Two Historical Fiction Authors Review #VIKINGS Episode II

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Welcome back to our review series on the History Channel show Vikings. 

Historical fiction author Sandi Layne is with me again to discuss the historical aspects of the show. Sandi has written her own series on Vikings, both well-written and carefully researched. (You can read my review of the first book in the series, Éire's Captive Moon, here.)

Lissa: What an episode! My husband really enjoyed this one, and not just for the awesome battle scene.

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Sandi: That was a great battle scene. I was surprised by the lack of helmets on the part of Ragnar’s allied warriors, but I think the directors did that so that the viewing audience could more easily differentiate between the Vikings and the English.

And Lissa, you didn’t mention the female warriors! There were at least the two that I saw. We didn’t see them set apart as shield maidens, but it was a surprise to see them with the invading party.

Lissa: What was the name of the girl that Ragnar was flirting with when Aslaug got upset at him? I couldn’t remember.
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SandiMe, either. But she was from Uppsala and reminded me a little of a Swedish foreign exchange student that was with us when I was in college. If her name is important, I am guessing we’ll hear it again.

Lissa:  I’m wondering if she might be important later. Or if Ragnar might come back to discover that the girl (and maybe his little pet goat, too!) were that sacrifice to Thor that Aslaug mentioned.

SandiAh…nice. I hadn’t considered that but it is certainly something possible. The series has indicated on more than one occasion that human sacrifice is not beyond the pale within the show.
May be toast
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Lissa: Aslaug seems to have her hands full and not just with her little boys! Ragnar seems to have a bit of the roaming eye, and she is threatened by it. Likely because she recalls how she got to the place she is now.

SandiIs there where we ask about the pot and the kettle? Aslaug has clearly been bred to be the wife of a Jarl and she carries the role itself well in public, even if in private she gets snippy.

Lissa: Aslaug is a völva (or Seer), but Ragnar doesn’t seem to put much stock in her predictions.

SandiI found that term, völva, when I was researching for my Éire’s Viking trilogy. Ragnar should heed Aslaug, for the acknowledged women of her ilk were not so acknowledged without some evidence.
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Lissa: In some of the old legends, she convinced Ragnar she was the daughter of Sigurd (and thus worthy of marriage) by predicting she would have a son with the snake marking in his eye. Would have been helpful if the Seer Ragnar visits would have said, “You know, you might want to listen to that new wife of yours. Just sayin’.”

SandiThat Seer is SO creepy. I get that Ragnar needs to check on his kids (he seems, by all accounts to be a good dad in both seasons. A better father than husband, perhaps.) but the Seer takes some kind of pleasure in teasing him. I feel the Seer is measuring information to ensure his job security.
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Lissa: When he was mourning Gyda, Ragnar said a man might be jealous of his sons, but a daughter was always a joy. It appears what the Seer told him may have spurred that jealousy, even before some of the sons are born! It’s prophesied his sons will go even further than he has, and Ragnar seems both elated and troubled by the idea.

SandiRagnar has depth to him. I think it’s natural for an ambitious man to feel some ambiguity about his own legacy, as it were. Yay! I’ll be famous! Yay! My sons’ll be famous, too! Oh…they’ll be more famous? Well, darn. Hm. How’s a man supposed to feel about that in an era in which winning renown is a huge thing?

Lissa: The actor playing Ragnar’s second son is adorable!

SandiHe is! And I can't get over what a loving father Ragnar is. I'll probably still be talking about it next week.

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Lissa: He is! And I'm delighted the show is depicting the Vikings in such an in-depth manner. They weren't the stereotypical savages sometimes depicted in film. They had loving families, and a highly sophisticated society. Ragnar, too, is a character that has depth. He may make bad decisions occasionally, and he can be a real jerk, but he loves his children and isn't afraid to show it.

Ragnar denies his brother a chance to raid with them and regain his honor. Leaving Rollo behind seems the
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greater mistake, especially with Siggy eagerly spilling Ragnar’s secrets. And here she had me thinking she’d turned over a new leaf! You were right all along not to trust her. Siggy and Horik? Only makes sense, I suppose. But, lawd, girl … when Rollo finds out … I must say, though, the love scene between them was beautifully filmed. The tattoo, moving like waves beneath the ships.

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SandiI was pleased that Ragnar forgave his brother. The culture in which he lived might be ambiguous about that, but if Rollo had lived more honorably over the past four years, perhaps he’d have had more from his brother? I agree that leaving him behind—a man who has demonstrated a willingness to at least consider usurping the leadership role more than once, and who has been willing to take up arms to get his own way—is short-sighted on Ragnar’s part.

And Siggy! She seemed to be less ambitious while in the presence of Lagertha in the first episode this season. But yes. If Rollo isn’t going to step up and get her her status back, she might make a pact with Aslaug…or, as we saw, sleep with a king. And yes, I loved the tattoos. Who did them for her, is what I wanted to know.

