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"Vikings" - History Channel

annis
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"Vikings" - History Channel

Post by annis » Mon February 25th, 2013, 9:20 pm

I see Michael Hirst's Vikingsis due to air shortly in the US, though goodness only knows when it will make its way Downunder. Not sure whether to be excited about this series or not- on the one hand I love anything to do with the Vikings, but on the other I hated what Hirst did with the Tudors. Oh well, wait and see...

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Amanda
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Post by Amanda » Tue February 26th, 2013, 12:09 am

Still have to watch Neil Oliver's Vikings, I could listen to his voice for a while......

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Susan
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Post by Susan » Tue February 26th, 2013, 12:15 am

Thanks for the reminder. I knew about it, but forgot. Going to program the DVR. I'm glad to see that the History Channel is showing a program that is actually about history instead of reality shows about pawn shops, antique buyers, and logging crews. I miss the old History Channel.

Here's the show's page from the History Channel's website: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings#/video/promo/
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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Tue February 26th, 2013, 10:44 am

IMDB says UK start is 13th March.
Currently reading: "Fear on the Phantom Special" by Edward Marston.

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Nefret
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Post by Nefret » Tue March 19th, 2013, 9:38 am

So, has anyone been watching this? I rather like Athelstan, and Ragnar's wife (don't remember how to spell her name).
Into battle we ride with Gods by our side
We are strong and not afraid to die
We have an urge to kill and our lust for blood has to be fulfilled
WE´LL FIGHT TILL THE END! And send our enemies straight to Hell!
- "Into Battle"
{Ensiferum}

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sat March 23rd, 2013, 11:28 pm

I like it, but I keep wondering how real it is. I mean obviously the wife wouldn't go off and fight(or did they???)

Its interesting, but historically accurate? Hmm, I dunno.

And I second the idea that HC is finally showing us shows again instead of reality trash!
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Susan
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Post by Susan » Sat March 23rd, 2013, 11:37 pm

[quote=""Divia""]I like it, but I keep wondering how real it is. I mean obviously the wife wouldn't go off and fight(or did they???)

Its interesting, but historically accurate? Hmm, I dunno.

And I second the idea that HC is finally showing us shows again instead of reality trash![/quote]

I did a bit of reading about the characters. Ragnar Lodbrok and his wife Lagertha both have some basis in history. The Vikings did raid the monastery at Lindesfarne in 793. There were Viking women who trained to fight called shieldmaidens, at least in their folklore. However, remember that the series was created and written by Michael Hirst, who also did The Tudors and that had lots of inaccuracies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tudors ... om_history

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar_Lodbrok
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagertha
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindesfarne#Vikings
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shieldmaiden
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Post by Barnitz » Sat March 30th, 2013, 5:41 pm

Like many enthusiasts of the period, I was looking forward to the History channel’s production of Vikings. I mean, it’s the History channel, so I gave the production the benefit of the doubt and tuned in with some excitement. I was pretty sure that they weren’t going to inflict horned helmets on us. Their decision to pluck Ragnar Lothbrok out of the sagas and make him the protagonist also seemed a good idea. There are plenty of larger-than-life Vikings to choose from in the sagas, but Ragnar’s career stands out.
He also comes equipped with a hot shield-maiden wife who establishes her credentials in two early scenes: dispatching a couple of nameless Vikings with a practiced economy in the first one and disagreeing with her husband in an argument that’s more like a brawl in a biker bar than a marital spat in the second one (Travis Fimmel and Katheryn Winnick are both serious martial artists). Those scenes prepare us nicely to see her kill a man twice her size who’s trying to rape her and a little while later stand in the shield wall in a pitched battle on the beach. Their attention to the small details of props and costuming (with the exception of some heeled boots and wide belts) has been commendable. So far so good on the horned helmets, although the hair styles seem to have been equally inspired by the 11th century Norman French and punk rock ravers. Odin’s appearance in his guise as the wanderer adds a nice magical realist touch.
But there were some early “dreadful fore-warnings” to quote the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, beginning with what appears to be a stunning ignorance of the existence of the British Isles.
The Vikings were a maritime power and great traders. The idea that the Vikings were ignorant of the existence of “lands to the west” in 793 puts them in the same category as someone who is ignorant of the existence of television in contemporary America. The Franks, their neighbors to the immediate south, had been trading and intermarrying with the Jutes in the southern English kingdom of Kent for a couple of centuries at that point. The Frisians, who occupied the low countries of the modern Netherlands, were such aggressive traders to the west that the North Sea was known as the Frisian Sea. For a Viking leader to remain so pigheaded in his denial of the existence of Britain would be like the president of the United States refusing to believe in China.
Another anachronism that sticks out to the knowledgeable viewer is everyone talking about “England.” At the time there was no England. Britain had been invaded by Rome, which subjugated the existing Celtic tribes, and then by Germanic tribes of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes when the Romans abandoned Britain. The Anglian kingdoms in the north and the midlands and the Saxon kingdoms in the south, together with the Jutes who colonized Kent and the Isle of Wight, were hardly a mystery to anyone. By 793 Britain was divided into seven main kingdoms known as the Heptarchy (Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex, Essex, Kent, and Sussex) and at least a dozen sub-kingdoms and regions with distinct political affiliations.
Northumbria (north of the Humber River) was riddled with internal political strife at the time, with four or five royal kin groups struggling for power with the same vicious intensity as any clan in Westeros. The 8th century in Northumbria saw all or part of the reigns of seventeen kings. Seventeen rulers in a century is not the hallmark of political stability. Ælla was not among them. There were two historical Ællas: the first ruled in the 6th century, the second in the 9th century. That’s a pretty big miss for the History channel, but when you decide to go with Ragnar Lothbrok you’re pretty much stuck with the second Ælla.
This brings us to “the onion” as Marc Anthony remarked in Rome, a far superior historical drama—the raid on Lindisfarne. You see, here’s the thing: Ragnar’s death is supposed to have occurred in 840 (or 860) and Lindisfarne was raided the first time in 793. That was a big event. The raid on Lindisfarne was the Twin Towers of the 8th century. Although it’s widely characterized as the beginning of the Viking age, the Vikings had visited Wessex six years before. Here’s the entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:

787. This year king Bertric took to wife Eadburga,
king Offa's daughter ; and in his days first came three ships
of Northmen, out of Hasretha-land [Denmark]. And then
the reeve rode to the place, and would have driven them to
the king's town, because he knew not who they were: and
they there slew him. These were the first ships of Danish-
men which sought the land of the English nation.

The writers of the second episode of Vikings seemed to reproduce this incident in the run up to the slaughter at Lindisfarne, but they moved it from the coast of Wessex (way south) to the coast of Northumbria (way north) and displaced it six years into the future. Let’s have a closer look at the chronicle entry. “Because he knew not who they were” doesn’t mean that he was like an Aztec confronting Cortez and his minions, with nothing in his frame of reference to explain them. Ships had been coming from the continent for hundreds of years. More likely it means that he wanted to know where they were from and what goods they were trading and if they’d paid the port tax. His offer to escort them to the nearest town was probably routine bureaucratic procedure. By the time he discovered that he wasn’t dealing with linen smugglers it was too late.
So even though they’re more or less successful when it comes to getting the period look right, they veer badly off the rails when it comes to the chronology of known historical events. Why?
The 8th century in Northumbria is brimming with dramatic potential. The 9th century Viking expansion equally so. Why mash them together with complete disregard for recorded history? How hard would it have been to do some basic research and, once done, remain true to it? The early Viking raids on England in the late 8th century would make a good story. Ragnar Lothbrok’s career would make a good story. In the right hands the story of Northumbria in the 8th century would make Game of Thrones look tame (except for the dragons and the White Walkers and the Warlocks of Qarth).
This is not to say that Vikings is a complete disaster. It’s well acted by a cast that’s unfamiliar to viewers (with the exception of Gabriel Byrne struggling in the thankless role of the willfully clueless Earl Haraldson) and so they’re not dragging around a lot of baggage from past roles. The drama on the ground, the tension between the brothers, the relationship between Ragnar and Lagertha, the Shakespearean paranoia of the Earl and his wife, even the comic relief provided by the loopy boatwright Floki (it’s no accident that his name contains the name of the Norse trickster god Loki) are all well played in the historical context.
But even though everyone seems to be doing their best, I think they’re betrayed by the story arc. This isn’t Dr. Who. If Steven Spielberg had included a flashback in Lincoln showing the old Rail-splitter passing over Ulysses S Grant in favor of Black Jack Pershing to lead the Army of the Potomac, the blogosphere would have erupted. Not even Daniel Day-Lewis could have pulled that scene off. But here we have the History channel foisting a Viking mashup on an unsuspecting public with little or no comment. Maybe in a few years they’ll produce a series showing how the Ottomans hid those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
And I haven’t even mentioned that silly crown Ælla wears to keep the viewer up to speed on the fact that he’s the king. It’s like a bad decision in 8th century bling.
Give us some credit. Of all the historical periods you don’t have to fiddle with “for dramatic purposes” I think the Viking age is pretty close to the top of the list. This is just lazy show running. From the History channel, it’s disappointing.

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fljustice
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Post by fljustice » Sat March 30th, 2013, 5:59 pm

Thanks for the review/analysis, Barnitz. This isn't my time period and wondered how close to the mark they got. I totally love "reel vs. real" discussions. I always take my historical fiction (print or movie/TV) with a grain of salt.

Agree with you that Rome was a great show, but they also mangled the time line, introduced (a few) ridiculous elements and just plain lied in one or two cases for dramatic purposes when the truth was just as good or better. I guess we just have to except neither are documentaries, sit back and enjoy the show for what it is.
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Susan
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Post by Susan » Sat March 30th, 2013, 6:52 pm

I started to read Bernard Cornwell's The Last Kingdom, the first in his Saxon stories, two days ago and came to the same conclusion about the timeline mess-up of The Vikings. Not being an expert in that time period (the novel starts with the 865 Dane invasion of the Saxon kingdoms), I did some research. I am fearing that The Vikings will compress the timeline so much that Ragnar will have been at Lindesfarne in 793 and capturing York in 866. Perhaps Odin made him immortal!

I'm really not surprised about the inaccuracies in The Vikings. The writer, Michael Hirst, also wrote The Tudors where he reduced Henry VIII's two sisters to one, a Princess Margaret who marries a fictional elderly Portuguese king, among other inaccuracies. I'll continue watching The Vikings though.
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