What, then, can this roster of characters tell us about the timeframe, and thus the possible narrative and thematic thrust of the show?
Let’s take a look.
The Danes take the Reins
It’s often assumed that the Vikings were a homogenous force. They weren’t (not to mention that there is considerable academic pushback on what precisely constitutes a Viking). Although they were culturally similar, there was wide variation between the peoples of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, each of whom had their own breeds of roamers, adventurers, and conquerors. The Danish Vikings were by far the most successful. Indeed, up until the last portion of the 10th century much of modern-day Northern and Eastern Britain had been known as the Danelaw, a territory within which Anglo-Saxon laws, customs and sometimes even language were subordinate to those of Denmark and the Danes.
At the beginning of the 11th Century, after an uneasy period of flux, fighting, then peace – during which Anglo Saxon autonomy was seemingly restored – Danish Vikings again resumed their attacks on the British coastline. King Ethelred the Unready at first responded to these repeated incursions by appeasing the invaders with coin, a strategy that only further incentivised their efforts. Ethelred’s follow-up strategy arguably was even less successful: he ordered the massacre of all Danes living in England; a feat that was impossible to achieve, though not for the lack of trying.
Unsurprisingly, this act precipitated great geo-political turbulence, not to mention counter-strikes and violence, all of which led to King Ethelred fleeing England for Normandy, and the Danes re-invading, and seizing the reins of power. Eventually, Canute, a Danish prince, succeeded his departed father, Sweyn Forkbeard, and became King of England.