The historical accuracy of Vikings is a rather consistent topic of conversation among viewers. The History Channel series is a combination of myth, legend, and history, which has led to blurry lines on all fronts. Thankfully, Vikings’ creator, Michael Hirst, has addressed the concerns surrounding the show’s accuracy.
When it comes to Vikings, for every King Alfred (a historically existent character), there has been a less factual one (Athelstan). The latter has been presented as the biological father of King Alfred on Vikings. All of this debate over historical accuracy might not have gotten the attention that it has over the years if the show was not as popular as it is.
The show is a huge hit, though. Hence, Vikings’ creator has weighed in on it, and it is not the only time. Michael Hirst has elaborated on how real history has informed Vikings’ progression. Asked about writing a show where there is little historical information to go on as compared to Hirst’s previous hit The Tudors, Hirst told History Extra:
I tried very hard not to be too inventive. We wanted everything to remain as authentic as possible. One of the questions I ask Justin [Pollard, historical advisor on Vikings] when I’m developing a character or a storyline is whether it’s plausible. You can’t always say whether it’s accurate, because nobody knows, but you can ask whether it’s plausible. Then, as a writer you need to ask yourself whether it seems truthful. I’m not writing fantasy – this isn’t Game of Thrones; I don’t have dragons. I can’t just make it up – it has to seem real. One of things I’m proudest of is that most of what we do is for real – our guys actually fight, row and ride horses. In the last season they had to hoist two-tonne boats up cliff faces, and they really did it. I think the reality of it shows.
That is why you do not make comparisons between Vikings and Game of Thrones, even if it can be an easy thing to do. While Vikings does not have unreal things like dragons and, therefore, Dragonfire, it does feature similar cutthroat machinations amidst a world chock of grey-area characters. After all, Game of Thrones has its own historical inspirations too.
As for Vikings, the goal, according to Michael Hirst, is not for Vikings to ring with absolute historical truth. Rather, Vikings’ creator focused on what could be considered “plausible” (within the realm of possibility) while creating the show. Michael Hirst has readily admitted that he cannot always say Vikings is accurate, although, he countered that no one knows the absolute truth for sure.
So, if you are hoping to crack open a history book to learn what will happen after that significant cliffhanger in Season 6A, you are arguably out of luck. Both Bjorn and Harald’s fates were hanging in the balance when Vikings left off. What is known of the real Harald’s history informs curious minds that he lived to be in his eighties.
However, Vikings took a big swing in another direction during the finale with Harald appearing to have met his end. Will Vikings stay true to known history and have Harald survive despite his seemingly mortal wound? If Michael Hirst remains true what he is saying here, it would not be “plausible” for Harald to have died at this point in his life. As for Bjorn, he is in bad shape too. What bearing history will have on seeing either character survive will be interesting to learn. There is a historical basis to have Harald escape death.
Bjorn has two wives pulling for him to make it, so we shall all see what lies ahead for Ragnar’s eldest son. A premiere date for the second part of Vikings’ final season has not been set yet by the History Channel. Until the historical drama returns, check out this summer’s premieres to keep yourself entertained.