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Literature / The Viking

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A 1951 novel by Edison Marshall, The Viking tells the story of Ogier the Dane in the days of Ragnar Lodbrok, viceroy to King Horik of the Danes and cousin to King Harold of Norway. A slave of Ragnar all his life Ogier is the rival of Ragnar's only son, and youngest in total, by his third and youngest wife, and the first to die, the Frankish Judith of Nantes. On a day when Ragnar and his sons go hunting, Ogier reveals a gyrfalcon he had found frozen to a tree the previous winter to Hasting and it is that day when Ogier's life changes completely. Ultimately becoming the slave of the exiled Northumbrian thane Egbert, Ogier enters a larger world with Northumbria becoming a recurring location in Ogier's life.

The book was adapted for the screen (with much changes in the names) in 1958 as The Vikings.


This book contains examples of:

  • Animal Motifs: Ogier likens Ragnar to a bear and even comes to name a bear "Ragnar's Brother." The motif extends to Ragnar's son Bjorn Ironsides whom Ogier says is most like his father out of all his sons. Ragnar's bear comparison is countered with Ogier likening himself to a wolf and when making comparisons to birds Ogier compares himself to a gyrfalcon, which becomes his initial sobriquet and even his standard, and Ragnar to a pelican.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The aforementioned Ragnar's Brother. When hunting him the bear initially goes after Ragnar, as Ogier had intended, only for it to go after Egbert. It is Ogier's killing of Ragnar's Brother that ultimately earns him his freedom.
  • Bookends: The story begins with the minstrel Alan asking Ogier to tell him of his life so it can be written down. It ends years later with Alan having told the tale at a court and him being asked whatever happened to Ogier and Morgana after they went in search of Avalon.
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  • Cain and Abel: Ogier ends up an enemy of one of his paternal half-brothers and his maternal half-brother, Hasting and Aella respectively. He ends up killing them.
  • Child by Rape: Ogier is revealed in the final chapter before the epilogue to have been begotten when Ragnar raped Enid, wife to the Earl of York. Hasting himself is implied to be this as well due to a mutual hatred between Ragnar and Judith.
  • Duel to the Death: Ogier and Aella fight to the death a day or so after Ogier and his men have captured Aella.
  • The Exile: Egbert is in exile from Northumbria. By the end of it he is on his way to being King of Northumbria.
  • Foreshadowing: Egbert voices his opinion that Ogier is a bastard and Aella conjectures that Ogier's father is Ragnar. This foreshadows the revelation that Ogier is Ragnar's bastard son.
  • Handicapped Badass: Hasting ends up half-blind after Ogier orders his gyrfalcon Odin's Arrow to kill the former and Ogier ends up with one hand after a failed attempt to rescue Morgana from Aella.
  • Heroic Bastard: In the final chapter before the epilogue, Ogier learns that he is the bastard son of Ragnar by Enid.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Ogier is Ogier the Dane but he is more the man behind the legend. In the prologue, the minstrel Alan says that by the time he is finished writing Ogier's saga Ogier's own spirit won't be able to remember if he had sailed with Ragnar or rode with Roland.
    • Ragnar Lothbrok is a major character in the first half of the book. After his death, he continues to be a presence. His sons Ivar the Boneless, Halfdan, Bjorn Ironsides, Ubbe and Hasting Maidenface also feature in the novel with the last of these sons being Ogier's rival and eventual ally during the second half of the novel.
    • Aella and Egbert, two kings of Northumbria feature in the novel, and a third, Osberht, is mentioned but never appears in person.
  • Hook Hand: Ogier gets one in the place of the hand he he loses.
  • Horny Vikings: No horned helmets are mentioned but the Norsemen themselves, specifically Danes in this case, act the part.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: This is actually discussed in the story itself a few times.
    • The first time happens when Ragnar's cousin Eric jokes that Hasting must have been fathered by a plowman.
    • The second time happens when Morgana wonders if Ragnar could be Aella's father when she hears about Ragnar's rape of Enid, Aella's mother. Ogier then informs her that Aella had already been born by that point.
    • The third time is an unusual inversion. Aella conjectures that Ogier is Ragnar's son, which he ultimately turns out to be correct about, and remembers what his mother Enid told him of there having been two other women in Ragnar's pavillion, Ragnar's servant the Jewess Meera and Ragnar's wife Judith of Nantes, and so wonders which of the two could be Ogier's mother. As Ogier himself tells Aella, Meera is barren and Judith is Hasting's mother. As it turns out Ogier's mother is Aella's mother Enid.
  • Named Weapons: Ogier has a bow he calls his "Yew Falcon" and a spear he calls his "Iron Eagle." He names his first sword "Odin's Fang" and upon killing Aella claims his sword Requiter as his own.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. Hasting shares his name with his cousin Hasting the Cruel, who never appears in person. In order to differentiate the two the former is initially called "Hasting the Young", implying the other is older than him, and later becomes known as "Hasting Maidenface" after his face is disfigured by Ogier's gyrfalcon Odin's Arrow.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Ivar the Boneless is identified as the son of Thora rather than Aslaug, who goes unnamed.
  • The Rival: Ogier and Hasting, they later become allies but upon learning that Ogier delivered Ragnar to Aella for execution, Hasting betrays Ogier with the intention of giving him the death of the Red Eagle.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Ogier is a pagan Dane, Morgana is a Christian princess betrothed to Aella.
  • Youngest Child Wins: A literal example with Ogier being the one to emerge victorious in his lifelong hate feud with Hasting.