After seven years on TV and a saga that has spanned decades, Vikings‘ season 6 finale brought the story of Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons to an end. The final season of the History Channel series was split into two halves, and Vikings season 6b opened with a farewell to one of the few remaining characters from season 1 – Ragnar’s firstborn son, Bjorn Ironside. The supposedly unkillable warrior went out in style by appearing to rise from the dead and lead the Norwegian army to victory against the invading Rus, before finally succumbing to his injuries and being entombed still on horseback with his sword raised.
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Bjorn’s half-brothers, Ivar the Boneless and Hvitserk, had fought on the side of the Rus during the invasion, and were left at a loose end after helping to secure a new leadership to the east. The unstable Prince Oleg was killed by the young king-to-be, Igor, and Oleg’s brother Dir took his place as the regent ruler of the Rus until Igor reaches adulthood. After Ivar left his own son, Baldur, to die in the woods, he developed a strong father-son bond with Igor in Vikings season 6 that appeared to mellow out Ivar’s more murderous tendencies. And prior to leaving Kiev to return to Norway, Ivar fathered his first biological child with the Rus princess Katia.
While Ivar and Hvitserk allied themselves once again with King Harald Finehair to lead a Viking raid on Wessex, Ubbe sought to fulfill a different part of Ragnar Lothbrok’s legacy by adventuring across the vast ocean to the west in search of a promised “Golden Land.” Following a harsh journey that included the accidental discovery of Greenland, the loss of Ubbe’s stepdaughter Asa in a storm, and settlers dying from dehydration and sickness after weeks at sea without food or water, Ubbe finally reached the New World – and discovered that it was already inhabited.
Ubbe’s Settlement In North America
Though Vikings viewers may think that the shot of a soaring eagle after Ubbe’s arrival in the “New World” means he’s reached the USA (or rather, the land that will eventually become the USA), he and his settlers actually arrive in Northeastern Canada. Ubbe’s quest in Vikings is fictional; as far as historical records show, Norse explorers didn’t reach North America until Leif Erikson’s arrival in the 11th century. However, based on the presence of Mi’kmaq natives and the fact that Ubbe’s boats travelled from Greenland, it can be assumed that they ended up in the area that would later be dubbed “Vinland” by Leif Erikson, and eventually dubbed Newfoundland by King Henry VII in the 15th century.
Ubbe’s arrival in the west may not have happened in real life, but his story serves as both a fulfillment of Ragnar’s dream of exploration, and as foreshadowing for the colonization of the Americas by European explorers. When asked by Othere what he sees when he looks at the new world, Ubbe replied excitedly that he sees farming land, minerals for mining, “rivers, ports, construction, abundance. Everything that Ragnar dreamed of.” Troubled by this, Othere points out the flaw in Ubbe’s thinking: “You discover a new land, but you behave in the same ways as you did before. And then it becomes just like the land you left behind.”
Sure enough, behaving in the old ways soon damages the relationship between Ubbe’s settlers and the Mi’kmaq. After they receive a gift of a small lump of gold, a Norse settler called Naad grows greedy for more and searches the Mi’kmaq’s camp for it – murdering the Sagamaw’s son, Peminuit, when he’s caught. Ubbe decides to punish Naad by executing him via blood eagle, but in the end simply cuts his throat. Though he did this mostly as an act of mercy, knowing that Naad would never be able to stay silent through the torture and earn his place in Valhalla (like Jarl Borg did in Vikings season 2), this can also be interpreted as Ubbe deciding to leave the old ways behind him.
Ubbe has always been the most pragmatic and level-headed of Ragnar’s sons, and previously converted to Christianity to secure a truce with King Alfred in England. It wouldn’t be surprising if he ultimately decided to adopt the Mi’kmaq’s ways, rather than attempting to forcibly colonize his new world for the Norse. The upcoming sequel series Vikings: Valhalla, which will feature Leif Erikson among its cast of characters, may reveal what became of Ubbe and his settlers. For now, though, his ending is left fairly open.
