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"Live in Honour. Safeguard Your Familial Blood."

"I will avenge you, father. I will save you, mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir."
Amleth

The Northman is a 2022 Epic Movie directed and co-written by Robert Eggers (The VVitch, The Lighthouse), inspired by the Scandinavian legend of Amleth (which also inspired William Shakespeare's Hamlet).

Boasting an All-Star Cast, the film follows Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), a Viking prince seeking revenge against his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) for murdering his father King Aurvandill (Ethan Hawke). Amleth's arc also involves his attempt in uncovering the fates of his mother Gudrun (Nicole Kidman) and his Honorary Uncle Heimir (Willem Dafoe), as well as forming a bond with the Slavic slave Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy).

The film was released in theaters in the United States on April 22, 2022 by Focus Features.

Previews: Official Trailer.


The following tropes are featured in The Northman:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Draugr the Night Blade is this due to being Forged by the Gods. Fjölnir is shown having to hack Aurvandill multiple times holding a one-handed sword with both hands to cut off his head while Amleth can chop off whole limbs with ease wielding Draugr and even slice through chain mail. The damage Amleth manages to do with the blade is so horrible that Ashildur thinks it was done by a demon. Though to be fair it is the magical sword of a barrow king so she's not far off. Later references to the possible demon as a hound of Hela and "night rider" recall references to draugr in other Norse sagas, so it's plausible Ashildur thought the local undead king was responsible.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Unlike the legend, Gudrun encouraged Fjölnir's murder of Aurvandill. In addition, there's Gudrun's claims about Aurvandill's own villainy, which Amleth was oblivious to and which is presented as true, but this does in a way mirror the legend, as Feng made false claims about Horvendill's mistreatment of Gerutha to justify his usurpation.
  • Adaptation Inspiration: The story is not a "straight" adaptation of the Amleth legend and more like inspired by it, taking mainly the basic "Evil Uncle, You Killed My Father" premise. As such, Amleth is depicted as much more of a Barbarian Action Hero than the Guile Hero he originally was (to the point that his name is theorized to mean something like "mad trickster"), though he does plan to wear Fjölnir and his men down with psychological warfare first.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Leaving aside the issue of different languages (the main source for the Amleth legend is in Latin, so it's "Amlethus" and "Horvendillus" and scholars still have to convert that a bit):
    • Fjölnir's counterpart in the Amleth legend is named Feng.
    • Gudrun's counterpart is named Gerutha.
  • Adapted Out: As the movie is not a direct retelling of the Amleth legend, the key element of Amleth faking insanity to deter suspicion about his plotting - which survived all the way to Shakespeare - is not present, since Amleth flees the scene as a boy. Elements in the legend that were later echoed by Shakespeare's Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are also absent. Though on the other hand, this is largely explained by the fact that Hrorek Slyngebond, Gerutha's father, and the Danish King for whom Aurvandill and later Fenge rule Jylland in trust, is also adapted out, and Saxo's version is quite clear that the only reason Fenge didn't kill Amleth is because his maternal grandfather would basically come down on him like the hammer of Thor if anything happened to him. Also adapted out is Aurvandill's rivalry with the Norwegian king Kollr, whom he slays in battle at the outset of the story.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • Björk was a major part of the film's promotion, but she only appears in one scene.
    • Willem Dafoe is similarly featured in the trailers yet only gets three scenes and one of them is voice-only after his character has died. The B-Roll footage reveals that at least one scene between him and Amleth was cut.
  • Afterlife of Service: During Thorir's Viking Funeral, an unnamed concubine of his is strangled and stabbed so she can join her master in death.
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Very fitting considering this is an adaptation of the myth that inspired Hamlet and the person whose skull is used. Heimir (this film's equivalent of the Court Jester Yorick in the Shakespeare play) was tortured, mutilated and killed by Fjölnir, and the He-witch kept his mummified skull to talk to him.
  • All for Nothing: While discussing Fjölnir, Amleth's fellow raiders make fun of the fact that Fjölnir killed his own brother for nothing, because King Harald of Norway took away his kingdom soon thereafter, resulting in his exile and becoming a chieftain of a far more modest Icelandic settlement.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • In the final film, a large section of the cast are not named onscreen. The closing credits provide not only names, but also nicknames for all of the berserkers, Fjölnir's men, and the slaves.
    • Robert Eggers and Anya Taylor-Joy both consistently refer to Olga as a "white witch" in interviews; Olga's "earth magic" is knowledge of herbs and poisons, specifically hallucinogenic mushrooms (probably fly agaric). Since herbalism and witchcraft are very traditionally associated with female power and social status in Europe, and the movie specifically points out that "women's magic" is mysterious and unknowable (unless you're Odin sacrificing your eye for it), it's not too far fetched that she would be seen as a witch with powerful magic.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Aurvandill's prediction that Fjölnir's would lose his kingdom comes true when Fjölnir gets driven into exile by Harald Hairfair.
  • Ambiguously Human: Both the He-Witch and Seeress seem to be supernatural figures to one capacity or not. Their exact nature is left unclear but could be operating at the authority of a higher power. The Seeress might be the ghost of the temple priestess or a Norn, while the He-Witch could very well have been Odin if not for him having both of his eyes intact.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The inscription of the sword Draugr is inscribed with Elder Futhark runes, which is at least 3 or 4 centuries removed from Amleth's era, and is made all the more strange that the sword is named Draugr instead of the older form Draugaz, which would have been appropriate for Elder Futhark. It also poses the question of why a 4th-6th century burial mound is in Iceland of all places, as the island was only settled in the second half of the 9th century.
    • The He-Witch seems to have a Vegvisir inscribed on his headpiece, which is an Icelandic magical stave symbol... from the 17th century.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Ravens represent Aurvandill (who is called "War-Raven") as well as Odin (who used ravens as messengers in Norse myths).
    • Both Amleth and his father are associated with canines. Aurvandil likens himself to a battle dog (ie: wolf) when he returns to his hall and greets Amleth and Gudrun. Right behind him comes Fjölnir with two hounds on leashes. The rite of passage Amleth endures involves him and Aurvandil acting like feral dogs while being tested by Heimer to prove their humanity. The pre-raid ritual Amleth takes part in with the Berserkers similarly involves them channeling their ferocity while wearing wolf pelts. A small arctic fox acts as Amleth's guide throughout his entire quest. There is also the detail of them literary having a werewolf as part of the family tree.
    • The beheading of a horse is shown to represent the end of the mourning process for Vikings and Fjölnir's declaration of revenge after Thorir's funeral, and later at the base of the volcano where Fjölnir brings the corpses of Gudrun and Gunnar before the final battle.
  • Armor Is Useless: The armor the Slavic levy uses does not seem to offer any protection, though at least with Amleth he is aiming for the places that are not protected. Justified when Amleth gets hold of Draugr, which is a supernatural blade.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The Viking band that rescued Amleth as a child is introduced killing a fisherman and his son for no reason. The raid on the Slavic village is even more brutal, featuring wanton violence, including against women and children, and burning people alive more or less For the Evulz.
  • Artistic License – Economics: Fjölnir is shown to have made a special order of slaves from a Viking band, to be delivered to his homestead. Leaving aside the idea that someone at that time would make a special order of newly enslaved workers instead of just buying from a slave market, the whole scheme becomes even iffier when one considers that this particular homestead is located in Iceland and the slaves are being procured in the Land of Rus, and being shipped directly from there.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Eggers pointed out that most historians do not think that pagan Scandinavians used any particular clothing in ritual, but that they also agree that their rituals involved lots of blood being splattered. This led Eggers to ask the historical consultant if they walked around covered in blood all the time, something the historian admitted never having thought about. Since the blood would have been impossible to clean off it was decided that during ceremonies the participants would wear white (period accurate) cloaks to protect their regular clothes. In the film you can see that the ceremonial cloaks have dried blood stains on them.
    • Towards the end of the film Amleth tells his mother Gudrun that they shall all be reunited in 'the Stronghold of the All-Father', essentially meaning Valholl. Valholl is specifically attested in medieval sources as being solely for men slain by weapons, as in fully matured men fit to bear weapons and participate in battles. The exact phrase that's used in texts from the period being 'ver' and 'verar' (plural) which is exactly cognate to the Old English word Were, as in 'Weregeld'.
    • At the start of the film Fjolnir is depicted as wearing a set of lamellar armor. There is archaeological evidence of a handful of lamellar plates found in Scandinavia, but there is no strong evidence to suggest that the Norse wore it as armor.
    • Finnr the Nose-Stub is shown wearing a leather helmet on multiple occasions. It's not inconceivable that helmets made of leather existed and simply failed to survive archaeologically, but there's no clear textual or artistic evidence that the Norse ever used them.
    • The precise rules of knattleikr have been lost, so the film necessarily depicts its own version. It was known as a very physical game, but it's unlikely that it boiled down to players clubbing each other with bats until no one remained standing.
  • Asshole Victim: From an audience perspective, mind you, but the only people who seemingly don't have it coming from our vantage would the Slavic speakers Amleth utterly annihilates in the beginning and Gunnar, his kid half-brother. The plot itself cleaves very closely to the 10th to 11th century Norse morality of the medieval stories and events it draws from, so the only sins that it treats as being truly bad is Fjolnir's murder and usurpation of his brother and Gudrun's betrayal of her husband and son.
    • It's hard to feel any sympathy for any of Fjölnir's men when Amleth kills them given they shown nothing but cruelty and abuse for most of the film. Especially Finnr the Nose-Stub.
    • If Gudrun is telling the truth, Aurvandill himself, whom she identifies as a rapist and a slaver who got what he deserved.
    • And if that's true, arguably Amleth, who spent years aiding and abetting a band of murderous, thieving, rapist slavers and only abandoned that lifestyle to seek revenge on Fjölnir, whose murder of Aurvandill was arguably justified.
    • Gudrun herself, who, if she is telling the truth to Amleth towards the end of the film, co-signed the attempted murder of her own son.
    • Fjolnir, a kin-slaying, slaving, raping, attempted-child murderer.
    • Amleth's final opponent in the knattleikr game whom he kills via headbutts after the latter stroke down Gunnar.
  • Attempted Rape: Fjölnir tries to force himself on Olga, but she repels him by revealing she's on her period. This happens right before she and Amleth begin to ruin Fjölnir's life.
  • Barbarian Longhair: The film gives an explanation for this. Newly acquired slaves often have their hair cut short as a Traumatic Haircut. So having long and well-groomed hair is a sign of status and self-ownership.
  • The Baroness: The group of Vikings Amleth ends up with is led by a female warrior aristocratnote . From the little we see of her, she comes off as pretty cold-hearted, calling from her steed that she only needs strong slaves after cutting a "weak" captive down.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Amleth views his life as being preordained by the Norns, and is told by a seer that he is destined to choose between kindness for his kin and hate for his enemy. This is resolved when he decides to protect Olga, the mother of his children, by leaving her and going back to kill Fjölnir so that there's no chance that Fjölnir will come after Olga and their children.
