From my blog...

VIKINGS: Episode 8: Boneless (or The Son, the Saint & the Slut)

Viking Logo

Photo Credit: History Channel

My own subtitle for this episode is The Son, The Saint & the Slut. First, the Son.  Ragnar’s new son is born with a deformed leg. His mum, Aslaug, had predicted that she would give birth to a monster, so a bad leg doesn’t seem like such a tragedy. It is though. Ragnar regretfully sets the child out to die of exposure because with a game leg he’s no use to anyone. Aslaug rescues the child, though, and so he is given a name: Ivar the Bonelss.

Vikings Aslaug

Aslaug. Photo Credit: History Channel

 

The historical Ivar the Boneless, supposedly one of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, would one day make trouble for the English. But that would come later when he was all grown up. In this episode he only makes trouble for his mum because it’s a difficult birth and, of course, he’s deformed. Whether Ivar really had a bad leg or was given his byname for some other reason (Lissa Bryan suggests a few possibilities in her recap) nobody knows.

 

Surprisingly, Ragnar is not only present at the birth, he cuts the umbilical cord. With his teeth. Ick. Very dramatic. Not historically accurate though. Birthing was women’s work, and men weren’t part of the process. Sorry Ragnar.

 

So much for the Son. On to the Saint and the Slut, who are related.

 

While Ragnar is gnawing on umbilicus, over in England there’s a lavish feast going on. Flaming pigs’ heads!! Mead!! Drunken, cheering men!! Somebody playing the lute !!

 

WAIT.

 

The lute would not arrive in Europe for several hundred years. Scrap the lute and give the scop a harp for goodness sake! Shame on the prop men!

vikings_episode8_gallery_Kwenthrith

Kwenthrith & Ecbert. Photo Credit: History Channel

We also have a Mercian princess at the feast who eats no meat, only vegetables.

 

Hmm. In Anglo-Saxon England, vegetables, when in season, might include peas, beans, leeks, radishes, onions, turnips, beets, cabbages and dirty white carrots. Yum! Meat, on the other hand, was a high status food, a good source of protein, and available year round. The elite enjoyed hunting, and even women went hawking.

 

I’m not sure why the writers made this woman a vegetarian. It’s odd. But this princess Kwenthrith (Cwoenthryth if you’re a purist) is odd in other ways, too. She’s a bit ghoulish – she eagerly quizzes Athelstan about the Viking practice of human sacrifice. She’s sexually voracious – when King Ecbert wears himself out trying to satisfy her he sends in 3 of his men-at-arms to finish the job. And she is a murderess – she killed her brother.

 

So who is Kwenthrith, and who’s her brother? Well, he is St. Kenelm (Cynehelm if you’re a purist). There are 8 churches in England today dedicated to St. Kenelm. Supposedly, he was murdered by his jealous sister because he got to be king and she didn’t. That’s the legend; and she didn’t murder him herself. She had her lover chop off her brother’s head. Given a detail like that, it makes perfect sense that the scriptwriters would make her a lusty, bloodthirsty wench.

our-lady.dudley.sch.uk

St. Kenelm. Photo Credit: our-lady.dudley.sch.uk

 

She claims, in this episode, that her brother raped her when she was 12, which garners her some sympathy. But the 3 men-at-arms in her bed, although amusing, are a little over-the-top.

 

There is more to say about the historical Kwenthrith and her kin, though. Despite her legendary ambition which led to murder, she never ruled Mercia. The crown passed from her brother to her uncle who ruled for 2 years before he was deposed. (Perhaps it was the uncle who disposed of Kenelm!) Kwenthrith, far from being the sexual tigress presented in the show or the murderess of legend, entered a convent and became an abbess. That’s probably where she was in 825 when the historical King Ecbert invaded and took over Mercia.

 

On our t.v. sets the dapper King Ecbert – I really do like Ecbert – is unperturbed by her family history and is eager to help her influence the future of Mercia. (Because he wants to influence the future of Mercia.)

 

Meanwhile, across the Danish Sea, Ragnar, Lagertha and Horik are making plans to invade Wessex, and although the 3 of them are supposedly equals, they aren’t really. Horik has that word ‘King’ in front of his name, and he’s not likely to let the other 2 forget it.

vikings_episode8_gallery_ThreeAllies

Ragnar, Horik & Lagertha. Photo Credit: History Channel.

This entry was posted in History Vikings Review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to VIKINGS: Episode 8: Boneless (or The Son, the Saint & the Slut)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *