athelstan leaving him? And, ultimately, Ragnar must accept his own responsibility and guilt in leaving the settlement unguarded, unprotected in the first place. He under estimated just how far Ecbert might go in dealing with this mess, in fixing any possible mistake he felt he made or extracting a personal revenge on Ragnar.

 

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert practices his own strange religion

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert has maybe embibed in some of those shrooms and now rambles on considering himself a philosopher

Ecbert is somewhat of puzzle as far as his religion is concerned. He does  not seem to be  a particularly devout Christian but he does know full well that he needs the church on his side in order to achieve his goals.  At times he seems more interested in what ever  beliefs those ancients Romans that he is so fond of, held? Yet in contrast to his lesser faith and his affinity for more ancient practices, he seems to firmly believe that his grandson Alfred is a special holy child? He believes that there was truly something special about his friend Athelstan and that what ever that was, has been passed on to this child.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

his name is Alfred He shall be great

What ever Ecbert may personally believe in, he knows full well that his own goals can not be achieved with out the backing of the Christian Church. The church was unhappy with this pagan settlement so rather than deal with it himself, he sent Aethelwulf to do it. He knew that as a religious zealot, Aethelwulf would look at this as an act of God’s punishment on sinners such as those Pagans. Aethelwulf looked at that assignment as a bond of trust from Ecbert. Being as religious as he is, Aethelwulf feels he must ever be loyal to his anointed King and Father. Aethelwulf is continuously torn between his religious beliefs and the harsh realities of his life and feelings of failure with his Father. He wants to honor God and his faith, but he also wants to prove to Ecbert that he is worthy and capable of ruling an empire such as Ecbert envisions.  He has the same sort of inner conflicts with Judith. I think that he is torn in his wanting to believe that this is a sign from God, that his faith tells him to forgive… yet he can not help but see her betrayal every time he looks at her son, Alfred.

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: This is naught to do with you Father this is between me and my slut of a wife!

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife's whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

aethelwulf: It just reminds me of my wife’s whoring ways and how she has not suffered enough for her sins.

 

We see signs of  Aethelwulf’s struggle with accepting this forgiveness and this son as he makes habit of throwing Judith’s adultery and betrayal in her face until Ecbert intervenes on her behalf. What we see unfolding is Judith’s misery and her difficult plight in this household where she and her son have been saved but to what real purpose? Because of her admission and her mark of adultery, she is seen as somewhat of a pariah by Aethelwulf and most likely many others in the household. Ecbert has saved her and Alfred, but realistically, that does little to improve her circumstances in the beginning. Judith is alive but still living in fear, waiting for a next move against her or her son. She must tread even more cautiously and carefully now in order to assure the safety of her son should anything happen to her. In some ways, her predicament is even more perilous now than it was before. Now, every move she makes, she must consider the fate and future of both of her sons.

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

ecbert showers affection on alfred and wonders about athelstan

From the time of Alfred’s birth, Ecbert is completely besotted and devoted to the child to the point of ignoring his older grandson who by all rights no matter what, should be the heir as the oldest son. By all rights, this older son and his future heirs should inherit the throne and even without question as to Alfred’s parentage, he should be looked on as merely the spare. Ecbert, it seems though, has other plans which he secretly shares with Judith… he sees Alfred as blessed and it is his intent to see Alfred as ruler. This information would not bode well for Aethelwulf or his son by Judith.  We know that Ecbert would easily go so far as to sacrifice his son, but would he just as easily go to that length in sacrificing this other grandson? At some point, this thought will have to play heavily on Judith’s mind and heart. How can she manage some way to keep both of her sons safe?  This would be a predominant thought for any Mother put in such a situation. Judith’s ongoing thoughts must certainly be not so much of her own happiness but for the lives and the future of her children.  On a historical side note here, Michael Hirst has made comments as to following more closely to history, Alfred’s path to the throne. He is on his way to taking this closer path, I think, with Ecbert’s obsessive belief that Alfred is special and should rule. In history, someone did think this and paved the child’s way to the throne with a special dispensation and affirmation from the Pope.  The reason behind this special affirmation remains somewhat of a mystery yet today!

