Vikings’ overlapping storylines spanning many countries gives us plenty of characters to follow. As the journeys of Ragnar Lothbrok and his five sons unfold, some prove themselves more worthy of Valhalla than others. As we overindulge in intense action sequences and high budget combat scenes, there’s always someone to praise and someone to mock. On a show like this, we’re bound to witness unimaginable strength and viciousness. There are tons of characters who fit this bill, but being a Viking doesn’t automatically make a person strong. Even within Norse society, some pale in comparison to our favorite heroes (and villains) in terms of tenacity.
On the other hand, some of the Vikings’ enemies have proven to hold their own in this regard. The Anglo-Saxons aren’t always demolished by the Northmen, and for good reason. You’ll find almost as much determination and valor on this side of the conflict, and sometimes in unexpected places. There are certainly enough characters to make this a competition, so let’s see who can stack up against the best Viking warriors and fearless leaders of the series. Naturally, some fall so short that they are known for being weak and often immaterial. You may look at your favorite characters in a different light, or learn to appreciate them in a whole new way. Whatever the case may be, feel free to agree or disagree with these assessments, but make sure to tell us why! Here are the 13 Strongest Characters (And 7 Laughably Weak), Ranked.
20 Strong: King Ecbert
Even if you favor the Vikings, you’ve got to admit that the Anglo-Saxon King Ecbert has some standout moments and victories as his strategic mind rarely lets him down. Most Anglo-Saxons deeply fear the Northmen and their insane strength and brutality. Ecbert broke out of this mold and gave us a worthy adversary on the English side. He was prepared for their raids and defeated them decisively in season two, and he doesn’t stop there.
Instead of taking the easy route, he negotiates a truce and grants them farming land. Then, he orders his son to eliminate them all, proving that the Vikings don’t have a monopoly on violence.
19 Weak: King Aethelwulf
Aethelwulf has a few shining moments in battle, but overall, his strategy makes him a weak leader compared to his father, King Ecbert. The Northmen are often able to fool him by feigning a disadvantage and then forming a surprise attack, such as when they emerged from the sewers. Aethelwulf has been tricked or led into a trap in key instances, making him no real match for the Viking forces.
He doesn’t even get to prove himself in his final moments, as he meets his end by means of a bee sting. Of course, this is no fault of his own, but it’s perhaps representative of the misfortune that dotted his career.
18 Strong: Ubbe
Ragnar’s first son with Aslaug looks like a spitting image of him, and definitely has the potential to live up to his legendary status. Of course, he has made mistakes and was overtaken by his brother Ivar as leader of the Viking army. Yet, he is a skilled warrior and doesn’t back down from a challenge.
He has the wherewithal to join forces with Lagertha and Björn against his own brothers. Despite being the only one other than Ivar who attempted to end Lagertha for vengeance, he has the strength of character to put his hatred aside. Like his father, Ubbe hopes to extend the reach of the Vikings and make settlements in the new world, and his victories and mistakes give him the tools to do so.
17 Weak: Earl Haraldson
It’s no surprise Earl Haraldson only appeared in the first season. Despite being the initial authority figure on the show as the original Earl of Kattegat, Ragnar defeated him with style. Haraldson was brave to accept the challenge of a one-on-one fight with Ragnar, but didn't lose because of his age.
He’s a character who talked big but didn’t always have the will to back it up. His tentativeness showed when he played it safe with the Vikings’ voyages, and it eventually cost him his life. For a Viking ruler, Earl Haraldson didn’t seem to stand for half as much as others have since.
16 Strong: Judith
Being in an arranged marriage to an Anglo-Saxon King doesn’t stop Judith from eventually finding her independence. She is at first punished for being involved with Athelstan, but then goes with King Ecbert and gains a great deal of freedom. We see her evolve throughout the series into a clever and assertive woman who speaks her opinion. She has the foresight to realize that Ragnar’s sons will come to avenge his passing, despite being dismissed by her husband Aethelwulf.
It’s rewarding to see her gain the confidence to make decisions, such as telling her firstborn son to give up the throne for his own brother. She may have seemed meek when we first met her, but Judith now shows exceptional toughness for a woman in this time and place.
15 Weak: King Horik
Add King Horik to the list of those in power easily defeated by Ragnar Lothbrok. With the powerful title of King of Denmark, you would think Horik wouldn’t be among the weakest characters. However, he had moments of weak-mindedness when double-crossing Ragnar. It speaks volumes that Ragnar had more people on his side than Horik, who was betrayed and taken out by Ragnar. Some viewers even thought he deserved the punishment over Jarl Borg, but it’s debatable whether he would have handled it nearly as courageously.
