One family fuels Norse exploration in Vikings

History Channel series shows Vikings were more than ruthless raiders

Vikings explores the ancient age of Norse expansion around the world through the eyes of dreamer-warrior-king Ragnar Lothbrok and his brother, wives and sons.

History Channel launched the series, its first scripted drama, in February 2013 and it immediately caught on with fans. Initially creator Michael Hirst focused on farmer Ragnar, whose adventurous spirit inspires his family, friends and others in his village to rise up against their leader and travel beyond their borders.

While Hirst delivers plenty of battles, blood and pillaging, the hallmark of the series is his humanization of a group of people that history has labeled as simply monsters. Sure, the Vikings were brutal, lustful and greedy, but they also were members of a society with rules. They also wanted to make life better for themselves, their families and their villages.

And they were curious. None moreso than Ragnar, who with his brutal band of raiders discovers Northumbria in modern day England, where they destroy a monastery and take hostage a young monk. A slave at first, Athelstan becomes a trusted friend to Ragnar, teaching him about Christianity, other languages and the wider world. Ragnar uses that knowledge to travel even further, to Wessex and other parts of England, and also to France.

Ragnar imparts his wanderlust on his sons, too. Bjorn Ironside travels to the Middle East and beyond. Ivar the Boneless leads the Great Heathen Army as they conquer bigger areas of what is now England. That's real history, folks, (and maybe spoilers).

Each season, Hirst deepens the storytelling. Besides those marvelous battle sequences, “Vikings” offers political intrigue, double crosses, family drama (and humor) and intriguing character development.

My Vikings writing

I began covering "Vikings" before its first season at RedEye. You still can find those stories at the Chicago Tribune's website. TV Show Patrol's coverage of "Vikings" kicks off with Season 4 in 2016. I have interviewed the show's stars, including Travis Fimmel (Ragnar), Katheryn Winnick (Lagertha), Alexander Ludwig (Bjorn), Alex Høgh Andersen (Ivar), Clive Standen (Rollo), and others. Please enjoy my coverage.