Two Historical Fiction Authors View VIKINGS, Episode V

Welcome back to our series on The History Channel's VIKINGS. Sandi Layne, author of √Čire'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.

Sand: Last night's episode made me nervous.

Lissa: Me, too! Every episode of this show has kept me on the edge of my seat.

Speaking of nerves, Lagertha was as cool as a cucumber during the attack. I probably would have been worse than the kids, whimpering and clinging to her skirt as she raised that shield and said, "Stay behind me." She didn't know what was out there, having only heard screams and caught glimpses of the fighting, but she was as brave as a lioness, ready to defend her cubs.

Sandi: She rocked. Absolutely.

Lissa: I loved when she handed Athelstan the axe and he sort of just paused, like, "What the heck am I supposed to do with this?"

Sandi: I know? I'm sure he's split wood with one, but yeah. He looked out of his league. Still, he did well helping Lagertha get the kids away.

Image by Biepmiep
Lissa: So, the gauntlet has been thrown down! Ragnar and Haraldson will meet on the field of mortal combat. It's a pretty safe bet it's Ragnar who wins that particular fight.

Sandi: He might indeed, but at what cost? What will the fallout be? Will there be retribution or celebration? (And what, oh WHAT, will happen to the earl's right-hand-thug?)

Lissa: I hope that they'd respect he won fair-and-square. Surely, there is some honor left in them... Well, maybe not in his goon, but in the others?

Floki showed his true colors, and now it's clear why Ragnar cherished him as a friend. I actually got a little choked up when Lagertha said they were eating up Floki's winter supplies and he simply smiled and said the gods would provide. Crazy he may be, but he's a loyal friend

Sandi: I concur. I was all mushy about that. He's "tetched" perhaps, as you said before, but he seems like a good guy. And I wonder if he'll build a new boat...or if he'll even have to?

Lissa: As her dowry, doesn't the boat technically belong to Thyri now?

Sandi: Ah! Well, her or her hubs, depending on the agreement, I'm guessing.

Lissa: I pictured your herbalist self nodding as they were collecting garlic and sage to treat Ragnar's wounds.

Image by romainguy
Sandi: LOL I was adding chickweed and cabbage leaves and making a poultice with thyme. Yeah... Charis would have also stitched up that leg wound.

Lissa: Cauterizing the wound wasn't the best thing to do, was it? It's useful to stop someone from bleeding out, but as a disinfectant procedure, I thought it was lacking.... And it makes the wound worse than it was!

Sandi: Yeah... That was a blinking deep wound.

Lissa: What surprised me the most was how deeply attached Athelstan as gotten to Ragnar. He dove right in, without question, when Ragnar didn't surface. (Where'd he learn to swim? Unanswered question lingering in my mind....)

Sandi: Athelstan may have learned to swim at the monastery, since they were near the sea. It's possible. He was brought there as a lad - maybe one of the monks thought it would be best for him not to die if he wandered off.

Lissa: I'm skeptical. Swimming wasn't a skill most people had. Even sailors didn't usually know how to swim. It may just be an oversight on the producer's part, but to me, it hints our priest may have a more interesting background than he's so far admitted to.

Sandi: Oh! The question about whether or not he was a slave seemed very bold to me. Came way out of the clear sky. He must have felt very strong in his position as more-than to have broached that when Ragnar has been unsettled. 

Lissa: Technically a slave he may be, but I think he was saying he would prefer to be Ragnar's friend. It was, to me, like an unspoken, "If I'm free now, I'm still staying right where I am." He seems to feel like he's one of the family now.

Sandi: That could be interesting. And if Athelstan is freed, technically, he'll have other duties... Like will he have to swear allegiance to the local lord? What about taxes? 
A valkyrie welcomes a warrior to Valhalla
From the Norse Mythology blog

Lissa: I was also amused when they were exchanging tales of how the world was created. These fantastic, violence and gore-laden tales from the Vikings, and then they turn to ask Athelstan how the Christians say the world was created and he just sort of sighed... I guess the story in Genesis really can't top the entertainment value of the world being crafted from bones.

Sandi: It isn't quite the same and certainly wouldn't have had the kids all wide-eyed, yeah. I think the little introductions of the Viking beliefs that the writers have included in this story have been nicely handled. Nothing overdone, but incorporated as a natural part of the life, there.

Lissa: What did you think of the wedding? I wish they had shown the exchange of swords/rings. There was no bedding ceremony, which I thought was a loss. The bride wore the married woman's veil, which she shouldn't have technically donned until the next day, but I decided to give that one a pass.

Sandi: Oh.Ick. The Wedding. Cannot say that I was impressed with the groom. At. All. Musta been a rich old guy (did you see his teeth? ICK.). Thyri handled the situation with all the aplomb I could have expected, poor lass.

