The legendary Ragnar Lothbrok, once a mere farmer, has led his subjects (he is, you know, a king now) to the promised land: England. 

Following on from his adventures in England, specifically in and around the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex, Ragnar and Lagertha led a fleet from Kattegat to settle across the North Sea in Wessex. 

However, King Ecbert, as always, is less than trustworthy, and Ragnar and his forces get roped into fighting against another Anglo-Saxon kingdom, Mercia. 

Much of the early part of this season is devoted to the political machinations, complications, and conflicts that arise from a bunch of Norse settling in and around parts of Anglo-Saxon England. 

Following the Great Heathen Army's arrival in 865, a significant shift occurred. 

Contrary to popular belief, this was not a single unified force. Instead, it comprised a series of exploratory and predatory invasions. 

Inspired by these events, numerous individuals from Viking societies, much like the famed Ragnar and Lagertha, embarked on journeys across the North Sea. 

Their destination: the British Isles, where they aimed to settle and establish new lives. 

Whilst many Anglo-Saxon kingdoms tried to subdue and defeat the Viking enemy, others entered arrangements of convenience to try and survive with their political authority intact. 

Only one kingdom, Wessex, remained "unconquered," but for much of the late 9th century, it had Viking armies fighting and tramping all over it and forcing a famous king to hide in the marshes. 

The first few episodes focus on Ragnar and his brethren as they increasingly settle, acclimatize, and make themselves at home in England. 

The timeline presented may not align perfectly with historical dates – for instance, if Ragnar was 30 years old during the Lindisfarne raid, as shown in Season 1, he would be well into his 80s by the time the Danelaw was established around 875

Despite this discrepancy, these episodes strive to embody the spirit and resilience of the Norse settlers of that era. 

They also depict the machinations and backroom dealings many engaged in, both on and off the battlefield, to establish what would become the Danelaw, which lasted until the latter part of the 10th century. 

Season 3 of Vikings vividly portrays the clash between the traditional Norse beliefs and the rising influence of Christianity, highlighting the cultural and religious upheaval of the era. Source: HISTORY Channel, screenshot (Copyright, fair use)

Christianity emerges 

With all the political machinations and scheming going on in Wessex, not everyone is happy with Ragnar's new alliance with those annoying Anglo-Saxons who are Christians. 

Fighting with the Christians and not cracking their skulls leads to, spoiler alert, the death of Athelstan, who is killed in a fit of jealous rage by Floki. 

Beyond the impact of losing Ragnar's new friend, Season 3 builds on the previous season by delving deeper into the spiritual, personal, and political struggles stemming from religious differences. 

The Christianization of Scandinavia was a prolonged process, extending from the early 6th century all the way to the 12th/13th centuries. 

Historians have identified that the key "conversion" period for Viking societies began with the arrival of Christian missionaries from the Frankish realms and the British Isles in the late 7th century. 

This movement notably gained momentum during the 8th to 10th centuries, marking a significant shift in the region's religious landscape. 

While the conversion of the political elite in Scandinavia played a part in the formation and establishment of the three medieval kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, it took longer for the masses to convert to this new faith. 

There were, no doubt, communities and families torn apart and split by the introduction of a new religion. 

Furthermore, this division undoubtedly led to blood being spilled as people's souls became the latest plaything for powerful elites and chieftains. 

Athelstan's death serves as a perfect symbol of the frustration and anger that many in Viking societies undoubtedly felt toward adhering to a new Christian God. 

Season 3 introduces the opulent court of Frankish Emperor Charles, contrasting the grandeur of his reign with the rugged Viking lifestyle. Source: HISTORY Channel, screenshot (Copyright, fair use)

Vikings in Paris 

Perhaps the highlight of this season are the final episodes, which focus on Ragnar's ambitious attempt to capture the supposedly impregnable city of Paris. 

However, a word of caution – the Paris of that era was not a walled citadel akin to contemporary Constantinople

In the medieval and early modern periods, Paris was essentially a muddy village, far from the grand cultural metropolis we know today. 

There are no highly accurate historical records about the size of Paris during its sack in 845, but the best estimates suggest that fewer than 5,000 people lived in what would, centuries later, become the City of Lights. 

Ragnar Lothbrok is said to have led a Viking sack on Paris in 845, so in that regard, Vikings receive a significant historical nod... if we consider the sagas historically accurate. 

The episodes featuring the raids and siege of Paris are arguably the best way to immerse in all the sights and sounds of a Viking raid from the comfort of your sofa. 

The court of the Frankish Emperor Charles is depicted in all its wealth and glory, making Ragnar appear somewhat like a poor man's king in comparison. 

The Viking forces, enticed by this opulence, are eager to seize some of this wealth for themselves. 

Indeed, the material riches of the Frankish realms made them a prime target for Viking raids – a glance at a map of France, marked with the numerous Viking incursions throughout the 9th century, evokes sympathy for the average Frankish villager. 

In a cunning plot twist, Season 3 of Vikings shows Ragnar Lothbrok faking his death and requesting a Christian burial as a strategic ploy to infiltrate Paris. Source: HISTORY Channel, screenshot (Copyright, fair use)

Dead or alive? 

At The Viking Herald, we relish a good mix of historical drama and sagas. The final episode of Season 3 delivers just that, and we absolutely love it! 

Ragnar, having succumbed to his wounds from the siege of Paris – a city not yet captured despite the Vikings' desperate situation and significant loss of life – finds himself literally on his deathbed. 

His brother Rollo, having secured a payment (paying Vikings with treasure to leave your realm is hardly a promising strategy), watches as Ragnar seems indifferent. 

All Ragnar desires, as he confides to his son, is a Christian burial. This wish is granted a month later when Count Odo, the defender of Paris, agrees, on the condition that the men carrying Ragnar's body into Paris are unarmed. 

However, once inside the walls of Paris, Ragnar miraculously springs back to life, embarks on a bloody rampage, and opens the gates. The Vikings are in! 

This final twist in what has been a perfect season is deeply rooted in the sagas. 

When we examine these ancient texts, we find that a Viking named Hastein reportedly employed a similar ruse to infiltrate an Italian city. 

Feigning death from the effects of a siege, his men claimed he wished to be buried according to Christian rites. 

Once inside the city, and before his burial, Hastein sprang to life, killed the bishop overseeing his funeral, and opened the gates for his fellow Vikings to plunder and pillage. 

The historical accuracy of this event is debatable, but it illustrates that Vikings were more than just mindless barbarians – strategy was a key element of their ruthlessness, dominance, and fear-inducing reputation throughout the medieval period. 

The third season of Vikings furthers Ragnar's pursuit of power and glory. 

Threats to his leadership emerge both domestically and internationally, leading to strained old relationships, the formation of new alliances, and an expansion of the Viking world. 

This season delves deeply into the consequences of ambition and loyalty within the Viking society and showcases the most historically accurate battle and siege scenes yet filmed. 

Critics have hailed this as the best season of Vikings, and it's hard to disagree! 

Season 3 of Vikings can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. Available here.

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