In truth, one of the most violent moments of the series was Ragnar's way of ending him, which is definitely not something you want to be remembered for.
14 Strong: Queen Kwenthrith
Speaking of assertive women, Kwenthrith embodies strength in her actions and unusual charisma as she’s extremely vocal and her desires are never hidden. It’s easy to believe that she was the one who poisoned her own brother in order to inherit the throne of Mercia, and her quest to achieve this goal goes to extreme lengths when she works with Ragnar Lothbrok himself. She has no hesitation about hanging around Vikings, especially when it’s to advance her own ends.
Though she eventually meets her demise, we can probably all agree that Kwenthrith was one of the feistiest characters on the show. Many of the Norse women get a lot of praise for their strength, but Kwenthrith definitely held her own in this area.
13 Strong: Floki
Make no mistake, Floki isn’t just on this list because he’s one of the most beloved characters on Vikings. He’s seen his share of trials and faced every one of them head-on. From being punished by Ragnar, his most trusted friend, to seeing his work burned to the ground in Paris, Floki’s challenges have only strengthened him, and he still has that spark of inspiration in him that has charmed us the whole series.
Now, Floki is portrayed as the one who first discovered Iceland, and seeks to form the first settlement there. Though historically inaccurate, this is pretty believable in terms of the show’s storyline. After his hardships, Floki’s drive to do the impossible has only increased.
12 Weak: Hvitserk
Make no mistake, Hvitserk is a strong warrior, but he doesn’t live up to Ragnar’s name in other areas. He is not resolute in his values or in who he trusts, which shows when he abandons Ubbe after one wrong move, and he flips to Ivar’s side without batting an eye. However, Ivar doesn’t even share key information with him, such as parts of his plan against the Anglo-Saxons.
Hvitserk seems to gravitate to the strongest leader at a particular moment, which is fairly transparent and shallow. It won’t serve him well going forward, as he doesn’t have the same integrity we admire in the best of the best.
11 11. Strong: Athelstan
It doesn’t usually bode well to be a monk in a Viking series, but Athelstan is a great exception. When he was forced to adapt, he did, and despite being abducted from his monastery by the Northmen, Athelstan survived many more years and only grew stronger. He was at first Ragnar’s servant, but surprisingly became his closest friend and confidante. His embracing of Viking customs is nothing short of impressive, and in just a few years, Athelstan had learned to fight alongside the best Norse warriors and formed a connection with their cherished gods.
That’s not to say he abandoned his old ways completely. When he returned to England with the Vikings, he commanded respect with the way he balanced the two opposing worldviews. His strength was not just in his resilience, but also in his integrity.
10 Strong: Ivar
Needless to say, Ivar has become the star of the show after Ragnar’s demise. In charisma and grit alone, he could easily win this list of strongest characters, however, his accomplishments haven’t yet surpassed Ragnar’s, though they are bound to. Though he is named Ivar the Boneless for his disability, this is an unfit title for someone who doesn’t let his limitations define him.
Ivar’s astute sense of strategy means he can lead the great army effectively without having to fight. He strikes fear into enemies with this ruthless nature alone, to the point where he doesn’t seem to need the use of his legs. He absolutely has the tools to win the war between brothers and beyond, though he will need to prove himself throughout future seasons.
9 Weak: Sigurd
It may be hard to believe that another son of Ragnar can be perceived as weak, but there’s a reason Sigurd didn’t last. He didn’t have the same drive as Ubbe or Ivar, and in fact, his most memorable quality might be the way he mocked his brother.
He and Ivar had an ongoing feud that was provoked by Sigurd’s insults aimed at Ivar’s disability. That’s a pretty weak way to gain a sense of superiority, and in the end, Ivar was the one who came out on top. The way in which he ended Sigurd with an axe may seem uncalled for, but Sigurd’s inability to control his anger was a huge weakness.
8 8. Strong: Bishop Heahmund
This warrior bishop is another reason the Anglo-Saxon side is far from meek after all. Driven by a deep religious dedication, Heahmund became an extremely skilled warrior who uses his abilities to fight for his beliefs. On one hand, he does his duties as a bishop, and on the other, he wields a sword against enemies. It may seem strange, but he likely sees these two jobs as fulfilling the same purpose.
His dislike of his pagan opponents makes him merciless when assisting Aethelwulf against the Vikings, but despite this, his life is spared when the Vikings defeat them. Ivar was so impressed that he wanted Heahmund on his side, and the two made a deal. If you can impress Ivar, you must be either pretty skilled or pretty callous, and in this case, it’s probably both.