Alfred was born in the village of Wanating, now Wantage, Oxfordshire. He was the youngest son of King Æthelwulf of Wessex, by his first wife, Osburh.  In 853, at the age of four, Alfred is said to have been sent to Rome where, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,  he was confirmed by Pope Leo IV who “anointed him as king”. Victorian writers later interpreted this as an anticipatory coronation in preparation for his ultimate succession to the throne of Wessex. However, his succession could not have been foreseen at the time, as Alfred had three living elder brothers. A letter of Leo IV shows that Alfred was made a “consul“; a misinterpretation of this investiture, deliberate or accidental, could explain later confusion.  It may also be based on Alfred’s later having accompanied his father on a pilgrimage to Rome where he spent some time at the court of Charles the Bald, King of the Franks, around 854–855.

On their return from Rome in 856, Æthelwulf was deposed by his son Æthelbald. With civil war looming, the magnates of the realm met in council to hammer out a compromise. Æthelbald would retain the western shires (i.e., traditional Wessex), and Æthelwulf would rule in the east. When King Æthelwulf died in 858, Wessex was ruled by three of Alfred’s brothers in succession, Æthelbald, Æthelberht and Æthelred.

Bishop Asser tells the story of how as a child Alfred won a prize of a volume of poetry in Saxon, offered by his mother to the first of her children able to memorize it.  Legend also has it that the young Alfred spent time in Ireland seeking healing. Alfred was troubled by health problems throughout his life. It is thought that he may have suffered from Crohn’s disease. Statues of Alfred in Winchester and Wantage portray him as a great warrior. Evidence suggests he was not physically strong, and though not lacking in courage, he was noted more for his intellect than a warlike character.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

 

ecbert: what are Judith's feelings towards her father

ecbert: what are Judith’s feelings towards her father

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of judith

ecbert insinuates a fate for northumbria in front of Judith

 Judith is beginning to walk a fearful and cautious path within the household, enduring Aethelwulf’s taunts and wondering about an uncertain future for her sons. Ecbert ever the manipulative one, takes advantage of her fears and uses them in his tactic to control everyone. In his ploy to gain even more control of Judith than he already has, he uses Aethelwulf and even her Father- he questions her loyalty and wonders aloud just where those loyalties might be.

 

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

ecbert starts out with friendly conversation wanting to know how his grandsons are. He then is more specific in his inquiry of wanting to know how Alfred is.

Judith reassures him that Both sons are well

 Ecbert calls Judith to a private meeting to discuss the future and what it might hold for little Alfred should she not have protection against Aethelwulf in the future. He makes much of warning Judith of the dangers facing her and Alfred if they are not protected in some way from Aethelwulf’s  vengeance. Ecbert vows his protection but of course there must be some return or recompense for such protection. Judith is not ignorant nor as naïve as she once might have been, she knows exactly what Ecbert is suggesting as her recompense for this protection. Ecbert also suggests that he will keep both her sons safe in  recompense for any such unsaid agreement between them.

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert promised judith that he will do everything in his power to keep her and her baby safe

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

ecbert: I have promised you faithfully that I will protect you and your sons especially Alfred

judith knows where he's headed with this recompense

judith knows where he’s headed with this recompense

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

Judith understands both the spoken and the unspoken threat

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

ecbert I freely offer my protection but of course there must be some recompense.

 

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

ecbert: I want you to be my mistress

She  understands just how powerful and controlling Ecbert is and knows how far he would be willing to go to get what he wants. Ecbert proposes that in return for her sharing his bed, he will assure her safety and that of her son, Alfred.  She knows what Ecbert is capable of and she also had a good idea of what Aethelwulf is capable of as well. In his attempt to seal this bargain, Ecbert even goes far as to bring Athelstan into the conversation.

