Floki Vikings: The Real Story
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Floki, a Viking shipbuilder and viking warrior.
Floki is a main character in the first, second, third and fourth seasons of Vikings. He is played by Gustaf Skarsgård and makes his debut in the episode "Cape West".
Who was Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson?
Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson was a Norwegian Viking adventurer born in 830, son of Glamur and Vilgerd Hörða-Káradóttir and died in Iceland in the 9th century (no precise date of his death has been confirmed regarding the resources of Floki).
His surname Vilgerðarson comes from his mother Vilgerd and Hrafna/Ravna is a nickname meaning "raven / of the raven". More details about this later in the article.
Was floki a real Viking?
He is known as the first Northerner who deliberately set sail for the island we know today as Iceland. That said, Floki was the third Viking explorer to sail there and the one before him, Garðar Svavarsson, also knew where he was going.
Floki Vilgerdarson and Iceland
One of the few resources concerning the history of Floki Vilgerdarson is Landnámabók (meaning "the book of the colonies"), an Icelandic book in which the settlement of Iceland by the Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries was recorded.
Landnámabók tells the story of Floki's journey and settlement in Iceland, as well as the stories of Naddodd (Naddoðr or Naddaðr) and Garðar Svavarsson, the two Viking explorers who sailed to Iceland before Floki.
According to Landnámabók, Naddodd is the first Viking to come to Iceland, but only because he was lost on his way back from the Faroe Islands to Norway.
Naddodd and his men then decided to return to the Faroe Islands and they saw snow falling when they returned to their boats. After that, Naddodd named the new land he found Snæland (Snowland).
Shortly after Naddodd, another Swedish Viking named Garðar Svavarsson wanted to go to Snæland to see what it was really like.
When he arrived at Snæland, Garðar sailed around and discovered that it was an island. He and his men spent the winter there before returning. Back home, he gave the island a new name, Garðarshólm, which means "Gardar Island".
The story of an uninhabited island with large lands northwest of the Faroe Islands intrigued other Viking explorers. Floki Vilgerdarson was one of them, and he left for the island after loading his boat with cattle and his belongings.
Although they are known to be amazing navigators, the Vikings of the time did not have many navigational tools or means of navigation. They navigated according to the position of the stars and the moon because there was no magnetic compass yet.
It is also said in the stories that they navigated mostly in the spring and fall, the migration seasons for birds. They examined the flight paths of the birds and gained knowledge about their flight paths and then navigated accordingly.
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Birds and Floki
That's where it gets interesting. According to the legend, Floki the Viking has gone one step further. He not only followed the birds on their migration route, but he intentionally took some birds with him to find the direction to follow.
Floki took three ravens with him, asked for the blessing of the gods, and set these birds free one by one.
The first raven flew towards the Faroe Islands while the second returned to the ship.
The third, however, flew northwest and never returned. This is what helped Floki find the island and he and his men landed on the west coast of Garðarshólm.
Later on, Floki and his crew settled in Vatnsfjörður in Barðaströnd and spent a winter there. Although the summer was very good, Floki and her men were not at all prepared for the cold and harsh winter that followed.
Hunting, fishing and egg collecting all summer long, they forgot about the farm and the cattle. As a result, all the livestock they owned perished during the winter.
One day, Floki climbed the highest mountain around his camp (now believed to be Nónfell of the Westfjords) and saw a fjord (Ísafjarðardjúp) covered with ice floes in the middle of spring. That's why he named the island Ísland, Iceland as we know it today.
After his return to Norway, probably because he was upset by what had happened to him in Iceland, Floki told others that the island was a worthless land. Some of her crew members contradicted her and said it was a promising land with a lot to offer.
According to Landnámabók, Floki Vilgerdarson finally returned to Iceland, although he spoke badly about the island. He settled there and lived there for the rest of his life.
Floki in the Viking TV show
It's no secret that the History Channel has somehow compiled the stories of famous Vikings who lived in different eras and incorporated these historical characters into a single television series.
