The TV Series Vikings: Encorporation of Norse Mythology


That a large number of books, TV series and shows has drawn inspiration from Norse mythology does perhaps not come as a surprise.  Ranging from Tolkien’s blatant copying of Character names (read, the dwarves in particular) to names of the week being derived from the names of the Norse gods, with the exception of  Saturnday/Lördag -
Måne, Týr, Odin (spelling: woden/wotan), Tor, Frej/Frejya, Sol (meaing sun as in Sunday) – there has been many more contemporary and quite liberal interpretations and incorporations of Norse mythology. Yeah, I’m looking at you Marvel.

What the series Vikings has done is include the mythology in a subtle but therefore also powerful manner. We have Ragnar’s visions as Odin brings him omens that spring him into action, we have Auslug’s profetic gift, and many more less immediate incorporations that aren’t always noticeable unless you look closely. There’s also my favourite moments in Vikings, where Æthelstan ask the others about Ragnarök, and how the world was made.

Floki’s description of Valhall is spot on, as far as I can tell anyway. Floki is coincidentally my favourite character on the show. I also like the Seer, the reason should be self-evident in the video below.

Below: Ragnar sees Odin walk across the battlefield, Episode 1 Season 1


Alright, so far so good, just including the mythology would not be all that difficult. What Vikings has done is include the mythology in such a way that it becomes a living breathing thing. It sometimes appears as corporeal, tangible things like Ragnar’s visions of Odin, or as ethereal leaning towards the magical e.g. when Ragnar sees the Valkyries take the fallen to Valhall a few frames later.

However, it’s not just the visual cues such as the close ups on the numerous ravens appearing on the show that has  been done right. In the videos above what really stands out is the performance of the actors. The true weight of what Ragnarök is would not have been ‘translated’ nearly as well if Æthelstan had gotten his answer the first time he asked. The dark and grim aspects of Norse history and culture, as well as the mythology, is something that made me enjoy the show to the extent I do. Earl Haraldsson’s behaviour, embodying the old and conservative faction, certainly makes us dislike the man – perhaps not hate considering another contemporary character in R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones has already set the bar pretty damn high for many of us through Geoffrey.

Earl Haraldsson orders his right-hand man Svein to murder a young boy in order to look after his riches in the next life.Haraldsson

Lastly, another thing about the series that I have thoroughly enjoyed is the music. Wardruna, Trevor Morris, and Fever Ray have done superb jobs composing the themes included in the show. A shout out to them!

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Valkyrja: The Matriarch

Ine’s Soundtrack: Tyr – Gandkvaedi Trondar

The Matriarch

Hreidar knew he should have memories of his family’s great hall, but not even the scent of roasting meat or the warmth of the open hearth triggered anything. Upon the high seat sat a woman he only vaguely recognised, mostly in part because how much she looked like their mother. Ine studied him from her seat with fire in her eyes and a warrior’s bearing. Hreidar had forgotten eyes such as those, the last pair he’d seen had belonged to his father.

Ine’s eyes were not the only pair that seemed locked on him, beside her stood Bodvar, the eldest of them. Hreidar had expected him to have been chosen to rule, it became apparent that he had missed much in his absence. Another familiar face stood on the other side of the hearth, Eben Steinsson. His foster brother was speaking to a woman so old that her skin looked like weathered and wrinkly leather. Hreidar didn’t have to recognise her to know who she was. He give the Runesinger a nod and was rewarded with a knowing smile. Lastly there were the two standing behind him, Gunnar and Eadlin.

Wether or not the hall itself was different Hreidar couldn’t tell. The long-tables, the fur-covered benches, the hull-shaped form of the cieling, and the shields and spears that hung over the door looked perfectly ordinary to him. It dawned on him that he was indeed a stranger to this hall, and the people in it.

“Gunnar and I had a fascinating conversation earlier,” Ine said at length. “Imagine that my brother Hreidar has been alive all these years, and we never knew.”

Hreidar shifted slightly, unable to completely mask his discomfort. He knew all too well what that kind of tone meant, and he also knew better than to speak until she asked him something directly. So he kept his peace while she spoke.

