WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN SEASON TWO OF VIKINGS THIS POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!!
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.
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!