Vikings: 20 Things Wrong With Ragnar Lothbrok We All Choose To Ignore
*Warning. Post May Contain Spoilers*
It's no secret that the character of Ragnar is much of the reason that Vikings has succeeded as a TV show. Though actor Travis Fimmel hasn't been on the series since Ragnar's departure at the end of season 4, his character still retains a strong presence through the actions of his surviving sons and former associates.
The name "Ragnar" comes up so often that the character still feels like the heart and soul of the show. And with the second half of season 5 well underway, the plot lines that were initially shaped by him have still not concluded-- there are still difficulties between the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons, Ragnar's sons are divided and there are ongoing fears about Christianity. In the meantime, there are still new lands to pillage and new cultures to explore. Such is the world built by Ragnar Lothbrok.
But for as big of an influence as the character has been (and still is) on other characters and the series in general, Ragnar is far from perfect. The truth is that he's far from it, and his faults don't always feel like they're there intentionally. Yes, Ragnar's deep-seated character flaws have not necessarily been easy to watch over the years, but it's easier not to dwell on them since the show is very well done in general (it's easily one of History Channel's best).
This is Vikings: 20 Things Wrong With Ragnar Lothbrok We All Choose To Ignore.
20 He’s Incredibly Selfish
Even from the very start of the series, most of Ragnar's actions are for himself, despite the fact that they're often disguised as being for his family or for his people. Whether it's his manipulation of other leaders, his decisions to keep waging war even when it means more endings for his men, his various infidelities or any number of the selfish deeds in between, the No. 1 person in his world is always Ragnar Lothbrok.
Since it's his way or the highway, Ragnar frequently ignores the emotional turmoil he causes to those around him (Rollo, Lagertha, Aslaug, Bjorn, Floki, etc.) when they don't agree with his actions. Still, as we saw in the end, his selfishness and pride did end up pushing away those who cared about him the most.
19 He Can’t Handle Defeat
Remember that time when our boy Ragnar disappeared for several years after losing the battle in Paris? Though the specific amount of time is never stated, he is gone for somewhere between seven and 10 years judging from how much his sons grow up in his absence. Our hero's self-imposed exile may have been portrayed as self-aware, almost even noble.
One would have thought that maybe he learned some kind of lesson during his years away, but unfortunately, this is not the case. As Ragnar shouts when he returns, "What kind of king abandons his people? What kind of father abandons his son?" Indeed these are the questions to ask, but Ragnar himself doesn't genuinely want the answers. On the contrary, Ragnar is merely using them as statements meant to challenge those around him and re-solidify his place as their leader. Did we mention he was selfish?
18 18 He Ignores His Sons
In addition to leaving for about a decade and subsequently missing significant portions of his sons' upbringing, Ragnar isn’t exactly gunning for Father of the Year for the rest of the time when he is around. We saw this pattern start back in season one, when Ragnar left his wife and two young children behind to go sail across the sea. While plenty of parents travel, keep in mind that these are Viking times, and nobody at that moment in history was sure that Ragnar and his men would even find land let alone riches.
Things did not improve when he had more children with his second wife, and if anything they were even worse. Not only did he take even more of a backseat in their upbringing than he did with Bjorn (or even Gyda, R.I.P), but he also just didn't express much warmth toward them at all.
17 His Blatant Disrespect To Aslaug
Ragnar made things really difficult with his constant lack of respect for his second wife. His distaste for her became more and more clear as time went on, and it was very frustrating for fans who missed his marriage with Lagertha.
Watching Ragnar be a willfully bad husband to Aslaug was like watching a child who spent time whining for a new toy only to want nothing to do with it once he got it. Sure, they tried to redeem his behavior in the end with his acknowledgment that she never badmouthed him to their sons, but by then it was too late (and what was that anyway? Some kind of feeble attempt at an apology?) Poor Aslaug didn't exactly get a fair ending to her story.
