Is The Last Kingdom Related to Vikings? A Historical Perspective

If you are a fan of medieval warfare and Viking sagas, you might have watched or heard of the popular TV shows Vikings and The Last Kingdom. Both series are set in the 9th century and depict the clash between the Saxons and the Scandinavians over the fate of England. But how are these shows related to each other? Are they based on the same sources, characters, and events? Or are they completely different interpretations of a poorly understood era of European history? In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between Vikings and The Last Kingdom, and how they reflect the historical reality of the Viking Age.

Vikings: A Scandinavian Saga

Vikings is a historical drama created by Michael Hirst and aired on History Channel from 2013 to 2020. It follows the legendary figure of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a farmer who becomes a king and leads his people to raid and conquer lands across Europe. The show also focuses on his sons, who continue his legacy and fight for power among themselves and against their enemies.

Vikings is loosely based on the Icelandic sagas and Old Norse poetry, which are the main sources of information about the Scandinavian culture and history in the Viking Age. However, these sources are not very reliable, as they were written centuries after the events they describe, and often mix myth and legend with historical facts. Therefore, Vikings takes many creative liberties with the characters, timelines, and events, and does not claim to be historically accurate.

Some of the historical figures that appear in Vikings are:

– Ragnar Lothbrok: A legendary hero who may or may not have existed, but is associated with several raids and battles in England and France.

– Rollo: Ragnar’s brother, who becomes the founder of Normandy after betraying him and siding with the Franks.

– Lagertha: Ragnar’s first wife, who is a shieldmaiden and a ruler in her own right.

– Bjorn Ironside: Ragnar’s son by Lagertha, who becomes a famous explorer and raider.

– Ivar the Boneless: Ragnar’s son by Aslaug, who is a ruthless warrior and leader of the Great Heathen Army that invades England.

– Alfred the Great: The king of Wessex, who defends his kingdom from the Viking invasions and unites the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

The Last Kingdom: A Saxon Story

The Last Kingdom is a historical fiction series based on The Saxon Stories novels by Bernard Cornwell. It premiered on BBC Two in 2015, and later moved to Netflix. It tells the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Alexander Dreymon), a Saxon nobleman who is captured by Danes as a child and raised as one of them. He becomes torn between his loyalty to his adoptive family and his ancestral heritage, as he serves King Alfred of Wessex in his quest to unite England under one crown.

The Last Kingdom is more faithful to the historical sources than Vikings, as it follows the events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is a collection of annals written by various monks during Alfred’s reign. However, it also takes some artistic license with the characters, timelines, and events, especially regarding Uhtred’s role and influence in history.

Some of the historical figures that appear in The Last Kingdom are:

– Uhtred of Bebbanburg: A fictional character based on Uhtred the Bold, who was an ealdorman of Northumbria in the 10th century.

– Alfred the Great: The same king as in Vikings, but portrayed more realistically as a pious, sickly, and visionary leader.

– Aethelflaed: Alfred’s daughter, who becomes the ruler of Mercia and a key ally of Uhtred.

– Brida: Uhtred’s childhood friend and lover, who is a fierce Danish warrior.

– Haesten: A Danish chieftain who raids England several times and causes trouble for both sides.

– Eadith: A fictional character who is the mistress of Aethelred, Alfred’s nephew and rival.

How Are Vikings And The Last Kingdom Related?

Vikings and The Last Kingdom are related by their subject matter, as they both cover overlapping timelines from our scant historical record of the era. They make such compelling tandem viewing because they dramatize the century-long existential struggle between the Saxons and the invading Scandinavians from opposite points of view.

However, they are also very different in their tone, style, and accuracy. Vikings is more stylized, mythical, and sensationalized, while The Last Kingdom is more grounded, realistic, and nuanced. Vikings focuses more on individual characters and their personal journeys, while The Last Kingdom focuses more on political intrigue and historical events. Vikings is more influenced by the Scandinavian sources, while The Last Kingdom is more influenced by the Saxon sources.

Therefore, both shows offer a unique and entertaining perspective on the Viking Age, but neither can be considered as a definitive or authoritative representation of the historical reality. They are both works of fiction that use history as a backdrop and inspiration for their stories. As such, they should be enjoyed as such, and not as documentaries or textbooks.

Doms Desk

Leave a Comment