  • The Berserker: Berserkers are depicted in line with current historical understanding as warriors clad in animal pelts who enter a trance-like ritual state; even when not performing such rituals, Amleth still enters battle with ruthless ferocity.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Though downplayed, Finnr and Hallgrimr certainly has this going on.
  • Bilingual Bonus: During the assault on a Slavic settlement, a warning cry is heard. Speakers of a Slavic language might understand it as "bears of war!" that the Slavs are facing berserkers.
    • There's a lot of this with respect to the chapter names assuming you can read the alphabet of a long dead medieval language.
      • The opening chapter is called "Land of the Rus" in English, but the runes actually spell out Gardariki (Karthariki, if read phonetically), which translates to "Kingdom of the Enclosures," the Old Norse term for Kievan Rus.
      • The second chapter is spelled "Íslant," or Ísland, which is more or less the Old Norse rendering of Iceland.
      • Third, of course, is "the Night Blade Feeds." The runes here are slightly all over the place, being a mix of Elder Futhark, which is well before the Viking Age, and Younger Futhark, which is what is actually used by Vikings. But with that said, the actual runes spell out something akin to Draugsthatt, which would translate to "Draugr's Story," Draugr being the name of the sword itself (though as stated above given the fact the blade has Elder Futhark and is a ring-pommel sword from the Migration Period, it ought to be Draugaz)
      • And the final chapter of the film is called "Helgrind" in the runes, which means "Hel Gate," or more poetically, "Gate of Death."
  • Bittersweet Ending: Amleth is dead, but he managed to fulfill two of his three vows to the letter, as he avenges his father by killing Fjolnir after basically systematically destroying his life first; and Olga is alive and safe, with their unborn twins, thus fulfilling his vow to "save Mother" in spirit. He also makes it to Valholl, where he will presumably be reunited with his father.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • Most of the characters are morally bankrupt, with the hero Amleth only being A Lighter Shade of Black and Olga being almost white. Amleth is morally superior to his enemies only in that his personal moral compass stops him from acts like harming women and children. However, even though he does not seem to care for his fellow Vikings (denying that they are his "brothers"), he does nothing to prevent their more heinous actions and has no remorse for killing men only defending themselves from a raid or selling innocent people into slavery. Amleth does not want to kill Gunnar, whom he considers an innocent product of rape (or so he assumes until Gudrun states otherwise), which gives him a certain moral high ground versus his mother. But in the end he is forced to kill both in self-defense. He also decides to continue his revenge quest even after Gudrun reveals what a horrible person his father really was, deciding that "honor" is more important.
    • It's been pointed out by Eggers that Amleth's nightly sneak killings would have been seen as dishonorable in the historical setting. Even the Vikings (the evilest characters in the film) only attack after being seen by the Slavic watchmen and loudly announce themself before attacking. This is because Vikings considered theft wrong and cowardly, but openly attacking someone in daylight to take their stuff was OK.
  • Black Swords Are Better: The magical sword Amleth discovers is black as Hel and symbolic of its role as an instrument of his dark hatred.
  • Blind Seer: The Slavic Seeress who redirects Amleth to his mission was blinded (and possibly killed) by the berserkers, presumably so she could not curse them. But her third eye can still see Amleth.
  • Blood Sport: The movie features a bloody depiction of knattleikr, a nordic ball game where five players use clubs to hit a ball into a goalpost and to beat the opposing team until they can't play anymore. Players get their legs broken, noses bashed in, and by the end of it, only the two biggest players are left standing. Only one of them walks off the pitch alive.
  • Book Ends:
    • During the first act, after the raid of the Slavic town, people deemed "too weak" to be slaves are being rounded up in a house that is later set on fire; Amleth is pointedly looking away from this, facing the camera. At the end a group of liberated slaves are now the ones setting a house on fire; Amleth is looking directly at this, his back to the camera.
    • Amleth cutting Finnr's nose as a child gets bookended with him shoving his sword into what's left of Finnr's nose towards the end.
  • Casting Gag:
    • In Eggers' previous film, The VVitch, Anya Taylor Joy played a young woman who gets falsely accused of being a witch. Now in her second role under Eggers her character actually is a witch.
    • Ethan Hawke plays King Aurvandill, the equivalent of Hamlet's father. He also had the title role in Hamlet 2000.
  • Catch and Return: During the raid, a Slav hurls a spear at the berserker shock-troops; Amleth, while still approaching the settlement, catches this spear in midair and successfully hurls it back at the man.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • At the start, Amleth "drinks" of his father's wound and has a vision of his family tree. Just before the climax, he kisses a wound on Olga's neck and sees a vision of the children they'll have together.
    • The Slave Brand Amleth gives himself in the first half also comes back in the third act.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: When the story catches up with Fjölnir and his family after the Minor Kidroduction, one of the first things that Thorir mentions is a person that is gathering warriors for an expedition and that he intends to join him with some of his men. This is the captain whose ship Amleth and Olga board to leave Iceland, meeting him in Thorir's place.
  • Climactic Volcano Backdrop: The climactic duel takes place beside an active volcano.
  • Code of Honour: Amleth mentions to Olga that he would not kill a woman.
  • Contemplating Your Hands: The first sign of the hallucogenic mushrooms taking effect.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Fjölnir just so happens to special order a shipment of slaves from the same band that took in Amleth and raised him as one of their own.
  • Convection Shmonvection: Amleth and Fjölnir have their final battle in the "Gates of Hel," an active volcano (probably meant to be Hekla). At times during the fight, they're both seen stepping barefoot mere inches from active lava flows, which doesn't seem to cause any damage or slow them down at all. Given that magic and the supernatural are very much present in the film, though, it's quite likely that the place's description is at least semi-literal, and the gods aren't going to let anything as trivial as the laws of physics get in the way of a fated Duel to the Death.
