“You saw yourself as weak and conflicted, but to me, you were fearless because you dared to question,” Ragnar said as he mourned the death of Athelstan. There was no room for questioning religion in both Kattegat and England, though. To the English, Athelstan was an apostate and they crucified him for it, but Ecbert saved him.
To the Vikings, Athelstan was a Christian that made the gods angry, so they killed him for it. That is how sad religious intolerance can get. Just like religious conflict, most of the deep issues covered in Vikings still affect people’s lives today. Here is a look at the most relatable deep issues the show handled.
Infidelity splits families, and sometimes the whole society has to pay for it. In Vikings, Ragnar’s infidelity which started as a mere flirt with Aslaug caused a rift in his family and Kattegat paid the highest price. Lagertha loved Ragnar and she was willing to let the cheating slide, but there was nothing she could do about the heavily pregnant Aslaug.
When Aslaug took Lagertha’s place next to Ragnar, Lagertha assumed that she had used witchcraft to confuse Ragnar and swore to kill her for it, and she did, but the price was just too high. The infidelity destroyed Ragnar’s legacy. His son Bjorn ended up making the same mistake Ragnar made with nearly similar results.
Sibling rivalry mostly involves verbal abuse and probably a long period of silence, but it doesn’t always stop there. Ragnar loved Rollo enough to bribe the lawmaker to save his life after he fought against his own people with Jarl Borg. Rollo, on the other hand, hated Ragnar from the day he married Lagertha.
Ragnar was just too famous and Rollo wasn’t comfortable living in his younger brother’s shadow, so he betrayed him and caused his death. The trend continued with Ivar hating Bjorn, refusing to listen to his brother to prevent a civil war, choosing instead to fight till one of them died. The rivalry cost so many lives including Bjorn’s.
Sexual assault is one of the oldest vices in the book and Vikings wasn’t short of it. Lagertha was on the receiving end of most of it from the first season when she fought the attackers that tried to rape her and Gyda while Ragnar was away raiding. She was then forced to kill Knut, Earl Haraldson’s half-brother when he tried to rape her in England.
Her lover Astrid was also the victim of rape by the fishermen when she tried to get information to Lagertha about Ivar and King Harald’s imminent attack on Kattegat. She wasn’t ready to carry the baby that probably resulted from the assault, leading to her suicide on Lagertha’s sword, which was one of the show’s saddest deaths.
Losing a loved one can break families and entire societies if grief is not managed properly as it was proved in Ragnar’s family. Lagertha was wrong to murder Aslaug because she wasn’t a threat to her. Aslaug’s sons never got over that loss, and they kept seeking revenge on her for the rest of their lives until she died.
The loss of Athelstan also had a similarly devastating impact on Ragnar who lost interest in ruling after his friend’s death and descended into mushroom abuse. The worst grief came when Lagertha had to deal with Astrid’s death combined with losing Haehmund in close succession. She literally lost her mind.
Substance addiction is a problem in almost every country in the world today, and, as Vikings proved, it wasn’t any different in 9th century Scandinavia. Hallucinogenic mushrooms and ale were the two things that nearly caused Hvitserk’s death.
He destroyed his life while suffering from the addiction and became so broke that he sold his arm ring to buy the hallucinogens. Most people in Kattegat didn’t understand that he needed help and only resorted to brushing him off. Ragnar had suffered from a similar condition from the hallucinogens he was given by Yidu the slave, causing his inability to lead on the raid of Frankia.
Vikings adored healthy children that could fight on the battlefield or help parents in providing for the family. Being disabled was considered a death sentence by most people which is why Ragnar wanted to kill Ivar. However, as Floki proved, disabled children can still grow up and change the world even better than their healthy counterparts.
Ivar grew into one of the best fighters in the show all because Floki and Aslaug gave him the chance. It was so sad that he didn’t give a similar chance to his disabled son though. Ivar’s cruelty also proved that just because a person is disabled, it doesn’t prevent them from doing bad things to others.
Athelstan’s death had a devastating effect on Ragnar and it all happened because someone couldn’t accommodate his beliefs. Everyone loved Athelstan in Kattegat which is why he decided to come back with Ragnar. The only thing they didn’t like was his religion.
In the final season, after interacting with the English for so long, there was still a strong hatred for Christians in Kattegat. Ingrid said she planned to assassinate an Earl that had converted to Christianity. Ubbe also proposed killing Othere in Iceland because he was a Christian despite the fact that he needed him to get to the golden land.
After capturing Athelstan, Ragnar made him his slave although Ragnar’s family didn’t mistreat the monk. When Yidu ran out of hallucinogens for Ragnar, Ragnar killed her and no one seemed to care that she was gone.
Ragnar’s sons turned the tide on the treatment of slaves as Bjorn, Ubbe, and Ivar all got married to former slaves. Ingrid who finished the show as the queen of Kattegat was a former slave. She wasn’t liked by most people because she was a witch, but the show proved that slaves didn’t deserve the mistreatment they were subjected to.
Bjorn Ironside was a good fighter and the best king that Kattegat ever had but he wasn’t a good father. His firstborn daughter, Siggy, died because no one was there for her. When Thorunn lost the will to live and abandoned the child, her death sentence was pretty much written.
Bjorn left her in Aslaug’s care but she didn’t care about the little girl either. Sigurd, who was no older than Siggy, is the only person that cared for her and even reminded Aslaug to leave Ivar for a moment and take care of Siggy. It was the saddest case of child neglect in the show proving just how tragic poor parenting can get.
Floki’s Iceland settlement failed because Kjetill wouldn’t forgive Eyvind and let the families live in peace. In a society like that of the Vikings where loyalty was so scarce, forgiveness had to be unlimited, otherwise, life would be impossible.
Ubbe understood that which is why he accepted to fight alongside Lagertha to prevent Ivar’s madness from taking over Kattegat. Ragnar also proved that reconciliation was more important than fame when he bribed the lawmaker to spare Rollo’s life even after he betrayed and nearly killed him.