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over judith

ecbert still uses athelstan as his hold over Judith

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of athelstan

judith is sucked into this game by the memory of Athelstan

So, Judith becomes a pawn yet again, truly caught between Father and son in a situation that could bring danger to either or both of her sons. For Judith, this is not a matter of what is religiously moral, ethical or right in God’s eyes. In her mind, I think she has already gone beyond that with her adultery and with the church’s treatment of her for that sin. No, for Judith now, this becomes an act or an attempt to guarantee the safety of at least one of her children. If she makes this choice to become Ecbert’s mistress, she is hoping to save Alfred’s life and assure some future for him… but in doing so, there must still be some thought of what will become of her older son because of Ecbert’s insistence of Alfred being the holy one, the one who shall rule. By ensuring Alfred’s safety, is she then condemning her older son to just as much danger and uncertain fate from Ecbert in the future? As I have mentioned, and as Judith put it… she is not ignorant. This thought has to be playing in her heart and tearing her apart as she goes ahead with her decision to share Ecbert’s bed.  Some part of her also has to be thinking of Ecbert’s penchant for duplicity in all matters. She has to be thinking of this trait and wondering how far she should trust him. Some part of her must be wondering when he will decide that she is of no use to him or his plans and then what would her fate be?  Even if she has these doubts and does not trust him, in all reality, she has little choice in this matter and she knows it. She knows that Ecbert has spun his web around her and her children quite tightly and she must accept that once again, she is a pawn in his game.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith realizes that once more she is a pawn.

judith is called to Ecbert's chambers

judith is called to Ecbert’s chambers

Judith accepts her fate and meets Ecbert in his private chamber

As she enters into this arrangement and his bed, she reminds him of the terms of this agreement… that Alfred will be safe.

judith let's just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

judith let’s just refresh ourselves on the terms of this arrangement Then you will protect Alfred

Ecbert has calculated this plan well, or so he assumes. He sends Aethelwulf on what should be a sacrificial fool’s errand to ensure Kwenitrith’s loyalty and remind her of her puppet status… probably fully expecting Aethelwulf to be killed in the mission thereby leaving Judith free for his continued dalliance and for  baby Alfred to be named the heir because of his special holy status.  This sacrificial death at Kweni’s hands would also ensure a new war against Mercia in retaliation for Aethelwulf’s death, one which Ecbert would no doubt expect to easily win and be backed by the church’s power behind him.

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father's plan included his death...

Aethelwulf comes to realization that his Father’s plan included his death…

Yep Dad has done it again

At this sudden realization, Aethelwulf can do nothing but laugh and warn Kweni of what should befall her with his pre-planned death.

Haaaa finally one up on you kweni we've destroyed his settlement

He is quite calm when he explains the situation to Kwentirith and informs her there is no longer any settlement to bargain for.

 Aethelwulf  however, realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go and how little he really matters to Ecbert’s plans for the future. Aethelwulf survives the trip to Mercia and in his own way warns Kwentirith of  how precarious her own situation is. When he returns home, he makes some insinuation and innuendo towards Ecbert that he understands how the trip was intended to play out. It is also during that dinner when Aethelwulf and Judith begin to understand more of this ultimate power game of Ecbert’s. This last family dinner gives some insight as to what the future might hold for Aethelwulf and for Judith. For Aethelfulf, there is the realization of just how devious and treacherous his Father really is along with an inner questioning of his ongoing loyalty to this Father who would so easily see him dead.

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

ecbert watches aethelwulf and judith and has to wonder how this is going to play out

At the beginning of the meal, there is some of the usual resentment and insults from Aethelwulf but Judith refuses to be cowed this time and responds in a way that causes Aethelwulf to quiet and possibly rethink his actions in light of his current situation with his Father.