7 7. Strong: Björn
As Ragnar Lothbrok’s eldest son, Björn Ironside is a natural warrior and fearless leader. He is certainly no exception to the Seer’s prophecy that Ragnar’s sons will far exceed his legacy. But, Björn differs from his brothers in that he sought to build his own strength and reputation from a young age. He ventures into the harsh Scandinavian wilderness alone, hunting bears and managing to survive the winter. His character seems to embody not only the Viking warrior, but also the hardy and resourceful Viking mindset.
Björn has also traveled the farthest so far on the show, reaching the Middle East in season five and managing to escape when faced with danger. His journey definitely won’t end here, but it’s a promising start.
6 Weak: Helga
Vikings has no shortage of strong and talented women, but Helga arguably hasn’t earned her place in this category. She seems to identify primarily as being Floki’s wife, and this is her main focus and sense of purpose. Even when he seems dissatisfied in the relationship, she wants to please him and take the blame. Unlike other women like Lagertha and Torvi, she never learns to fight or engage in the political aspect of Viking society.
Helga has faced difficulty when she tragically loses her daughter, but overall, her character doesn’t contribute as much as others do. She is a very loving individual and has admirable qualities, but is definitely not the strongest of Viking characters.
5 Strong: Harald Finehair
With the dream to become king of all of Norway, Harald’s ambition outweighs that of many other characters. He has conquered many kingdoms already, and even Ragnar recognized him as a threat to take Kattegat. His bold personality means he has no qualms about spreading his lofty goal, even if it means he could be targeted. It seems nothing worries him, and though he hasn’t unified Norway yet, it’s believable that this isn’t just a pipe dream.
For now, though, he is working with Ivar and has his earned respect and admiration. He never shies away from battle and he surprisingly defeated his own brother in the heat of the action.
4 Strong: Jarl Borg
Jarl Borg hasn’t been on the show in a few seasons, but it’s a testament to his legacy that fans are still referring to him. He earned his position as one of the strongest characters ever with just one incredible scene. The infamous “blood eagle” sequence sent chills down our spines when Borg had to sit through the most painful form of execution without making a sound. Even a slight noise would bar him entrance into Valhalla, yet, he succeeds in remaining completely silent.
It was a brave task to begin with that put Borg in this situation. Trying to attack Kattegat when Ragnar and his men weren’t there was a gutsy move, though it was poorly thought-out. No matter what you think of the notorious Jarl Borg, no one can deny his immense courage.
3 Weak: King Aelle
Where Jarl Borg’s demise gave him his bravest moment, King Aelle’s same fate was his weakest. His dislike for Ragnar blinded him, and though he was responsible for Ragnar’s capture and demise, he was cowardly when Ragnar’s sons sought revenge.
His whimpering upon capture made it clear he was not exactly battle-hardened. He begged for them to spare him by offering gold and silver, which was an act of sheer desperation, but of course, this wouldn’t work against Ragnar’s five vengeful sons. Aelle certainly doesn’t go with dignity and his royal lineage didn’t help him in this instance, proving he could only show fearlessness when backed by a great army.
2 Strong: Ragnar
The adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok were the initial reason for most fans to get hooked on Vikings. Right from the get-go, Ragnar defies authority to seek out new opportunities, even if it means risking his own neck. He’s the reason the Vikings begin to explore and raid in the West.
For many, Ragnar’s inadvertent path to kingship was the heart of the show, and it’s been quite the journey watching him go from a common farmer to someone capable of attacking Paris multiple times. Ragnar’s strength has always been matched by his wit and vicious energy, and he uses his skills to protect his family, which eventually land him in the position of King. Even his demise is epic, as he has no inner struggle and faces it with acceptance as a true Viking.
1 Strong: Lagertha
You might have been wondering how anyone could top Ragnar until Lagertha’s name came up. As the show’s first female warrior, she’s a heroic figure representative of the real Viking “shieldmaidens” of the time. Lagertha’s determination and palpable drive to rule initially endeared her to viewers, and these qualities haven’t wavered. Though Ivar dethroned her as Queen of Kattegat last season, her story is far from over.
Whereas Ragnar always had at least the ability to fight, Lagertha became a warrior much more suddenly and had to shape up quickly in a male-dominated world. She had to find her own strength and teach herself about both combat and strategy along the way. Thankfully, we can still count on her to deliver ambitious goals and skillful sword wielding in every episode.
What other Vikings characters fit into these categories? Let us know in the comments!