The History channel’s hit series, Vikings, is a historical drama full of its fair share of blood, guts, intense battles and unarguably one of the best-looking cast television has to offer. With the fifth season underway, we figured now’s a good time as any to give you the lowdown on 14 things you may not know about the show.
1. It’s Based on True Historical Figures
The show is loosely based on the Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok – a 9th-century collection of legends from the Viking era. The stories had been passed down for centuries through word of mouth, and many of them had been retold some 400 years after they took place. This, of course, makes it difficult to authenticate many of the tales, but Ragnar and his crew were real people who definitely existed.
2. Lagertha’s a Badass (In Real Life)
Katheryn Winnick, the actress who portrays Lagertha, is fierce on-screen, but she’s even more badass in real life! The shield-wielding actress is a trained bodyguard and a martial arts expert. Not only is she a Tae Kwon Do instructor, but she’s also a third-degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a second-degree Black Belt in Karate!
3. Their Tattoos Have Historical Origins
When it comes to the casts’ tattoos, the show’s makeup artist wanted to make sure that every piece of body art was as historically accurate as possible. The character Rollo, played by Clive Standen, has many tattoos that have meanings linked to Norse mythology.
4. The Series Resurrected Four Dead Languages
To give viewers a better idea of how the Vikings actually spoke, the show’s creator resurrected four dead languages: Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Latin and Old Frankish. The primary language of the show is English, of course, but he knew it was important to throw in some of these languages from time to time to make the show as authentic as possible.
5. Alexander Ludwig Earned His Role Based on His Looks
When it came time to cast for the role of Bjorn, the executive producers sought out to find an actor who could bring a particular aesthetic to the show. The role ultimately went to Alexander Ludwig because he had a strong resemblance to Nathan O’Toole – the child star who played the younger version of Bjorn.
6. The Fight Scenes Are Real
Some programs depend on computer-generated graphics for intense fight scenes, but not Vikings. The large, complex battles are choreographed and acted out by well-trained actors carrying real weapons. The actors report on set three weeks prior to filming to learn all of the dangerous choreography ahead of time.
7. Siggy’s Death Was Unplanned
Viewers were shocked when Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) died in season 3. And come to find out, her demise wasn’t planned at all. Gilsig had to leave the show due to personal reasons, so she approached the show’s creator, Michael Hirst, and asked to be written out of the series. Hirst had big plans for the controversial and risqué character, but he decided to kill her off so that the character would have closure.
8. Michael Hirst Found It Difficult to Write Athelstan’s Death Scene
Siggy wasn’t the only significant character to be killed on the show. Athelstan (George Blagden) was also killed by the hands of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård). Michael Hirst knew Athelstan had to be released from the “spiritual crisis” he was battling within, and killing him was the only way to give the character peace. As he wrote the scene, Hirst said it was difficult to get the words out because Athelstan had become “real” to him, and he didn’t want to be the one who was responsible for his death.
9. The Show Started as a Mini-Series
With the fifth season greenlit, it’s hard to believe the show started off as just a nine-part mini-series. With its astronomical ratings pulling in from a young male demographic, the History channel ordered another season, and another, and another!
10. That Was a Real Ship That Went Over the Cliff
In Season 4, Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) gets a second chance to defeat the Franks by hoisting boats off the edge of a cliff. Again, no computer-generated graphics were used in this scene. Those were actual boats that went plummeting off the vertical face of the cliffs!
11. The Majority of the Show Is Filmed in Ireland
The beautiful backdrop of the show is courtesy of Ireland – which just so happens to closely resemble Norway and Denmark’s countrysides. When scouting for a location, the show kept their eyes peeled for untamed land, empty forests and lush landscapes, and Ireland fit the bill.
12. The Representation of Women Is Accurate
The treatment of Viking women was much more liberal than that of the Franks and Saxons. Skewed perceptions of gender roles in the Viking society leads many to believe the women were oppressed and ranked below the men, but that’s simply not the case. Viking women enjoyed an abundance of freedom, including the right to divorce and remarry.
13. The Show’s As Accurate As It’s Going to Get
Because many details surrounding the Vikings is murky, the show had to work with bits and pieces of historical documentation. Creator Michael Hirst said, “I especially had to take liberties with Vikings because no one knows for sure what happened in the Dark Ages. Very little was written then.” The production crew used visual references from Scandinavian museums to ensure accurate artifacts were used in the series, but aside from that, the rest of the show is pretty much a “fill in the blank.”
14. The Series Shows a Different Side to Real Vikings
When people think of Vikings, they think of “raping and pillaging,” according to creator Michael Hirst, and this is largely due to their history being written from Christian monks’ point of view. So Hirst set out to give a different view on the Nordic seafarers by demolishing pre-existing stereotypes. Mission accomplished!
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