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith treads carefully through this dinner with father son husband and now lover

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

judith admits her flaws I am not so much of a hippocrate that I could condemn you.

ecbert tries to make light of it isn't that just like Kwentirith

Ecbert tries to make light of Aethelwulf’s comments and description of what took place

judith's realization of just how evil and ruthless Ecbert is

When Aethelwulf makes mention of sacrifices, questionable outcomes of the event and divided loyalties, Judith realizes just how far Ecbert is willing to go in his schemes…

After Judith speaks up for herself, there seems to be some unsaid truce between her and Aethelwulf through the rest of the dinner. They both appear more focused on Ecbert’s responses and behavior in light of Aethelwulf’s comments. Aethelwulf for his part seems intent on some inner thoughts of trying to be more God or at least Jesus like in acceptance and forgiving attitudes… At one point a look comes across Judith’s face as if to think, “Well, Fuck! He’s trying to forgive me… I slept with that Ass for nothing!”

judith's sudden thought well fuck he's forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

judith’s sudden thought well fuck he’s forgiving me then I slept with that ass for nothing

There is also a fleeting attempt towards forgiveness on his part towards Judith.  For Judith, there is a revelation that she could in some way hold a bit of her own power or control in this game… as she watches this interaction between Father and son, as she sees some small glimmer of forgiveness or at least acceptance from Aethelwulf, she begins to have thoughts of how she might weigh this all to her own advantage? The last we see of Judith is her with a look of  her own calculation and pondering of how she may not be as powerless as she thought she was.

great hall of Wessex

family dinner in wessex Ecbert's somewhat rude and condescending comments A toast to my son.

family dinner in wessex Ecbert’s somewhat rude and condescending comments A toast to my son.

 Judith watches and listens to this interaction between Father and son escalate into a final rather condescending toast by Ecbert towards Aethelwulf. In the end, Judith has a look of her own possibilities for the future… as though she suddenly realizes that she is not without her own power in this game.

Judith is scoping out this situation now between Ecbert and Aethelwulf

There is one very important thing that Judith must keep in mind and make assurances that there will be no doubts of in her future…. Judith has proven herself to be quite a proficient and fertile breeder. She has already had one instance of adultery leading to an unplanned and untimely pregnancy given the fact that Aethelwulf had been away in battle and she had not had sex with him for quite some time before she entered into the risky affair with Athelstan.  Should such another occurance take place, I am quite sure there would be no acceptance or forgiveness forthcoming from either Aethwulf or the church! This affair with Ecbert has taken another turn of risk and danger for her. How could she begin to explain to Aethelwulf that she was sleeping with his Father this time? Although Ecbert probably did not bargain on Aethelwulf returning, he had returned and now Ecbert has another possible sticky situation do deal with…. I believe it would be in both his and Judith’s best interests for Aethelwulf to be placated and for him to be encouraged to see to his husbandly duties. Judith needs to do whatever possible to be in Aethelwulf’s good graces and in his bed very soon!

 

This brings us to a glimpse of the future where Judith seems to have found some of that power?

judith holds her own in this game of power

 

Looking towards that future, she has obviously survived and also managed to keep both of her sons alive! Job well done Judith!  These two adorable boys play Judith’s sons Athelred and Alfred in the next season so we do know that she has succeeded in keeping them both alive so far.

 

Athelred and Alfred Judith's son in season 4 vikings

Athelred and Alfred Judith’s son in season 4 Vikings

Of course, what we do not know yet, is what she has had to do to ensure the safety of both boys? That all remains to be told in the next season.  We do know from previews that Aethelwulf and Ecbert are both still alive so Ecbert has not yet succeeded in killing his son off. Perhaps Aethelwulf has succeeded in finding some of his own power in the future. What could any power grabbing for Aethelwulf mean for Ecbert in the future?

ecbert

As we look toward the future of Wessex and Judith, there is one last thought I want to present. This is my own personal thought, a sort of What if Scenario…. In upcoming previews of next season, we see an arrest and rather brutal torture of Floki.  Now, we should all understand how these images are spliced together in such a way to provoke us, to lead us to often wrong conclusions and keep us guessing or assuming as to what takes place. What we can be positive about is that Floki is arrested by Bjorn for the murder of Athelstan, that he is chained for a time in the village and rebuked by Ragnar for his disloyalty.

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn announces: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Bjorn: I order the arrest of Floki

Floki's punishment begins.

