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Reality or fiction? Five major inconsistencies from the ‘Vikings’ series

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Jiya Saini
Jiya Saini is a Journalist and Writer at Revyuh.com. She has been working with us since January 2018. After studying at Jamia Millia University, she is fascinated by smart lifestyle and smart living. She covers technology, games, sports and smart living, as well as good experience in press relations. She is also a freelance trainer for macOS and iOS, and In the past, she has worked with various online news magazines in India and Singapore. Email: jiya (at) revyuh (dot) com

The last season of the drama series ‘Vikings‘ saw light in December 2020 and put the saga in the top of the most-watched television shows. Despite being based on real events, the truth is that the plot of the series contains numerous historical mistakes or even events that never took place.

Of course, it is not a documentary, but a work of fiction and, despite the fact that it was a project of the History Channel chain, the creator and writer of all the Vikings episodes, Michael Hirst, never hid that he had been inspired in various Nordic sagas and historical eras.

However, a medium knowledge of history is enough to see that the series is full of historical failures. We invite you to see some of the craziest mistakes made by the creators of the show that you probably did not notice.

Shortened chronology

The series created by Hirst tries to summarize in 7 seasons events that occurred over three different centuries. For this reason, the writers did not pay much attention to the veracity of the dates of some events shown in the series, so it was plagued by chronological inconsistencies from the beginning.

For example, in the first season, brothers Ragnar and Rollo lead the historic assault on the Lindisfarne monastery. This actually happened in the year 793, when neither one nor the other had been born. Then, the same protagonists carry out the invasion of Paris (845) and at the end sign the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte (911). Although these three separate events took place in reality, the truth is that they separate them more than 100 years and were perpetrated by different groups of Scandinavian warriors.

It should be noted that the real Ragnar and Rollo were not brothers and never met in real life, and Ragnar was executed in 865, when the first Duke of Normandy, known as Rollon the Walker, was barely 5 years old.

In regards to the kings Halfdan the Black and Harald Fairhair, who appear in the series as two brothers, they were actually father and son. And the character of King Carlos incorporated the characteristics of neither more nor less than three monarchs: Carlos II el Calvo (840-877), Carlos III el Gordo (839-888) and Carlos III el Simple (879-929).

Surname or nicknames?

The main protagonists of the saga carry as surnames what they really are not. Scandinavians didn’t use last names. Instead, they used so-called patronymics that ended in -son, -sson, or -sen (son) in the case of men and -dottir (daughter) if we talk about women.

As for the series’ last names like Lodbrok, Jarnsida or Harfagri, they are really nothing more than nicknames for a particular person and that cannot be applied to an entire family. Thus, the character of Ivar inn Beinlausi is often called by the nickname of his father Lodbrok, when in fact his real name was Ivar Ragnarsson.

In addition, some of the characters in the series seem to have no names at all, since they are only called by their patronymic such as Haraldson, Olaffson or Jurgensen, among others.

The Russian invasion of Scandinavia?

Few are the great cinematographic projects that avoid falling into the temptation of showing some cruel, Machiavellian and vindictive Russian character, with a clearly evil role. And Vikings was no exception. The plot of the sixth season of the series revolves around how the Varangian Oleg of Novgorod, one of the creators of ancient Rus, prepares to carry out an invasion of Scandinavia, persuaded by the Viking leader Ivar.

Although both characters are real, the truth is that historians have no argument to believe that they have ever met. More than that, when Oleg entered the historical scene and became regent of little Prince Igor in 879, Ivar, who died in 873, had already been dead for 6 years.

“I read the books on the Silk Road and the Vikings of the Rus and then I read about Prince Oleg, the prophet. He was an extraordinary governor,” Hirst stated in an interview with Variety. 

He stressed that the idea of ​​a union between Ivar and Oleg came to him when he thought that his characters already “travelled a lot to the West” and it would have been logical for them to “return to the East.”

Also totally inconsistent is the plot twist on an alleged invasion of the Rus – as the ancient inhabitants of Rus were called – to Scandinavia. 

In reality, all of Oleg’s campaigns were directed south. In 882, he took control of the city of Kiev and made it the capital of Rus, hence the historiographical term Kiev Rus.

At the same time, the Danes and Scots did invade Russia on numerous occasions and it was not until the 18th century when the first Russian emperor Peter the Great managed to permanently expel them from the occupied territories. But that is another story.

Russian Mongolian ninjas?

In the saga, the Russians are a Christian nation: they have all the attributes like crosses or wooden churches. However, the Christianization of Ancient Rus only took place in July 988, more than a hundred years after the show.

At the same time, the warriors participating in Prince Oleg’s crusade do not have much in common with the true Varangian warriors, and their clothing more closely resembles with the Mongols who invaded Russia four centuries later. Some of the warriors even wear black masks similar to those of Japanese ninja.

Another striking detail is the appearance in Ancient Rus of a … hot air balloon that was actually invented in the 18th century.

Women commanders?

In Viking society, women had a high level of autonomy and empowerment, especially compared to other contemporary cultures. They enjoyed great authority at home, they could decide with whom to marry, divorce, inherit and participate actively in the assemblies of the different clans. The Varangian Olga even came to rule Ancient Rus after the death of her husband Igor, something unprecedented for Europe.

In the series, Ragnar Lodbrok’s first wife, Lagertha, inspired by the sculpting maiden of the chronicles of the Danish medieval historian Saxon Gramático, is a true warrior who fights side by side with men and participates in campaigns of looting and conquest alongside other Viking women.

However, although there is archaeological evidence that there were women among the Viking warriors, this phenomenon was never massive in nature, nor has any reliable evidence been found that they came to command groups of warriors.

However, women sometimes accompanied their husbands on military expeditions, where they supported warriors and cared for the wounded.

And you, what do you think about the Vikings series? Are you a fan of this spectacular mix of historical fact with fiction?

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