16 He Didn’t Fight For Lagertha’s Earldom
Remember how Earl Ingstad-- or should we say, Lagertha-- came to Ragnar's aid with her warriors? Yeah, that was awfully nice of her considering the fact that Ragnar turned her entire world upside down just a year or so earlier, leaving her to forge a new life for herself and her young son. While the generous Lagertha was off fighting with him, she was betrayed with her earldom being usurped. So, one would think that after everything Lagertha had done for Ragnar, he couldn’t return the favor? Even if he didn't wish to help her on a political level, surely a personal favor would have been in order? Or vice versa?
Either way, it just felt very wrong that he decided just go with, "Thanks but no thanks" and leave Lagertha to get justice on her own. It's kind of a miracle that Lagertha didn't write him off for good at that moment, but that's just another reason why Ragnar's decision still stings a little when we think about it after all this time.
15 There Was That Time That He Was A Desperate Old Man
Everyone loves to remember the great Ragnar, but if we're being completely honest with ourselves, how much do we really miss the Ragnar that we got towards the end? Everyone awaited his return to Kattegat with great anticipation, but by this point in the series what we got was a character who was just an old man of fallen glory reeking of mania and desperation. Yikes.
Don't get us wrong-- it wasn't Ragnar's aging that was an issue. On the contrary, it was actually refreshing to see one of the main characters actually looking like years had passed. This could have been the turn over of a new leaf for Ragnar, or he could have been even just a little more dynamic after making his return. It even would have been cool to see him getting to know his sons better so that we as an audience could also get to know them, but no, old Ragnar was not willing to play unless it was for his half-baked plan to go back to Wessex.
14 He’s Kind Of Awful To Floki
All Floki wanted for most of the first few seasons was for Ragnar to love him like a brother, or at least a very good friend. Unfortunately, this was largely not the case for a lot of their time together on the show. Instead, it was a very one-sided relationship that largely involved Ragnar ignoring and confusing Floki.
The truth is that most of what Floki felt he got in return from Ragnar was betrayal and condescension. Even though the two of them were very different people at their cores with different sets of beliefs, they were still friends who had been through a lot together. The difference was that Floki still cared about Ragnar and respected him in spite of their differences, whereas Ragnar didn't care how his actions affected his old friend. Rather than talking to Floki about his exploration with Christianity and explaining his friendship with Athelstan, he left the deeply religious Floki to worry and wonder about what was going on.
13 He’s Not A Great Leader
Ragnar Lothbrok is remembered as a great leader. Throughout his life, he was hailed as being a great leader. But when we really think about it, was he actually all that great as his job? A great warrior? Yes. A great navigator? You bet! A great farmer? Sure. Leadership, however, is not necessarily his strong suit. Remember when Ragnar developed Kattegat into a major trading port and kept the city safe from attacks over the course of several years? You don't, because Ragnar didn't do that.
For someone who is supposed to be highly intelligent, Ragnar lets his pride rule his leadership decisions far more than his mind. He repeatedly fails to see obvious betrayals and attacks headed his way, and whenever he’s back in Kattegat he acts way more interested in personal endeavors than actually guiding leading his people and assisting with their day-to-day problems.
12 His Attempt To Take His Own Life
Remember that time when older Ragnar attempted to off himself after realizing just how far he had fallen in life? It seems understandable at first, but when you consider the fact that he knew this act would take away both the options of Valhalla and Heaven for him while destroying the last shreds of respect anyone had left for him… it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It's an uncomfortable enough scene (as it would really be for just about any character in that situation), but then it's perhaps even more unsettling that it's nor Ragnar himself who stops it. Instead, he fails by chance at his attempt, although he seems to view it as potential interference from the gods. Of course, this doesn't really make sense because, again, if he still believed in either of the two religions that he's been exposed to, he likely wouldn't have attempted to take his own life in the first place.
