Vikings creator Michael Hirst dubs season 3 'the dawn of the Viking Age'

Contributed by
Jul 28, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT

"Season three is the dawn of the Viking Age." That's how Vikings' creator Michael Hirst is framing the third season, which is currently in production. With the massive success that History Channel's Vikings has experienced in its first two seasons, one only needs to research history books to see where the show could go (just be forewarned for potential spoilers). However, what moments he will will cherry-pick is anyone's guess.


So far the characters in Vikings have raided England multiple times, and season three promises to see 9th century France eventually as a target, where the Vikings will take a fleet of 100 ships into battle. Hirst also hopes to tell the stories of how the Vikings traveled as far west as Nova Scotia and other parts of Canada. When asked whether future seasons could be filmed in Iceland, Hirst told Blastr at San Diego Comic-Con that he had recently visited the country entrenched in Viking history (and home to many science fiction movies) and would love to film there. 

He also shared some historical moments he would like to explore. 

Hirst said, "[The Vikings] also colonized Greenland. There's nothing on Greenland; there was certainly no minerals or trees ... so they kept sailing, and that's why they found Nova Scotia and Canada. But whilst this was happening, Ragnar Lothbrok's eldest son, Bjorn [played by Alexander Ludwig], sailed to the Mediterranean, and sailed to Spain and attacked what he thought was Rome. He attacked a city in Italy while being pursued by Mediterranean pirates. Before it was a few boats to find England or Ireland. They now have great confidence in their boats. ... These guys are awesome!

"What is amazing about them is how few of them do so much. If you think they're going to a country, even with a fleet of 30, they don't know what's going to happen when they reach this other land much bigger than Scandinavia. They might have armies of thousands. [Their targets] have no way of knowing that. So they had to be clever how they operated. What they did and were very clever about [was] how they negotiated, divided and ruled. One of the other things they did was shock and awe. One of the reasons the Vikings have an incredible reputation of violence and brutality [is] it's because it served them well. When people hear that the Vikings are coming, it scares you sh-tless. Even though they have two hundred men, and you've got an army of five thousand, you'd think, 'I'm running away, I'm not going to fight these guys.' It was that terrible reputation that was created deliberately."

History books also show that the legacy of Ragnar (played by Travis Fimmel) eventually is passed onto the Bjorn, who goes on to surpass his father's accomplishments. That transfer of power may happen if the series runs long enough, but Hirst is introducing this into the new season, too.

In addition to the relationships between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, one of the strongest themes in Vikings is the clash of religions and spirituality during the Viking Age. "I like writing about spirituality," Hirst said. "In Elizabeth [his 1998 movie] I was writing about spirituality, because she replaced the Virgin Mary. In Tudors [his 2007-2010 TV series], well, that was the destruction of the Catholic religion in England."

As historical records show, there were Christian monks who survived the Viking raids on Northumbria and were brought back to live among the Vikings. Athelstan (George Blagden), a fictional character who was based on one of these monks, serves as the audience's gateway into this conflict between Christianity and Paganism. Hirst takes great pride in the Athelstan arc and its effect on Ragnar and the supporting characters, but he offers up more ominous history that could make for some compelling future storylines.

Hirst said, "You can't make up a lot of stuff in Vikings; it just happens to be true, but it's rooted in these real conflicts and issues. After the Viking Age, which lasted about 400 years –- so we've just started in the first 50 years of that -– all of the Scandinavian countries had converted to Christianity, and Paganism was wiped out, just finished right there. All of the evidence was destroyed, and Christian churches were built on Pagan temples. I don't know why, but there's a real interest now in Paganism and other religions. From the responses I get and feedback, it's something that's engaged people."

The conflict within the religions may be one of the biggest reasons that there is very little known about the Vikings, despite there being one million descendants of Vikings in Britain alone, and there are few written records of their deeds. But their democratic communities, as well as their egalitarianism and attitude towards women, continue to make the Vikings a fascinating subject. 

"They've had a profound effect," Hirst said. "At one time, the whole center of England was run by the Danes. That's why there's the Danelaw. I think it's a missed opportunity for people not to study Vikings, but I do think history teachers have been blighted by this unfair view, which is of course propaganda by the Christian monks, and we've all bought into it. We all think Vikings are these silly guys wearing helmets who rush in to kill you and steal your money."

Season three of Vikings is slated to return in early 2015 for 10 episodes. Cast newcomers will include Lothaire Bluteau as Emperor Charles of France, Kevin Durand as the Wanderer, Morgane Polanski as Princess Gisla and Ben Robson as Kalf, Lagertha's second in command. Watch the season-three teaser trailer, below, which premiered at San Diego Comic-Con 2014.