Vikings is full of symbols and elements from Norse mythology, and ravens can be found everywhere. But why are there so many and what do they mean?
There are a lot of recurrent elements in Vikings, but one that has caught the attention of viewers is the ravens, which have also appeared in tattoos, banners, and more – but what do they mean? Created by Michael Hirst (The Tudors), Vikings made its debut on History Channel in 2013, and even though it was originally planned to be a miniseries (which is why the first season is so short), it was quickly renewed for a second season. Vikings lived on for six seasons, which allowed viewers to truly get to know characters like Ragnar, Lagertha, Rollo, Floki, and Ivar.
Vikings initially followed legendary Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his travels and raids alongside his Viking brothers. As the series progressed, it shifted its focus to Ragnar’s sons and their own journeys, allowing them to take over after Ragnar’s death in season 4. One thing that never changed, however, was the presence of ravens, not only the animals themselves but also their image in banners, armor, clothes, and more. As the series does take a lot of elements from Viking culture, there’s a good reason why there are so many ravens in the series, and why they are often linked to Ragnar.
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From the very beginning of Vikings, it’s made clear that the characters take their Gods very seriously (or, at least, most of them did), and there were some characters that did their best to not piss them off, as was the case of Floki. Of course, an often mentioned deity in Vikings is Odin, the Allfather, who is associated with wisdom, death, war, victory, and more. Odin is often portrayed as a one-eyed man with a long beard, carrying a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. Odin is not alone, and he’s frequently accompanied by animals and familiars, such as the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Munnin. Odin would send his ravens to Midgard (a.k.a. Earth) to act as his eyes and ears and thus bring him information about what was going on. The presence of ravens in Vikings symbolize that Odin was aware of what was happening in Midgard, and was always keeping an eye on the Vikings, particularly Ragnar.
Now, Ragnar was believed to be a descendant of Odin, and the frequent visits of Huginn and Munnin seemed to confirmed that (to him, at least), and so he attributed his success to Odin’s presence. Ragnar is the one who often carried the image of ravens in everything he could, and even had a raven tattoo on his head, as a symbol of Odin’s presence and guidance. Ragnar, like many other Vikings, was concerned about going to Valhalla when he died, as you can only get there if you die in battle, and Odin’s ravens were believed to collect the souls of those chosen to go there and join the Allfather’s Ragnarok army. Ravens, then, had a very important meaning to Ragnar in particular, and as they are a big figure in Norse mythology, they had to be added in Vikings.
Vikings is full of small details that are connected to Viking culture and Norse mythology but are easy to miss or are often believed to be insignificant. The heavy presence of ravens in the show is not just because they are aesthetically powerful, but because they hold an important connection to Odin and Ragnar as well. Not all ravens included in Vikings are easy to spot, so you might want to pay closer attention the next time you watch the show.
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