  • Cool Sword: Amleth's magical sword Draugr, forged by dwarfs and taken from an undead king, and which can only be drawn at night or at the "Gates of Hel." It appears to be forged from damascus steel inlaid with runes.
  • Crapsack World: These were dirty, brutish times, and Eggers makes no effort to sugarcoat it.
  • Crippling Castration: When attacking Freyr's temple, Amleth cuts off the male priest's genitals, likely as a mockery to his and Fjölnir's god who he dismisses as a "god of erections."
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • According to the He-Witch, and evidenced by the mummified head he keeps, Heimir was tortured and mutilated by Fjölnir before being beheaded.
    • The Rus villagers who didn't make the cut for slavery are locked inside a barn that's then set ablaze, leaving them all to burn alive.
    • An unlucky few of Fjölnir's men who ate the soup spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms. Some kill themselves (one by stabbing himself in the throat) screaming in absolute terror at whatever it is they're seeing.
  • Curbstomp Battle: The raid on the Slavic village. None of the defenders can so much as land a hit on the berserkers, and their deaths are quick and savage. The Vikings are no more merciful to the civilians in the town.
  • Cycle of Revenge: After the revelation of Gudrun's betrayal, Amleth kills Thorir in a rage, but afterwards seems willing to abandon his desire for revenge against Fjölnir to live out the rest of his life elsewhere with Olga. Unfortunately, killing Thorir made Fjölnir swear an oath of vengeance against Amleth, making that future impossible.
  • David Versus Goliath: At 6-foot-4-inches, Alexander Skarsgård is not a small guy by any means. But he still manages to find opponents that are even bigger than him like the gigantic Mound Dweller or Thorfinnr (who is played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson).
  • Death by Adaptation: Gudrun is killed by Amleth, whereas in the legend Amleth saved her with no issue.
  • Death of a Child: Amleth kills Gunnar in self defense. We see the boy's blood-stained body lying motionless on the floor.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The movie does not attempt to sanitize the commonplace behavior of the Vikings during the time period. Even the noblest characters think nothing of keeping slaves, it's okay for freemen to sexually assault their slaves or women they find at war, and Amleth, the supposed hero, participates in raiding settlements and enslaving their people with no obvious reservations.
    • Christianity is also considered a fringe religion, with suspicion falling upon them for an incident Amleth causes.
  • Desecrating the Dead: After defeating the undead mound-dweller by decapitation, Amleth shoves the warrior's head between the corpse's legs. And as part of his psychological campaign against Fjölnir, he mutilates the corpses of the men he kills.
  • Deus ex Machina: When Amleth's situation seems hopeless as he's beaten, bloodied, and hanging in an enemy camp, a conspiracy of ravens peck apart his bonds and free him, as if Odin has personally sent his messenger birds to save one of his most devoted disciples.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Amleth dies as a result of taking his revenge. In the legend, he pulls off his revenge completely, has some other adventures, and dies sometime later in a completely unconnected war.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Amleth kills all of Fjölnir's housecarls and frees the slaves, the first thing they do is burn the entire compound to the ground.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Fjolnir's dog is named Rakki, which is Finnish for (bad) dog.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Non-verbal example; the deaths of Gudrun and Gunnar come when both have attacked Amleth in enough of a frenzy, and he is visibly blocking, dodging, or enduring the attacks without counter-attacking for several seconds before being forced to kill in self-defense.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: During the climax of the movie, Amleth, who has been shown to be a One-Man Army, goes into his duel with Fjölnir severely wounded from the sword slashes Gudrun gave him and the multiple stab wounds from Gunnar. This makes things far closer than they had any business being, and results in both of them dying.
  • Dramatic Irony: Fjolnir's eldest son claims that an undercover Amleth will never be made free by them since he's so obviously lowborn.
  • Driven to Suicide: Under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms, one of Fjölnir's men is shown stabbing himself in the neck.
  • Due to the Dead: Yet another parallel between Amleth and Fjölnir.
    • Twice Fjölnir has Amleth more or less at his mercy — the first time Amleth is beaten and bound, the second time Amleth is still reeling from the injuries caused by his mother and brother, and dealing with the emotional turmoil of having killed them — both times he decides to properly, or as best as he can, mourn his family instead of finishing Amleth off.
    • Amleth touches the corpses of Gudrun and Gunnar tenderly before preparing for battle, a far cry from his brutal treatment of the others he's killed.
  • Dungeon Crawling: Amleth enters a burial mound to get the magical sword he'll use for his revenge, and has to fight the undead king buried with it (maybe).
  • Elite Mooks: Amleth and the thirty berserkers are this for a proper army in the opening - as soon as they scale the town's walls, they open the gates for a larger, non-berserker force.
  • Establishing Character Moment: One that doubles as a Meaningful Background Event, as Amleth is walking around the recently conquered Slavic town, we get our first look at Olga in the background, offering some silver object to one of the Viking raiders, only to be immediately shown to have only been pretending to do so to get a shot at stabbing him, establishing her cunning right off the bat. Eagle-eyed viewers can also notice her in the background during the fighting, hurling a bucket of water at one of the Vikings.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Fjölnir is devastated by the death of his son Thorir, who also expressed grief and rage at his companions being killed. We also see him being a genuinely good father to Gunnar, joining him in work and explaining his reasons to him. And even though Gudrun casually admits to wanting Aurvandill and Amleth dead, she also seems to care for and support Fjölnir and absolutely adores Gunnar.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Amleth has little trouble sailing with his fellow raiders who rape, pillage, and murder just about any poor soul unlucky enough to be in their path, but he himself refuses to harm innocents or take slaves of his own.
  • Exact Words: When Amleth and Olga board Captain Volodymyr's ship, they tell him that Thorir is not coming, as he has a ship of his own. They just neglect to mention that this ship is the funeral ship he was buried in.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge:
    • When Thórfinnr hits and knocks out Gunnar, Amleth beats him to death on the spot.
    • The focus of the third act. Amleth embarks on a bloody terror campaign that involves butchering enemies and mutilating their corpses.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Even after being downed by three arrows and several spear stabs, Aurvandill remains defiant as Fjölnir draws his sword to finish the job. With his last breath, the king curses his brother and foretells that not only will his kingdom not last, but he will one day pay for his crimes. Indeed, his omen comes true. Fjölnir loses his kingdom, then his family, and finally his life at Amleth's hands.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Alexander Skarsgard shirtless is a pleasant sight; him shirtless covered in wounds, blood and grime is far less pleasant. Ditto for the various other Vikings, who are seen in similarly filthy states of undress at other points in the film.
    • Anya Taylor-Joy is a beautiful woman, but seeing her smear her period blood on someone's face (to discourage rape) is still a squirm-worthy sight.
  • Fanservice: Anya Taylor-Joy seen naked from behind as she enters a spring.
  • Forced Prize Fight: Through not a fight per say, Amleth, Audunn and some other slaves are forced to take part in a game of knattleikr: a ball game where fighting among the players is part of the game.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Amleth runs into his mother's chambers, she looks ready to strike him. While she may have been trying to hide her slave mark, this also indicates she holds little love for her son.
    • Heimir points out how quickly Gudrun hands her goblet to her brother-in-law, rather than her husband. Later on, after Amleth starts working at the compound, he witnesses Gudrun tenderly brushing Fjölnir's hair in private, and shooing away ravens, which were the namesake of Aurvandill. Later on, her true feelings on both brothers are revealed.
    • Gudrun mentions that Aurvandill's grandfather had to kill his uncle to claim the throne.
    • While discussing Fjölnir, the Viking band that Amleth is a part of refers to Aurvandill as "the disgraced king," foreshadowing the later reveal by Gudrun that Aurvandill was not the great man Amleth remembers him as.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The final battle sees Amleth and Fjölnir with nothing on except for their respective sword and shield.
  • Funny Background Event: When we first see Amleth's family tree on of the ancestor's seen in the background is a fully transformed werewolf!
  • Hand on Womb: Amleth kisses Olga's belly after getting a vision of his twin babies.
  • Heaven Above: Amleth has dreams throughout the movie of his body being carried by a Valkyrie on horseback, up towards a celestial phenomenon in the night sky: Valhalla, the feasting halls of the valiant dead within the divine realm of Asgard.
  • Henotheistic Society: Norse paganism is depicted as this in the film. Amleth is depicted as mainly following Odin (taking after both his father and the berserker band that adopted him) whereas Fjölnir and his entire estate are followers of Freyr. The characters do acknowledge the existence of other gods though, with Amleth both boasting Odin's superiority to Freyr, while asking Olga if her earth-gods can help them.
  • Hero of Another Story: The Seeress straight up tells Amleth that the only reason she is helping him is because his destiny is tied up with that of a "Maiden King" whose story begins with him. In the end, she is revealed to be Amleth's future daughter with Olga.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: A sizable part of Amleth's revenge plan also consists of rescuing his mother Gudrun from Fjölnir's clutches. When they finally reunite, she reveals that she was originally a slave that despised the husband who raped her (claiming in turn he mostly endured her since she bore him a son) and outright begged Fjölnir to kill him and her Child by Rape Amleth, who she freely expresses to have no love for at all.
  • Homage: The scene during the raid on the Slavic settlement where the Vikings lock all the villagers unfit for slavery into a temple before setting fire to it is one to the most infamous scene in Come and See.
  • Honorable Warrior's Death: The Wikings believe only those men dying in battle will go to Valhalla.
  • Honorary Uncle: Heimir is hinted at being this to Amleth given how Amleth vows to avenge him when hearing about his demise. A deleted scene had Heimir playing with Amleth.
  • Honor Before Reason: Fjölnir has a few chances to fight Amleth while better armored, or while the latter is disarmed and restrained, but chooses to duel Amleth unarmored, with both wielding only a sword and shield.
  • Hope Spot: At one point, Amleth seems ready to let go of his revenge and leave Iceland with Olga, but then a vision reveals to him that Olga is carrying his children, and he fears that Fjölnir would hunt them down.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Amleth towers over Olga by nearly a foot, and is also heavily muscled while she is a slight figure.
  • Human Sacrifice: Performed by Fjölnir (who worships the fertility deity Freyr) in an attempt to appease what he believes is a supernatural killer; Amleth frees the intended victim and kills some of Fjölnir's men in her place. One of Thorir's concubines is also sacrificed at his funeral so she can join him in the afterlife.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Gudrun gloats that her son can't kill her, as he loves her. "As a son loves his mother, and a mother loves her son" ...despite the fact that she wants him dead.
    • Gudrun reveals that her first husband was a slaver and rapist, thus explaining why she wanted him dead. However, Fjolnir, whom she praises highly, is also a slave owner and rapist. He would have forced himself on Olga, his slave, if he'd had the chance.
  • Idiot Ball: While the adrenalin-rushed Amleth and his opponent fight it out in the knattleikr game, Gunnar runs onto the playfield, snatches the ball from them and runs triumphantly towards the goal line. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Incest-ant Admirer: Briefly, when revealing her treachery, Gudrùn attempts to seduce Amleth, who is understandably freaked out and disgusted. It's highly likely that this was purely an attempt to distract him so she could then stab him (if you look closely you can see she was reaching for Amleth's sword), so there's a good chance neither of them actually felt any sexual attraction.
  • Insane Troll Logic: After Amleth kills two of Thorir's men and nails their naked bodies to the side of a building, Thorir and some of the men start blaming the Christian slaves for no other reason than that they think their religion involves a god nailed to a cross. Gudrùn has to point out how absurd this line of thinking is, starting with the fact that the slaves have no weapons.
  • Klingon Promotion: Fjölnir takes his brother Aurvandill's place as the king by killing him. Gudrun mentions a similar case happened with Aurvandill's grandfather who killed his uncle to claim the throne.
  • Made a Slave: The fact that a lot of the Viking's raiding involved enslaving people for profit is particularly emphasized:
    • As the movie starts the audience is shown that a significant part of the loot of Aurvandill's expedition is made up of slaves.
    • The berserkers' attack on the walled town in the land of the Rus is shown after the fact to be motivated mostly by slaving, as almost all the survivors are sent to be sold in the slave markets of Uppsala, Kiev and Constantinople, or sent by special order to Fjölnir's homestead in Iceland.
    • Gudrun eventually reveals to Amleth that she wasn't a Breton princess who was betrothed to Aurvandill, as she'd told her son; but instead she was one of the slaves he captured, raped and eventually married because she got pregnant and gave birth to a boy.
  • Magic Mushroom: Hallucinogenic mushrooms are used to spike the stew of Fjölnir's men.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While there are a few instances of overt supernatural events, other events that might be supernatural could have a mundane explanation.
    • Amleth seemingly duels an undead warrior for possession of his sword, but the camera then pans back to show Amleth picking the sword up from the hands of the warrior's corpse. Was it just his imagination? Was it some sort of spirit battle?
    • The scene where ravens peck at the bloody ropes binding Amleth and free him from captivity could also be interpreted as being Aurvandill or Odin's supernatural influence, a strange coincidence, or Olga returning to free him.
  • Men Don't Cry: Invoked by Heimir. He even takes what supposedly is the last teardrop of Amleth to keep till the moment Amleth needs it the most. It's later returned to Amleth by the Seeress to make him remember his oath. In the end Amleth finally sheds that tear again as he lays dying, after seeing a vision of Olga and their children, safe and sound.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The first 20 minutes introduce us to Amleth as a young boy before a Time Skip takes us some 30 years ahead to the main part of his story.
  • Mirror Character: Amleth and Fjölnir are both very much products of their culture and times, with the movie consistently showing that they behave in similar ways and engage in similar practices. Amleth is merely A Lighter Shade of Black in the conflict and even then, by the end he's killed people who had nothing to do with his misfortunes, and Fjölnir has sworn revenge on him.
  • Mistaken for Misogynist: The slave-holders never suspect much from Amleth's conspiratorial meet-ups with Olga because they assume he's just taken her as his own personal sex slave.
  • Monochrome Casting: This film features an all-white cast of characters.
  • Mushroom Samba: The rite of passage Amleth endures alongside his father begins with both consuming a potion prepared by Heimer called a "vision mead" which induces strange and trippy hallucinations while Amleth's will is tested.
  • Mutual Kill: Amleth decapitates Fjölnir while the latter stabs Amleth through the heart.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Amleth is completely crushed after crossing his personal Moral Event Horizon and killing Gudrun and Gunnar. He cries for the first time since his father's death.
  • Nasal Trauma: Finnr gets his nose graphically cut off by Amleth when he tries to murder him as a child. Years later, Amleth kills Finnr by driving a sword through the remains of his nose into his skull.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film had a very deceptive marketing campaign:
    • The trailers largely focus on scenes from the prologue and from the raid Amleth participates in immediately after the prologue; in fact, only a few scenes featured come from past the twenty-minute mark in the film. As a result, the movie ends up looking more like an action-driven Viking epic rather than a movie about Amleth willingly becoming a slave in Fjölnir's domain to ruin his life through covert acts of terrorism.
    • As a result of emphasizing the raid, the trailers heavily feature Viking characters. The Vikings only appear in the scenes immediately proceeding and following the raid on the Slavic village, encompassing all of fifteen minutes of screentime at most near the beginning of the film.
    • The trailer heavily emphasizes Olga's role, and pointedly features her line about having the power to "break mens' minds" intercut with two scenes of her apparently performing mystical rituals, implying that she'll use magical powers to aid Amleth. Aside from possibly casting a spell in one scene, which itself seems to have no effect on the material world, Olga never does anything magical. In fact, she has very little impact on Amleth's revenge at all. The two scenes from the trailer are a dream sequence and Olga simply freaking out, respectively. Her primary role in the story is to become the mother of the dynasty Amleth has sired, and to provide motivation for Amleth to go back and kill Fjölnir after initially giving up his revenge quest.
  • Nonchalant Dodge: During the assault on the Slavic settlement, Amleth casually sidesteps an incoming arrow as he trots toward the walls.
  • Nose Shove: Amleth shoves his sword into what's left of Finnr's nose, which he himself cut off when Finnr tried to kill him as a child.
  • Offerings to the Gods: Ashildur is seen offering grain to the god Freyr and later preparing to make a human sacrifice.
  • Off with His Head!:
  • Old Soldier: The white-bearded Elder Berserker played by Magnus Osnes, who leads a pack of much younger berserker warriors in a war ritual on the night before they attack a Rus village.
