Vikings: Valhalla showrunner teases brutal Pagan-Christian war

Vikings: Valhalla. (L to R) Bradley Freegard as Canute, Leo Suter as Harald in episode 102 of Vikings: Valhalla. Cr. Bernard Walsh/Netflix © 2021
Vikings: Valhalla. (L to R) Bradley Freegard as Canute, Leo Suter as Harald in episode 102 of Vikings: Valhalla. Cr. Bernard Walsh/Netflix © 2021 /

After nearly two years, Vikings will finally return, this time in a new Netflix series called Vikings: Valhalla. The sequel show is set about 100 years after the raids, battles and adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), his wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and their son Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig), so we’ll be getting a whole new cast of Viking raiders to love and fear.

Ahead of Valhalla’s February 25 release, co-creator and showrunner Jeb Stuart spoke to the UK’s Daily Express about its 11th century setting, as well as the brutal and epic religious conflict at its center. “This religious civil war is between the pagan Vikings, who still worshipped Odin and the old gods, and Christian Vikings, who had converted in this huge tide of Christianity that was coming up from Western Europe,” he said.

The original Vikings series chronicled events and the lives of characters taken from Norse myth, following them as they raided coastal settlements for treasure and power. The History Channel and Amazon Prime Video series also depicted early meetings between the old gods-worshipping Vikings and the Christians of medieval Europe.

In Valhalla, some of the most legendary Norsemen of all time will take center stage as tensions between the conquering Vikings and empire-seeking English come to a boil. Fueling that fire are the warring religious factions, even among the Vikings themselves. Characters include Leif Eriksson, his sister Freydis, Emma of Normandy, King Canute II, Harald Sigurdsson and Olaf Haraldsson.

Religious war to play a major part in Vikings: Valhalla

By the time of Valhalla, Christianity had gone global and was the main religion in most of Europe. We’re looking at  got the beginning of the end of the Viking Age and the influence of old gods like Odin and Thor. According to Stuart, the Vikings who converted to Christianity over the decades since the times of Ragnar and Bjorn “were mostly very sincere, very tough” and “very focused on absolute and total conversion to Christianity…or violently wiping paganism off the map entirely.”

There were a lot of factors leading Vikings to convert during this time: increased contact with Christianity via raids, pressures to broker peace between the religions for political and economic reasons, and general desires to settle in new areas, which meant living alongside Christian neighbors. By the mid-11th century, the Christian Church was firmly established in both England and Scandinavia.

Historians sketch out the Viking Age as happening between the late 8th century through the early 11th century. The Vikings franchise isn’t entirely fiction or nonfiction, but rather borrows characters and events from history. It’s not a documentary and can’t reasonably be expected to get everything right, since even European historians agree about how difficult it is to confirm historical details about the Vikings and their religious practices due to how much later in time accounts of their actions were written down. However, we know much more about the pagan gods of Norse mythology, like Odin, Thor and Loki.

How the St. Brice’s Day Massacre influenced Vikings: Valhalla

In an open letter posted on Den of Geek, Stuart claimed he found the “exciting new entry point” for the series in his research of the St. Brice’s Day Massacre at Oxford. These killings of more than 30 young men — whom DNA analysis confirmed were Vikings — became “a doorway into our new story.”

In the decades after the brutal civil conflict at Kattegat featured in the final season of the original series, the Vikings spread out across Europe, including the British Isles. The Anglo Saxons living there didn’t like the intrusion of the Danes (Vikings). In 1002, the English King Aethelred II (the Unready) ordered the extermination of all Danes living in the Anglo Saxon territories, which came to be known as the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. And that’s where Valhalla begins.

"What if one of my characters had been there? What if he or she survived? How would their Viking kin, who were locked in a religious civil war in Scandinavia, react? Would they put aside their religious and ideological differences and remember that at the center of their being they were Vikings? Would they come together to avenge this slaughter of their people? The answer of course was, yes."

While Vikings: Valhalla will undoubtedly focus on the political and religious machinations in Europe during the medieval period, the inclusion of Leif Eriksson hints at a possible venture to the “New World” of continental North America. Leif has long been thought to be the first European to land on the continent, hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus. Specifically in Vinland, which is present day Newfoundland.

With the cast of legendary characters and a High Middle Ages setting, the epic saga of the Viking Age is about to come to an end with Vikings: Valhalla. The first season drops February 25 on Netflix.

Vikings: Valhalla creator shares “multi-season” plan for the show. dark. Next

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Not surprisingly, Stuart called the show’s setting “a long and somewhat complex timeline.”