With the final season of Game of Thrones days away, of course I had to relate it to Vikings somehow. For the next few days leading up to the premiere Sunday night, I will be posting a character spotlight from Game of Thrones and briefly comparing them to a historical figure from the Viking Age. Let’s not waste time, as the Long Night is upon us…
Daenerys Targaryen and Aud the Deep-Minded
Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons began her journey on Game of Thrones by being sold to the Dothraki army as a wife to Khal Drogo, to aide her brother in gathering an army to sail to Westeros and take the Iron Throne. It didn’t go according to plan for her brother Viserys as he died by the hands of Dany’s husband. Not too long after, her beloved husband Khal Drogo died. The majority of the Dothraki army abandoned her as they followed only a strong Khal and she was left with nothing.
Daenerys takes control of her own destiny and builds up a base of power in Essos with alliances, strategy and yes, dragons. She frees the slaves from their masters in Slaver’s Bay (now known as the Bay of Dragons), recruits a large Unsullied army and unifies the Dothraki army to set sail for her campaign to Westeros.
Aud the Deep-Minded was a representation of a strong and powerful woman in Viking Age society during the 9th century. After King Harald Fairhair gained power in Norway, Ketill Flatnose and his family fled to Scotland. Aud was married off to the King of Dublin, Olaf the White and had a son together, Thorstein. Thorstein grew up raiding and conquering parts of northern Scotland where he received his nickname Thorstein the Red. Unfortunately, Aud lost her son, husband, and father Ketill within only a couple of years leaving her the head of her family, while looking after several grandchildren.
Aud had a boat built secretly in the forest and set sail with her kinsmen and slaves to the Orkney and Faroe Islands to marry off her granddaughters. Once this was done, she set sail again with her twenty members and arrived in Iceland where her brothers were located. Once she was in Iceland, she claimed her own land and after building it up, she even granted land to her followers and freed slaves from Scotland.
Sandor Clegane and Grettir Ásmundarson
Sandor Clegane (The Hound) is a large brute with a fierce nature of killing and is considered one of the most dangerous fighters in Westeros. He is the younger brother of Ser Gregor Clegane (The Mountain), who is the one to give him the burns on his face during their childhood. The Hound claims to have killed a man when he was only twelve years old. He is arrogant but will lend a helping hand if need be.
The Hound became a member of the Kingsguard during King Joffrey’s reign, but fled King’s Landing after the Battle of Blackwater. He continued his travels away from the capital as a fugitive and eventually found a greater purpose with the Brotherhood Without Banners. During his journey to the other side of The Wall, he fought an undead snow bear along with wights while helping Jon Snow stop the White Walkers and their army.
Grettir Ásmundarson (the Strong) is Iceland’s most famous outlaw. He lived during the 11th century. Grettir is considered unlucky in the viewpoint of saga literature and a flawed character. He is a strong warrior who enjoys fighting but consists of finer moments showing his heroic nature.
At only ten years old, Grettir was assigned a job to look after fifty geese including goslings among them. However, he killed all the goslings and broke the wings of the geese. A few years later, Grettir committed his first kill on a man named Skeggi. Unfortunately for Grettir, Skeggi had an influential family causing him to be outlawed from Iceland for three years. In Norway, Grettir fights an undead mound-dweller, Kar the Old, earning him his hero cutlass/short sword. From an overgrown Norwegian bear, to giants, trolls, berserks and a draugr called Glam, Grettir endured a life of fighting and loneliness.
Sansa Stark and Hallgerd Long-Legs
Sansa Stark is the daughter of late Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Stark. Sansa is described as tall, beautiful and graceful with long auburn hair. She was raised in Winterfell and tutored by Septa Mordane in traditional womanly activities. Sansa started out as a sweet child who dreamed about romance, knights and being a queen.
Due to unfortunate incidents beginning with the death of her father while residing in King’s Landing, she began a dark and rough journey ahead. Sansa suffered humiliation and physical abuse from King Joffrey. She is then forced to marry the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister without her consent. Once King Joffrey dies from poison, Sansa flees King’s Landing to avoid being charged with a murder she did not commit. Once again, she gets married off to Ramsay Bolton where she suffers physical and sexual abuse. After Sansa escapes, she finds her half-brother Jon Snow to help in overthrowing the Boltons and ridding them of Winterfell. With Sansa’s help in calling for arms from the Vale, the Battle of Bastards is won by the Starks and Sansa gets her revenge on Ramsey Bolton as she lets his dogs eat him alive.
Hallgerd Long-Legs can be found as a central female figure in Njal’s saga. She grew up to be tall, beautiful and with long hair receiving the nickname, Long-Legs. From the very beginning of the saga she is described as having “eyes of a thief,” villainizing her before we can even make our own assumptions. Hallgerd defies male gender roles and moves forward past physical abuse to prove equality and strength.
Hallgerd gets married off to Thorvald for her first husband without her consent. Thorvald slaps her and heads out to Bjarn Islands to receive more supplies. Hallgerd’s foster-father sees she is hurt, and he immediately rows out to the islands where Thorvald is and kills him with an axe. Her second husband was also killed for slapping her, but this time she takes her own vengeance on her foster-father after he refused her plea to not interfere. Hallgerd ran her own farm after the second marriage until she gathered at the Althing and met the famous Gunnar Hámundarson. Nevertheless, Gunnar met his end later from Hallgerd out of revenge for a previous blow he too laid upon her.
Jon Snow and Hakon the Good
Jon Snow is presented as the bastard to Eddard Stark to keep his true parentage as a secret, including himself. We find out later that he is the son of Lyanna Stark (Eddard’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen. Jon was raised by the Starks in Winterfell, until he joined the Night’s Watch on The Wall. Here, he experienced many battles among humans and White Walkers. He rises to become the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch but gets murdered in a mutiny for allowing the Free Folk to cross the wall and live as one.
Jon Snow gets resurrected and helps Sansa Stark in building an army to retake Winterfell from the Boltons. After Winterfell is controlled by House Stark once again, he is declared the King in the North by the people. As King in the North, he forms alliances to help ensure the safety of the kingdoms from oncoming threats. He now pursues the ultimate goal of preventing the army of the dead to takeover the entire realm.
Hakon Haraldsson or Hakon the Good was the youngest son of King Harald Fairhair and a foster son to the English king Aethelstan where he was raised as a Christian in the king’s court. Once King Harald Fairhair died, his other son Eirik Bloodaxe took to cruel rule murdering anyone in sight. King Aethelstan provided Hakon with ships and men to return to Norway and claim his birthright. He gained the support of the Jarls by promising to restore their old rights taken away by his father and forged a war against his brother.
Over time, Hakon succeeded in reestablishing the alliances made by his father through the political teachings from his time with Aethelstan. He ruled as king of Norway for about 27 years. Hakon was determined to spread Christianity throughout the land and built churches in Norway that caused chaos in the pagan lands. In the end, he was made to give up his Christian beliefs and was buried as a heathen with his weapons.
Thanks for reading! I was only able to scratch the surface of parallels between Game of Thrones and the Viking Age, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. As the final season nears us, I thought it was fun to incorporate this little piece for fans of the show along with everyone who enjoys the fascinating historical figures of the sagas. If you have any comparisons yourself that I didn’t mention, let me know below. I would love to read them!