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How Vikings Star Moe Dunford Really Feels About Aethelwulf's Death

Vikings is full of characters who get their just desserts, as well as ones who face horrifying fates through no real fault of their own. While many of the more prominent folks on History's beloved historical drama belong to the former category — and have done plenty of things that take them to the path of their demise — there's one particular character who seems to have a permanent "kick me" sign on his back. 

Aethelwulf (Moe Dunford) is without doubt the unluckiest character on Vikings. Like most everyone on the show, he's not without his faults, but he's still the heir to the throne (and, eventually, king) of Wessex and Mercia. In fact, from the English's standpoint, he's pretty much the most heroic character they have: a brave and capable warrior who only wants to please his father, rule well, and defend the land from what he quite rightly sees as a horde of creepy, armed-to-the-teeth Norsemen who keep coming and going as they please. 

Over the course of the series, Aethelwulf is constantly manipulated by everyone around him — including his own father, King Eckbert (Linus Roache), and the titular Vikings. There's also the matter of the fact that his wife Judith (Jennie Jacques) sleeps with both King Eckbert and Athelstan the monk (George Blagden), who's the real father of Albert, the heir to Aethelwulf's throne. However, the real slap in the face is the way Aethelwulf dies in Vikings season 5. The king perishes of a fatal allergic reaction when a bee stings him — a truly unceremonious end in a show full of memorable death scenes.  

Have you ever wondered what actor Moe Dunford's reaction was when he found out about his heroic warrior character's absurd fate? Here's how the Vikings star really feels about Aethelwulf's death.

Moe Dunford thought the producers were joking at first

In a December 2020 interview with The Daily Express, Dunford discussed Aethelwulf's ultimate fate, and revealed that he had a tough time comprehending it at first. "You know, when he said 'bee sting,' the producer — I thought he said 'beasting,'" said Dunford. "So I thought he wanted [Aethelwulf] to go out and get beasted, and I thought, 'Beasted? I'm playing an English king here. You know what, yeah, let's beast him.'"

For reference, The Guardian notes that beasting is a type of illegal military hazing ritual wherein an individual is forced to perform physically exhausting tasks, and it has killed people before. This might have been a fitting end for the martially-minded Aethelwolf, but the Vikings producer quickly pointed out that Dunford had misheard. 

"They [said], 'No, no, no, bee sting,'" the actor laughed. "And I said, 'Come on lads, you're having me on.' Then, I thought [...] it's quite ironic in a way — if I was doing it, I wouldn't have written him off that way."

Though Dunford initially thought that the bee sting death was unfitting for his character, he eventually warmed to the sheer absurdity of the idea. The actor told the outlet, "You entered the show playing a little posh prince, the audience didn't like him, and I liked the challenge [of] playing an English soon-to-be king, [trying to] get the audience on his side. I was reminded when I was going I was playing an English king, and I said, 'Yeah, kill him off with a bee sting.'"

Dunford also shared that he respects that showrunner Michael Hirst was going for the surprise element, and succeeded so well that it surprised even the actor himself: "Michael wanted something that you wouldn't have seen coming, I certainly didn't."