“It is a story story we are all eager to hear, and we will hear it,” she spoke with the same kind of finality their mother had always possessed, the kind of voice that brokered no nonsense. “First, however, there’s a more pressing matter to discuss. Gunnar, bring the woman over and let me have a look at her.”

Gunnar approached, and Eadlin seemed to have picked up the que in spite of her scant knowledge of Norse. Ine’s scrutiny shifted momentarily and to Hreidar’s displeasure, Troll was laughing. Alright, he sent while doing his outmost to prevent his face from looking too disgruntled. What’s so damn funny? 

Oh I never imagined, Troll snickered. That a mighty warrior such as yourself could be this shaken by a little she-human. 

A momentary lapse betrayed Hreidar’s emotions and his expression darkened. Luckily, Ine was still engrossed grilling Gunnar with questions. Hreidar recovered his composure and opened up a part of his mind that he had warded Troll out of, he shared some of the observations he’d made about his sister and what they implied. Troll’s laughter was abruptly cut short and the creature retreated, quietly whining to itself. Not so cocky now, are we? Hreidar sent after it. What’s this? No witty comeback? Here I thought I hosted a very ancient and powerful Troll. The whining grew louder as the emasculated Troll whimpered and cursed. Hreidar could feel it swing between shame and outrage like a pendulum.

No matter what he told himself though, he could not shake part of the trepidation that harrowed him. She must possess a will of iron, he thought to himself. Not to mention resolve like cold steel. How else could she have outmanoeuvred Torald and Bodvar all these years, even with Mother’s support? There were too many unknown factors, too many gaps left unfilled. On the other hand, it was precisely this that made Ine potentially dangerous. Perhaps not in the capacity of combat prowess, although he couldn’t say for sure about that, but definitely in the capacity of ruler. He would have to tread with caution around her until he knew where she stood.

“Hreidar,” Ine said abruptly and he realised that he hadn’t been paying attention to her conversation with Gunnar. He cursed his erroneous stupidity and braced for whatever was to come. “You will translate for us, ask her if she knows why she’s here.”

“Eadlin,” Hreidar adressed the foreigner. “My sister wants to know if you know why you’re here.”

“Unless something has changed, I am here to make an alliance,” Eadlin replied coolly without taking her eyes off of Ine.

The cold attitude the two women displayed toward each other was almost made corporeal. Hreidar wasn’t sure whether or not he was imagining it but he could have sworn that the temperature of the great hall had dropped drastically. He expected to see vapour on their breaths any moment as he translated what the Queen of Lodein had said.  The feeling in his gut told him this would be a long negotiation.

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Valkyrja: Wayward Son

Returning home was not something Hreidar had ever planned on doing, but fate seemed to have plans for him that didn’t match his own. Eadlin had been pestering him with endless questions ever since they had come ashore, well, not that she hadn’t before then but lately all she ever did was ask and ask. He had indulged her at first, which he later came to regret. The woman’s curiosity was boundless. Eventually he had snapped at her and told her to pester Gunnar instead. She had clearly been reluctant since Gunnar’s knowledge of her language was about as extensive as hers was of Norse. Either way, it was their problem now and probably good for them.

Hreidar had his mind on other things. Things he realised that he had been putting off dealing with for far too long. Ever since he first began to regain his memories he had been forced to reconcile with his old life, and since he had known that his kin had thought him dead he’d come to terms with that notion and made his peace. His father had passed away by now, and if what he’d heard was true his mother was so ill that she already stood with one foot in the grave. He wondered at how she would react to seeing him, it had been a long eleven years since last time. For once Troll was staying silent, leaving him to process his return in peace. The reality of his absence and his father’s death hit him much harder now that he had to truly face it.

As they approached what had at one point in his life been home Hreidar was assailed with memories and familiar feelings he’d been unaware he possessed. The peculiar sense of novelty and nostalgia was difficult to wrap his head around. It wasn’t without anticipation he followed behind his brother. Upon returning home, seeing his family again, he would not only be coming back to them. He would officially be coming back from the dead, and be bringing the news of Torald’s death with him.

