Is Vikings: Valhalla Based On A True Story? The History Behind Netflix’s Show

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The original Vikings series was based on true events and historical characters, but all of those were altered a bit to deliver a more dramatic approach. In that regard, Vikings: Valhalla is supposed to be the sequel series that continues the story of the Vikings that lived during the Viking Age. So, considering that it is supposed to be similar to the original Vikings series, is Vikings: Valhalla also based on a true story?

Vikings: Valhalla is based on true historical events that actually happened. Most of the characters are also based on their historical counterparts, as the series tells the story of the battles between the Norsemen armies and the English forces during the Danish invasion of England in the 11th century.

It wouldn’t be called a historical drama if the events in Vikings: Valhalla weren’t based on true events that actually happened in the past. However, similar to the original Vikings, some events were also altered for the sake of a more dramatic storytelling. That is where we discuss some of the differences between the show and what happened in history.

Is Netflix’s ‘Vikings: Valhalla’ Based On A True Story?

Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla has become a success as far as the critics are concerned because it earned a high approval on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, it is supposed to be the sequel story to the original Vikings series that aired on History and was able to become so popular that it spanned for six seasons. It is worthy to note that Vikings was based on real events that happened in history.

Considering that Vikings: Valhalla is supposed to be the sequel series to Vikings, does that mean that this series is also based on real events?

For the most part, yes, Vikings: Valhalla is indeed based on historical events that actually happened. On top of that, the characters in the series are also based on their historical counterparts that actually took part in the events that happened in real life.

While the story of Vikings was based on the peak of the Viking Age during the 9th century, Vikings: Valhalla tells the story of the Viking Age near the end of its time, as different historical events led to the fall of the Vikings.

Vikings: Valhalla begins with the St. Brice’s Day Massacre that historically happened in 1002 at the order of King Aethelred the Unready. History suggests that this event actually happened and was the reason why King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark attacked England. The massacre killed almost all of the Danish people living in Danelaw, which were territories that the Danish people occupied in England.


The St. Brice’s Day Massacre In Vikings: Valhalla Explained (True Story)

In the series, the Danish armies, with the help of their Norwegian allies, also invaded England after the events of the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. For one, Prince Harald of Norway actually joined the army so that he could take revenge for the death of his brother during the massacre. Meanwhile, King Canute used this opportunity to take control of England because he believed that Aethelred’s death weakened the kingdom.

King Canute and his forces were successful in occupying England, as he married Queen Emma and spared King Edmund, who he hoped to rule with. Meanwhile, when Denmark was under attack, Canute left London and left his father, King Sweyn, to rule it.

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History suggests that such events did indeed happen, as the Danes and the Englishmen went to war right after the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. This led to London changing hands a few times before King Canute finally solidified himself as the king of the Englishmen.

What Are The Differences Between The Real Events And The Show?

While it might be true that the story of Vikings: Valhalla is based on historical events, there are still plenty of differences introduced to the series. Let’s go over them.

Leif Eriksson And Freydis Eriksdotter

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Leif Eriksson and Freydis Eriksdotter are two of the main characters of Vikings: Valhalla. They are the children of the historical figure named Erik the Red, who was known for discovering Greenland. However, in the series, he was known as a murderer that was exiled from Norway and Iceland due to his crimes.

While the series focuses a lot on Leif and Freydis, there are no historical accounts that suggest that they actually took part in the Viking war against the Englishmen. That’s because they didn’t even belong to the same timeline.

The real Leif and Freydis lived through the latter part of the tenth century up to the early part of the 11th century. That means that their lives happened mostly during the tenth century, while the war between the Vikings and the Englishmen happened during the 11th century.

On top of that, Leif is a prominent figure that is often credited for the discovery of North America, which he called Vinland. He was known for his deeds as an explorer, but he was never described as a great warrior that participated in wars. As such, two of the main characters of the series are out of place.

Sweyn And Canute Were Never Kings At The Same Time

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King Sweyn is the father of King Canute in the series. Vikings: Valhalla shows that they were both kings at that time, as the most likely case was that Sweyn abdicated the throne of Denmark to his son so that he could retire early.

However, real Sweyn and Canute were never kings at the same time. Sweyn was the one who started the attacks on England, and not Canute. It was only after Sweyn’s death in 1014 that Canute became king.

On top of that, Sweyn was the one who conquered England before Canute became king of the Englishmen. Sweyn’s death led to Aethelred recovering London until Canute took the city back from the English king to be crowned the king of England.

Aethelred Didn’t Die Immediately

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In the series, King Aethelred died shortly after the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. This left his young son, Edmund, as the king that was tasked to defend England from the Viking invaders from Denmark and Norway.


Who Is King Aethelred From Vikings: Valhalla? (& What They Got Wrong About Him)

But history suggests that it wasn’t until 1016 that Aethelred the Unready died. That means that he had 14 years between the St. Brice’s Day Massacre and his death. He was even the one who defended England from the Vikings before King Sweyn ultimately conquered London in 1014.

Canute And Edmund Never Ruled Together

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Vikings: Valhalla shows us that King Edmund defended England from King Canute. However, Canute was able to defeat the Englishmen and take control of London. But instead of killing Edmund, Canute spared him so that he could rule England without having to worry about the other English nobles. His plan was to marry Queen Emma and then rule England together with his co-king, Edmund.

However, Canute and Edmund never ruled together. History suggests that Edmund defended England after his father’s death. But he eventually brokered a peace treaty with Canute on the condition that they rule separate parts of the kingdom together. King Canute took Mercia and the other northern territories while King Edmund kept Wessex.

Viking Infighting Due To Religion Likely Never Happened

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In the series, after the Danes took control over England, King Olaf of Norway went off to fight another war. He teamed up with Jarl Kare to exterminate the pagan Vikings or to convert them into Christians because he was a devout Christian himself.

Olaf’s quest led to a war against Kattegat, which was ruled by Jarl Haakon (a made-up character), because of how predominantly pagan the city was. While Olaf defeated the defenders of Kattegat, he had to leave the city in a hurry because King Sweyn’s fleet came quickly to recover the city.


‘Vikings: Valhalla’: Did Black Vikings Really Exist?

But history suggests that Viking Christians and pagans actually got along well enough. There were no wars between Christians and pagans because the pagans were quick to accept Christianity amidst the changing times.

It might have been true that some Vikings were attacking some Christians. However, it is suggested that they did so to raid the Christians and not because they had a disdain for them. As such, the war between the Viking Christians and pagans in Vikings: Valhalla is most likely fiction.

Why Did Netflix Change Some Historical Events For Vikings: Valhalla?

Similar to how the original Vikings series introduced a lot of changes in the historical events and the characters, the reason why Vikings: Valhalla changed some real-life events is for the sake of creating a more compelling story that is fast-paced and is able to quickly captivate the audience.

Of course, some of the other changes were introduced due to creative reasons on the part of the showrunner and the writers. Sticking with a 1:1 portrayal of history might not have produced a good story that will draw as many audience members as the original Vikings did.

Considering that the story is something that was purely made by Jeb Stuart, the series showrunner, a lot of the things he changed could have been due to creative reasons that he believed would have made the show a lot better than simply taking what history has to offer. 

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