Floki’s punishment begins.

ragnar to athelstan you betrayed my trust

ragnar to Floki, you betrayed my trust

you betrayed my love of you

you betrayed my love of you

At some point later, we also see Floki’s gruesome torture…

floki suffers an even worse punishment

Of course, we see this all together and make the assumption that this is Ragnar’s direct doing. Many have made the comment and consideration that while this could be a show of Ragnar’s deep bitterness, his increasing thoughts of personal revenge and ultimately a show of his control and force over his subjects. Many have commented that such an act would serve to alienate the villagers and some of his warriors as well, who already have serious doubts and concerns about his  religious beliefs. Many of the villagers would have sided with Floki and would see this act as more of Ragnar’s disloyalty to their Gods. It certainly would not endear him to most of the villagers and all it would set up is an even stronger resentment against him along with more serious thoughts of revolt and replacing him as their King. 

What Ragnar really needs to do upon his return home is salvage his reputation with the more mistrusting subject. This act is not going to accomplish anything but create more doubt, rule by fear alone and villagers or warriors becoming even more disloyal to him and possibly slipping away in the middle of the night to other sides. When one attempts to rule by fear alone, this is a common occurrence. You can not watch every single person 24 hours a day, he should be well aware of this since it was what many of them did under Harald’s and then Horik’s rule. Another thing he needs to do is get back to England. In order to do that he is going to need some help from these villagers. So, other than stringing Floki up himself what might his options be?

He has arrested Floki for his disloyalty in killing Athelstan but to kill him himself is going to make him look really bad. An alternate option would be to use the unknown fate of those massacred villagers to his favor in another devious plot or scheme. He does not have to tell the villagers anything of their fate but he could imply that they would be in grave danger if the fate of Athelstan is discovered. And he could of course imply that rumors travel, there are missionaries in their country and short of killing every single missionary- which would start an even bigger war, word will get back to England. So, what might he do to alleviate such a war and keep their settlers safe? If he were still as truly devious and manipulative as we saw him last, he would propose that they bring Floki to England to appease the English as a sort of peace offering… Now, the villagers would still be upset with the idea but if it were laid out as either Floki or their relative lives, they might grudgingly go along with proposal.  To give Ragnar some credit, though I’m not really sure deserves it… he may not even be planning to actually sacrifice Floki but just put the fear of the Gods into him?  He needs a way into England behind a ruse or scheme in order to find out for sure what actually happened and who ultimately was responsible. Of course he probably knows it was Ecbert, but you can’t just go knock on his Castle door and accuse him outright. No, you need a scheme to get yourself in the door. So, he uses Floki as his scheme, his scapegoat, his peace offering. He pretends to know nothing of the massacre, Ecbert claims innocence of it and would offer up Aethelwulf as his own scapegoat. Ecbert wants to get rid of Aethelwulf anyway, and what better way than to say, trade him for Floki? Because, in reality, who else would want personal revenge or vengeance on Floki besides Ragnar? 

a game of what if2

So, in my personal pondering of a possible outcome or alternate storyline… What if Ragnar brings Floki to Ecbert and this is Ecbert’s  personal revenge rather than Ragnar’s?  What if Aethelwulf in his attempt to save his own life, spills all he knows of Ecbert’s plans and of Kweni’s secret? Could this be the cause of the looks of puzzlement and fear on Ragnar and Kweni?

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

it's not often we see fear on Ragnar's face

it’s not often we see fear on Ragnar’s face

What is the fate of this baby? Who ends up with him and why does he become so important?

