Created by Michael Hirst, Vikings has been a hit for the History Channel. Although the first season originally aired back in 2013, the show has steadily amassed a strong fan base over the years. Initially, the show followed the adventures of Viking warrior king, Ragnar Lothbrok, and now has moved on to explore the story of his sons.
The critically acclaimed show is currently in its fifth season, and thus far, the story has continued to unfold in unexpected ways. With themes of political intrigue, betrayal, and loyalty, this season explores the Vikings return to England, along with Floki’s expansion to Iceland, and Ivar’s struggles in Kattegat. A recent episode also questioned who is actually Björn's real father. Although season one had introduced Lagertha, Ragnar, and Björn as a concise family unit, the story has taken multiple twists and turns over the years.
After the loss of Ragnar, the story has focused on his sons, including Björn, Ivar, Hitsverk, Sigurd, and Ubbe. The story has also followed the rise of Ivar the Boneless to power, along with the strife that each of the siblings has faced with one another. While it looks like there’s plenty more in store for the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, with season 6 having already been confirmed for 2019, the dates still remain to be announced. In this list, we’ll take a closer look at some of the little-known facts about the hit History Channel series. From details about filming and cast notes, there is a lot to be revealed.
Read on for 25 Little Details Only True Fans Know About Vikings.
25 It started as a movie script about Alfred the Great
For years, showrunner and producer Michael Hirst toyed with the possibility of creating a new historical drama. In an interview, Hirst reveals,“I was writing a film script about Alfred the Great, who fought against the Vikings. I was fascinated to discover that a lot of what I thought I knew about the Vikings was wrong. I knew nothing about their attitude towards women, which was much more progressive than most other societies.”
In the series, Hirst tackles these topics head-on and often shows layered sequences regarding the portrayal of female characters in the series. The British screenwriter is also known for his Emmy award-nabbing television series The Tudors, and his film Elizabeth.
24 WWE's Edge is a Viking
Primarily known for his work as a WWE hall of famer, Adam "Edge" Copeland has played a guest role onVikings. Copeland made his debut during season five, episode five, "The Prisoner", as the Viking named Kjetill Flatnose.
Copeland, who is purportedly a giant fan of the series, was extremely excited by the opportunity. Kjetill is a family-oriented character who decided to follow Floki to a small community in Iceland. Copeland also made a guest appearance on The Flash back in 2015.
23 The meaning behind the opening credits
Directed by Rama Allen, the original opening sequence for Vikings has become a staple of the hit television series. Clocking in at 52 seconds, the opening credits feature the haunting track "If I Had A Heart" by Fever Ray. In an interview, director Allen noted that, "Our sequence was inspired by a folktale found in The Sagas. That of the nine sisters, the goddesses of the waves, that would pluck Viking explorers from their ships and pull them to a sensual, dark, watery grave."
The director also worked on the True Blood's iconic opening title sequence.
22 The actors who play Ragnar and Lagertha are barely older than Björn
On-screen, Ragnar and Björn might look years apart, but in reality, they're a bit closer in age than one might expect. Travis Fimmel is roughly thirteen years older than his son, Björn Ironside. In addition, actress Katheryn Winnick, who plays the shieldmaiden Lagertha, is also a bit closer in age to her on-screen son. The 40-year-old actress was born in Etobicoke, Ontario.
Alexandar Ludwig has become quite a heartthrob for his work as Björn on the History Channel series. The 26-year-old actor is currently filming Midway, a historical drama, alongside Nick Jonas.
21 The first season's budget was $40 million
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the initial season of Vikings had a budget of $40 million. Created by Michael Hirst, the show features extensive panoramic views of Ireland and tons of action-packed battle scenes of the Viking warriors. The show was first set in 793 A.D., when the Vikings were just beginning to consider the idea of traveling west.
The show has deviated significantly from the story's beginning arc, focusing on Ragnar Lothbrok and his ambitions of westward expansion. Season five follows the continuation of his many sons' adventures.
20 Floki is played by Alexander Skarsgård's younger brother, Gustaf
Originally born in Stockholm, Sweden, actor Gustaf Skarsgård plays the eccentric shipbuilder, Floki, on the critically-acclaimed series. Before starring in Vikings, Skarsgård appeared in films such as Evil, The Way Back, and Kon-Tiki. To date, Gustaf is one of the few original actors to remain active on Vikings. Recently, his character Floki has experienced quite the challenge while attempting to settle in Iceland.
Skarsgård has also appeared in the HBO series, Westworld, as Karl Strand. Interestingly enough, Gustaf's older brother, Alexander Skarsgård, is known for his work on three HBO series: Generation Kill, True Blood, and Big Little Lies.
19 The Viking attack on Paris used mostly practical effects
Season three of Vikings might feel like it was light years away from the show's current storyline, but it was certainly an ambitious undertaking. In episode eight, "To the Gates!", show creators and stuntmen were given an enormous challenge.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, when the Vikings lay siege to Paris, the set alone was measured at a sprawling 13,800 square-feet, and hundreds of staff members were recruited to create the on-screen action. Along with hundreds of extras, show creator Michael Hirst noted that they used as little CGI as possible, and emphasized that their stunt men and women "really fight."
