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Monday, March 11, 2013

Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne is an island off England's northeast coast.  Learned monks lived there for hundreds of years after the Romans left their Christianity in Britain - so learned, that the monks are said to have discovered the properties of antibiotics more than a millennium before Fleming in the 20th century.  Lindisfarne is also known as the beginning the Viking Age - or, rather, the sacking of the island by the Vikings is seen as commencing that age.   It is thus a fitting locale for the tonight's episode 1.2 of Vikings.

Lindifarne represents, from the Viking perspective, the vindication of Ragnar's vision that untold riches resided to the west.  It represents the triumph of Floki's shipbuilding techniques.  Not every Viking who landed there finds fulfillment - Rollo notes with lament the absence of women - and argues briefly with his brother Ragnar about sparing one of the monks who speaks the Vikings' language.  This provides another tile in the mosaic of conflict that is slowly building between the brothers - with Ragnar who had the vision for the voyage, and wants to spare the monk (because Ragnar senses the monk can be of value), the more enlightened.  This conflict will no doubt bear all kinds of dramatic dividends as the story continues.

Ragnar is not quite so enlightened regarding his wife Lagertha, whom he insists must stay at home.  Or maybe that is the intelligent strategy, since a woman such as Lagertha, as beautiful as she is, would not be able to survive a ship full of men (including Rollo), even with Ragnar's protection and her considerable prowess as a shield maiden warrior.  But the point is that, unlike what I thought after last week's episode, it's not the case that Lagertha doesn't want Ragnar to take the voyage - it's rather that she wants to go with him.   And though both courses of action speak to her not wanting to be parted from her husband, Lagertha's wanting to go with him on the sea shows her to be a very different kind of wife and mother than we are accustomed to seeing in history.

The Viking landing on Lindisfarne at the end of the 700s may have signalled the decline of that monastery and the advent of Viking supremacy, but, more important, it also heralded the melding of Viking and Christian culture.   Floki, as ignorant of what could be written in the monastery's books as he is knowledgable in the ways of seafaring, burns the texts of Lindisfarne and with them the monastery.  But Ragnar's interest in the monk who speaks the Viking language signifies the beginning of a profound melding of two cultures, which will serve as a wellspring of who we are today as well as fuel for a fine new series.

See also Vikings ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4: Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice ... Viking Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

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