The History Channel's Vikings has become a smash hit. One of the main reasons for this is the complex relationship between Ragnar and Athelstan. Though both men are long gone now, they built the foundation of complex relationships between characters. After all, they were closer to each other than they were their respective mates. These men relied on each other to be strong and change the world around them. Every scene between them was a genuine joy, and these two characters are missed to this day.
As Vikings moves into its sixth and final season, the story will be finishing up without these two fascinating characters. Despite their absence, they truly altered everything in the world around them. Without Ragnar and Athelstan, the conflict between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons would look very different. Without them, it might have never happened at all.
Whether that means their kinship was good or bad for the world is subjective, but their influence cannot be denied. Both men made everyone they touched grow and evolve into entirely new people. Curious, fascinating, and exploratory, Athelstan and Ragnar are the best friends who changed this story forever.
Here are 25 Wild Revelations About Ragnar And Athelstan's Relationship.
21 Ragnar And Athelstan Are Platonic Soulmates
The second Ragnar and Athelstan met, they had a connection. Though the monk's ability to speak his language helped his case, there was something that drew the pair together over and over again. The duo never were romantic, but they always chose each other over most anyone else. Their relationship was a friendship like no other, that superseded cultures, religions, and wars.
In a way, Athelstan and Ragnar were the only soulmates either had. While women never stayed, their bond always persisted. As far as Vikings goes, there were never two friends more connected.
20 Their Sons Are Kings
From the beginning of Vikings, fans know that Ragnar and Athelstan are meant for great things. While the two had great successes and adventures of their own, their children start off even stronger. As young men, both Bjorn and Alfred are already kings of their respective lands. Despite one being an illegitimate child and the other an abandoned son, they are impressive leaders.
Even though both Athelstan and Ragnar are gone in the show, their legacy thrives in their sons. Alfred, Bjorn, and the rest of Ragnar's children are all formidable and will be fascinating to watch as the show continues. Hopefully these two legacies don't clash, but when it comes to Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, there are no promises.
19 Both Men Are Slain Mercilessly
While fans adored the Viking king and his christian bestie, not everyone in their lives felt the same way. Both Ragnar and Athelstan lose their lives in brutal ways on the show. Athelstan falls first to an ambitious and ruthless Viking, Floki, who chops his head off while he prays. The passing is particularly hard on Ragnar, who loved him like a brother.
However, Ragnar's end isn't much easier. The Viking king is flung into a pit of snakes by an Anglo-Saxon royal, passing away from bites and venom. When compared, neither experience seems very pleasant. If only the pair got more pleasant ways to live out the ends of their lives.
18 Athelstan's Linguistics Are The Only Reason They Became Friends
Ragnar and Athelstan met during a Viking raid of a monastery, where the latter was a christian monk. All of his fellow priests were slain, but Athelstan was spared because he could speak Norse like the attackers. Hoping to use the frightened man for information, Ragnar spared him and took him back home as a slave.
After Athelstan gave them information for future raids, though, Ragnar kept him. They even ended up very close friends. Without his knowledge of Norse dialect, Ragnar never would have met the person he'd care most about in the world. Furthermore, he may have never achieved all the thing he did.
17 Ragnar Supported Athelstan's Christianity
One of the most controversial things about bringing Athelstan into Viking culture was his faith. While they didn't care about adopting an outsider, Vikings were pagan. Several times, without certainty about his religion, Athelstan was in danger of being sacrificed, banished, or even beheaded.
Though Athelstan leaned into the culture to fit in, ultimately, he never fully abandoned Christianity. Furthermore, Ragnar knew this and let his friend get away with his secrets. He even learned more about the Christian faith himself, trying to understand Athelstan better. Other Vikings would have considered the secret traitorous, but Ragnar let Athelstan be a Viking while remaining himself.
16 Athelstan Was Spared By Viking And English Leaders
As lucky as Athelstan is, he was spared by several great leaders of different cultures. First, his life was saved when Earl Haraldson allowed Ragnar to keep Athelstan. This led to their close friendship and, eventually, the priest becoming a Viking himself. After that, despite his ties to the Vikings, King Ecbert, an Anglo-Saxon, spared him when he was captured by the English. They became friends with time, but only his religion and Ecbert's good faith saved him from execution.
Finally, when Athelstan was working with the English, Ragnar willingly took him back instead of declaring him a traitor. Good thing great leaders love to spare handsome priests.
15 They Both Were Attracted To Princesses
When Vikings began, Ragnar was a simple warrior/farmer and Athelstan was a simple priest. Both had decent standings in their respective circles, but they weren't anything special.
Over time, though, that began to radically change. Ragnar started to rise up in rank. Athelstan began making friends with many leaders and became known for his pure faith. The epitome of their rising status, though, came in their changing attractions. Both men were settled in their lives, either married or celibate. However, when they became more important, they both found themselves attracted to princesses. Their affairs with Aslaug and Judith changed the course of their legacy, bearing sons who became grand leaders.
14 Athelstan Is A Near Constant Captive
Though the duo eventually became best friends, Athelstan and Ragnar started as captive and captor, respectively. For a long time he remained a Viking slave. Even when he was melding more into their culture, the priest wasn't considered a true Viking for a long time. Then, just as he's become more integrated, Athelstan is a captive for the Anglo-Saxons under King Ecbert.
While King Ecbert respected and treated Athelstan well, he wasn't entirely free there, either.
During his three season run on Vikings, the priest spent little time as a free man. Most of it he was captive of one place or another, and only near his end was he truly free.
13 Their Worlds Will Never Agree
Athelstan grew up in Anglo-Saxon culture, becoming a monk, abiding by social rules, and pledging himself to God. Meanwhile, Ragnar had a very different upbringing among the Vikings, a people dedicated to Pagan beliefs and disinterested in social rigidity. The pair overcame these differences to form a close bond, but their worlds remain wildly different. Though they can find common ground, their cultures are too different to change.
Anglo-Saxons are dedicated to their religion and rules. Vikings are devoted to their Gods and their pride. They may have similar pillars of belief, but those pillars are too different to span. There seems to be no possible peace between Vikings and Anglo-Saxons.
12 Together They Made Ragnar King
When Vikings began, Ragnar was a strong, respected warrior with dreams of the west. With Athelstan's linguistics and Anglo-Saxon knowledge combined with his ambition, though, the Earl saw him as a threat. This sent him on the path that would lead him to become the king of the Vikings. The second Athelstan saved him from the river, they became an unstoppable force together.
With both their intelligence and strengths, these two men completely toppled the Viking hierarchy in their way, eventually putting more and more power in Ragnar's hands. By the end of season 2, their actions have changed their world forever.
11 Ragnar Tried To Sacrifice Athelstan
After Athelstan's initial usefulness wore out, Ragnar thought he would be a good sacrifice to the Gods. While it sounded barbaric to the priest, in the Pagan culture it was an honorable sacrifice. Without a warrior spirit or more intel, Ragnar thought it would be a good use for Athelstan.
Unfortunately, the young monk revealed his continuing dedication to the Christian faith, making him ineligible for sacrifice. A different comrade Viking took his place. Though it caused understandable friction between the two, they never would have gotten so far if Ragnar's sacrifice was successful.
10 Athelstan Never Met His Son, But Ragnar Did
While the good Viking Ragnar had many children, his best buddy counterpart only had one. However, that didn't stop his son from being just as influential. Despite not being son of the prince, Alfred retained the benefits of being a first born son. King Ecbert took him under his wing and raised him to be a leader.
Because of the complicated situation and affair, Athelstan never properly met his son before his passing. Ragnar, though, did. As the Viking king, he met with Ecbert and Alfred. The young heir was only a boy, but the meeting was meaningful. After all, Athelstan was Ragnar's best friend and Alfred is his only flesh-and-blood.
9 Athelstan Is Favored By Powerful Men
Ragnar was his best friend. Haraldson spared his life. King Ecbert protected him and took him under his wing. Despite starting the series as a run-of-the-mill monk, powerful men always favored Athelstan. Whether a captive, Viking, or man of the church, he had a tenacity that always impressed leaders.
That same tenacity, along with his ability to speak Norse, helped encourage Ragnar to spare him. Moreover, it's exactly why the pair remained such close friends, despite their differences.
Though he had no noble blood to him, Athelstan became a consult to multiple grand leaders and fathered a king. That's no small feat for a simple priest.
8 They Supported One Another Through Ragnar's Multiple Marriages
When the duo met, Ragnar was dutifully married to Lagertha, a powerful and beautiful shield-maiden. However, as Ragnar traveled more he became a bit less dutiful. During one of his adventures, he met with a princess and the rest was history.
Though Athelstan in a way bonded with Ragnar's initial family, he followed his best friend into his new marriage. Ragnar wasn't the best husband, but he was still a great friend. Despite being a Christian devotee, he stuck with his friend through his decisions and more.
However, maybe it was just because he knew he was capable of the same crime.
7 Gyda And Athelstan Were Close
Early days with Athelstan and Ragnar had the former a captive slave on the latter's farm, tending to his family and helping with the children. In all his time there, Athelstan grew close to Ragnar's kind daughter, Gyda. While Ragnar would eventually become his dearest friend, Gyda was his first in the Viking world.
When Gyda passed away, she wanted her family to protect Athelstan as he protected her. Their friendship was a prelude to how even a Christian and a Viking can learn to care deeply for one another, like her father and her friend eventually would.
6 They Both Have Complicated Feelings About Religion
By far, Athelstan is one of the characters most defined by his religion. During his time with the Vikings, he feels some doubts about his Christianity, but ultimately returns to his beliefs. Despite all the troubles he goes through, he is still dedicated to the lord he believes in. However, that still meant he had doubts. Furthermore, he eventually breaks his vow of celibacy. He may be dedicated, but he's hardly a perfect Christian.
When it comes to Ragnar, he believes in the strength of his gods. He believes more in himself, though, and dabbles in Christian practices with Athelstan. His curiosity supersedes his faith.
5 They Became Each Others' Teacher
The relationship between Athelstan and Ragnar was riddled with tough situations and dangerous confrontations. However, together the pair weathered through them all. While standing side by side put them in more peril, it was the only way they survived. Being so different, the two constantly taught each other new things that made them stronger men.
For example, Ragnar taught Athelstan to fight and the Viking culture. Meanwhile, Athelstan taught his friend about Christianity and diplomacy. Without this constant act of teaching, they never would have changed the Viking and Anglo-Saxon worlds as much as they did.
4 Athelstan Saved Ragnar's Life While Still A Slave
As all captive scenarios go, Athelstan initially loathed Ragnar for holding him as a slave. After all, in his mind, if he was slain he could at least be reunited with God. This life, though, was oppressive and bizarre. He wasn't supposed to be forced into the Viking lifestyle.
However, as time went on, the pair formed a sense of camaraderie. Furthermore, Athelstan became friends with Ragnar's kind young daughter, Gyda. Because of these factors, when Ragnar fell into the river and almost drowned, the priest saved his captor. Though he was still a slave, he cared about their family enough to save it.
3 They Were Touched By Prophecy
Between Ragnar and Athlestan, both men were very spiritual, but their lives were even more prophetic than they were. Aslaug, Ragnar's second wife, had a sense about the future and often prophesized Ragnar's destiny. Whether it was about sons or his ascension to greatness, he was influenced by prophecy.
Similarly, Athelstan's legacy was touched by spiritual premonitions, even if it wasn't until after his passing. When Judith's indiscretion was revealed, Alfred's life and right to the throne was saved by the king. King Ecbert said that Athelstan was touched by prophecy and, therefore, Alfred was as well. That meant they must protect and train him for leadership, regardless of his heritage.
2 Ragnar Buried Athelstan Himself
When Floki unceremoniously decided to spill Athelstan's blood, Ragnar mourned and buried the priest all by himself. One reason was to honor the moment personally, so that he could express all the feelings he felt. However, another reason was so that Ragnar could fix a makeshift cross for Athelstan's grave. After all, he was the only one who accepted and supported his friend's faith.
In a moment of vulnerability and pain, Ragnar mourned his best friend and soul mate. The pair had made each other stronger, wiser, and without Athelstan, Ragnar eventually devolved into a lesser man. Before the snake pit, the Viking king prayed like his friend did, and accepted his own passing.
1 They Always Chose Each Other
Despite having ample opportunity to turn on one another, Ragnar and Athelstan never did. The choice might have even benefited them, such as when Athelstan chose Ragnar over King Ecbert. His life with the king would have been cushy, Christian, and safe. However, he returned to Ragnar when he had the shot.
When they first met, Ragnar chose Athelstan over riches, saved his life though it was a gamble.
Bonded souls 'til the end, the pair spent their entire adult lives choosing each other, until they couldn't choose anymore. Nothing could break them apart besides death. Afterwards, they likely hope to find each other again.