  • The Oner: A couple the scenes, such as Fjölnir's men attacking the village and the Vikings raiding the Slavs.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Played straight. Though not named specifically the beings who forged Draugr (using the bones of a Jotun for the hilt no less) are mentioned in voice-over as being among the greatest smiths to ever crawl up from beneath the earth. As expected they're forging a magic weapon underground and all have long beards.
  • Our Wights Are Different: The Mound Dweller is clearly a haugbui and fits all the usual tropes. He lives in a barrow, he jealously guards his grave goods, he's superhumanly strong, he can become a giant, and to be sure you've killed him you must place his severed head upon his buttocks. He even has the moon involved in his defeat, perhaps a subtle nod to Glámr from Grettir's Saga. Undermined a bit because right after the fight we see his corpse hasn't moved at all and crumbles when Amleth touches him... but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. If you didn't get all the hints his magical sword is literally called Draugr. May also explain why the priests of Freyr initially assume Amleth's killings are the work of an evil spirit, as he's using a haugbui's magical sword and his depredations are a bit similar to the farm assailed by the undead in Eyrbyggja Saga.
  • Papa Wolf: Despite their many respective flaws, this is something that Aurvandill, Fjölnir and Amleth all have in common:
    • Aurvandill's first instinct upon being ambushed is to yell at Amleth to run away.
    • Fjölnir is shown as a proud and doting father to both Thorir and Gunnar, and twice he gives up opportunities to just kill Amleth precisely to properly mourn each of them, alongside his wife.
    • Amleth seems finally ready to let go of his revenge, up until the moment he realizes that Olga is carrying his children, whom he fears Fjölnir will hunt down.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: After the knattleikr game, the slaves of both households are seen dancing and singing around a campfire. A short time later, some of them are running around naked, with a few doing it right there in the open including Amleth and Olga, though they find a more secluded place first.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: The Vikings are shown to wear animal skins.
  • Phlebotinum-Handling Requirements: Draugr can only be drawn from its sheath at night or at the Gates of Hel. This means that the one time Amleth faces Fjölnir and his guards in broad daylight — and far away from the volcano — results in his only clear loss.
  • Practically Different Generations: Amleth and Gunnar are maternal half-brothers and have decades between them. Gunnar's older paternal half-brother Thorir is younger than Amleth, but still decades older than Gunnar too. Gunnar looks to be around 10 years old; at the start of the film Amleth is 10 while Thorir is a baby before the story skips ahead about two decades, which would make Amleth around 30 years older and Thorir about 20 years older than their little brother.note  Amleth especially could easily be Gunnar's father rather than his brother. Gunnar doesn't even know Amleth is his brother, as he was assumed to have died as a child long before Gunnar was born. Despite them being practically strangers and Amleth despising Gunnar's father, Amleth still protects Gunnar from harm and doesn't target him in his revenge plot at least until he's forced to kill him in self-defense.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: During the raid of Kievan Rus, the Vikings committed wanton violence against random bypasser, women and children seemingly For the Evulz. On the other hand, sparing their lives would no doubt alert neighboring villages and towns of the Vikings' presence, which would make future raids all the more difficult.
  • Prophet Eyes: The Seer Heimir and others are seen with white eyes under trance.
  • Rape and Revenge: Amleth swears to kill his uncle Fjölnir for the murder of Amleth's father Aurvandill and his forced marriage to Amleth's mother Gudrun, also hoping to rescue Gudrun as well. However, it's later revealed that Gudrun was in on the plan to kill her first husband and she willingly married Fjölnir; she tells Amleth she begged Fjölnir to kill Aurvandill because he had enslaved and raped her. While this is understandable, Gudrun also wanted Amleth, her Child by Rape, killed too, even though he was completely ignorant of the circumstances of his birth and is emotionally shattered when he learns the truth.
  • Rated M for Manly: A revenge movie with muscular men committing brutal acts of violence. Even the director was surprised he ended up doing a macho movie.
  • Real Is Brown: The heavily desaturated color palette adds to the Grim Up North aesthetic.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic:
    • The arctic fox that helps Amleth is actually a real fox, through many viewers mistook it for a (poorly rendered) CG one.
    • All the night scenes where shot at night but many people assumed they were day for night. Might have to do with night sky which was comped in to simulate what the human eye sees but what a camera does not photograph.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Deconstructed by showing the consequences that a culture that treats "dying by the sword" as the highest honor has on the men practicing it:
    • Amleth's initiation is portrayed more like a debasing of the self than some cool moment. And Aurvandill's words about the Cycle of Revenge look less a Badass Creed than a curse being placed upon his son, which it more or less is. Adult Amleth is basically a broken person running on autopilot, who looks uncomfortable pretty much all the time, both as a berserker and while enacting his revenge; he even outright tells his mother that only after he completes his self-imposed mission will he find out if he actually enjoys living. The few times where he looks, if not exactly happy, at least at ease, are a few moments spent with Olga.
    • All Fjölnir gets from killing his brother and usurping the kingdom is then being promptly exiled in disgrace himself alongside his family and some soldiers, and then for the small settlement he starts building to be terrorized and ultimately destroyed by Amleth.
    • Thorir is reintroduced, as an adult, losing in a sparring match, and then spends the rest of the movie trying and failing to assert his authority, even though while his father is shown to love him and thus, he might not need to, it's just what's expected of him.