Let me present my son Prince Magnus

And why would Aethelwulf ever think of going against his Father… besides possibly trying to save his own life of course. Could he be racked with some inner guilt about the slaughter of those innocent settlers in his ongoing battle between his own wicked ways and that which his God tells him is wrong? We do see a glimpse of Aethelwulf’s thoughts on ruling…

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

I have feelings of duty I try to do what is right for my kingdom and for god

Is this a glimpse of a changing and evolving Aethelwulf? Could this be a path of Hirst’s back towards some actual history, such as that path with Alfred? In history, other than a few early skirmishes The Vikings did not pose a major threat during his reign. In 853 he married his daughter Æthelswith to King Burgred of Mercia, and in the same year he joined a Mercian expedition to Wales to restore the traditional Mercian hegemony. In 855 Æthelwulf went on pilgrimage to Rome. In preparation he gave a “decimation”, donating a tenth of his personal property to his subjects; he appointed his eldest surviving son Æthelbald to act as King of Wessex in his absence, and next son Æthelberht to rule Kent and the south-east. He spent a year in Rome, and on his way back he married Judith, the twelve or thirteen year old daughter of the West Frankish King Charles the Bald. When Æthelwulf returned to England, Æthelbald refused to surrender the West Saxon throne, and Æthelwulf agreed to divide the kingdom, taking the east and leaving the west in his son’s hands. On Æthelwulf’s death in 858 he left Wessex to Æthelbald and Kent to Æthelberht, but Æthelbald’s death only two years later led to the re-unification of the kingdom.    In the twentieth century Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low, and he was seen as pious and impractical, but historians in the twenty-first century regard him as one of the most successful West Saxon kings, who laid the foundations for the success of his son, Alfred the Great.

If you look at Aethelwulf’s actual history, you might be reminded of an early conversation that might have been deemed unimportant at the time but could serve as some clue to possibilities in the future. Aethelwulf and Rollo once had a limited conversation about friendship. Floki was disgusted by the whole idea and Rollo gave a clue to his deeper thoughts that may also come up in the future as Rollo begins his relationship with the Frankish.

rollo understands the need for friends and alliances in this new world

Aethelwulf and Rollo have a stilted brief conversation about differences but friends or allies. They were both just trying placate each other at the time but I think both of them understood some of the underlying idea and concept.

rollo watches floki leave and tries to figure his friend out

Rollo tries to explain this concept of friends/allies to Floki but Floki dismisses and walks away in disgust

rollo comes to better understanding of Ragnar's thoughts

Rollo has a conversation with Ragnar and comes to better understand Ragnar’s thoughts on religion, acceptance and the bigger world… this is of course when Ragnar’s thoughts were more rational.

In history, Aethelwulf maintained good relations with other Kingdoms such as Mercia and with Wales. He was on good terms with the Frankish Carolingian dynasty and seems to have based his kingship on their system. “Æthelwulf ran a Carolingian-style family firm of plural realms, held together by his own authority as father-king, and by the consent of distinct élites.”His ealdormen enjoyed a high status, and sometimes attested charters above the king’s son.  His reign is the first for which there is evidence of royal priests, and Malmesbury Abbey regarded him as an important benefactor, who is said to have been the donor of a shrine for the relics of Saint Aldhelm. In ninth-century Mercia and Kent, royal charters were produced by religious houses, each with its own style, but in Wessex there was a single royal diplomatic tradition, probably by a single agency acting for the king. This may have originated in Egbert’s reign, and it becomes clear in the 840s, when Æthelwulf had a Frankish secretary called Felix.  

In 853 a Viking army defeated and killed ealdermen Ealhhere of Kent and Huda of Surrey at Thanet, and in 855 Danish Vikings for the first time stayed over the winter on Sheppey, before carrying on their pillaging of eastern England .  However, during Æthelwulf’s reign Viking attacks were contained and did not present a major threat.

Æthelwulf’s reputation among historians was low in the twentieth century. In 1935 R. H. Hodgkin attributed his pilgrimage to Rome to “the unpractical piety which had led him to desert his kingdom at a time of great danger”, and described his marriage to Judith as “the folly of a man senile before his time”.  To Frank Stenton in the 1960s he was “a religious and unambitious man, for whom engagement in war and politics was an unwelcome consequence of rank”.   One dissenter was Finberg, who in 1964 described him as “a king whose valour in war and princely munificence recalled the figures of the heroic age”, but in 1979 Michael Enright said: “More than anything else he appears to have been an impractical religious enthusiast.” Early medieval writers, especially Asser, emphasise his religiosity, and his preference for consensus seen in the concessions made to avert a civil war on his return from Rome.   In Joanna Story’s view “his legacy has been clouded by accusations of excessive piety which (to modern sensibilities at least) has seemed at odds with the demands of early medieval kingship”.

