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The Untold Truth Of Vikings: Valhalla

Before 2013, Vikings were broadly seen as a rowdy bunch of war-mongerers with horned helmets, cool boats and blonde braided beards ... or an NFL team (Skol!) That year, however, History launched a raid on our collective perception of these ancient warriors in the form of the series Vikings.

Loosely based on the life of real Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok, the show turned the Ancient Norse from half-remembered myths to real people. It didn't shy away from their more violent practices — the show more or less told the disturbing truth about the Vikings' blood eagle execution, for example — but it also showed them as very much human, with desires, fears, romantic entanglements, religious beliefs and doubts, and even a sense of humor.

Vikings was History's most successful show ever. When it was announced in January 2019 that the upcoming sixth season would the last, it took less than a year for Netflix to scoop up a sequel series. In November 2019, the streaming service ordered 24 episodes of Vikings: Valhalla, which picks up the original show, but with a major time jump. Where does this take the story, is anyone we know coming back, and what even is Valhalla? Here's the untold truth of Vikings: Valhalla, the afterlife for the show that breathed life into historical figures (and then brutally killed them).

Vikings: Valhalla is set 100 years in Vikings' future

Just when you thought you had a handle on all the various descendants, relatives and acquaintances of Ragnar Lothbrok, the story jumps 100 years into the future. Vikings: Valhalla will focus on famous Vikings and Viking descendants who lived around 1000 CE (give or take a few decades. Exact dates are just one aspect Vikings gets wrong about history).

Even if you'd never heard of Ragnar (played by Travis Fimmel in the show) before you watched Vikings, you may have heard of some of the characters set to appear in Valhalla. William the Conqueror (aka King William I) became the first Norman King of England after defeating English King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Although he was from Normandy in France, William was a descendant of a familiar Viking: Rollo (Clive Standen in Vikings) was his great-great-great-grandfather.

William was not, however, the first to make an attempt on the English throne. Just before him came another character we'll see in Valhalla, Harald Hardrada, aka King Harald III of Norway. If you consider historical fact to be a spoiler, skip the next paragraph.

Hardrada invaded England with 300 Viking ships less than a month before William. Although they won a victory against Harold II's English army, they were roundly defeated shortly after, and Hardrada was killed.

Another confirmed Valhalla character is less famous outside of Norway but also fascinating. Leif Erikson was a Norse explorer, believed to be one of the first Europeans to ever set foot in North America. Exactly how this ties in to Hardrada and William's exploits remains to be seen, but it sounds like the show may be expanding its horizons.

Things are changing for Vikings behind the scenes

The Vikings on Vikings spent most of their time engaged in power struggles, but there was only ever one man in control behind the camera. Vikings creator Michael Hirst wrote every single episode of Vikings' six seasons, so perhaps it's not surprising that he plans to be less involved in the sequel series. Hirst will still be an executive producer, alongside Vikings' Morgan Sullivan and Jeb Stuart, the Valhalla showrunner whose most famous previous work is a little movie called Die Hard.

Given the enormous time jump, it's unlikely that any of the original Vikings cast will return, but the name 'Valhalla' sparks some possibilities. In Vikings legend, Valhalla is the hall where the god Odin takes the souls of the greatest warriors (and generally talented people) after they die. They fight and feast every day until the battle of Ragnarök, when they are destined to take on an army of giants on Odin's behalf. There's a good chance some Vikings characters ended up there, so some of the original cast may have ghostly cameos.

One cast member has already said she'd like to come back, but only behind the camera. Katheryn Winnick, who played Lagertha, remembers all too well the toughest Vikings scene she had to shoot, and she has no plans to get back into armor. Having already directed an episode of Vikings, however, she told TV Guide that she'd be open to directing for Valhalla.

If you're already excited for this next iteration of ruthless Norse rulers, settle in for a long wait. Valhalla was originally scheduled to shoot in 2020 and premiere in 2021, but as with many productions, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown those plans into question. At least it's a level of unpredictability the Vikings themselves would have appreciated.