After finishing season 4 of Vikings I realized that I had one recurring thought: Vikings is Sons of Anarchy 1200 years in the past. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, history buffs, I absolutely understand that it is inspired by the Norse Viking Ragnar Lothbrok. I don’t know how accurate the history is (or can be). Neither can I really understand the inner-workings of a Motorcycle Club.
I cannot deny that I felt like I was watching Jax Teller as a Viking. No, really, Travis Fimmel and Charlie Hunnam look a lot alike. Aside from the visual similarities, though, the characters have several parallels. Jax is trying to live up to the legacy his father left behind. He is the boy who would be king, while Ragnar is a (self-described) descendent of the Norse god, Odin. He also has a legacy to uphold as a Viking. He too has a kingly future. (One is going to be heading a motorcycle club while the other is going to be King of Denmark, but, whatever.)
First, you have the main characters:
Ragnar is charismatic, well-loved, and respected by his home settlement of Kattegat. His current Earl (Jarl), Haraldson, does not want his Vikings traveling to the West to unknown lands. Since he owns all of the boats and is in charge, his rule is final. Ragnar believes that the Earl is wrong, though, and that there is much to gain if the settlement pillages the West. Ragnar and the rest of the settlement are not doing well. The East has been pillaged so much that they are even poorer than the Norse. In order to survive, they will have to change. So, Ragnar has a boat built by his closest friend, Floki, and decides to do what he believes to be right.
Likewise, Jax, son of the former founder and leader, John Teller, of SAMCRO finds himself disenchanted with the way the club is being run by his current step-father, Clay. Clay wants to continue illegally running guns. Jax has a deep love for his club and his people. He wants to protect them by legitimizing the club, which also loves and trusts him. Once again, change is the only way to survive. Clay does not agree, but Jax begins to infiltrate changes in the club anyway. Both young men have to fight their predecessors for power, ultimately becoming the leaders under a heavy weight of responsibility and scrutiny.
War plays a major part in both series:
Ragnar is a Viking. Vikings were warriors. They pillaged and plundered as a way of life during the warmer months of the year in order to survive the winter in a harsh climate. SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals) was founded by disenchanted Vietnam War Veterans, John Teller and Piney Winston, as a way to have their own government and rule. So, essentially, war has formed the lives of both men.War is also a constant theme throughout both series, constantly fighting for power, money, and territory. Both men, while they love the war, also hate the cost.
Both have been taught from a young age about battle and war. Vikings are brought up fighting. Sons are, too, but they are not born into battle. The Vikings have their shield walls and the sons have their bike formations. Each uses deadly force when necessary.
Each also has a vehicle they ride in to battle: The Vikings have their ships, while the Sons have their motorcycles.
Ragnar has a younger brother, Rollo. Rollo vacillates between love and jealousy with his brother. He lives in the constant shadow of Ragnar and is looking for a way to be his own man and equal to Ragnar.
Jax had a younger brother, Thomas. Thomas died when both boys were young. Jax feels he is sometimes living in the shadow of his dead brother, which causes him guilt.
Brotherhood is a necessity in both shows and taken very seriously; both Vikings and Sons are part of a brotherhood of men they depend on during battles and hard times. Ragnar depends on his brothers in arms, specifically Rollo and Floki. Jax must trust all of his fellow members as well. There can be no mistrust or easy breaking of those bonds. Each society maintains its status and equanimity through costume and markings. Both require specific outfits and tattoos. The Vikings have intrinsic hairstyles. The Sons have kuttes (vests). Both wear rings and other jewelry to signify their brotherhood. This bond is everything to these men.
Ragnar and Jax have 99 problems, and women are at least 50% of them:
(Let it be known that the men do cause these problems, though.)
Ragnar is the husband of Laghertha, a shieldmaiden. This means you don’t want to mess with her. She is stronger than you. Laghertha is jealous and insecure in her relationship with Ragnar. She knows her man strays from the marriage. She does not tolerate this easily. She also feels guilt at having only been able to give Ragnar 2 children. While their love story is real, Ragnar does not show her his love easily. Eventually, Ragnar impregnates Aslaug and then attempts to keep both women in a marriage.
Sons begin with Jax’s pregnant, divorced wife overdosing on drugs and going into pre-term labor with his child. While in the hospital, Jax runs into Tara, his former girlfriend who is now a doctor. Tara and Jax have a deep affection for one another and spend the rest of the series together. Tara is also jealous and insecure with her place inside Jax’s circle. She is considered an outsider and mistrusted within the club for a time, having to forge her way inside Jax’s life which ultimately causes many problems and heartache.
While we don’t know about Ragnar’s mother, we do know that Jax’s mother, Gemma, is a real pain. Gemma is cutthroat. She will stop at nothing to make sure the club is run the way she wants it run, even though women are not able to participate in major decisions. Gemma is the neck that all the Sons rest on, she uses this to her advantage.
Alternative religions are major themes as well:
Vikings worship the pagan gods Odin, Loki, and Thor (among others), hoping to one day die while in favor of these gods in order to make it into the halls of Valhalla. They make special pilgrimages to their holy locations.
Sons have religious undertones to the series as a whole, but really, they are their own judge and jury. They believe they are destined for Hell. They do not follow the laws of local government. They already have their heaven on Earth – their hometown of Charming. Charming is ideal; where the residents of SAMCRO live and keep safe, away from the mess of rival clubs.
Ravens are symbolic in Vikings, as messengers from Odin (and other gods) carrying change, usually foreboding.
In Sons, crows are symbolic as well. No men are afraid to die; they have come to terms with their humanity and would like to die with the honor they live by.
While Sons has ended, Vikings is still telling me a story. I suspect I will find even more similarities. I enjoyed Sons of Anarchy. Kurt Sutter told an amazing story. Vikings, I hope, will not let me down.