“People started to talk as if he was a god. He was not a god, he was a man. A man with many dreams and many failings. I’ve learned that in the years since he went away. If I was him I wouldn’t come back. Despite all his failings, he’s still the greatest man in the world to me.” -Bjorn, Vikings
The Vikings TV series, which debuted in March 2013, is inspired by the life of legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok, who rose to become King of the Viking tribes. Below are 45 astonishing facts about the popular TV series.
Vikings TV Show Facts
45. A Dual Production
Vikings is a joint Irish/Canadian production. The Emerald Isle was chosen as a filming location largely because of its resemblance to Scandinavia. The show premiered on Canada’s History channel.
44. The Nine Daughters of Ran
The women shown in the opening credits represent the nine daughters of Ran, who are the personification of the waves.
43. Originally Nine
Vikings was originally conceived as a nine part, scripted mini-series for the History channel, but was renewed for additional seasons when the series was met with a positive response.
While Vikings and the character of Ragnar Lodbrok are based on the legendary Icelandic Saga tale of Ragnar Lodbrok, the jury is still out on whether or not Lodbrok was real or mythological.
41. Showing a Different Side
The writer and creator of Vikings, Michael Hirst, stated that he wanted to paint a more accurate, complex portrait of Vikings than just the warriors and pillagers many think of them as.
40. She’s Got Some Skills
The actress who plays the fierce shield maiden Lagertha, Katheryn Winnick, is a skilled martial artist. She has a 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a 2nd degree black belt in Karate. She’s also a licenced bodyguard.
39. Making a Living
“Viking” is not actually an ethnic or national identity. To be a Viking is a profession, and is the term for the act of raiding.
38. Hairy Trousers
The name Ragnar means “keeper of the fort.” Lodbrok literally translates into “hairy trousers” or “hairy breeches,” which may come from the furry leggings Vikings often wore.
37. Ancient Eyeliner
Vikings used a kind of eyeliner known as kohl, which was a dark powder made from rushed antimony, burnt almonds, lead, oxidized copper, ochre, ash, malachite, and chrysocolla. The warriors wore it to keep the sun from damaging their eyes.
36. What’s in a Tattoo?
Rollo’s tattoo is a depiction of a scene from Norse mythology. In it, the wolves Hati and Skoll chase the sun and the moon.
35. Quoth the Raven
Ravens play an important role in the series. In Norse mythology, the god Odin was known for keeping two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, as messengers.
34. A ‘Collected Scanadanavian People”
The characters in the series are not strictly one nationality. The producers chose instead to make them a “collected Scandinavian people,” and the fictional settlement Kattegat is actually the sea connecting Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
33. Practical Hair Design
There’s little historical evidence to show what haircuts real vikings wore, other than beards for the men and ponytails for the women. Most likely, Viking haircuts would have been chosen so that warriors’ hair wouldn’t stick out from under their helmets, which could potentially allow enemies to grab the Vikings from behind.
32. Get Your Geography Straight!
The character of Jarl Borg was originally Swedish, until Gustaf Skarsgård, who is Swedish, read the script and informed creator Michael Hirst that Sweden did not yet exist at that time.
31. Not in the Sagas
Lagertha does not appear in Ragnar’s Saga or in the Saga of Ragnar’s Sons. She appears in Saxo’s Grammaticus Gesta Danorum, and Saxo may have made her up.
30. A Babel of Voices
Whenever there are scenes involving large groups of Norseman, the voices in the background are speaking Icleandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish.
29. Royal Colors
The red and yellow on the flags and shields of Harald Finehair are the colors of the Royal House of Norway.
28. They Wouldn’t Have Worn That!
While the costumes on Vikings definitely look impressive, historians generally agree that the threads aren’t accurate. At the very least, Viking warriors would have worn more armor or protective gear than what the show portrays.
27. A Great Conquerer
Rollo is based on a real Viking named Hrolf, who conquered the parts of France that are now known as Normandy, or Land of the Norseman. Hrolf was also the Great-great-great Grandfather of William the Conqueror.
26. The Runic Inscription
The inscription on King Horik’s sword is a mix of Elder Futhark (a proto-norse writing system) and the Younger Futhark (another old norse writing system), and means “Shard of Kings.”
25. Resurrected Languages
Four dead languages were used on the show to give viewers a sense of what the Vikings would have sounded like. Parts of the scripts were translated into Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and Old Frankish.
24. A Lack of Primary Source Material
The Vikings didn’t keep written records, so primary source material for the show is a bit scarce. Instead, the writers focus on first-hand written accounts of the Vikings from the people who interacted with them.
