Two Historical Fiction Authors View VIKINGS: Episode III

Sandi Layne, author of Éire's Captive Moon is back with me today to discuss the third episode of VIKINGS. We're both still enthralled with this show, so two History Geek Thumbs up!

Lissa: I gotta yell RIP OFF! It was finally my chance to see Lagertha in battle, and what did I see? One two second shot of her stabbing someone. I was heartbroken!

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Sandi: I really hope this isn't the only time she gets to go all warrior woman in this series. But it was a small scene and she did get the opportunity to flaunt her awesome (to a small degree) earlier in the series when the lowlife's invaded her personal house.

Lissa: Not good enough! I intend to write a strongly-worded letter if my demands are not met, possibly start a petition on the White House's site. 

I did have to grin when the Jarl's servant came to get Bjorn as "surety" against his father's return, but was persuaded rather quickly to change his mind by the hatchet in Lagertha's hand.

Sandi: That was brilliant. Don't MESS with a noted shield maiden.

Lissa: And might I say I gave a little sigh of nerdy bliss at the weaving in her over-tunic in that scene?

Sandi: Oh I thought of you when I saw the detail on that! 

Lissa: Althelstan has to be the best-treated slave in history. Ragnarr pretty much turned him loose the second he got home. Got him drunk, offered him some fun between the sheets...

Sandi: THAT flabbergasted me. I have to kind of figure that the impetus for that one came from Lagertha. She's a sensual woman and has eyes in her head. I was kind of surprised that they let their slave refuse, to be honest.

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Lissa: I think they were so amused by the idea a man would remain celibate for his god and believe sex was a sin that they just let him be.

I understood from the scene Ragnarr cut the rope and said, "Run away, then," that he knew Althestan would realize he had nowhere to go and follow Ragnarr home, but still... He left the priest alone with his children, around sharp objects... When Althelstan picked up the knife, for a moment, I held my breath. Would he....? But no, he used it for shaving his head. Do you think that Ragnarr had such sharp instincts he knew Althelstan was harmless? Or do you think he figured even his children were warriors enough to fight the priest if he tried to harm them? And to trust him enough to take care of the farm and the kids while Lagertha and Ragnarr are gone a-raiding!

Sandi: I really think Ragnar is using his instincts with Athelstan - and I am thinking they're good instincts. He's let the man run loose for a few days, as it were, with his children and has been watching closely, I'm guessing. It isn't about his children (notice how Ragnar all but ignored his son but appeared/pretended to heed his daughter?) but about his own sense of Athelstan.

Lissa: Poor Bjorn's was so aghast! "You cannot put a slave above me, your own natural son!" Yet another great way the producer's showed the sharply defined lines of status in those days. An adult male slave, no matter how trusted or responsible, couldn't outrank a freeborn child.

I think I was right about Ragnarr being interested in Althelstan's faith. He was asking tactical questions, of course, but he also seemed interested in hearing about this strange, new god.

Sandi: I concur. For whatever reason, Ragnar is a curious fellow. 

Lissa: I liked Lagertha's reference to the "Bloody Eagle." Even if it wasn't really a custom -- scholars are still divided over that one-- I can see Lagertha inventing it!
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Sandi: I have to say, my own brother ragged on me about not including the Bloody Eagle in Éire's Captive Moon. I felt it wasn't a solid-enough custom to include and not one I wanted to foster, in any event, without plenty of precedent. But yes, I can SO see Lagertha going through on her threat if anything happened to her children under Athelstan's watch, for all she might have found him sexually intriguing. 

Lissa: The scene of the Jarl having the boy killed and burying the treasure? As I understand, that wasn't really a "thing." Scholars aren't convinced there was much human sacrifice among the Vikings, peat bog bodies likely being the victims of capital punishment rather than ritualized sacrificial practices, etc. It seems to have been rare and mostly practiced with the burial of people, not goods. And it's assumed the victims were slaves, isn't it? The boy who was killed wasn't a slave.
Sandi: I can see a leader doing this kind of thing with a prisoner or a slave, yes, but not so much with the child of one of his own people. That's just foolish and, as I've said before, Haraldson is not acting as a wise leader, even if he is a powerful one. Human sacrifices were more common during the midvinterblót, in my reading. A time that was prepared for it and where the community understood it was coming. Even so, the era of human sacrifice was over by the 8th Century. 

