For those who didn't know, Netflix's The Last Kingdom is based on a historical novel series by Bernard Cornwell called The Saxon Stories, about 9th and 10th century Britain. The protagonist (both in the show and in the books) is Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a man born to a Saxon lord but captured and adopted by the Danes. The Last Kingdom was adapted from the first six novels in the series, so the show had quite the bookworm following long before it aired. So, how did it measure up in terms of the characters and the storyline? Given the amount of material covered in six books, adapting an entire book series without certain omissions and deviations is practically impossible. As a result, many fans have been disappointed by the show's casting choices and merging of popular characters. Love it or hate it, here are 10 changes they made to the characters from the books.
10 Uhtred's Too Pretty
Although actor Alexander Dreymon nailed Uhtred of Bebbanburg's irreverent, arrogant attitude, fans of the book were not particularly pleased with his appearance. In The Saxon Stories, Uhtred is described as being a massive, fair-headed Northumbrian who's more than a head taller than most men. Alexander Dreymon, on the other hand, stands at only 5'10" and has dark hair and eyelashes for days. Obviously, fans were not pleased, and many firmly believe that the part should have been taken by someone more like Rune Temte, the 6'3" Norwegian actor who played Ubba.
9 The Merging Of Harald Bloodhair And Sigurd
In their adaptation of the books, the characters of Sigurd and Harald Bloodhair were merged into one character for the series called Sigurd Bloodhair (the villain betrayed by Skade and killed during a duel).
Interestingly, author Bernard Cornwell actually based Harald Bloodhair on a real historical figure whose name was never recorded, but was known to be a Danish leader who led attacks against Wessex during the same time frame as Haesten. Cornwell chose to use the name "Bloodhair" in reference to Harald Fairhair, a ninth and 10th Century Norwegian king.
8 Uhtred And Aethelflaed
Fans of the TV series might be surprised to find out that Uhtred and Aethelflaed, Alfred's beloved daughter, were lovers in the books. Not only that, but most of Wessex and Mercia openly knew about the romance, even though it was not spoken of. In the TV series, however, Aethelflaed and Uhtred's burgeoning romance ends after one kiss, when Uhtred refuses to become her lover due to fears of her being negatively affected by Skade's curse. Another deviation? In the books, it is the Lady of Mercia herself who takes care of Uhtred's children after he is banished instead of Hild.
7 Uhtred And Skade
In the TV series, Skade is a bloodthirsty seer who curses Uhtred and attempts to become his lover in order to manipulate him. She was easy to hate, so viewers were cringing hard when Uhtred and Skade almost became intimate in the river.
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Thankfully, it was all a ploy, with Uhtred luring Skade into the river solely so he could drown her and remove the curse. In the book The Burning Land, however, Skade and Uhtred actually DO become lovers after she convinces him that it was not her curse that killed Gisela, his beloved wife.
6 The Surviving Son
Not a lot goes right in Uhtred's life, so when he finally finds love and a family with Gisela, fans were happy to see a bit of happiness in what can be an intensely bleak show. Unfortunately, Gisela dies in childbirth when Uhtred is off in battle and he returns to a living son but a dead wife. This is an inexplicable departure from what happens in the book The Burning Land, in which both the mother AND son die in childbirth. Why did the TV series keep the son alive? Only time will tell.
5 Osferth's Toughness
In the TV show, Osferth is a monk and the illegitimate son of King Alfred who doesn't seem to have a warrior's bone in his entire body. Although he does seem to rise to the occasion when it comes to sheer determination, he is still portrayed as a wimpy character. In book four, however, Osferth is quite the effective warrior in battle.
In the TV show, it's Aethelflaed who kills Sigrid in revenge for him having killed Erik, but in the book, Sigefrid is killed by Osferth. Not only that, but Osferth literally attacks Sigefrid from above by jumping off the top of a high gate and stabbing him in the spine (thus paralyzing him).
4 Ragnar's Death
Fans of the TV show were horrified when slimy little Aethelwold snuck into Ragnar's tent and stabbed him in the chest while he was sleeping, particularly since he didn't have a sword in his hand to defend himself (or send him to Valhalla for eternity). Not only that, but Ragnar is also killed right alongside his side piece! The horror! In the book, it doesn't go down like that, with Ragnar dying peacefully in his own home. Not very exciting, which is exactly why the TV series spiced it up with some DRAMA.
Fans of the books could never forget Steapa, a beast of a man who becomes loyal to both Uhtred and Alfred. Exceptionally cruel in battle, Steapa is a fierce warrior in every major battle scene in the book and was originally Odda the Younger's sidekick.
Despite being a fan favorite, Steapa's character was inexplicably merged with Leofric's for the TV series. Strangely, the merging of the characters did seem to work in the long run, with fans of the TV show enjoying Leofric's bromance with Uhtred, whom he jokingly nicknamed "Arseling."
2 Uhtred And Hild
This is going to bother the heck out of anyone who's only seen the TV show, but in the books, Uhtred and Hild do not have a platonic relationship. After being raped and prostituted by the Danes when they took Cippenham, she is rescued by Uhtred and becomes his companion and lover after Iseult's death and accompanies him back to Northumbria. In the series, however, Hild is nothing but a dear friend to Uhtred and the only purely platonic female friend he has throughout the entire show. One of the sweetest and most poignant lines from Uhtred is when he looks at Hild and says, "you're too good a woman for God alone." Sadly, that line is missing from the books completely (and wouldn't really make sense anyway).
1 Uhtred And Iseult
In the books, Uhtred is powerless to resist Iseult's charms and the two become lovers right off the bat. To be honest, Uhtred aims to sleep with just about every woman he comes across. In the television series, producers clearly wanted to create a "slow burn" with the viewers by making "The Shadow Queen" particularly protective of her virginity, believing it to be the source of her power. In the series, it's Iseult who eventually grows weary of her psychic powers and asks Uhtred to sleep with her so she can finally have peace.