In the twenty-first century he is seen very differently by historians. Æthelwulf is not listed in the index of Peter Hunter Blair‘s An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, first published in 1956, but in a new introduction to the 2003 edition Keynes listed him among people “who have not always been accorded the attention they might be thought to deserve … for it was he, more than any other, who secured the political fortune of his people in the ninth century, and who opened up channels of communication which led through Frankish realms and across the Alps to Rome”.  According to Joanna Story: “Æthelwulf acquired and cultivated a reputation both in Francia and Rome which is unparalleled in the sources since the height of Offa’s and Coenwulf’s power at the turn of the ninth century”.

Nelson describes him as “one of the great underrated among Anglo-Saxons”, and complains that she was only allowed 2,500 words for him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, compared with 15,000 for Edward II and 35,000 for Elizabeth I.  She says:

Æthelwulf’s reign has been relatively under-appreciated in modern scholarship. Yet he laid the foundations for Alfred’s success. To the perennial problems of husbanding the kingdom’s resources, containing conflicts within the royal family, and managing relations with neighbouring kingdoms, Æthelwulf found new as well as traditional answers. He consolidated old Wessex, and extended his reach over what is now Devon and Cornwall. He ruled Kent, working with the grain of its political community. He borrowed ideological props from Mercians and Franks alike, and went to Rome, not to die there, like his predecessor Ine, … but to return, as Charlemagne had, with enhanced prestige. Æthelwulf coped more effectively with Scandinavian attacks than did most contemporary rulers.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%86thelwulf

In light of these more recent and contemporary views on Aethelwulf’s life and his guidance of  Alfred toward the throne despite the claims of older brothers and even his nephews by brother Athelred, it will be interesting to see how Hirst approaches the future of Aethelwulf, Ecbert and Judith. He makes much mention of his versions of history going in round about ways to connect in some way to actual history. And, as I’ve mentioned already, if you watch closely, you can see glimpses of change and evolution in Aethelwulf and Judith’s relationship. There is one fact that does come close to Hirst’s storyline regarding Judith’s future with Aethelwulf and any children she might potentially bear him.

Although in history, Judith was his second wife and bore him no children, there is some hint of something special regarding her and her relationship to him? Most wives at that time were not anointed Queens, they were just the King’s wife. Judith was however recognized as an anointed Queen.  Part of this was due to her status as Carolingian Princess, but what ever the reason, Hirst’s manipulation of history or the actual accounting of it, it made Judith’s status special.  The anointing of Judith as “a charismatic sanctification which enhanced her status, blessed her womb and conferred additional throne-worthiness on her male offspring.”   Æthelwulf insisted that Judith should sit beside him on the throne until the end of his life, and according to Asser this was “without any disagreement or dissatisfaction on the part of his nobles”. 

The rest of Judith’s real Carolingian status relates to Gisla as well. Gisla was a daughter, a princess of that Carolingian dynasty. Carolingian princesses rarely married and were usually sent to nunneries, and it was almost unknown for them to marry foreigners so Gisla should consider herself lucky for her marriage to Rollo considering her other options of Odo or a nunnery! So, Wipe that pout off from your face, dry your Damnable tears and Thank your God for your one chance at a possible happy marriage! Quit complaining, you could be Judith’s shoes…. or even Torvi’s with a wretched wife abusing little weasel named Erlandeur!  There are other women out there in far worse circumstances than you!

a tearful gisla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

King-Arthur-2004-king-arthur-875455_1254_940

King-Arthur-tournage-Charlie-Hunman

King-Arthur-tournage-Charlie-Hunman

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

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/viking-saga-judiths-story/

Kweni is back but looking a bit rattled

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/vikings-trivia-who-is-princess-kwenthrith/

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

https://timeslipsblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/last-kingdom-update/

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!