I know you’re itching to ask, I can practically hear you scratching the itch to say something, he sent to Troll. So I’ll just say it before you do. Our return is going to rip open a lot of old wounds, more than my own. I have neither the intention nor position to vie for leadership as I am. I will never be chieftain here, so don’t bother me about it.

Fine, Troll grumbled on a tone that told Hreidar exactly what Troll felt about Hreidar’s decision.

Normally the entire village would have come to greet the returning raiders, but they hadn’t sailed to the village docks. Hreidar, for one, was rather relieved at that. Gunnar had mentioned something about a conflict with neighbours, which didn’t come as a surprise. Hreidar’s brother had felt uneasy about sailing where their enemies knew they would have to come with plunder on-board so a hand selected few were taking a land route instead.

As they made their way down a path through the underbrush of the forests surrounding their village, Hreidar was struck by a realisation and suddenly stopped.

“We can’t linger, Brother,” Gunnar said as he came over to check why he had stopped. “We must keep moving.”

“This is where it happened,” Hreidar replied and was surprised at hearing how grave his voice sounded. “This is where Torald betrayed me.”

Gunnar spat at the ground, “Our brother was a treacherous cur!” he rumbled. “Do not waste your thoughts on him. Now come, we must go.”

“You’re right,” Hreidar admitted. “Lead the way.”

Gunnar nodded curtly. “You can tell us more when we see Mother and our sister.”

Hreidar had almost forgotten his sister. Ine had been a tiny and delicate little creature last time he’d seen her, no more than seven years old and always being doted on by their mother. She’d be eighteen by now. Would she recognise him at all? What kind of woman had she grown up to be? Had she taken a husband yet? Was the man worthy of her? In spite of himself, and in spite of knowing close to nothing about his sister, Hreidar couldn’t help but worry in the way older brother were prone to do. Somewhere in the far reaches of his mind he could feel Troll laughing quietly, what the creature found so amusing Hreidar didn’t know. It probably had something to do with Hreidar figuratively coming back to life, Troll had always had a thing for cheating death.

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Valkyrja: Meta Update, World Building

One of my biggest sources of inspiration is also one of the things I struggle most with where this project is concerned. I’ve mentioned my homeland on the blog several times before, and how I feel about the nature here is no secret. Why is it a problem? Well, translating that into words is proving a very tall order. So what does the world I envision look like? I’ve made attempts at describing the lands I based this fictive world of mine on, but this time I’ll try and show you.

A fellow Norwegian named Morten Rustad travelled over 15.000 kilometres in a car and put in five months of hard work to create a video that I was just made aware of. It truly captures Norway in a way that not a lot of people get to see.

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Valkyrja: Meta Update, Character Themes

Something that I like to do is find pieces of music that capture something of the characters I’m writing about. I had a chat with Mat Gerrard over at The Daily 400, and I decided to share some of the tunes I’m using for my current WiP Valkyrja. Unlike Mat, I’ve not yet compiled playlists for my characters but it is something I am going to try out. *tips hat*

Valkyrja is a story with a lot of characters to keep track of, at least for me in writing it. There’s the protagonist, Hreidar, his family, and a myriad of characters connected to them. Are they all relevant to the story? That depends on your point of view, for the plot many of them might very well not be. However, to make sense of the setting and fine-tuning the world building they are essential.

So, some of the more prolific characters and their themes! Something you may notice is that both Hreidar and Torald have darker themes, Hreidar’s is arguably darker than Toralds in spite of Torald being a more antagonistic character. Some of the characters mentioned below haven’t appeared on the blog, not yet anyhow.

Hreidar Haraldsson: Heima Thurs, as performed by Wardruna in the TV series Vikings.

Queen Eadlin of Lodien: Kyrie Eleison, by Stellamara

Torald Haraldsson: Father Serpent, by Dunderbeist

Gunnar Haraldsson: Sverker, by Corvus Corax

Ine Haraldsdottir: Gandkvaedi Trondar, by Tyr

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Valkyrja: The Mist

The strangest thing about the home of the Norse was not the land itself, she even recognized features of familiarity in the otherwise alien vistas. Breathtaking mountains reached skyward, clad in belts of green descending into a sea of swaying pines. Forests, as far as she could see, broken up by glades, rivers, and lakes. More than once she had seen mist thick as tapestries hanging around the ship as they sailed up along the coast.

How the norse navigated through these waters under such conditions she preferred not to think about, better to keep believing that their calm but serious demeanor implied some subtle use of arcana. No, what truly bothered her was neither landscape nor Norsemen. It was the sun, or a lack thereof. The further they went the shorter the days seemed to become, and the colder the winds carrying them became.

She had begun to understand the Norse more since arriving though, by just observing the land that forged them. Their quiet, calm, yet alert nature had confused her at first. She had always thought them a rowdy and loud people, but then again she felt very foolish for making the mistake of judging an entire people by how a handful of them acted during war. It was easy to be reprimanding of herself in hindsight, but it still didn’t take much of the edge off. Sailing north had been quite enlightening an experience, and Eadlin suspected that she had only scratched at the surface. She kept her eyes at the side of the ship she had been told was facing land, not that she could see much in the mist. She could not shake the feeling that if she could just catch a glimpse of what lay beyond she would uncover some great secret, a trove of information of some kind.

“You’ll drive yourself crazy,” Hreidar told her from where he sat leaning against the railing. “Do not trust what you see in the mist.”

“How am I supposed to see anything at all in that shroud?” she demanded and hated the fact that she couldn’t quite shake the anticipation from her voice.

“Keep staring like that and you will,” the Norseman replied. “It is not ordinary mist.”

“Well, clearly,” she snapped at him. “What are you getting at?”

Hreidar’s eyes wandered across the deck, taking in his comrades as if he was reading their mood. “You are fortunate they do not speak your language, he answered in a low tone.

“Why is that?”

“Because if they understood you they would throw you overboard. Things live in the mist, we do not speak of them.”

“Things? What things?” she persisted and gave him one of her skeptical frowns.

“We do not speak their name,” Hreidar said and gave her a look that frightened her a little.

Eadlin decided to drop the matter for now and made a mental note if asking Hreidar about it when the man was in a more talkative mood. She itched to talk about something, anything. The silence was wearing on her nerves. All she heard was the steady rush of water against their vessel, the rhythmic splashing of oars and the laboured breathing that accompanied it.

When the rowing eventually stopped and the crew bustled around in a sudden but quiet commotion Eadlin grabbed a hold of Hreidar’s arm and demanded to know what was happening.

“Watch,” was all he said.

Gunnar had fetched a bow, and was dipping arrows in tar. Puzzled she watched as a crew member lit a torch and brought it to him. Gunnar give another crew member a nod, at which point the man cupped both hands around his mouth and shouted toward the side where land was supposed to be.

“What is he shouting for?” she whispered to Hreidar.

“He is Summoning Allfather to us, to guide us ashore. Listen for the echo.”

Eadlin strained her ears and listened, she had expected there to be an echo since they were out on open water but the echo that came back sounded louder and closer than she had anticipated it would.

“What’s he saying?” she wondered.

Hreidar give her a look of confusion, as if what she had asked was the most obvious thing in the world. “He is summoning Allfather,” he repeated. “Calling his name, Odin.”

Apparently Gunnar was happy with the way the echo sounded because he held the tar-dipped arrow in the flame of the torch, then nocked it, drew, and let it loose. The flaming arrow arched through the mist like willow wisp before sizzling out and vanishing. A moment or two passed before Gunnar loosened another arrow. This one did not sizzle out but came to rest still burning.

“Land,” Hreidar said and let out a long exhale.

Eadlin couldn’t help but feel a great measure of relief herself. Slowly and carefully the Norsemen made for shore. Eadlin could not help but wonder at what awaited them beyond the mist. She felt as if she was about to step through a portal and into another word entirely.