18 Katheryn Winnick is an accomplished martial artist
On screen, Katheryn Winnick has taken the Vikings world by storm with her fiery portrayal of Lagertha. Fascinatingly enough, Winnick is also an esteemed martial artist in her own life, holding a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and a second-degree black belt in Karate. At twenty-one, she created three of her own martial arts schools and later chose to pursue her career in acting.
With a fierce intensity, Winnick's performance of Lagertha has led to multiple nominations, including Critic's Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Best Actress in Drama Series by the Women's Image Network.
17 The armor is handmade
For fans of the series, it should come as no surprise that many of the intricate costumes and detailed armored pieces are actually handmade.
“We molded wet leather onto [the actors’] bodies, then dried it,” revealed costume supervisor Helen McCusker. “When you look at female armor, you’re looking at the shape of their bodies being reflected. We didn’t want them to look like superheroes — it was based on how they would have done it at the time.” The hairstyles sported by many of the female warriors have led to the creation of popular YouTube tutorials and Pinterest guides.
16 Fimmel was bitten by snakes during Ragnar's final scene
After over four seasons, actor Travis Fimmel made his official departure from Vikings in a heartwrenching way. Ragnar's final moments were grueling to watch onscreen, but it seems as though actor Travis Fimmel had to deal with some pain, too.
While shooting Ragnar's final episode, Fimmel needed to be extremely close to the live snakes in a pit. In an interview with THR, Fimmel said, "I was covered in snake poop at the end. I got bitten a few times, but that was fine — it was them pooping on me that annoyed me more than anything.”
15 Katherine Winnick will direct in season 6
Actress Katheryn Winnick has received critical acclaim for her formidable portrayal of Lagertha on Vikings. EW has lauded her role as Lagertha for being the “most exciting feminist character on TV.” While season five is currently underway, History Channel has already announced that season six will follow in 2019. Next up, Winnick will be making her directorial debut. After over a year preparing for the project, Winnick worked by shadowing a fellow Canadian director, Helen Shaver. "She is an award-winning female director who is fantastic and I learned a great deal from her,” Winnick said. “I also flew to Canada and spent time in the editing room, which was such a valuable experience.”
14 Alex Høgh Andersen was virtually unknown before playing Ivar
Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, actor Alex Høgh Andersen was virtually unknown before taking a lead role in Vikings. Andersen first got his start while taking drama classes at school, and also appearing in musicals. In 2012, Andersen had his television debut in the series Outsider, and later appeared in Tvillingerne & Julemanden. Before transitioning to Vikings, Andersen also appeared in the television show Hedensted High. In terms of films, Anderson has several short film credits to date, and also lent his voice for the Danish version of Disney's Big Hero 6 as Hiro Hamada.
Now, Anderson has amassed over 1 million Instagram followers, and fans love him as Ivar the Boneless on Vikings.
13 Bishop Heahmund was King Henry in The Tudors
Irish actor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers might be a relatively new addition to Vikings, but in terms of working with show creator Michael Hirst, he can be considered a seasoned alum. After working with Hirst for four seasons on another historical drama, The Tudors, where he played King Henry VIII, Meyers is taking on the role of Bishop Heahmund with Vikings.
Bishop Heahmund has already proven his skills on the battlefield, but in season five, the bishop is being tested with new challenges, including reclaiming his title in the church and hiding his love for Lagertha.
12 There is genetic confirmation of female Viking warriors
According to the American Journal of Anthropology, a new study was released confirming the DNA analysis of a female warrior found during the Viking Age in Sweden. Although some have criticized the show for the portrayal of female Viking warriors, there is now genetic confirmation of the warriors appearing in history.
Before this discovery, other remains of female Vikings were found, but no weapons were found at the burial site. Based on this recent development, the female warrior's remains were found buried with weapons, like a spear, ax, and shield.
11 Ragnar Lothbrok's story has been around for hundreds of years
Dating back to Norse mythology and legends, Ragnar Lothbrok was lauded as a formidable warrior. In poetry and stories, Lothbrok was recorded as being the leader of the Vikings' Siege of Paris, dating back to 845. During that time, over a hundred Viking longboats took the city by storm.
As explored in depth on the television series, Lothbrok is known for having been the father of many different Viking warriors, including Björn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless. Both Vikings were accounted for being the leaders of armies that took on the British Isles in 865.
10 Clive Standen hates comparisons to Game of Thrones
Known for his portrayal of Rollo, brother of Ragnar Lothbrok, Clive Standen has made it clear that he doesn't like people comparing the show to Game of Thrones. Standen is one of the few remaining actors from the first season of Vikings.
While many fans have mourned the loss of Ragnar and actor Travis Fimmel's departure from the show, some have theorized that he might return. Standen has shot down the idea, and also expressed his frustration that Vikings often gets compared to Game of Thrones. “It’s a bit unfair really,” said Standen. “Game of Thrones is a fantasy show. It has dragons and things... whereas Vikings is a historical drama. It’s documented in history.”
