Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Art & History Feature - The Vikings of History Channel & Lagertha

Vikings poster for Season 2 (History Channel)

I'm a big fan of the History Channel's Vikings, which is currently in its second season, and has already been renewed for the 3rd season.

Vikings does a beautiful job of setting up dark, moody atmosphere in each episode. The morality and the choices of these Vikings are often teetering on the edge of good and evil, only its not seen as good and evil but a fact of life. They live by different rules and they die by different rules. The ruthlessness of vikings is well documented, but this is how they survived, how they conquered and how they lived.

The show also does a formidable job of bringing strong women to the forefront of the story, whether the shield-maiden (warrior) Lagertha, the first wife of the powerful Ragnar Lothbrook (the main character of the show), or princess Aslaug, Ragnar's second wife, whose strength lies in her maternal instincts and character.

Lathgertha by Morris Meredith Williams, 1913
The historical Lagertha comes to us through the 12th century Danish work of history called Saxo Grammaticus. The account in this tale talks of Ragnar meeting this shield-maiden when she fought, along with other abused women, on his side when he came to avenge the death of his grandfather, Siward. She is described as a skillful fighter, her hair loose around her, fighting with the courage of a man. The legend continues with Ragnar courting Lagertha, and her setting two wild beasts on him to protect her home, which he ends up killing, so winning Lagertha's hand in marriage. He had a few children with her but, still not forgiving that she set beasts on him, he eventually divorces her and marries another woman. While this tale is considered a fiction for the most part by scholars, it clearly shows how she was perceived as a noted warrior and courageous personality. There are a few different theories about the real Lagertha, which all lead us to believe that she held considerable power and was possibly a ruler in her own right.

In the Vikings TV show, Lagertha is played (superbly, I might add) by Katheryn Winnick.

Do you enjoy Viking history? Do you watch The Vikings on History Channel? How do you like it?

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