11 He Values Other Cultures Above His Own
It’s great that he’s so curious about the world, but curiosity often turns to unhealthy obsession in the case of Ragnar. What's so wrong about this exactly? Well, given the time period and the setting, lives were shorter and the world was smaller (exploration-wise). One's own family and culture was everything, and while it's great that Ragnar welcomed outsiders, he created some divides between himself and others in the process (most notably Floki).
Ragnar is repeatedly seen forsaking his own culture’s values and ideals for new ones that he encounters through his travels, though ironically he still seemed quick to flip the switch on newer cultures when it conveniences him. The fact that he was so fluid in his cultural values makes us wonder how much honor he really had.
10 He Has No Respect For Other Viking Leaders
Time after time, Ragnar has displayed a severe lack of respect for his fellow Viking rulers, and needless to say, it has caused a lot of problems. For someone who has depended a lot on political alliances and the loyalty of others for much of his success, Ragnar never was quick to return the favor.
In addition to his slighting of Lagertha when he refused to help her regain her Earldom, Ragnar left Jarl Borg out of the raid to England that he was promised, he took the lives of King Horik's entire family instead of just limiting his revenge to Horik, and when he returned from his exile, he made it clear that he did not want to live in a world where anyone was in charge of Kattegat except him. Even before he officially challenged him and took his place, Ragnar never seemed to have much respect for Earl Haraldson.
9 His Repeated Forgiveness of Rollo
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times or more, and you might just be Ragnar's brother, Rollo. Seriously, how many times does a guy need to betray you before you learn your lesson? For Ragnar, he definitely let things go way too far with Rollo, which isn’t fair at all considering how he has handled betrayals from other people.
We get that he's his brother, but since when has familial bonds stopped anyone from keeping honor and order in check on this show? After all, it wasn't that long ago that Harald took the life of his brother, Halfdan for a comparatively minor betrayal. Perhaps the showrunners are trying to demonstrate that Ragnar is different from other Vikings in this regard.
8 The Blood Eagle
Ragnar's decisions were entirely emotional ones based on bias, and he did not extend any sort of level of mercy toward Jarl Borg when the opportunity arose. No, Jarl Borg should not have betrayed Ragnar, but at the same time, it was understandable why he did. Then there's the fact that Ragnar himself betrayed quite a few people during his lifetime without batting an eye. Nevertheless, Jarl Borg received the worst punishment of all time in retribution for his actions that were no different from those of other Viking leaders. Oh, and did we mention he had a young wife and son at the time?
Don't get us wrong-- we don't hate the scene. It was a pivotal moment in the show and was shot really well, and dare we say it's actually a pretty captivating feat to watch? Unfortunately, that just doesn’t change the fact that Ragnar’s victim totally didn’t deserve that end.
7 He Faked His Own Passing
As fans of the show remember, Ragnar faked his own passing in order to trick his way into Paris (fun fact: there are actual accounts of a Viking faking his conversion to Christianity and subsequent passing in order to infiltrate a city). It was a cool, slightly more modern version of the Trojan Horse, but there was a big problem here we all just chose to ignore in order to keep enjoying the show.
It wasn’t so much that Ragnar faked his own passing but more so the fact that he allowed people who really cared about him to believe he was gone. After all, he could have easily told them and let them in on the plan, seeing as these were close family members and friends who were absolutely crushed by the news of his passing.
6 He Planned To Have Athelstan Sacrificed
Ragnar thought it would look good if he was the one who brought along the supposed "willing" human sacrifice. Fortunately for Athelstan, his supposed switch in belief from Christianity over to the Norse gods was more of an act of both survival and curiosity on his part rather than genuine conversion, and this was called out by the high priest. Only a true believer could be sacrificed to the gods, and so Leif (remember Leif? Good guy, that Leif) volunteers as tribute.
