For a long time, when people thought of the History Channel, they thought about endless memes involving ancient aliens and certain experts with unique ways of expressing himself. However, in recent years, focus has shifted to their hit show: Vikings. In Vikings, fans followed Ragnar Lothbrok and his children through the most influential Viking adventures.
However, since the show is on the History Channel and tries to be historically accurate, its accuracy has come into question more than once. After all, it's hard to walk the line between objective history and interesting, well-flowing narrative. The facts always seem to tweak a little whenever the two mix.
How does Vikings fare, between fiction and accurate realism?
10 ROLLO'S PERSONALITY (REAL)
Though a fierce warrior, Rollo was known by history to be an impulsive, jealous man. As the first Duke of Normandy, he left behind some of his previous life to meld better with other Anglo-Saxon cultures. However, it is historically unconfirmed if he was a Viking in origin. The man did a good job of covering up his past. A conqueror and leader, he led Normandy his own, brutish way.
His legacy survived many generations in power only because of their fiercely militaristic and ruthless nature.
As far as comparing history and Vikings goes, the story seems to have his personality, even if they altered some serious facts about his heritage.
9 RAGNAR AND ROLLO'S BROTHERHOOD (FAKE)
In Vikings, Rollo and Ragnar are brothers. One is driven by his belief in his own greatness, while the other is driven by his jealousy and desire to find his own greatness. It's not easy to be the great Ragnar's brother. Ultimately, that leads to a love-hate relationship with a lot of clashing and conflict.
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Unfortunately, though, this key relationship is completely fabricated. Rollo and Ragnar never were brothers. Rollo was the Duke of Normandy, but can't even be truly confirmed a Viking. And Ragnar? It's uncertain the legendary man was ever real. At the very least, the pair never were warring brothers. Kind of bursts that bubble of fascinating drama.
8 THE VIKING AESTHETIC (REAL)
Though the show definitely dolls up its characters to look as attractive and interesting as possible, the Viking look they give them isn't fake. Vikings truly gave themselves black-eye paint and favored matted, pleated hair styles. They reveled in looking fierce and wild, even if their tactics could be much more organized. Or, in some cases, just as wild as they looked.
Vikings believed in looser social rules and heat-of-the-moment battle. They may have had few tradition fights and traditional looks, but they remained strong and attractive in their own ways. They could intimidate any foe with eye makeup like that. And how fiercely awesome that hair is? Anglo-Saxons and Russians must have been terrified.
7 VIKING BATTLE STYLE (FAKE)
While Vikings were stronger fighters dedicated to raids, they hardly fought the traditional pitch-battle way fans are accustomed to. The show sets up quite a few wars like this, one enemy standing across the field form another. However, it's very unlikely Vikings would ever participate in these kinds of battles. After all, they preferred raids. Not only does that mean fierce combat but also an element of surprise. Their battle tactics are closer to guerrilla style that classical pitch-battles.
On TV, though, pitch-battles are the standard. It's no surprise Vikings decided to favor a grander style that can really amp up a crowd. Armies clashing feels much more grand and epic than tons of surprise tactics and raids.
6 RAGNAR'S SONS (REAL)
Though Ragnar is near mythic, none of his sons are. All of his sons are taken from real warriors and leaders of history. Though none of them can be confirmed as his real sons, they made great impacts during their time. Bjorn Ironside was a real, Swedish Viking chief who spearheaded a Swedish royal dynasty. Ivar The Boneless and Ubbe invaded England. Sigurd became King of Denmark.
All of these men's names were included in certain tales of Ragnar's sons, though, so while it's unconfirmed, it's not impossible. Regardless of their parentage, though, most all of these sons were real Vikings that helped shape and change Europe.
5 THE TIMELINE (FAKE)
Unfortunately for Vikings, the most exciting Viking events aren't exactly close together. However, for the show and fan benefit, time has been crunched to connect the greatest moments together. However, that does mean that the Vikings getting to "the west" and invading England are not close at all in the timeline. There are dozens, and at times hundreds, of years between big raids. Lagertha definitely should not have been able to be a Viking wife pre-west AND at the raid of Paris.
Though to makes for great televisions to see fan-favorite characters at all of these places, it does mean that the general plot-line of Vikings is definitely fake.
4 WOMEN WARRIORS (REAL)
This one is a bit complicated, because the general answer is yes, strong, warrior women were real in Viking culture. However, they still weren't as involved to the extent Vikings portrays it. Fitting to modern standards, of course Lagertha is an intimidating warrior and leader. The truth, though, is that any real shield-maidens were very few and far between. Moreover, they rarely were given much power in the military. At best, they were just extra forces.
More commonly, women were trained with a sword and shield to defend their homes or join the men in war only for dire situations.
Overall, women had more freedoms and could fight in wars, but it's doubtful any of them were as powerful, free, or adept in battle as Lagertha.
3 CHRISTIAN CRUCIFIXIONS (FAKE)
During a particularly dark and terrible moment, Christians crucified Athelstan for his consortium with Vikings and abandoning the faith. Though he didn't abandon Christianity, not really, they didn't see it that way.
Despite being a poignant, heartbreaking scene, it's completely false.
A big part of Christian faith is lamenting the crucifixion of Christ. They believe sacrifice is holy. If they truly though Athelstan to be a heathen, they wouldn't do something so meaningful to them. Furthermore, Christians weren't known for arbitrary crucifixions.
As far as narrative goes, it was a powerful moment for Athelstan. But for realism? It really missed the mark.
2 NO HORNED HELMETS (REAL)
Skyrim really skewed a lot of people's ideas of Norsemen, thinking they all wore horned helmets and yelled things. While it seems they did yell a lot, Vikings put the record straight by keeping their characters bare of helmets.
Vikings did have certain helmets they wore, but they weren't the iconic horned ones. Between keeping characters recognizable and brushing off those myths, no helmets is just much easier.
Many people picture Vikings a certain way, and it's impressive that Vikings does its best to at least preserve the true aesthetic, even though they play around with character backstories and timelines a lot.
1 RAGNAR'S EXISTENCE (FAKE)
Unlike his children and many other characters in the show, Ragnar Lothbrok's existence cannot be confirmed. There are well-known Norse legends of him being a powerful, influential Viking, but actual accounts of his real life are non-existent. For such a pinnacle of Viking mythos, the fact he probably never was real is disappointing.
However, as he is so important, of course a show about Vikings included him. As far as Vikings go, he's like the forefather of their most-revered adventures and heroes. Though it can't be confirmed, legends do name leaders like Bjorn Ironside and Ivar the Boneless as his "sons".
Ragnar may or may not be real, but he's been an influential, beloved character in the series. The story will never be the same without him.