How (& Why) Floki Came To The New World
To Ubbe’s surprise, he found an old friend waiting for him in the new world: Floki. The last time we saw the giggling boat-builder he was seemingly crushed in a cave-in after discovering to his maddening dismay that Christians had beaten him to Iceland, which he’d once believed to be Asgard – the home of the Norse gods. Floki’s own new world fell apart when the settlers he persuaded to come to Iceland descended into in-fighting and murder, culminating in the suicide of Kjetill’s sweet-natured daughter, Aud. When asked why he left Iceland and travelled west, Floki simply replied that the sadness came to be too much for him.
As with Ubbe, Floki’s journey to North America is fiction (though a real-life Viking called Floki was among the first of the Northmen to travel to Iceland). With his memories having become muddled in places, Floki doesn’t offer many details about how exactly he made the epic journey, saying only that he “found a boat.” As set-up for Floki’s return, it was mentioned in season 6 that he was the greatest boat-builder of all the Vikings, and that his boats sailed smoothly through the waves. If he actually build the boat that he claims to have found, then Floki’s journey may well have been easier than Ubbe’s.
The return of Floki reveals just how much he has changed from the man he was in Vikings season 1. Not including Rollo (who became the first ruler of Normandy and did not return in season 6), Floki is the only character from the start of the show who is still alive at the end of it. Whereas he was once devoted to the Norse gods and very opinionated about how Ragnar should honor them, Floki’s blind faith seems to have been shattered by his discovery of the Christian cross in a cave in Iceland. He shies away from giving advice, even when Ubbe directly asks for it. As he approaches death, Floki finally seems to have found peace.
Ivar the Boneless Dies In Battle
Ragnar Lothbrok’s youngest son, Ivar the Boneless, has had perhaps the most interesting arc. His legend started before he was even conceived, with his mother – Ragnar’s second wife, Aslaug, who experienced visions of the future – warning her husband that he needed to wait three days before having sex with her, or they would conceive a monstrous child. Ragnar ignored her, and a difficult pregnancy followed that culminated in a baby born with deformed legs. Ivar was left to die in the woods by Ragnar, but after being rescued by Aslaug he eventually grew up to be a favorite among Ragnar’s sons, accompanying his father on his final journey to England.
Ivar killed for the first time when he was still a child, hitting another boy in the head with his hatchet in a fit of anger. Later he killed his own brother, Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, for mocking Ivar’s apparent impotence. If each of Ragnar’s sons represents a different facet of his personality, Ivar embodies the part of Ragnar that hungers for violence and war. This came to a head when he became the king of Kattegat and declared that he was not simply descended from the gods, but an actual god himself.
In a short period of time, however, Ivar lost first his son, and then his rule over Kattegat, and his beloved wife Freydis – whom he strangled after learning that she’d betrayed him as revenge for the death of Baldur. Though he attempted to take back Kattegat with Prince Oleg, Ivar’s story in season 6 was largely one of introspection and even redemption. He became a father figure to Igor, fathered a biological child with Katia, and when conflict loomed on the horizon on Kattegat, he avoided a struggle for the throne by suggesting that he, Hvitserk and Harald invade England instead.
Ultimately, like Ragnar, Ivar welcomes his death. Despite the sclera of his eyes being very blue (a sign that he is in heightened danger of breaking his bones) he wades into the final battle against King Alfred’s army and allows a soldier to fatally stab him in the stomach. In addition to securing an appropriate death for one of the greatest Vikings who ever lived, Ivar’s decision to die also seems to be out of love for Hvitserk. As he watches his brother ruthlessly kill people on the battlefield, Ivar experiences flashbacks to their life together. Perhaps he realized that as long as he lives, Hvitserk will always follow him into battle and will never know peace, and chose to die so that the fight would end and Hvitserk would have a chance for a better life.
Why Hvitserk Converted To Christianity (& Changed His Name To Athelstan)
If each of Ragnar’s sons had an ending that pays tribute to their father – Ubbe fulfilling his dream of exploration, and Ivar his love of battle – then Hvitserk’s ending is a nod to Ragnar’s love of Athelstan, and his curiosity about the Christian god. From the moment Athelstan’s monastery was raided in Vikings season 1 and he was taken captive, the monk was an object of fascination for Ragnar, and eventually came to be his closest friend and adviser. Even after Athelstan was murdered by Floki, he remained as a presence in the show – sometimes appearing to characters as a vision, and later manifesting spiritually in Othere, the wanderer who guided Ubbe to the “Golden Land,” who claimed that he was once a Christian monk called Athelstan.
Of course, Athelstan’s most persistent presence in Vikings was through his son, King Alfred the Great, who faces Ivar and Hvitserk in season 6’s final battle. When Ivar is killed in battle, Alfred calls for a halt to the fighting so that Hvitserk can mourn his brother’s death, and the invasion more or less fizzles out there. It’s unclear whether Hvitserk was more of a guest or a prisoner in the days that followed (perhaps a bit of both), but when he’s next seen his beard has grown out to indicate the passage of time. He converts to Christianity and Alfred seals his conversion by changing his name from Hvitserk to Athelstan.
Hvitserk struggled more than his brothers in his search for greatness – never becoming the feared warrior that Bjorn was, or the adventurer that Ubbe was, or the ruthless ruler that Ivar was. By the end of the show, he has never been married or had children, and both of the women he loved have died. He spent most of his life following after Ubbe or Ivar, and with both of them gone he has nothing left to return to in Kattegat. Hvitserk’s expression is somewhat inscrutable during his baptism, but it’s implied that some sort of deal was made when Alfred tells him, “You entered here as a pagan, and you will leave here as a Christian Saxon prince.”
Queen Ingrid Rules Over Kattegat
The throne of Kattegat has held many different rulers over the course of Vikings‘ six seasons, but somewhat surprisingly the series does not end with a son of Ragnar as the king of Kattegat. Instead, Bjorn’s second wife Ingrid – carrying a child that could be either Bjorn’s or Harald’s – declares herself the new queen after Harald is killed in the raid on Wessex (similar to how Aslaug became queen after Ragnar’s death). Some fans have already expressed disappointment that a newer character with little development ended up ruling Kattegat, but Vikings has never really had a fixation upon which character will “win” in the same way that, for example, Game of Thrones had.
In fact, a lesser-known character who was related to Ragnar only through marriage to one of his sons ending up on the throne of Kattegat can also be seen as another way of respecting Ragnar’s memory. The legendary warrior was never much interested in being a king; in fact, he only became the ruler of Kattegat in the first place because his hand was forced by Earl Haraldson. Ragnar didn’t want to be permanently tied down to Kattegat, and so it makes sense that his sons would avoid that fate as well. And even as she says “Long live the Queen,” Ingrid seems troubled – perhaps because she knows the rulers of Kattegat don’t tend to live very long.
The Real Meaning Of Vikings’ Ending
The second half of Vikings season 6 brought the show’s story full-circle, with Ubbe’s storyline recalling Ragnar’s desire to discover new land, while Ivar and Hvitserk once more returned to raid England. Though it has frequently strayed from historical accuracy, the series has covered in broad strokes the first few decades of the Viking age in England, and season 6 foreshadows the end of that age with the detail that a Danish king has converted to Christianity and forbidden worship of the Norse gods. The eventual rise to dominance of Christianity over Norse paganism is something that will be chronicled in Vikings: Valhalla.
The final scene of Vikings is Ubbe and Floki sitting on a beach in their new world, looking out over the waves towards the sunset. Floki says that he still sees Ragnar all the time (“He keeps asking me to build him a new boat. And I say, ‘What the hell do you need a new boat for, Ragnar? You’re dead!’“) before commenting that Ubbe looks a lot like his father. Ubbe tells Floki that he loves him, symbolically healing the rift that was created between Floki and Ragnar many years ago.
Amid all the bloodshed and battles, the idea of faith has persisted at the core of Vikings – with multiple characters finding themselves torn between faith in the Norse gods and faith in the Christian god, and the show’s touches of magical realism implying that both could be real. But when Ubbe asks Floki whether death is the end, Floki offers no reply. And so a show that began with Ragnar Lothbrok and his burning curiosity ends, rather appropriately, on a question.
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