Lissa: She certainly did. She behaved like a well-mannered maiden of the day, a striking contrast between her mother's outburst and the daughter's composure.

Sandi: The wedding itself seemed really well decorated for a snowy winter day.

Lissa: I noticed that. "Been saving those flowers, have you?" It was rather late in the year to be staging a wedding. You didn't want to have one in the winter for fear your guests could be caught in storms traveling to it.

Sandi: Must have been a very well-insulated hall, since most of the women seemed lightly dressed for the time of year.

Lissa: I gave a pass to that one. All of those dancing bodies in a relatively small space would warm it up pretty well.

Sandi: I would have liked to have seen the ceremony, too. It is a significant historical thing and I wonder why it didn't make it to the screen.

Lissa: For Thyri to be wearing the married-woman head-covering...

Sandi: Yeah. I just felt sorry for her by then. I hoped there'd be a way out of it for her. However! The image of her in her night dress with her still-be-coated spouse snoring and sprawled on the bed led me to believe that perhaps she got a bit of a reprieve regarding her marital initiations, anyway.

Lissa: Which may have interesting consequences... Her marriage isn't valid since it hasn't been consummated.

Siggy's outrage seemed a little odd in a time of arranged marriages. Of course, the Vikings hoped the couple would be happy in their union, but the groom being young and handsome wasn't a primary consideration. I can understand her being upset she wasn't even consulted until the union was pretty much a fait accompli, but still, it's a pretty good marriage for the jarl's daughter. The story Haraldson told about his son's bodies and the ritual disrespect they were shown explains a lot about his motivations.

Sandi: I thought Siggy's response was uncalled for. The society in which she lives (and the man to whom she has bound herself) dictate that arranged marriages, even to a man not considered to be comely (she had clearly approved of Rollo, I think) would have been well-regarded if the husband was rich and/or powerful. It was a good alliance and you'd think Siggy of the Mercenary Heart would have got that. (This might be a characterization flaw on behalf of the writers, however.)

Image by Atelier Teee
Lissa: Old and unattractive he may be, but he didn't seem like a BAD guy. If it was indicated he was cruel or intended to mistreat Thiry, it would have been more understandable. He seemed sincere when he told Thiry he would be a good husband to her,  and despite the lewd joking when they left the wedding, he seemed to treat her with respect.

Sandi: The story of Haraldson's sons was just awful. He's been carrying that with him, letting it fester. I wonder if his rule would have been different in a good way if they had lived? Or at least died in an honorable battle?

Lissa: Yes, I think that was a moment which completely changed him and the fate of his people. As he told Siggy, he just doesn't care about anything, so his rash decisions make more sense now.

What the heck is Rollo up to? Did he really hope to join Haraldson's men? As soon as he kissed Siggy at the secret meeting, I said, "Dead man walking!" Then again, there's a strong possibility she'll be a widow soon.

Sandi: I'm with you! What was THAT all about? Siggy would have liked him to be her son-in-law (and then he kissed her and I thought... NO NO NO. MOM. Call her MOM, lol.) But then...OW. What did Haraldson DO to Rollo? Blood flowed freely. I am thinking he didn't something horrible with his mouth and I'm kind of scared to see what it was.

Lissa: I think when we see Rollo next, he'll be wearing a Joker's smile.

Sandi: Ew. But yeah. 

Okay. Question time. Torture as a true Viking practice that was not connected to a criminal penalty. Now, I know it had a place in some of the indigenous American populations, as a way to prove bravery. But I haven't heard of it being used in Viking societies. Leaving someone out for exposure, maybe, but not what we saw with Haraldson & Co. Have you come across anything like that?

Lissa: It's in keeping with Haraldson's madness. he doesn't behave according to his society's rules any longer. He has no honor, and he's convinced Rollo knows more than he's saying. A man without honor doesn't see it in others. That's why I'm worried Floki might be taken captive when he goes to deliver the message.

Sandi: Ahhh! I hope not! That would not be fair. BUT it would be in keeping. 

So as I wait for next Sunday's episode, I am left pondering about the challenge Ragnar is making. He's doing this before he's physically ready and after the conditioning Athelstan had remarked upon would have left him due to his recuperation time. Can he defeat Haraldson in a weakened state? If he does, will one of the thugs try to finish him off? If he doesn't, what will happen to him and his family?

Lissa: I don't think he has any other choice. His small band can't fight Haraldson's forces. The only way he can ensure his family's survival is to beat Haraldson one-on-one. I wouldn't put it past Haraldson to tell his men, "If I fall, shoot him down with arrows," but I'm hoping his men will find some shred of decency left in them. Or Lagertha will be waiting in the wings with an axe.

Sandi: Mwahaha...! Athelstan needs to learn to fight with one.

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