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The St. Brice’s Day Massacre was the inspiration for Vikings: Valhalla

Leo Suter stars as Harald Sigurdsson in Season 1 of Netflix's Vikings: Valhalla
Leo Suter stars as Harald Sigurdsson in Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla. Pic credit: Netflix/Bernard Walsh

As the premiere date for Vikings: Valhalla approaches, viewers are eager to find out more about the historical drama series.

Already, Netflix has released several images and multiple clips to tease fans with what to expect.

Now, the series showrunner, Jeb Stuart, explains his inspiration regarding Vikings: Valhalla.

Showrunner was not intending to take on Vikings: Valhalla

Jeb Stuart was asked some three years ago if he would be interested in continuing the saga first created by History Channel’s Vikings. That series had followed the start of the Viking age and included such famous Vikings as Ragnar Lothbrok (portrayed by Travis Fimmel in the TV series), Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick), Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland), and Ivar the Boneless (Alex Hogh Andersen).

Vikings: Valhalla, though, was set to be both similar to Vikings but also different enough that new viewers would not have to slog through the entire six seasons of the original TV show.

When approached, Stuart’s first reaction was “No way I would do that.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the original series, but Vikings had left the bar, in terms of character and action, so high you could hardly see it. Following that was a tough assignment,” Stuart revealed in a letter to Den of Geek in the Vikings: Valhalla Special Edition Magazine.

Sam Corlett as Leif Eriksson, Lujza Richter as Liv, and Leo Suter as Harald Sigurdsson, as seen in Season 1 of Netflix's Vikings Valhalla
Sam Corlett as Leif Eriksson, Lujza Richter as Liv, and Leo Suter as Harald Sigurdsson, as seen in Season 1 of Vikings Valhalla. Pic credit: Netflix/Bernard Walsh

Inspiration came via a famous massacre

While Vikings covered the start of the Viking Age, Stuart decided Vikings: Valhalla would cover the end of this period in time, which then covered such famous Vikings as Leif Eriksson (Sam Corlett), Freydis Eriksdotter (Frida Gustavsson), King Canute II (Bradley Freegard), and Harald Sigurdsson (Leo Suter).

However, he was initially unclear about the starting point for the new series. The showrunner wanted Vikings: Valhalla to be independent of the original series, which meant that the end of the Viking Age would be an excellent place to start.

Then, when he read about the St. Brice’s Day Massacre, he knew exactly how the new series would begin.

“In my research, I came across a report of an archeological excavation at St. John’s College, Oxford,” Stuart explained.

“There, below an old chapel, 35 skeletons, all males, and of great physical stature, had been discovered. DNA analysis showed that they were Vikings and wound marks on the bones suggested they had been subjected to violence and ambush. Most importantly, the date of their deaths was traced to the year 1002 AD when the Saxon King Aethelred the Unready ordered the massacre of all Danes (Vikings) living in England.”

King Aethelred will be portrayed by Bosco Hogan in Vikings: Valhalla, and the St. Brice’s Day Massacre will be the catalyst for the Vikings to up the ante when it came to raiding England once more.

Stuart then went on to explain in further detail how this horrific event could possibly be the inspiration for his new series.

“And there it was, the St. Brice’s Day Massacre. A blip on the scale of English history for sure, but for the writer in me, a doorway into our new story. What if one of my characters had been there? What if he or she survived? How would their Viking kin, who were locked in a religious civil war in Scandinavia, react? Would they put aside their religious and ideological differences and remember that at the center of their being they were Vikings? Would they come together to avenge this slaughter of their people? The answer of course was, yes.”

However, in order to have all of the characters he wanted to include get caught up in this event, he placed Leif and his sister, Freydis, on a personal mission that brought them to Kattegat just after the news of this massacre spread to the Vikings.

As to how this will all play out remains to be seen and viewers will have to tune in when Vikings: Valhalla drops later this month in order to find out more.

Season 1 of Vikings: Valhalla will premiere on Netflix on February 25, 2022.

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