The Vikings saw Jarl Borg being killed through the “blood eagle” ritual, and although some texts speak of this method, it may not have been real.
Vikings It was intended to be as historically accurate as possible, which was not easy given the few historical records about the Viking era, but there is a big mistake when it comes to the most brutal death in the series: the blood eagle, and this is what it happened. Created by Michael Hirst (The Tudors), Vikings It premiered on the History Channel in 2013 and lived on for a total of six seasons, even though it was originally planned to be a miniseries, and came to an end in 2020.
Vikings told the story of the legendary Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his travels and raids alongside his Viking brothers, from the beginning of the Viking Age (marked by the Lindisfarne raid, as seen in season 1) onwards . As the story progressed, Vikings shifted his focus to Ragnar’s children and his own travels, with them taking over the series after Ragnar’s death in season 4. Ragnar’s legacy and presence could still be felt until the end of the series, and left behind several memorable moments, both good and violent, and in the last category is the death of Jarl Borg (Thorbjørn Harr).
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Jarl Borg was a Götaland leader who was featured in Vikings season 1, and it was clear early on that it was going to bring Ragnar and Kattegat a lot of trouble. Borg’s involvement in Vikings It was through his conflict with King Horik, as they both wanted control of the mineral-rich lands and Horik sent Ragnar as his emissary. Borg distracted Ragnar with the supposed true Yggdrasil (the tree of life) while manipulating Ragnar’s brother, Rollo (Clive Standen), into betraying him. Borg later attacked Kattegat when Horik excluded him from his forays and fought Ragnar and his men. Horik then told Ragnar to reestablish his alliance with Borg, and after the latter accepted the offer, Ragnar captured him and sentenced him to death for “blood eagle” (in the season 2 episode appropriately titled “Eagle of blood”).
The blood eagle is a detailed method of execution in late skaldic poetry. It consists of cutting the ribs of the spine and taking the lungs through the opening to simulate a pair of wings. This “ritual” appears in two instances in Nordic literature and they agree that the victims are noble, like Jarl Borg, although in these cases the executions were in retaliation for the murder of a father. However, there is much debate as to whether the blood eagle was real, a literary invention, or an error in the translation of the original texts. This method is mentioned in “The Tale of the Sons of Ragnar”, in which Ivar the Boneless captured King Aelle and sentenced him to die by a blood eagle, as he was responsible for Ragnar’s death. This was included on the show, as Aelle was killed through this ritual, although she did not pass it by as Jarl Borg did, who made no sound and thus earned her place in Valhalla.
However, many historians believe that the blood eagle was not real and therefore Vikings Those two deaths were wrong, even if the sagas described one of them (and the sagas are considered fiction by many, and the existence of Ragnar is also debated). On his personal blog, Howard MR Williams, professor of medieval archeology, explained (via Looper) that the execution of the blood eagle, as legendary as it is, “has no historical or archaeological correlate”, and to endure it in silence is “truly implausible.” It is important to remember that historical records about the Vikings and their way of life are scarce and most of the information is based on sagas, poems, short stories and more, so there would be elements that would have to be changed, beautified or created to tell a coherent story in Vikings. The Blood Eagle may not be anything but fiction, but it was definitely one of the most brutal murder methods in the series.
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