23. It Runs in the Family
Gustav Skarsgård, who plays Floki on the show, is the younger brother of Alexander Skarsgård. Two of the other Skarsgård brothers are also actors, as is their father, Stellan Skarsgård.
22. That Was Real!
In one episode of Vikings, Ragnar and his men drag the Viking boats up the side of a cliff. This scene was actually filmed and isn’t CGI.
21. Women Were Like That!
Vikings‘ portrayal of free, fighting Viking women is accurate: Women in the Viking Age enjoyed an unusual amount of freedom, including the right to divorce and remarry.
Zenescope and the History channel partnered to create a free comic book based on the series. The comic was distributed at Comic-Con in 2013. The comic is set before the events of the first season.
19. A Heroic Name
Floki is a Norse name meaning “Heroic Viking,” but it could also be derived from the Swedish word “flokig,” which describes a person who is weird, confused, or mildly insane.
18. He Looked the Part
Alexander Ludwig, who plays Ragnar’s oldest son Bjorn, was given the role because he bore a strong resemblance to the actor who played the child version of the character.
17. Not Faked
The fight scenes in the show are choreographed and acted out by well-trained actors brandishing real weapons. Prior to filming, the actors spend approximately 3 weeks learning the choreography.
16. Killed for Closure
Fans were shocked when Jessalyn Gilsig’s character Siggy died at the end of Season 3, but the death was unplanned. The actress had to leave the show for personal reasons, and Hirst decided to kill her off so the character would have closure.
15. A Hard Death
Michael Hirst knew that killing Athelstan was the only way to release the character from his spiritual crisis, but admitted that Athelstan’s death was extremely difficult to write.
14. That Was Brutal
Game of Thrones is often noted for its brutality, but in 2014, the honor for most brutal episode on TV went to Vikings. Staying as true as possible to Viking traditions, villain Jarl Borg suffered a slow, painful, and brutal death at the end of the “Blood Eagle” episode.
13. A Tight-Knit Cast
According to Dee Corcoran, the genius behind the hairstyles of the TV series, the actors spend their down time playing pranks on each other, watching movies, or just tussling around with each other on set.
12. No One is Spared the Axe of Fate
Thanks to the constant jostling for power in the Danish Kingdom, nobody’s relationships can be relied upon—not even Ragnar’s.
11. Natural Locations
The majority of the scenes in the series are filmed in unique natural settings. The production’s favorite place for filming is Wicklow County, about 100 kilometers away from Dublin.
10. It’s Getting Hot in Here!
For the scene depicting the conquest of Paris, the producers had custom scenery built for shooting. During the filming, hundreds of stuntmen were set on fire to show the sacking of a castle.
9. Seconds First
The secondary characters in the show were cast before the primary characters. All of the actors had to master the basics of fencing before taking on their respective roles.
8. From Bringer of Rain to Viking
In 2017, Josh Donaldson, the star third-baseman of the Toronto Blue Jays, made a guest appearance on Vikings as Hoskuld, “a Viking warrior of great skill.” Donaldson is a big fan of the series…and just happens to look like he belongs on the show.
7. From Screen to Game
Vikings is set to become a mobile game sometime in 2018. The game is said to be a player vs player strategy game, and will feature beloved characters from the show.
6. Modern but Ancient
Einar Selvik, a Norwegian composer who contributes to the show’s soundtrack, uses a variety of ancient Norse instruments to add authenticity to the series. Among the instruments he uses are a bukkehorn (made from the horn of a goat), a tagelharpa (a Scandinavian bowed instrument), and a lyre (a small harp).
5. A Kooky Kangaroo
At the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con, actor Travis Fimmel decided to crash a Vikings panel wearing a kangaroo costume. Fimmel approached the microphone, presented the panel with a sword to sign, and requested a hug. At first he seemed like another kooky fan, but his true identity was revealed when Fimell removed his mask.
4. Contrary Casting
Several of the actors on Vikings auditioned for different roles than the roles they ended up landing. Gustav Skarsgård (Floki) and Clive Standen (Rollo) auditioned for Ragnar, and Travis Fimmel (Ragnar) wanted to play Floki.
3. Religion’s Role
Religion plays a big part in Vikings. Ragnar’s faith is a key part of his character, and his involvement with a Christian monk and his questioning of his Norse faith creates chaos for himself and his followers.
2. Showing off His Calvins
The actor who plays Ragnar Lodbrook on the show, Travis Fimmel, was the underwear model of the 1990s, and was the first male model in the world to be given a six figure deal with Calvin Klein. He was even said to be the cause of quite a few car accidents in London because his ads distracted female drivers.
1. Girl Power
The female characters on Vikings are just as tough as the men. The shield maidens are based on old Norse sagas, and women are shown fighting on the frontlines of Viking raids.