Producer Michael Hirst and his team have repeatedly stated that they don't particularly care about historical accuracy.
When asked why he chose Ragnar Lothbrok as the protagonist of the show, he said it was because he wanted to tell the story of a dynasty through Ragnar Lothbrok and his sons.
Of course, the fact that Ragnar Lothbrok's death was one of the main reasons for the Viking invasion of England also played an important role in this choice.
Just like Rollo, who was inspired by Rollo the Walker, the Viking Earl/Duke of Normandy (you can read here the very detailed article on Rollo), Floki is another character included in the story of Ragnar Lothbrok.
With one difference however; the real life Floki could have lived at the same time with Ragnar Lothbrok although he would have been a young boy when Ragnar became an old man.
Indeed, the historical character who inspired the History Channel version of Floki, namely Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, is supposed to have been born around 830 while Ragnar Lothbrok's death in the kingdom of Northumbria is said to have occurred around 840.
The Floki Family
As Landnámabók indicates, Floki had a daughter named Thjodgerd Flókisdóttur and three sons named Trond Gata, Torlak Ravna-Flokeson and Oddlief Staff.
None of Floki's children were named Angrboda (the name Floki and Helga named their daughter after the giant of Norse).
Floki's wife - Floki and Helga (or not)
Groa Gro Bjornsdottir is the only name registered to be Floki's wife. It is therefore safe to say that the character named Helga in the History Channel Vikings (played by actress Maude Hirst, daughter of producer Michael Hirst) is a fictional character added to the show.
Groa Gro Bjornsdottir is known to be the mother of Floki's sons, however, she is registered as the stepmother of Floki's daughter, Thjodgerd Flókisdóttur. There is no information on the identity of Thjodgerd's mother.
Floki, Ivar the Boneless and Bjorn Ironside
Did Floki really build a tank for Ivar the Boneless? (Here is the article detailing the life and death of Ivar the Boneless) He certainly did not.
There is no information suggesting a meeting between Ragnar Lothbrok and Floki.
Considering that one probably died around 840 while the other was born around 830, respectively, it is very unlikely that Floki was close to Ragnar and his family as described in the History Channel television series, Vikings.
For the same reason, it is also very unlikely that Floki fought alongside Lagertha sailed to the Mediterranean Sea with Bjorn Ironside and Rollo.
The legend of Floki
Its legend is written and documented by the Landnámabók. Flóki would have been a descendant of a dynasty of ancient kings of the so-called Hedemark province.
His races to the sea, blessed by the God Njörd, had increased his heritage, and he had heard the story of the Norwegian Naddoddr, as well as the Swede Garðar Svavarson, who described an island they had found by chance, far north of Midgard.
As in his native province his family had lost the royal power for years, even centuries, and that the life of peasant, blacksmith or sinner did not interest him, he decided with the very little money he had in his pockets, to mount an expedition.
Once the boat was paid for and ready to set sail, he went to the nearby town to form a crew for this great and formidable adventure.
Problem, he had no more money to pay the members of his future crew, only beautiful promises of a better future on a new and still virgin land.
Adventurous farmers Þórólfur, Herjólfur and Faxi
Only three other people, who had nothing left to lose in this Norwegian province, were then tempted by the maritime adventure.
These three people were the farmer named Þórólfur, a lonely farmer, isolated and impoverished by the competition of the development of maritime trade with richer and more fertile nations.
As well as two men named Herjólfur and Faxi of the new inhabitants who fled the insecurity of the big cities in the face of the religious conflicts of the pagans against the Christians.
They decided to take to the open sea to find a calm that would be eternal. Flóki Vilgerðarson also took three ravens with him on his journey.
The land of ice will be named iceland.
In the fall, he tried to return to Norway but bad weather forced him to return to the coast of Iceland where he had to spend a second winter.
And then when they returned to Norway for good, they were questioned in this new land. Flóki claimed it was worthless. Herjólfur said it had qualities and faults.