It's an intriguing plotline, but it's also one that's rife with problems. The reasons for Ragnar volunteering Athelstan seem contrived at best, as it's never clear what exactly Ragnar has to gain from the situation. Furthermore, how could someone nominate another person for the sacrifice, seeing as it is a position meant only for someone who is completely willing and a full believer? Also, it leads to the surprise loss of Leif, which all could have been prevented in the first place if Ragnar just left things alone.
5 His Entire Addiction Phase
Was anyone a fan of this Ragnar? Us neither. Between this stage of the character's poor battle decisions and his constant shakes, it was a reminder that addiction problems can be life-ruining no matter what decade you're living in. A substance abuse problem also isn't any fun for those around the person with the addiction, and in this case that included the audience.
Ragnar became extra intolerable as his addiction to those Far East drugs progressed, but then he just up and quit without too much of a struggle (we're not counting what he did to his dealer. More on that in a moment) or too many repercussions. In fact, he didn't really face any repercussions besides running around with his mouth stained red from the Betel root or whatever it was he was taking. It was a confusing story arc that also felt fairly pointless.
4 He Drowned Yidu
Again, we really didn't like Ragnar using drugs. Still, that doesn't mean we were ready to blame someone else for the situation he got himself in. Even though it was Yidu who first introduced Ragnar to the Far East substances, she was overall an innocent just acting in survival mode. He was fascinated by her and kept going back for more, and in her position, she didn't really have the power to refuse him.
Of course, taking accountability for his own actions was never really Ragnar's strong suit. Blaming the slave girl for his addiction, Ragnar took things way too far and eventually took her life in what served as one of his lower moments by far. As if the act of taking her life wasn't bad enough, he drowned her as his sons watched. Nothing says "great dad and leader" like taking the life of an innocent person, right?
3 He Helped Make Ivar What He Is
Anyone currently watching the show knows just how cruel and terrible Ivar the Boneless has turned out to be. Unfortunately, we have Ragnar to blame. It definitely began with Ragnar being the absentee father that he was, leaving Ivar to pretty much just grow up hearing tales of how fearsome and how great a warrior his father was without really getting to know the man himself. Ragnar encouraged him in all the wrong ways, even encouraging then teenage Ivar by assuring him that one day people would fear him.
No, Ragnar, just no. Ivar still seems to aspire to eliminate more than he has desired to conquer or gain wealth, and while he's definitely got a screw or two loose, he's also got a whole childhood of bad parenting to thank for his psychotic behavior. Thanks, Dad.
2 He was not faithful to Lagertha
The relationship with Aslaug. Thus began Ragnar’s descent into being an awful person. He had his flaws before, but any wrongdoing could easily be brushed aside because, let's face it, the guy is so charismatic. But then he made the conscious decision to do this to Lagertha with Princess Aslaug. Making matters even worse, by doing so he went against his promise to Bjorn (then still a child) that he would not take things any further than he already had with Aslaug. It was at this moment that something seemed to change within him.
Ragnar's decision to have the relationship was a new beginning for him-- he got what he wanted, but at what price? His decision caused him to lose one family yet gain another, and this seemed to spark a pattern of further poor decisions made by the Viking leader.
1 After that, He Tried To Convince Lagertha It Was Okay
Yeah. Ragnar actually expected her to be fine with his taking Aslaug as a second wife. Or at least, he really wanted her to be okay with it. After all, what else is there to think when a man's pregnant lover shows up, and instead of pleading for forgiveness from his wife he proposes polygamy? Ragnar demonstrates just how poorly he understands that the entire situation is his fault.
That's right-- there's no apology here. No attempt whatsoever on his behalf to show how sorry he is. Instead, Ragnar just feels hurt that his wife would dare to leave him without talking to him about it. We hope he's doing well in Valhalla. With only one more season left of the show, however, it seems that the series really was never meant to survive without Ragnar Lothbrok. In the meantime, we're still watching in spite of the character flaws.
What is your opinion on Ragnar from Vikings? Let us know in the comments!