    • Even Gunnar: all he gets from getting involved in a brutal game, which he is treating like a real battle, is to be knocked unconscious and nearly killed and then dies when attacking his half-brother in revenge for his mother.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Amleth is given a perfect chance to abandon his revenge quest and leave Iceland to retire to a quiet corner of the world where he can live happily with a woman who loves him and is pregnant with his child... and he throws it away to turn back and kill Fjolnir instead, where he dies in battle. Made worse if you go with the interpretation that the supernatural stuff Amleth encounters is a result of dreams, visions and his deteriorating sanity, in which case there isn't even a glorious Valhalla waiting for him and he achieved nothing in his brutal quest.
  • Rite of Passage: A young Amleth undergoes one towards the start of the film, guided by Aurvandill and Heimir. It gets trippy.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Amleth's goal. He is actually convinced to abandon this path by Olga, but once he learns she is pregnant with their children, his motivation shifts to killing Fjölnir for practical reasons, in order to keep him from pursuing and killing his family. At that point, Fjölnir had sworn bloody vengeance on Amleth.
  • Safe Behind the Corner: During a nighttime scene at the village, Amleth takes cover from guards behind a house wall. An Angry Guard Dog starts to alert the men to the hero's presence but then Amleth pulls an angry face on the dog which scares the dog into silence. Fjölnir approaches the corner where Amleth is hiding but conveniently decides to turn around before reaching it.
  • Scare the Dog: While Amleth is sneaking around Fjölnir's village at night, he is able to scare the barking Angry Guard Dog into silence.
  • Scary Teeth: The valkyrie who Amleth dreams about has file markings on her teeth.
  • Screaming Warrior: Just about all of the Vikings.
  • She Is the King: The Seeress prophesizes that Amleth will be the catalyst for the destiny of a "Maiden King" of her people. Amelth's vision near the end of the movie shows this to be his daughter with Olga.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Amleth saying "Poor Heimir" when shown the jester's preserved head may be one to a more famous version of the saga of Amleth, alluding to Hamlet's line "Alas, poor Yorick," likewise delivered when he sees the skull of a dead jester.
    • The scene where the Vikings force the "surplus" captives into a barn which is then set on fire is a homage to the infamous scene in Come and See.
    • The slave's orgy in the forest is a shout out to the pagan celebration in Andrei Rublev, which has a very obvious influence on the camera work of The Northman.
  • Shown Their Work: The story itself is a work of fiction, but Robert Eggers brings his typically obsessive attention to detail: the costumes, weapons and ships are all period-accurate and the folklore includes numerous strange and obscure details. The Old Norse spoken throughout the film at various points is also grammatically correct, though the pronunciation is off.
  • Sibling Murder:
    • Fjölnir murders his brother to take the crown for himself.
    • Later, Amleth kills his half-brother, technically in self-defense.
  • Sibling Triangle: Gudrun claims she hated Amleth's father and only ever loved Fjölnir.
  • Slave Brand:
    • Amleth gives himself one to blend in with the slaves.
    • Queen Gudrun has one, revealing her less than savory past.
  • Slave Liberation: When Amleth decides to return to kill Fjölnir to protect Olga and their children, he sets the slaves free, which may possibly mean Amleth has grown at least a little more empathic over the course of the film.
  • Sleep Cute: Amleth and Olga sleep in an embrace after surviving a storm at sea.
  • Spoiled Brat: Both of Fjölnir's sons, Thorir and especially Gunnar, are this. The latter at one point whines to his father about them doing "slave work" not long before the slaves came.
  • Stacked Characters Poster: The movie poster shows the main characters (and Björk) stacked up in a column with Amleth towering over everyone.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Thorir takes after Fjölnir quite closely. Conversely, Gudrun's sons look more like her than they do their respective fathers.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Even when a hulking veteran berserker in the prime of his life is up against multiple out-of-practice guards, he'll lose in an open fight where he can be ganged up on, especially if he can't even draw his sword.
  • Survival Mantra: "I will avenge you, father. I will save you, mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir. I will avenge you, father. I will save you, mother. I will kill you, Fjölnir." Child Amleth is last seen repeating these words aloud when rowing away from his land. The movie then cuts to a now-adult Amleth, who is still repeating the sentences in his head.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: What Thorir thinks he does when he awards Amleth with authority over the other slaves and the right to claim Olga as his wife for saving Gunnar from Thorfinnr.
  • Time Skip: After the prologue, the story jumps ahead an indeterminate number of years, although it is enough time for Thorir to grow from a baby to a grown man.
  • Tranquil Fury: Fjölnir exhibits this when discovering Amleth with the bodies of Gudrun and Gunnar.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The slaves at Fjolnir's homestead have their hair cut upon arrival.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: According to Heimir, Draugr was forged by the deadliest war-smiths the world has seen.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Amleth gets suspended and tortured in a barn.
  • Use Your Head: Amleth finished off his final opponent in the knattleikr game with a couple of headbutts.
  • Viking Funeral: Thorir is laid to rest on a funeral ship (on land) doubling as a pyre with a woman being sacrificed to accompany him in the afterlife.
  • Wham Line: One that reveals that Gudrun was Evil All Along, precisely as Amleth is in the process of "saving" her.
    Queen Gudrun: "I see you have inherited your father's simpleness."
  • Would Hurt a Child: No one seems to have any qualms about hurting a child, but Finnr comes off as especially cruel because he gloats about doing it slowly.
  • You Killed My Father: Amleth's father was murdered by his uncle Fjölnir, motivating Amleth to seek revenge.

 
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Amleth doesn't get spotted

Amleth takes cover from patrolling guards behind a house wall. An Angry Guard Dog starts to alert the men to the hero's presence but then Amleth pulls an angry face on the dog which scares the dog into silence. One of the guards approaches the corner where Amleth is hiding but conveniently decides to turn around before reaching it.

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