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Descent into Madness

Roderick stared vacantly into the receding darkness of his cell. The first few rays of the morning sun crept into dungeon trough the tiny window up near the ceiling. As he did most mornings Roderick noted the distinct colour of the light, faint though it was. Crimson, bloodstained orange as he’d put it himself, was his favourite colour. Perhaps not strange given that it was the only colour in his life.

“Ha! It seems I was right, Sebastian,” Roderick said and turned his vacant gaze to the lifeless skeleton that shared the cell with him. “You’ll go mad before I do.”

Feeling rather pleased with himself, Roderick leaned back against the wall and donned a smug smile. “Do you think they’ll remember to bring us breakfast today? I sure hope so! I mean look at you, man. You’re practically nothing but skin and bones.”

Whenever he spoke his voice reverberated against the walls. Over time Roderick had taken to speaking very softly. The echo unsettled him.

“I suppose that’s my fault, your condition I mean. Hmm? What was that? Oh, yes, good point Sebastian. Ill ration my bread better, thanks for the suggestion.”

Roderick turned his head away from the skeleton when he heard the echoing footsteps of a guard approach his cell. He fought down the glimmer of hope that had sprung to life within him. The hunger would be unbearable if he got his expectations up in vain.

“I’m a fairly lucky guy,” he said at length. “It’s not every man who gets such a nice cell mate.”

The footsteps stopped in front of the heavy wooden door and a tray was slid inside through a hatch at the bottom of the door. Before the guard closed it Roderick could make out a pair of worn brown boots.

“Did you know,” he began as he went over and picked up the tray am put it on the bunk he normally slept on. “That I once had a pair of boots like that? I wasn’t always barefoot.”

Roderick grimaced as he swallowed a large chunk of bread. “It’s gone stale,” he explained to the skeleton. “You were much tastier,” he chuckled and gave the skull of the remains an affectionate pat.

As more light crept into the cell Sebastian’s remains stood out even more, the pale whiteness of the bones took on a more orange shine. Jagged marks were visible on all of the larger bones, especially the arms and legs.

“That’s very kind of you, my friend,” Roderick said with his mouth full of bread. “Giving me your portion too. You sure you’re not hungry? Oh well, if you insist.”

After he had wolfed down every single crumb on the tray Roderick lay down on his bunk and began his daily routine of counting the bricks in his cell. It was one of those things he just had to do, after breakfast a man counted his bricks, everyone knew that. Even Sebastian had known that much.

“What’s that? Demons?” He suddenly asked his cell mate. “Sure, we all have our demons. Why, want to share any of your own, Sebastian? No?”

Roderick fell silent for a moment, eyes fixated on a specific brick. “Even high society has it’s demons. Hmm? My society? Come now, you already know that. I’ve told you before, my society is these four walls.”

Roderick’s face contorted into a grimace. He picked up the empty tray and threw it at Sebastian. “You made me lose count, damn it. Now I have to start all over again. Oh laugh all you want, I’ll count them all today. Wait and see, I’ll show you.”

Roderick spent most of his days counting bricks. It had yet to dawn on him that he would not be able to count all of he bricks in the cell. He couldn’t count that high, which was why Sebastian always made him lose count at around two hundred.

“Tell me again,” Roderick suddenly blurted out, forgetting to keep his voice down.

He curled up into a fetal position almost instantaneously and stayed that way for a good five minutes after the echo had died down. Slowly he uncurled and gave Sebastian a toxic look.

“I have told you countless times to keep your bloody voice down,” he hissed. “As I was about to ask, why did they put you in here? I know you’ve told me before! I just forgot is all.”

Roderick fell silent and listened for a moment, nodding in agreement to the silence of the cell.

“I see, yes, I did the same thing. Well, I murdered a woman and her children. I didn’t rape her like you did. Did I make the husband watch? No, I can’t say I did. Maybe I should have? On the other hand, husbands tend to get so territorial and violent when you go after their family. Ruins the mood, you see.”

Suddenly Roderick had to bite down on his shoddy tunic in order to prevent his laughter from escaping his mouth. Only chortled, muffled barks escaped.

“Oh you are just too much sometimes,” he said with mirth still dancing in his voice. “Did I eat them too, you ask? No, so far I’ve only ever eaten you.”

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