Lately there has been a huge rise in the number of historical shows on television. I’m a fan for a few reasons, but here are the main two: I love learning more about history and I love looking at shirtless, bearded men wielding swords.
Certain shows deliver more than others (in both departments), but if you want one that is both rich in history and filled with crazy hot guys fighting each other in minimal clothing, then Vikings is a must watch. I discovered this show in the second season and bingewatched all the episodes in about a day. The midseason finale of season 4 aired on April 21, with the second half of the season returning in July. Even better than that? History Channel recently confirmed a fifth season. Thank god.
Vikings tells the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary chieftain who may or may not have actually existed. His name does appear in poetry and sagas, and he’s credited as being the father to real Viking warriors who have names like Ivar the Boneless and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye. But regardless of whether or not Ragnar was a real person, he certainly comes alive in Vikings, which explores his life as he gains power and influence among his fellow Norsemen. He’s an incredible warrior, and the show follows his wives, sons, family, and crew as they all battle for power and begin to explore –- and pillage –- the world around them.
As much as I love Ragnar as a character (his shirtless moments do not hurt), I’m really in it for his first wife, Lagertha. Also a historical figure, she ditches Ragnar after he tries to take another wife and then becomes a shieldmaiden, or a woman who is chosen to fight as a warrior alongside the men. She’s one tough cookie on the show, and proves over and over that she’s just as strong, if not stronger, than any of the men. I could watch her charge into battle all day long.The Season 4 midseason finale left things pretty up in the air for our heroes. No spoilers, but let’s just say that raiding Paris hasn’t gone as planned for any of them. With the announcement that the backend of season 4 returns this fall, we don’t have much of a wait until we learn Ragnar and his crew’s fate. Until then, here are three Viking-inspired books to tide us all over:
Vikings: A Concise History of the Vikings, Henry Freeman (Hourly History, April 10, 2016)
Dying to know more about the history behind the show? Then pick up Freeman’s nonfiction account of the rise and fall of the Vikings. The book details the Viking’s growing desire for exploration, their pillaging, and the eventual end of the Viking Age. Who knows, Ragnar might even make an appearance or two in this comprehensive history.
The Castle of Kings, Oliver Pötzsch (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 19, 2016)
Pötzsch’s latest story starts in 1524, right before Germany’s Peasants’ War, which puts it about 700 years after the Viking Age. But just like Vikings, this sweeping epic has romance, detailed moments in history, war, fighting and a couple you just know should be together. It tells the story of Agnes, the daughter of an overlord who’s expected to marry in her class. But she only has eyes for her childhood friend Mathis, the son of a blacksmith. When the peasants revolt against their poor treatment, Agnes and Mathis find themselves caught up in the middle of a vicious war. Will they be able to survive? You’ll have to find out when the book is released in the U.S. in July.
The Ghost: A Highland Guard Novel, Monica McCarty (Simon & Schuster, May 31, 2016)
I think we can all agree that Vikings are pretty much the sexy predecessors to Scottish warriors in kilts. The Ghost brings us back to the early 1300s, and the constant fighting between England and Scotland. This is the 12th book in McCarty’s Highland Guard series, and this time the guard is a woman: Joan Comyn, who spies amongst the English to learn their secrets. But when she falls for a man who was once in the guard himself, both of their loyalties come into question. Alex Seton must chose between his love of Joan, or his duty to his new command. I just adore push-pull love stories (kind of like Ragnar and Lagertha!).