And the two men, Þórólfur and Faxi announced that this new land was probably the earthly equivalent of the Idavoll plain.
And it is thus that in the year 860 Iceland was discovered and that in the year 874 the first wave of Viking settlers guided by Ingólfr Arnarson installed his farm which will become with time a small village, then a city, and finally the Icelandic capital: Reykjavik.
Did Floki really kill Athelstan?
Although many of the characters on the show were at least inspired by real historical figures, Athelstan is not one of them and is a purely fictional character. Therefore, a real conflict between Floki and Athelstan was not possible even though Floki was in fact Ragnar Lothbrok's best friend.
Floki in popular culture
In the History Channel Vikings, the character named Floki is played by Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård, brother of two other famous actors: Alexander Skarsgård (the vampire Eric Northman in True Blood, also in Tarzan) and Bill Skarsgård (the young actor - see here, Roman Godfrey in Hemlock Grove, also in Allegiant).
Vikings season 1
In the Cap à l'Ouest episode, we see Floki for the first time when Ragnar and Bjorn visit her. According to Ragnar, Floki is shy, so Ragnar jumps on Bjorn, wearing a mask to scare him.
He is in charge of making the drakar that will lead Ragnar, Rollo and the others in their Raid towards the West. The floki presents a new type of ship that allows traveling on the high seas. He is not sure of himself and his work. But, fortunately for him, his ship was functional.
Vikings season 2
Floki returns from England and meets her daughter, Angrboda, whom Helga gave birth to during her absence. He shows no real attraction towards her and has only one desire, to get away from them as quickly as possible.
Vikings season 3
Floki accompanied Ragnar, Lagertha, Rollo and other Vikings to England. He is the only one to show his displeasure at the idea of fighting for Christians and begins to have a tenacious hatred for the Catholics, Athelstan and their God who, according to him, will be "the loss of the Viking gods". He became more and more suspicious of Ragnar and his attraction towards Catholicism and the great conquests, which distanced him from his real duty as a Viking king.
Arriving in Kattegat, Helga reveals to him the true circumstances of Siggy's death and Aslaug's liaison with Harbard. Floki recognizes in Harbard a God whose presence must be celebrated, who brings death and life. He then decrees that it is not for Helga to reveal Aslaug's affair and Harbard's presence but for himself to do so to Ragnar.
He later sees Athelstan throw his bracelet (offered by Ragnar) into the fjord. Floki Viking then denounces him to Rollo.
While Floki is carving bows for his future ships, he receives a sign from the gods, blood escaping from one of the wooden bows. Floki then decides to make a sacrifice to satisfy the gods. Helga tries to understand what is going on, Floki demands that she does not reveal that he is leaving and grabs her by the throat.
He then appears in Athelstan's room as Athelstan finishes his prayer. Athelstan understands that he is going to die and asks God to accept his soul. Floki then hits him and Athelstan collapses.
Arriving in Paris, Ragnar asks to see Floki. He tells him that he misses Athelstan terribly. Ragnar then gives Floki the command of the first attack on Paris.
Final words about Floki
Gustaf Skarsgård said he thinks Floki considers himself a descendant of Loki, while some fans believe he is a reincarnation of the god himself.
As a key part of Ragnar's troupe, Floki takes the position of Skutilsvein, one of the lord's commanders or advisers who has the privilege of sitting at his table during feasts.
Indeed, Floki has been seen at Ragnar's table during banquets many times.
As a naval carpenter, the Old Norse term for Floki's trade may have been Knarrarsmithr, which literally means "ship's blacksmith".
It could be that the character of Floki as a Viking was loosely based on Hrafna-Flóke Vilgerðarson, one of the members of the expedition that discovered Iceland.
Hrafna means Raven, hence its name "Floki with Crows son of Vilgerd".
He got the nickname Floki with Crows after his expedition to Iceland where they used three ravens to help them navigate to the new lands.
Although he is a Viking and has sailed a lot, he cannot swim.