When out of nowhere, Vikings!
I’ve been listening to the British History Podcast, and right now they’re talking about the Viking Age and the reign of Alfred the Great in the main podcast as well as their members only series, ‘The Fury of the Northmen’ which covers the Scandinavian cultures that gave rise to the Viking raiders. I’ve also been listening to their reviews of The History Channel’s first season of Vikings and the BBC show, The Last Kingdom. Suffice it to say that The Last Kingdom is far more historically accurate and with significantly less 90s Seattle-style angst going on.
I’d already watched the first few episodes of The Last Kingdom on Netflix, but hadn’t thought too much of it. Part of that was because I didn’t know much about the history of the times (the 870s), and part of it was because the main character, Uhtred, isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Seriously. If he’d stop and think for a few minutes or listen to his friend Brida once in a while, he wouldn’t have so many problems.
Anyway. Listening to the BHP prompted me to go back and re-watch The Last Kingdom, and with my newfound knowledge to back me up, I enjoyed it far more the second time around. I’d have to agree with the BHP’s co-producer Zee: “I am on Team Brida”.
While there are still some historical inaccuracies (let’s not get started on Northumbrian war tactics or the appearance of knitwear in the 9th), the show seems to follow the actual events of the time fairly well, though for the sake of television certain events are glossed over, compressed, or merely mentioned to keep the story moving forward. The characters are, by and large, three-dimensional and can be endearing in one scene and frustrating in the next. Just like regular people. If you’re looking for an accurate historical drama, I would definitely recommend The Last Kingdom.
While Vikings is excoriated throughout the BHP’s reviews for its historical inaccuracies, sometimes two-dimensional characters, and inconsistencies in tone, I’m still going to watch the fourth season whenever I get the chance. If you’re looking for an historical soap opera, it’s the way to go. Ragnar Lothbrok is a terrible human being, but there is something eerily compelling about the character.
And really, can you beat a character like Lagertha?
Nope. Not with a sword, axe, or anything else. When it comes to Viking Era television shows, I am firmly on Team Lagertha.
With that in mind, and having recently finished reading Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, is it any surprise that I would read a book based on this era of British history? Nope. Not a surprise at all.
Enter Bernard Cornwell’s book, The Last Kingdom, which is the basis for the BBC show. I tried to read Cornwell’s King Arthur trilogy, but I couldn’t get into it and hadn’t bothered with any of his other books until now. Fifteen pages in, I’m enjoying The Last Kingdom, but I’ll need to read more to see if I like it enough to continue. Then I’ll have to decide if I want to read the rest of the series- The Saxon Chronicles- which is ten books long. I have been leery of series lately. Too often, the fantasy series I’ve read have taken bizarre turns or end up feeling like the author was paid by the word. Given that The Saxon Chronicles is based on historical events, I don’t foresee it going off the deep end.
And because there apparently wasn’t enough Viking stuff showing up at my house, I received this in the mail:
There’s even a poster included.