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Monday, April 15, 2013

Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle

I greatly enjoyed the end of Haraldson last week - very well presented, though I didn't have a chance to review it - but my favorite part of Vikings is the conflict of cultures between Scandinavia and England.  I thus was especially interested in the continuing story of that in last night's episode 1.7.

What's especially noteworthy about this physical and social culture clash is how the Vikings keep managing to best the English, and badly, in each interchange.   The first time, ok - the monks of Lindisfarne were like children, as Ragnar aptly said.  But the Viking raiders have been facing increasingly sophisticated English defenses, and are getting pretty much the same results:  the Vikings sail away laden with treasure and the English are left shaking their heads and vowing revenge.

Lest anyone think this is dramatic overkill, the Viking military superiority over the English shown on Vikings is pretty much the way it happened.  And indeed, this was a pattern repeated more than once in history - a pattern of a seemingly less civilized culture running roughshod over a more "advanced" society.  It happened most spectacularly when the Mongols conquered more of the world than the Roman Empire, until they were finally turned around in Europe, in Vienna.   The Vikings did much the same a half millennium or less earlier, and indeed the fragility of more civilized cultures is still a problem in our world today.

The Vikings did sustain a few losses in last night's battles with the English, and a poignant part of the story involved an elderly Viking warrior wanting to go to Valhalla, which required him getting killed in battle.  Ragnar agrees to take him on this raid, the elderly Viking curses his bad luck when he gets out of the first skirmish unscathed, but he's finally mortally wounded in the final battle and he dies with a smile on his face and with Ragnar nodding about the warrior getting what he wanted.   It was an effective little tableau about the power of religions which promise blissful afterlives to their warriors who die in battle - which, again, has tragically meaningful implications in our world today.

The fine historical drama of Vikings continues apace ...

See also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4:  Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice ... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

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