Lissa: The history buff in me here interjects that the record for tattoos in this era is very scant. There are some descriptions of tattooed men, but we don’t know the design or significance of it, nor whether women were commonly tattooed. I know Charis in Éire’s Captive Moon is tattooed. What did your research uncover?

SandiWell, tattooing has been around for at least five millennia. In my research, the Romans had discovered a way to make ink that stayed in the skin, but most of the Europeans of the 9th Century (and I understand that VIKINGS is at least to the year AD 800 at this juncture) used woad but it faded and if the person wanted to keep the tattoo, it had to be re-etched periodically. In Rome, they found a way that used something closer to ink that incorporated pine needles and vinegar as well as minerals. This was a more permanent tattoo. In my books, Charis is tattooed with woad – but her supernatural qualities make it so that the woad doesn’t fade so quickly. Aislinn is tattooed with Roman ink that Cowan had learned about in his travels.

From queensmilitant on Tumblr
Lissa: I had to chuckle, though, when Aslaug said to Siggy that women should stick together – and rule. You know, the trio of Lagertha, Aslaug, and Siggy together would have made the fiercest Viking rulers of all time, and the sound of their names would have stricken fear into the hearts of men all over the known world.

SandiThis is SO true. I do wonder what will become of this most recent alliance. If, indeed, it is an alliance. I see Aslaug as being thoroughly capable of double-dealing.
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Lissa: That soft sigh when Athelstan gave when he first laid eyes on his homeland gave me a pang in the heart.

SandiOh, that was a lovely moment. Wordless but communicative. There he was, returning to his homeland, knowing that he had been preparing to make war against those who lived there. So the former priest was returning not with converts, but with an axe.
"Look! Fishies! We could TOTALLY eat those!"

Lissa: So, Floki decides he wants some fish sticks ...

Sandi: ... and History Channel favorited your remark about that on twitter. Nice!

Lissa: ... and our Viking lads loll around on the grassy banks without even a few men on watch? I raised a bit of a brow at that, because it’s hard to believe the Northmen would be so careless. They’ve had clashes with the English before, and they know it’s not an undefended realm.

You want to be BEHIND the shield wall, Athelstan.
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SandiI think their casual attitude did a couple of things. One, the sea journey was rough and this was a way for them to relax before they got to work. Getting land legs back again was necessary (fighting direct from a long voyage would have been disconcerting!) as was having something to eat that wasn’t salted fish or some other kind of salted meat. Fresh fish, new greens, that sort of thing. And getting clean would have been a priority, too. All that water-play had to go to some purpose. The problem was that Ragnar relaxed rather too much and they were caught.

Lissa: Hearing the Old English again was a joy.

SandiOh, I had a huge smile on my face.
From queensmilitant on Tumblr

From andias1 on Tumblr
Lissa: But now Athelstan has joined them fully, becoming a warrior, drawing his first blood and earning his torc.

SandiI do wonder how this will affect him, in the long term. He fought without having the drive for it at first, but when he had to come to someone else’s rescue – to defend another life – he moved quickly. And yes, the axe is a fine weapon for hand-to-hand combat.

Lissa: We also meet King Egbert, enjoying a bit of a splash in his elegant Roman-style bath. Archaeological digs have uncovered a number of them in Wessex. Did they ever say what town they’re near in the story?

SandiThe pool was a very nice touch. The show called him Ecbert in the translations, which is about how it was spelled in the earliest documents folks have found. Egbert does tend to feel better, though, in my head. I don’t remember if Ecbert’s countrymen gave a city for him in last night’s episode, though. I was just kind of enjoying the sound of the language.

I am very much looking forward to next week’s episode! What will King Ecbert do? Where is Lagertha? What is Siggy really up to? I need to get a recording of the VIKINGS theme song and put it on repeat…


  1. Bless you. I will favorite the video.

  2. I have a question. In the first season, Lagertha invited the priest to a threesome yet in this season she's angry with Ragnar for sleeping with another woman. Which is the way it would have really been? I get that she's angry about sharing her home and husband with Aslaug as a second wife but would she have been mad about him "just" having sex with another woman?

    1. The proposal to Athelstan was Lagertha and Ragnar both agreeing to add another temporary partner for their mutual pleasure.

      Ragnar impregnating Aslaug was him going off on his own without Lagertha's participation or agreement, against her wishes. She had already indicated at the festival in Uppsala that she did not want Ragnar going off to play with others without her. Ragnar tried to hide what he had done, but Bjorn told Lagertha about the affair. If it had been something they had agreed upon, he wouldn't have needed to hide it.

      In the Viking culture, it wasn't necessarily a problem for a man to have partners outside of his marriage, but personal agreements between spouses are a matter of trust. Lagertha could no longer trust Ragnar.

      Impregnating someone wasn't necessarily a problem, either, but Ragnar had indicated his intention to claim the baby and set Aslaug up as an equal partner, without Lagertha's agreement.

      In other words, if Lagertha had been cool with it, there wouldn't have been a problem, but Ragnar stepped outside of their agreed-upon arrangement and broke Lagertha's trust.


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