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The Ragnar Detail That Makes No Sense To Vikings Fans

Over the show's six-season reign, History's "Vikings" introduced viewers to characters with personalities as wild as their facial hair. But there was one who stood apart from the rest as both hero and ruler: Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel). Ragnar was both the focal point of the early seasons of the series and a favorite character for many. The show soared on his proverbial sails for the first four seasons and even after he died, Ragnar left an immovable mark not only on the rest of the show but also on the spin-off series, "Vikings: Valhalla."

Ragnar's name was forever stitched into Norse history thanks to endeavors like invading England and attempting to do the same in Paris. Throughout the show, he displayed many impressive qualities that fans loved, such as his tactical way of thinking and his hunger for venturing into the unknown. Of all the various gifts the former ruler of Kattegat was bestowed with, there was one that fans highlighted which, while impressive, made absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of things.

Ragnar became multilingual in no time at all

Over on r/vikingstv on Reddit, "Vikings" fan u/yiddir highlighted a recurring issue throughout the show that, while quickly glossed over, was something fans couldn't ignore: Ragnar's incredible ability to quickly learn another language. The original post deployed a meme to make their point, with the top half reading, "Ragnar after spending 0.010 seconds with someone from another culture," followed by a screengrab from the series that shows Ragnar saying, "I've learned your language." This was a dynamic that emerged whenever Ragnar and company crossed the seas to other lands, with Athelstan (George Blagden) occasionally acting as a translator but only briefly.

And Ragnar wasn't the only one with this impressive and intentionally ignored leap over language barriers either. Flummoxed fan u/8heist added, "Pretty much everyone in the show [did that] until it got so bad that the Russe just all spoke it already. Even the big dolt Rollo, a few days and fluent French. Always frustrated by that." 

While it was strange to see these characters get clued in so quickly to a different dialect, "Vikings" is far from the only historical drama to employ such a tactic. As rightfully pointed out by u/Herbalizer, "It works in reverse with the Vikings as well. Antonio Banders was speaking almost fluent Norwegian before they'd crossed the Gibraltar in the movie '13th warrior.'" The film they are referencing is indeed another Viking tale that features characters quickly learning new languages as they travel, but in this case, the film's director managed to land on a better technique to portray such a feat in not one, but two of his movies.

Other historical dramas have done a better job at bridging the language divide

Starring Antonio Banderas and Vladimir Kulich (who appeared in the first season of "Vikings" as Erik Marteinn), "The 13th Warrior" was adapted from a book by Michael Crichton and directed by John McTiernan. Banderas stars as an Arabian poet (don't ask) who, after being banished from his home, joins a group of Vikings led by Buliwyf (Kulich). Unable to speak their language, the outsider spends his nights by the campfire listening to the Norseman talk before the odd recognizable word begins slipping into the conversation, revealing his gradual grasp on their foreign tongue. It may still land on the farcical side of things, but it is at least an attempt to address that particular contrivance of filmmaking.

McTiernan used a similar technique in his adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel "The Hunt for Red October," which features many English-speaking actors portraying Russian characters. At one point, a character is reading a book in Russian, while the camera zooms in on his lips before he says the word "armageddon." From there, the camera pulls back as he and other characters speak in English, almost like a lens has been cast over the film. 

While both of those scenes still rely on cinematic contrivance, they do demonstrate that there are ways around that particular issue that gave fans of "Vikings" so much trouble.