Vikings: Ragnar Lothbrok’s death featured key departure from historical figure

Vikings: Travis Fimmel on playing Ragnar Lothbrok

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Creator and sole writer of the History Channel’s epic medieval drama Vikings, Michael Hirst, took on a massive undertaking when translating ancient Nordic legends to the small screen. Unfortunately, some key plot points may have taken a huge departure from how the events probably took place in real life.

History buffs have outlined some glaring differences between the execution of Ragnar Lothbrok (played by Travis Fimmel) and his real life counterpart.

The popular action drama’s first lead ended his four season run with one of the show’s most brutal death scenes.

Ragnar’s feud with King Aelle of Northumbria (Ivan Kaye) came to a bloody conclusion when he was tortured and thrown into a pit of venomous snakes.

His death was certainly befitting of the Viking hero, as Ragnar proved it would take more than just a man to defeat him in battle.

However, the series has since become infamous for playing fast and loose with historical facts.

Indeed, showrunner Michael Hirst frequently opted to adapt the more exciting parts of the series from Nordic legends, rather than pulling plot points from actual events.

Fans may be surprised to learn that the character of Ragnar is actually inspired by three historical figures.

The first is King Horik I of Denmark, who actually appeared in the series portrayed by Donal Logue.

Ragnar also blends together attributes from Reginherus and King Reginfrid, the three figures’ combined tales forming the basis for the television adaptation.

While tales of old have claimed that a warrior known as Ragnar was killed in a pit of snakes following a battle against English forces, the facts tell a different story.

Although Horik was eventually killed by Ragnar in the series, the real King of Denmark was actually slain by his brother, Guttorm, after returning from exile.

Meanwhile, King Reginfrid was most likely killed during an attempted invasion and died in battle, rather than meeting his end at the bottom of a snakepit.

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Unfortunately, details are sparse when it comes to Reginherus, though records indicate he was simply killed, rather than being tortured by a vengeful king.

The truth behind the fable may be hard for some fans to learn after enduring Ragnar’s sadistic final breaths at the end of Vikings’ fourth season.

Even so, most viewers have been able to forgive the series for taking artistic liberties with the story.

Viking documents remain incredibly rare to this day, and it’s no surprise writer Michael Hirst was required to stretch the truth when it came to adapting the tales to six whole seasons of television.

Viewers have already pointed out that the ending of the series, which saw Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) land in America, directly contradicts the premise of the upcoming Netflix sequel, Vikings: Valhalla.

Set 100 years after the events of the original series, Valhalla will introduce fans to Sam Corlett as Leif Eriksson, said to be the first European to set foot in the New World.

Despite being helmed by a new showrunner, Jeb Stuart, it appears the popular medieval franchise will continue to take a lenient approach to historical fact-checking.

Vikings Season 6, Part 2 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.


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