Introducing Athelstan in the Vikings series

7 min read

Introducing Athelstan in the Vikings series

Among the characters of the famous Viking series there are those who particularly captivate and impress. The character of Athelstan is one of those. Who is he ? What place does it occupy in the story and what role does it play in the lives of the characters? What is his story ?

When and how does he die? What can we learn from his role in the screenplay? These are all questions that deserve an answer, since as we will see in the sequel, Athelstan will have been a pillar for the series . Together, let's discover and appreciate the identity and role of this atypical character in the series.

Who is Athelstan in the Vikings series?

It is in the episode "The Expedition" that we see Athelstan appear for the first time and make his debut. As one of the main characters in the first four seasons of the Vikings television series, he then appeared in 30 episodes. His last (alive) appearance was in the episode "Reborn", although he is also seen appearing in flashback in the episode "All His Angels".

Either way, Athelstan is a former monk torn between his belief in a god and his Viking beliefs . Born of anonymous parents, he belongs to a family of 6. He therefore had a sister and four brothers who all died of foot-and-mouth disease. But it's not a fever that kills Athelstan.

He survived after the Church of Lindisfarne took him in. It is in this place that he finally finds happiness, spiritual freedom and the joy of serving Cuthbert, the father of the church. But if he survived foot-and-mouth disease, Floki ends up murdering him in the series. His role was played by the interpreter Georges Blagden, who in an interview hinted that the character of Athelstan really existed. Still, that doesn't seem to be close to the truth. In any case, we shed light on this in the following.

Athelstan in the Vikings series

@ viking.sorlandet

Athelstan, from the monastery to the house of Ragnar

In the series, Athelstan is a key character. First he was a monk. He was captured by the Christians during an expedition in Wessex. He was to be crucified, but his star having saved him , he escaped death. He approaches King Ecbert who makes him copy the Latin documents left on the island by the Roman emperors.

When the Vikings launch an assault on the monastery where Athelstan lives in England, the latter once again escapes death after begging Ragnar to spare him. In fact, it turns out that while serving as a missionary in the Nordic region , he had managed to learn the language of the Northmen. Having considered this asset which particularly fascinated him, Ragnar lets him live.

Then he became his slave. He lived in Ragnar's house, with his family as a servant. In a short time, the relationship between the two men evolves. Athelstan becomes a faithful companion of Ragnar Lothbrok. And the esteem is mutual.

Later, the Vikings return to Wessex in the company of Athelstan and meet King Ecbert and Princess Kwenthrith. A banquet is organized and then an agreement is reached. According to the agreement, the Vikings are to go conquer Mercia and Athelstan and Lagertha follow the Viking farmers to their new land.

Athelstan, slave, friend, then spiritual guide of Ragnar Lothbrok

Meanwhile, Athelstan gets closer to Ragnar Lothbrok, of whom he becomes the faithful companion. We are thus witnessing a manifestation of the Stockholm syndrome, since the one who was to be the victim finally becomes the favorite. And it should be noted that this man had a very great influence on Ragnar Lothbrok.

Ever since they met during the show's first season , Ragnar was already questioning his beliefs in his religion and whether or not there was a plurality of gods and a Valhalla. In fact, Athelstan instills the principles of Christianity in everyone around him. From a certain moment, Ragnar who really got closer to the monk, develops a certain fascination for this religion. In no time, he adopts it.

Thus, more than a simple semi-historical series, the Vikings series thus tackled subjects as deep and contemporary as belief, the human condition and the relationship of man to divinity. And this of course thanks to the character of Athelstan, the monk.

Athelstan and Ragnar


With the fascinating discourses that Athelstan held on faith, Ragnar satisfied his greed for knowledge of the spiritual world. He even went so far as to lose his appetite for the material wealth accumulated during the raids to replace it with an attraction and a love for spiritual things and for philosophy. He now kneels to pray in the Christian style. Obviously, he gives his freedom to Athelstan in whom he has complete confidence.

In season 3, Ragnar is baptized to Christianity and at one point wanted to create a confrontation between the gods of Athelstan and the Norse gods he provokes, no offense to whoever wants it. Athelstan had also become like the cause of Ragnar's apostasy. The two were so close that Athelstan's death had shattered something too solid in Ragnar.

