Betrayals are a hallmark of Vikings and that means mounting body counts. Let’s rewind and pull out the knives in the backs as we examine some of Vikings’ greatest betrayals with the heaviest casualties.
King Aelle's attempted double-cross of Ragnar
Body count: Hundreds, mostly Northumbrians. One got a sword through the face.
All the way back in season one, newly minted Earl of Kattegat Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) led his men to Northumbria to invade King Aelle’s (Ivan Kaye) kingdom. In a nighttime raid, they took commander Lord Aethelwulf (David Murray), King Aelle’s brother, hostage.
Aelle attempted to negotiate a trade for his brother’s freedom over a feast (where the Vikings took to smashing plates over their heads!). Ragnar’s price of 2000 pounds in gold and silver was agreed to by Aelle, but the king sent a wagon sans payment followed by an attempted raid on the Viking camp (see video above).
The Vikings fought back, however, raising a spear fence and impaling the king’s men before taking to battle to slay many of the Northumbrians in a resounding victory. Aethelwulf was slaughtered for his brother’s deception, his corpse arriving at the king’s door drawn by a riderless horse.
Rollo’s faux Christian conversion
Body count: Tens of Northumbrian soldiers, plus around five unfortunates axed by Rollo while dying.
Rollo Lothbrok (Clive Standen) volunteered to be baptised as a Christian to meet Aelle’s terms to have his brother freed. But Rollo’s conversion was simply a ruse to complete the parlay, and he double-crossed the king, who in turn tried a double-cross on the Vikings.
Rollo proved his fealty to the Viking gods, and to Floki, who spat on the hallowed ground of the baptism in disgust, by thwacking some injured Northumbrians to death just for clarity.
“How many Christians did I kill Floki? How many?” he challenged the master boat builder. “Do you think Odin’s still angry with me now?!”
Rollo slaughtered his own people
Body Count: Around 50 Vikings, including children.
One of several betrayals against his brother Ragnar, Rollo, who was installed in the Frankish royal family as count after marrying Princess Gisla (Morgane Polanski), showed just how ruthless he can be in the season four premiere.
With nothing but a defiant stare, Rollo unleashed an ambush on a Viking camp by Frankish solders, killing even children and becoming an ultimate traitor to the Norsemen. They fought back, but it was too late, with the camp virtually decimated.
King Horik the double-crosser gets double-crossed
Body Count: Tens, and King Horik suffered a horrific headache.
In season two, two major characters faced the wrath of Ragnar after some stunning betrayals. Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr) was butchered via Blood Eagle and King Horik (Donal Logue) paid the ultimate price. The king, who had formerly aligned himself with Ragnar, had attacked Kattegat, seemingly turned Floki against Ragnar, and blackmailed Siggy (Jessalyn Gilsig) into killing his family.
But Ragnar had Horik’s measure, having most of his family and retinue killed. Meanwhile, the king was thoroughly pulverised, with Ragnar going loco, head-butting, skull-smashing and stabbing.
Ragnar resurrected himself and raided Paris again
Body Count: Over a thousand Vikings and hundreds of Frankish warriors. Plus a bishop was stabbed in the jugular.
Just as it looked like a mortally wounded Ragnar was on his way to Valhalla, he returned with a vengeance to lay siege to Paris once more. In fact, he did end up in a coffin, thoroughly duping those closest to him of his death, but most importantly, the Frankish nobility gathered in the Paris cathedral for his funeral.
Betraying the peace accord with the Franks, and their baptism of him, out popped the Viking king (and his raging tongue), knifing a bishop in the throat and taking Princess Gisla hostage. “I win,” Ragnar told Emperor Charles (Lothaire Bluteau). The Norsemen then spewed forth, causing mass Frankish casualties, but the Vikings had already lost at least a thousand of their warriors in previous Paris raids.
Multiple betrayals led to all-out war
Body Count: Thousands of Vikings and Franks.
The prelude to the epic battles for supremacy in season five between Viking factions had been bubbling away for many episodes, with several betrayals factoring in.
In part, the bloodshed of the civil war was set in train by Lagertha’s (Katheryn Winnick) betrayal when she murdered Queen Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland) to take the throne of Kattegat. Aslaug and Ragnar’s son Ivar (Alex Høgh Andersen) was, of course, dead-set on revenge, joining forces with King Harald Finehair (Peter Franzén), and Hvitserk (Marco Ilsø) betrayed brother Ubbe (Jordan Patrick Smith) to join Ivar’s army.
Meanwhile, Astrid (Josefin Asplund) played the double-cross betrayal game, turning on lover Lagertha to become queen to King Harald, only to then send warning to Lagertha about the planned attack on her kingdom.
There’s been much blood on the battlefield and there will be much more, as more betrayals no doubt play out when Vikings 5B returns later in the year.
Watch the mid-season finale of Vikings on Wednesday 31 January at 9:40pm on SBS.
Missed the previous episode? Watch it as SBS On Demand:
Watch The Saga of Lagertha: