". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Vikings Season 2 - HBO History Channel - Ep 207 Blood Eagle & Ep 208 Boneless

As much has been going on in the saga world of legendary Norse warrior Ragnar Lothbrok, his family, relatives, friends, allies and enemies as has been going on over here in real world. In Nuestra Casa, thank goodness, it's been art, scholarship, music and friends

But in Kattegatt, it was cutting out an enemy's lungs, the "Blood Eagle" in the title of last week's episode, while Jarl Borg still lived. If Borg wanted to get to Valhalla, he could not make a sound while this lengthy, excruciating death was in process. One has the sense hope drugs were involved to make his heroic sacrifice possible, for it was in every sense a ritual death, dedicated to Odin, even though it was carried out upon the man who betrayed Ragnar and tried to kill him,  his family, and stole all his lands. When one of Borg's hands slips from the beam simulating an outstretched wing, Ragnar carefully replaces it, to make the sacrifice perfect.  

One sensed that mass of bread or whatever it was brought to Jarl Borg in his prison by Ragnar's son, Bjorn, was not really bread, and the passionate haste with which Borg snatched it was more from relief than because he was famished. We've seen drugs involved in two ritual deaths already, the handmaid who volunteers to go with Eorl Haraldson on his funeral ship was both drunk and drugged, and the sacrifices at Uppsala were given a potion.

King Horik revealed himself the rat we know he is.  Ragnar is skinning and gutting a rat -- evidently just for something to occupy his restless hands -- when King Horik arrives in his Hall.  Horik coerces Siggy, whose choices of powerful men with whom to ally herself have a way of backfiring, to have sex with his son -- while he watches.  He visits Jarl Borg in his cell, bringing him the skull of his dead wife and the mendacious assurance that Ragnar will rescind his Blood Eagle. When Hork enters Borg has been holding a sort-of pet rat.  In both these sequences we know who the rat in the scene really is. 

In Wessex, the rescued Athelstan is King Ecbert's new,favored librarian-scribe-confident and advisor in all things nordic. Athelstan suffers from hallucinations, most of them most unpleasant. Rescued by Ecbert from the cross on which he was hung, while arrows were shot into him, Athelstan could be having post traumatic episodes -- the crucifixion might have resurfaced memories of the terrible scenes of the sacking of Lindisfarne where Ragnar captured him. Then, one does wonder if the hallucinations are Upssala drug-induced triggers, for back in season 1 when Ragnar was going to sacrifice Athelstan there, Floki gave him something psychotropic (on which it seems everyone there was tripping).

So -- two tortures last week.

And there are two weddings!

One in Wessex between King Ecbert's son, Athelwulf -- who seems a good bloke --  and King Aelle's daughter, Judith -- who seems a nice enough girl --  and the other in Kattegatt -- Floki marries Helga, pregnant with his child.  Floki's also pregnant with a non-previously perceived antagonism toward Ragnar.  Like the universal trickster's dark side, as we see with Elegba, Loki or Iago, Floki's dark or twisted side is becoming dominant (and woo, has he imbibed in psyhotropic drugs over the years!).

In any case, one wedding looks like loads of fun and we know which of the two weddings does not look like any fun at all -- though the two principals are old enough, and seem to like each other well enough, which is much better than nothing.  But the one that was not fun was for political and military alliance: not only to fight off viking incursion, but to carve up Mercia, a larger, neighboring kingdom.  Certainly this alliance shall fare no better than the alliance among Ragnar, Borg and Horik has? -- the ways of ambitious and powerful men being what they are, of whatever religion or land, bent as they are on betrayal and back-stabbing.

With the loss of Borg's lungs last week, so were Borg's ships and men. This week Ragnar gains ships and fighting men because Lagertha has become Eorl in the place of her sadistic stupid insane husband.  She brings Ragnar what he needs, including herself among the counted warriors for the invasion of Wessex. I personally believe she's doing this for the sake of her son Bjorn, not Ragnar, but Ragnar's manly self-regard doesn't consider this, seemingly. He's surely believes she still loves HIM even though he threw her over for a royal baby-production machine.  Anyway, he thinks he should be able to have them both as his wives, and what Ragnar wants is how it should be in the devious mind of Ragnar. 

This week's episode, "Boneless", shows Rat's back-stabbing tactics.  It's one way to become king and stay king -- connive to divide your rival from his support network. King Horik scope for this is far greater than poor Jarl Borg's ever was -- all he managed to do was suborn Ragnar's brother Rollo, and that, only for a time. Horik's playing Siggy, Floki -- and even it, seems, Lagertha.Rollo, having learned his lessons (as well as having an historical destiny of his own in the offing) isn't playing the game though.  Besides he knows that Horik has sexed Siggy. Rollo may have forgiven Siggy (they aren't married), but he's unlikely to forget it happened -- certainly no so far as to betray his brother Ragnar again.

Shortly before the gathered invasion fleet sails out of the Kattegatt fjord, Aslaug has another baby, another boy. This one has legs that are withered and misshapen, probably due to the very difficult birth. In the end Ragnar cannot kill / expose the boy anymore than Aslaug would, even though that's the regulation for imperfect babies. Ivar the Boneless.  He too has a destiny.

A previously unknown character invades Ecbert's court, shortly before the viking fleet invades Wessex. This is the Princess  Kwenthrith of Mercia, who, has not only killed her own brother in a civil war, but is Princess of the kingdom King Ecbert and King Aelle have agreed to divide up among them. The watchers are immediately on the team of Ecbert and Aelle to do this because for some reason the writers wants us to be. Not only have they made Kwenthrith a vegetarian, she's witchy, creepy and sexually insatiable. She talk talk talks of her appetites and experiences in public -- raped by her brother when she was twelve! A BAD WOMAN, unfit to rule a kingdom. As unlike Lagertha as you can get, Only one woman at a time, if any at all, can be allowed to be strong and wise and worthy of running things. I'm not believing in her character as presented to us.  Hate this character, in a negative, not good, way. Such frackin' cliche, wildly implausible in her milieu, at least to someone like me for whom this era is not an historical specialty.

Athelstan -- still having hallucinations -- even one about the horrible Kwenthrith -- mattered to everybody in this episode.  Ragnar nearly wept with relief learning certainly that Athelstan is still alive.  This is sort of curious since Ragnar was planning to sacrifice him at Uppsala, until told Athelstan didn't believe properly so couldn't be a proper sacrifice.

Bjorn didn't do much, beyong fight training, continuing to be in lust love with the slave, Porunn and worrying about how he'll handle himself in a battle. There was another thing though about Bjorn -- Lagertha sees him with Porunn.  Fearsome Mother asks, "Who are you?" meaning Porunn.  Bjorn answers, that Porunn is a serving woman, a slave, and "I'm in love with her." He takes Porunn's hands and walks off.  There's the teensiest hint of a smile on Lagertha's mouth.  Why? if there is a smile, is she smiling?  That Ragnar's first born, warrior NOW son, is confident enough in himself to tell his mother that he's in love with a low-born, nay -- a slave and not be embarrased?  When his father chose to throw off his middling born shield maiden wife in favor of a woman born royal, and who gives him son after son (I still blame Siggy -- or the sweating plague -- for that). But I got the sense that Lagertha approves .... (Can be wrong!)

This week's episode was much a set-up episode for this season's last two, in which surely there will be the battles that so many watch for (I'm not one of those -- I've seen how shield walls work now, and I appreciate knowing more now than before). Horik made sure there would be battles. The rat's son reveals himeself to be a creepy toad in his own right, not just as an obedient son doing as his father tells him. 

With all those sons Ragnar Lothbrok has brought into the world, does the world need him any longer?  He's sown his seed adequately. How will all those boys manage with each other as they grow up and need lands, ships and compete for warriors and girls?  

Not that I want to see Ragnar go -- he's a terrific character.  But lately we haven't much seen him being himself -- more as others around him react to the fact of him. All this could go so many ways.  We are content knowing there is a season three already given the go light, so there will be more. 


* It's possible that Ragnar is cognizant of what Horik's doing (that rat he skinned and disemboweled last week!).  Ragnar being a cunning sort, may have made a strategy with his family to play along  -- meaning Rollo, Lagertha and Bjorn. And then, gut. Ragnar's got his own men, his ex-wife's men, his son and his brother at his back.  Horik's only got his own creepy son, as well as his own men, of course.

I kind of think Floki's antipathy is real though -- as identified as he seems to be with the Norse trickster god, Loki.

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