Lissa: One thing I noted... the Jarl said his son was once strong like the boy he sacrificed. In the first episode, I had wondered if the Jarl's dream was prophetic, but now it seems it may have been a memory. His sons were apparently slaughtered by an enemy.

Sandi: All that being said, I believe Haraldson was only using the old tradition as an excuse - he's just out to inflict damage, forgetting that there are consequences for actions. Somewhere.

Lissa: His wife is encouraging him in that madness. To what ends?

Sandi: I am thinking she's power-hungry, too. She seems so...I don't know. Like I'd want to wash my hands after shaking hers, you know?

Lissa: Is the Jarl impotent? Is that why he's so intent on proving his power in other ways? He has no son and if he is impotent, his chances of having one are nil.

Sandi: Ha! Compensating, is he? 

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Lissa: I liked the scene of the 'first contact' between the Northmen and the English. (But since when do the English speak the Northmen's language? Althelstan's knowledge of it was treated as a novelty, but now, suddenly, random army dudes speak it?)

Sandi: I had the sense that there were two different languages happening, since Ragnar understood (sorta) the armed guards but his men didn't.

Lissa: It interested me, not only because I have a little nerdgasm every time I hear Old English in the show, but because it demonstrated the mistrust and missed cultural cues which may have led to unnecessary conflict when two peoples met for the first time.

Sandi: I enjoyed how the Northmen approached the coast. They were expecting (to an extent) the ease of the monastery raid, but the coast was at first bare. And then we saw the armed group that came to greet them and I was so nervous! 

Lissa: I was, too, until I got a good look at the soldiers. Old, out-of-shape men with a few young boys. (Doubtless, Ragnarr noticed that, too!) I wonder if this was intentional, but knowing the care of the show's producers, I would venture to day it was. Was there a plague which carried off most of the seasoned warriors? A war between the kings of England?

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Sandi: BUT! I really enjoyed how they managed the meeting, here. The tension was palpable, the wish of the Britons (?) to understand the newcomers. "Trade?" They wanted to be peaceful, but there was no trust even though there were efforts at communication. The aggression in Ragnar's group, the "make 'em go away" from the Britons and the final effort of the Anglo leader to try to foster trust by giving his badge of office (probably)... Wow. I was breathless. Truly. 

Lissa: I wonder if Ragnarr's band is going to get to see the king and what he will think when he sees that medallion around the neck of one of the invaders.

Sandi: AH! Good question! I wonder, too. Will Haraldson see it or will it get added to the plunder as a "regular" treasure?

Lissa: I think the costuming department must have paid attention to your Tweet! Monk shoes pass muster! I thought of you when they showed a closeup of that monk's dangling toes.

Sandi: Ha! Yeah. You know I was keen on the feet in that scene. Still cracks me up that "Rollo" favorited that tweet of mine. 


  1. I love these posts. You two make the show so much FUN!

    SO glad the monk toes met muster!

    1. Honestly, I'm in love. I'm positively giddy. It's been years since I saw a show both historically accurate enough not to set my teeth on edge, AND vastly entertaining.

      When the episode ended last night, True Love said dolefully, "Aw, man... It's over? It can't have been an hour already!"

      THAT is the mark of a great show... when an hour seems like minutes and you're irritable to see the credits.

      Now, if they'd just show more Warrior-Lagertha....

    2. Our family watches Downton Abbey as a family. We hoot and holler and yell at the screen. Makes it FUN...and we are always surprised when it's OVER. So nice that TL loves it too!

  2. Don't you guys think the Jarl's wife is trying to increase his paranoia? She constantly compliments him for accomplishments that aren't really his -empty compliments meant to bolster his ego. I think she has a hidden agenda. I don't think she likes him at all. What are your impressions?

    1. She's definitely trying to encourage him to see himself as all-powerful. The scene between them when they're kissing made me think he might be impotent, which could be why she's trying to plump up his ego in other ways.


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