Later, Ragnar no longer believed in anything at all. Then one day, he learns of the existence of Alfred, the son of his friend Athelstan. Then, a flame is reignited in him. And this is yet another proof of the influence and significance that Athelstan's life has on Viking life. As we can see, it was Athelstan who revealed Ragnar in the series.

Athelstan, victim of his double identity?

Athelstan is a double man, if one may so speak. He is both a monk and therefore very human and a firm believer in his religious upbringing. His suffering , born of an inner conflict , begins as soon as he begins to realize the dream of becoming a Viking, like many elsewhere. He now had to navigate between two diametrically opposed identities, his Christian side and the Nordic doctrine.

His very close friendship with Ragnar gradually leads him to worship the pagan gods with him, which accelerates the consolidation of his Viking identity. For some fans of the show, it wasn't dual nature. Nor was it a conflict in itself. It was an open-mindedness , the ability to accept many viewpoints and beliefs from other religions. Once again, this revives the discourse on the coexistence of sometimes opposing beliefs on several points of view in one and the same man and the impact on the life of this man, of this negotiation of beliefs.

But as we see in season 3, Athelstan , who in the meantime has adapted to the Viking environment, beliefs and culture, finds himself really torn between his old and his new beliefs. Faith in two different religions really doesn't do him a favor. At one point, he decides to return to his Christian faith. He throws the bracelet Ragnar gave him into the sea and gets rid of his original Viking flags.



And it is necessary to believe that it is this Christian part which will lead it straight to the loss. Floki, who hates him with a pure and perfect hatred considering the softening Christian influence he exerted on Ragnar , kills him in cold blood during season 3. Taken by jealousy over the friendship that bound Ragnar in Athelstan, Floki kills him with an ax while he was praying.

For him, Athelstan was the symbol of the victory of the god of Christianity over the Norse gods. He was the cause of all the misfortunes that befell the Viking community. It will be recalled in passing that King Ecbert went to put an entire Viking village to the sword, which broke the alliance between the peoples.

Anyway, to say that death was hard for Ragnar is an understatement. Even viewers smitten by this character's candid nature and strong uplifting speeches were utterly devastated. Ragnar was in a bad state. He buries his friend's remains on a high mountain . To have the impression that his friend is always with him, he starts wearing his necklace. Let's say he almost never got over it, except for the news of the existence of Alfred, the son of Athelstan.

Is the character of Athelstan real?

It is true that Georges Blagden, the interpreter of the character of Athelstan declared during an interview that Athelstan really existed. Unfortunately, this is not very accurate. However, that is not wrong either. We'll tell you why.

Unlike the legendary sons of Ragnar Lothbrok and Ragnar himself, Athelstan's name is not listed on any page in the Norse sagas . He's a made-up character for the show, at least to a large extent.

Athelstan according to the true story

In fact, the character of Athelstan in the Viking series is named after a king, an English ruler of Northumbria, the first ruler to rule all of England from 927 to 939 AD.

However, contrary to what the series teaches us, Athelstan is not Alfred's father. The real Athelstan is King , son of Queen Ecgwynn and King Edward the Elder. He was ousted from history, however, history has it that he was the king who united all of England. Witness to a whole Viking era, he is also one of the few rulers of England who managed to fight successfully against the Vikings.



The Raid on Lindisfarne Monastery

In the real story, it was in AD 793 that the Vikings launched an attack on Lindisfarne Monastery. This raid was certainly not the first raid of the Vikings in England , but it marked the beginning of the Viking era. It is true that men and women were brought back as slaves to Viking territory as seen in the series.

Likewise, in both the real story and the series, the brought slaves become so close to their families that their Viking families sometimes go to extreme lengths to protect them. However, the main difference is that in 793, Ragnar was not yet born. He therefore did not lead this raid.

Summary: Athelstan, the character most loved by fans of the Vikings series?

Monk, slave, then Viking. A journey that is atypical to say the least. And it must be said, Athelstan knew how to touch the hearts of almost all the spectators who became his fans . It is besides the only character who knew how to touch the hearts of the fans of the series so especially.

If he is so beloved by fans, it is undoubtedly because he illuminates, through his story and his character, the little-known aspects of Viking civilization . Some might even go so far as to say that he is the pillar of Viking history.

Indeed, it is through his character that we discover the Viking culture, its brutal aspect and its fascinating aspect, these cogs that are not always easy to assimilate. Athelstan is really the only character in which the average spectator who belongs to a culture and has his own beliefs, but who wishes to become a Viking , can really identify.

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