Vikings: Ragnar Lothbrok's Last Request by Dr. David Powers
Dr. David Powers is an epic guy. I was initially introduced to him through Robin Roberts of X-Con because we have similar hearts and passions for bringing the Gospel to the comic con culture. Since then It's been my privilege to walk in his wake leading the Geek Church chapel services at X-Con, and trying to emulate his epicness. He has written a ton of books, coaches people's lives, and also appears in films. He wrote the Divergent chapter in book 3, as well as a foreword for book 2. He now resides in Chattanooga where I assume he is only days away from assuming command of the region. You can explore more about David at www.redteamgoals.com - Hector Miray
Disclaimer- I will be revealing several plot points about later seasons of the show Vikings, so please take that in mind as you read. It won't hurt you too bad though, because it's all history anyway.
Several years ago The History Channel premiered a daring new scripted series following the life and times of a family of Vikings living in a port city of Kattegat in Scandinavia. The show was simply called Vikings and has been quite popular. It has been popular enough, in fact, that the actors have gone the route of many other pop culture sensations with cast members appearing on panels at Comic-Con and even a series of Funko Pop figures based on them.
What many people don't realize is that large portions of the show, the characters, and the events are based on historical fact. Certain episodes are so historically accurate that show creator Michael Hirst has been known to translate ancient rites and rituals into scenes word for word from ancient documents.
One of the main characters Rollo is of special interest to me. Similar to the plot of the series Rollo did indeed fight and lead armies in the siege of Paris in 885 AD. He was so successful in those attacks that he became the first King of Normandy, ruling an area of France that was ceded to the Vikings to appease them and stop the slaughter of French citizens. Rollo is special to me because my ancestors fought with him in that siege. My family joined his armies as they sailed from Scandinavia to attack France. They fought with him, became Normans with him, and their descendants eventually sailed with his descendants into England and Ireland.
Although Rollo is the character closest to me, the series focuses primarily on Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons. Rollo is simply depicted as Ragnar's brother, although artistic license is taken in that regard. As a scripted show based on historical events, it's obvious that some modifications, embellishments, and creations must be allowed to create a drama rather than a documentary.
It is Ragnar that I would like to focus on as well in drawing a spiritual application from the show to our own lives by giving you just a few principles that might help.
We Must Rise to the Challenge When Leadership is Thrust Upon Us
Ragnar begins as a simple farmer and family man. Like most Vikings, he voyages and travels simply to escape the frozen waste of his homeland, secure wealth, and hopefully find a better place to live. He is forward thinking and draws undue attention to himself and his accomplishments. Because of this, he unfortunately becomes the victim of his Earl's jealousy. Like King Saul in regard to a young warrior named David, the Earl resents and fears Ragnar's popularity among the people.
And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. 1 Samuel 18:7
In order to protect his family Ragnar ends up defeating Earl Haraldson in single combat. This action makes him the new Earl and both sets up his eventual downfall and greatest achievements. Ragnar never planned for or wanted to be Earl or anything more than that. Once this event occurred he gradually found himself with more power and control at each step. He was woefully unprepared for the mantle of leadership, and it eventually broke him.
We Must be Constantly Open to Opportunity
On one of the first raids depicted in the show Ragnar brings home a young monk from England as his slave. The monk Athelstan eventually becomes an extended member of the family and is made a free man. He also becomes Ragnar's best friend. In the course of their relationship Athelstan teaches Ragnar much about England, the world, and Christianity. He becomes so much of an influence that Ragnar eventually gave his life to Christ. It was an interesting conversion experience to see a captured and freed Catholic monk who became mostly Viking himself baptizing a Viking king in secret in a cold wintry stream outside of Kattegat.
Ragnar was always inquisitive and this served him well. By being open to the opportunity delivered to him in the form of a captured slave, he not only learned much in relation to his future voyages in England and France, but he also changed the course of his own eternal life by accepting the sacrifice of Christ centuries earlier.
We Must Be Ever Vigilant Against Temptation
Like many men, Ragnar's chief temptation in life was women. This was exacerbated by several things, number one being that he was a powerful man of wealth, living in a culture that had few moral rules regarding women, specifically female slaves. His voyages also often took him far away from his wife for extended periods of time. Given that temptation, Ragnar ended up in relationships that destroyed his first marriage, made him do questionable things for favor, and left him an opium addicted zombie of a man during the Paris invasions
This was very similar to the trials faced by King David of the Bible in his bouts with sin, especially in regard to women. The following event occurred in 2 Samuel 12:7-12...
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
We Must Always Seek More for Others than Ourselves
Ragnar had few requests in the end, but one of them, and possibly the most important one for Vikings in general, was to speak to his son Ivar the Boneless in private. In this short conversation he placed in Ivar's mind and heart of hearts the desire to not only seek vengeance for his father's death but also to return to England with more Vikings. Ragnar knew his son well and understood that these words would set in motion a chain of events that would accomplish several things. It would ensure his son's legacy. It would give the Vikings a future. It would help them find and secure a better home for future generations.
He just wanted his people to have more. It was all he ever truly wanted as a king but could not accomplish on his own. It was the same with King David. There were a great number of things he could not accomplish during his reign that he handed over to his son Solomon who succeeded him. King David was unable to do those things because of relationships, sin, and his own personality, just like Ragnar. I believe he and Ragnar would have been great friends had they lived in similar times and places.
We Must Embrace the Path God has Set Before Us
In the end, in conversations with his friend King Ecbert of Wessex, Ragnar admitted that he was unsure of heaven. After the things he had done in life, he wasn't sure a loving God would accept him. One thing he was sure of was that he no longer believed in his old gods and the Viking paradise of Valhalla.
Although Ragnar became a Christian under Athelstan's tutelage, he was always conflicted. Because of his place in life and the land where he lived, to declare his newfound religion would have been a death sentence. At times he said and did things that almost caused it anyway, and it was certain that it finally caused Athelstan's murder at the hands of Ragnar's friend Floki. In his mind, Floki was only protecting his friend from the undue influence of the Christian monk.
Ragnar never fully embraced his Christianity, but we must. If you are a Christian you must discover the path God has set for you and follow it with all you have.
The death of Ragnar was depicted on the show in the same manner as it was written of in history. He was captured, tortured, and thrown into a pit of venomous serpents. But death was just the final capstone on his illustrious life. Many years before, after the death of his daughter, the divorce from his first wife, Athelstan's death, his son Ivar being born crippled, his brother Rollo turning against him, and a drug addiction, he had long ago been broken mentally and spiritually. He was dead inside and, though he longed for it all to be over, he still wanted the best for his family and people and set things in motion to ensure their success.
By avoiding the mistakes of Ragnar on the Vikings television show and kings from the Bible we can hope to live a more successful and much happier existence. The voyages may be as far-reaching and the funeral will be much less interesting, but successful and happy sounds like a pretty good deal. Besides, I'd also much rather sit in heaven enjoying all that God has for me than sitting at a dirty table in Valhalla.