9 The "real" Ragnar was different
Since the show's debut, Vikings has captured the imaginations of fans for years. The story is loosely based off of a mythological viking named Ragnar Lothbrok, and it turns out that the rumored historical figure had a different tale than the History Channel version.
According to Norse tales and history, Ragnar was married three times and did not have a daughter. Throughout the History Channel series, Ragnar was first married to Lagertha, and later to Princess Aslaug, and had a daughter named Gyda. Consistent with legend, Ragnar perished by being cast into a pit of snakes by King Aelle, but there isn't clear evidence for a person named Ecbert, who shares a close relationship with Lothbrok in the series.
8 Björn’s real father is unconfirmed
In season one, the show first introduced Björn as the son of Ragnar and Lagertha, but his true parentage has come under scrutiny during recent episodes of season five. Rollo recently returned, professing his love for Lagertha, and making a bold claim that Björn is actually his son.
In several interviews, creator Michael Hirst has confirmed that he feels it’s unclear who Björn’s real father is. However, actor Clive Standen has a hunch that Björn’s father actually could be Rollo. In a recent episode, Rollo told Lagertha that they wouldn’t meet again, but it remains to be seen if this issue will be pushed further.
7 Travis Fimmel is quite the prankster
On-screen, actor Travis Fimmel has charmed audiences for his charismatic portrayal of the Viking warrior Ragnar Lothbrok. During his downtime on set, Fimmel would often cause a ruckus with his castmates.
Actor George Blagden, who played Athelstan, was the victim of some of his many pranks. The monk donned a rope around his neck for a series of scenes, and Fimmel had a field day. “They used to tie me to things without me knowing, so like we’d be in between takes, and he’d tie me to a pillar and walk off, and everyone else would know, and then I’d set off on my take and be strangled.” Blagden said with a laugh.
6 12 stuntmen were actually set on fire
When the Vikings ransacked Paris in season three, viewers witnessed an ambitious television spectacle. It turns out, the action was just as intense for the cast and crew while filming the episode. According to The Hollywood Reporter, 12 stuntmen were actually set on fire, and for safety, over 150 gallons of fire gel were used for protection.
There was CGI involved, but over two hundred stuntmen and women were hired to work on that single episode alone. To heighten the drama, there were over eighty high falls from walls and towers. This entire episode employed over 500 extras on set.
5 The comics spinoff
Two years ago, Titan Comics announced that it would release a brand new comic book series, based on Vikings. Featuring writer Cavan Scott, who also worked on Doctor Who, the illustrations were created by Staz Johnson.
Keeping in line with the themes from the show, the comics include the rollercoaster ride of political intrigue, action-packed battles, loyalty, and betrayal. Earlier in 2018, an exclusive one-shot comic was released at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The most recent comic book focuses on, "...scavengers who have stolen Lagertha’s hammer amulet..."
4 Four unused languages are featured in the show
In a unique twist, showrunner Michael Hirst has noted that the show also features four languages that are no longer used. In an interview, he revealed, "The first thing I decided was that I wanted the audience to hear what these people actually sounded like. And then it was a question of using these languages – starting with Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Latin – without everything being subtitled."
In the series, the Vikings primarily speak English, but there is a slight detection of a Scandinavian intonation. When the Vikings first meet with a group of soldiers in England, viewers hear the Saxons speaking Anglo-Saxon, whereas the Vikings speak Old Norse with subtitled dialogue.
3 Shooting in studios
Located in Wicklow, Ireland, Ashford Studios is where Vikings is filmed. Recently, the film studio has been given the green-light for a €90 million extension, including state-of-the-art tech and extensive add-ons. Situated in the town of Ballyhenry, the proposed developments include four new filming studios, a television studio and a new visitor center.
Ashford Studios was first founded by Vikings co-producer Morgan O’Sullivan, who has also worked on movies like Braveheart, The Count of Monte Cristo, King Arthur, and television shows such as The Tudors and Camelot.
2 On location in Ireland
Part of what makes Vikings so captivating is the undeniably beautiful nature sequences and cinematography featured on the show. The series has been primarily shot on location in Ireland, located around County Wicklow. Located about one hour from Dublin, Wicklow is truly picturesque.
Throughout the series, the hit show has often highlighted panoramic views of popular locations like Lough Tay, Blessington Lakes, and Brittas Bay. While preparing for other locations featured in the show, the cast journeyed to Morocco, and also to Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland, for Floki’s new settlement.
1 The show's ending is already planned
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Michael Hirst has revealed his plans for the ending of the show. “It ends when the Vikings discover America,” Hirst confirmed, “That’s the final shot.” This interview was given back in 2015, between seasons two and three, so Hirst has certainly planned ahead.
With season six already confirmed for 2019, it looks like the end of the show might not be coming any time soon. Fans have been clamoring more of the criticially-acclaimed series, and we look forward to hearing any new developments soon.
Do you have any other Vikings-related trivia you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments.