Two Historical Fiction Authors View Vikings: Episode IV







Welcome back to our series on The History Channel's VIKINGS. Sandi Layne, author of Éire's Captive Moon, is with me again to chat about last night's episode.  Both of us are still thrilled with the show, so it still has the History Geek stamp of approval.





Lissa: The good people at the History Channel must have paid attention to my complaints last week. We got to see Lagertha in battle not just once, but twice. I thought we might see it a third time when Haraldson was mocking her claim to have killed big, strong Knut (I always want to spell that "Canut" and then picture him ordering the tides to retreat.) Haraldson must not know much about shield maidens.

Sandi:  Haraldson is not a wise man at all, at all. I keep saying that, I know, but maybe he'll hear me one of these days and retire with a pension. ;-)

Lissa: Somehow, I don't think a happy retirement with grandchildren playing at his knee is in the cards for old Jarl Haraldson.

Sandi: No, REALLY?

Lissa: As shocking a plot twist as that may seem. :D

Lagertha, by Morris Meredith Williams
Sandi: Lagertha's slaying of Knut was necessary, but I was worried about it from the moment it happened, since it had to be the one man that the earl had sent with them to play watchdog. Naturally.

Lissa: The scene struck me a little odd because... well ... rape is part of the package of attacking and pillaging a village. Surely, she's encountered this situation before. Her own brother-in-law is known to toss a girl over a table when the mood takes him. I doubt highly that Ragnar's band has a standing no-raping-the-villagers policy to appease Lagertha's oddly modern sensibilities.

Sandi: I concur. I am wondering if she's been on a raid before. Because who, then, would safeguard the kids? Perhaps it was her first big raiding party?

And, Ragnar had advised her not to go off without "the others" yet she did - she went off alone, essentially. That was foolish of her. Still, she got to show her chops and she did a very final job of making sure Knut never assaulted another woman! Lagertha doesn't shy from bloodshed.

Lissa: No, she certainly doesn't. As soon as he called her a "bitch," I declared, "Dead man walking!"

Sandi: Oh yeah. That was a bad, bad move. On top of everything else.

Lissa: Ragnar made me laugh out loud a couple of times. He has this delicious, wicked glee in his eyes when he's gone a-raiding. "Don't resist and we'll not hurt you. God bless!" Almost like Floki with the communion wine... he likes messing with people's heads just a wee bit.
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Sandi: Floki...okay, he annoys me. But I feel that he's truly not quite right and I'm wondering how "wrong" he'll show himself to be before this is over.

Lissa: In those days, wasn't madness seen as divinely inspired? Floki is what my grandmother would have called "tetched in the head" but he's a brilliant shipbuilder. Not much of a warrior... He was relegated to the back ranks of the fight, like Lagertha (which only makes sense in her case because upper-body strength is necessary to make an impenetrable wall.)

TL did raise an eyebrow at the beach battle... "They're not protecting their flanks, and the English aren't attacking that weak spot."

Sandi: Yes. And I was surprised that Lagertha called for the shield wall. Her voice doesn't have the strength in it that Ragnar's did, and I think the wall was less formidable than it could have been. Okay, I might be projecting...
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Lissa: I must note, I heard the Willhelm Scream as the Saxon soldiers retreated. It have me a giggle.

Sandi: And Ragnar messed with everyone. Waiting for Sunday - he has insider info and he didn't tell anyone. Waiting for the church bells, knowing what it meant. He had been grilling Athelstan a fair amount, it was clear. The "God bless" and the smile - yes, I laughed. Because it was an obvious show of his upper hand in the situation.

Lissa: He seems to have learned his English lessons well.

And his mischievousness seems to be a trait inherited by Bjørn  If I was Athelstan  I'd sleep with one eye open, lest the little monster make good on his declaration about sacrificing him to Thor!

Sandi: That was funny. Bjørn looked so serious, but he was just being mouthy. And I loved that he gave his sister some ale. I am thinking most kids drank ale at that time and Athelstan was being persnickety, but I could be wrong. lol

Lissa: Yes, kids drank ale. Small beer was one of the favored drinks for children and servants, but ale was an acceptable beverage. It would have been more accurate if Athelstan had said something like, "No, don't drink the ale, it's too expensive. Save that for your parents and drink the small beer." It could have been a chance to show off differences in status again, that Athelstan was relegated to drinking the "children's beer" because he's a slave.

Sandi: Yes. This. Exactly.

Lissa: The trip to Kattegat turned out to be all right... I worried about that, that something would happen to them along the way, or they'd be put in danger once they arrived by Haraldson. Poor Athelstan  Bjørn threatening to sacrifice him and Ragertha threatening to pull out his lungs... The guy just can't win!

Sandi: I worried, too, that something would happen - but to the farm! But no, all was well on the homestead. Just not with the people. But Athelstan chose well and kept the manling of the house happy and nothing bad happened to the kids under his watch. Whew.

Lissa: This episode had some sobering moments of grief, as well. When they buried their fallen warriors, and then, later, when Erik was slain. I'd like to see them do a funeral service for him in the next episode.

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Sandi: Oh! My jaw dropped when Erik was killed. I was SO saddened. I know it's because I fangirled over him initially, but also, he was a sturdy character considering the dearth of lines he was allotted, here. He was a catalyst and adviser. Which was why he was murdered, of course.

Lissa: I was pleased to see the failure of Haraldson's clumsy gambit to exploit any jealous feelings Rollo might have toward his brother. A friend on Facebook mentioned Siggy's weird behavior. Her "Sexy Lady" demeanor seems now to be her way of trying to support her husband's regime. They trotted their daughter out and when Rollo didn't jump at the bait, she hurried over and gave him the eyes. It has to be with Haraldson's approval; as paranoid as he is, she wouldn't dare look up from the floor if he wasn't in on the plan, which makes the whole scene in the early episodes with his men more understandable. She's using the only tool she has at her disposal to try to support him.

Sandi: Thing is - we saw what happened last time Haraldson "offered" his wife up to one of his retainers. Dead Northman, you know? So, this rather worried me regarding Rollo. And he didn't immediately jump up and drool over the daughter, either. He's playing his cards close to his hauberk.

Lissa: I'm surprised you didn't hear me scream when Ragnar arrested. Heraldson threw down all of his cards and lost, badly, in front of everyone at the Thing. And Ragnar's twinkling eyes, "Who has the key?" surely didn't help matters. Now, it's open war between the two of them.

Sandi: I have to give props to Rollo, here. I was gratified and a little saddened, too, by his willingness to vouch for his brother despite the enticements suggested by the earl. He did it for Lagertha, he said, and I believe him. Which makes me think (and her, too, I'm guessing) that he cares for her more than he cares for his treasure chest. Unrequited feelings always make me a little sad. Even if he's a guy who'll consider betraying his brother. And he might have, too, if Lagertha hadn't put herself in the middle that way.

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Lissa: He did the right thing, even if he did it for the wrong reasons. I worried for a moment that his feelings for Lagertha would lead him to think this was a convenient way to get his brother out of the way. "Say, Jarl, thanks for offering your daughter, but I'd really rather have my brother's widow...."

Sandi: I wonder what possessed Ragnar to try to claim Knut's kill for himself. What was he thinking?

Lissa: Love, I think. He'd probably say it was for a practical reason, such as claiming she would be better at taking care of the children if he was convicted, but I think his motive was protecting the woman he loves, plain and simple.

Sandi: It was clearly a lie and I would imagine that most of the men with him knew it, too.

Lissa: And yet, they let him do it... They must have felt his desire to protect his wife was honorable, honorable to make up for lying in the sight of the gods at the trial.

Sandi: One can only imagine that this was considered worthy of the gods' notice, ja?

Lagertha was basically okay with this arrangement to begin with, as well, which also startled me. I wonder if she would have ripped Ragnar a new one in private if she had had the opportunity?

Lissa: I'm sure she would have. She likely didn't want to call her husband a liar in front of the whole Thing, though she lost her ability to remain silent when it started looking bad for Ragnar.

The previews scared me! I found myself chanting, "They have to follow the saga ... they have to follow the saga!"

Sandi: Oh, the previews worry me, too! I'll be on edge until I see the next episode!


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