‘Vikings’: Is Athelstan Based on a Real Person? The Answer May Surprise You

In History’s hit series Vikings, Athelstan (George Blagden) has earned a special place in the hearts of fans. He’s one of the most unique and special characters in the series. He finds comfort in religion and remains torn between his two religions for years. Blagden revealed during an interview whether Athelstan is based on a real person. Read on to learn more.

Athelstan is a monk at Lindisfarne when he’s taken by Ragnar Lothbrok

George Blagden
George Blagden | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Athelstan is an eager monk when Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) comes to Lindisfarne in the first-ever raid on England. Everyone there is shocked at the brutality, and some of the monks are taken back as slaves, including Athelstan.

Over time, Athelstan and Ragnar become very close friends who are more like family. Athelstan adopts the Viking ways as his own and he experiences the beauty of his newfound world. He even participates in raids and enjoys his new life to the fullest. He starts to worship their gods and appreciate their culture. However, Athelstan always feels conflicted inside between his differing religions.

Athelstan finds truth in both of his religions, which leads to all sorts of internal conflict for him. He’s constantly searching for purpose and eventually he turns back to his god when he meets his death.

Is Athelstan based on a real person? The answer may surprise you

RELATED: ‘Vikings’: George Blagden Reveals Why Ragnar Saves Athelstan

George Blagden, who plays Athelstan, participated in WonderCon in 2013 and he took part in a roundtable talk and Collider reported the questions and answers. He spoke on Athelstan’s historical identity, which is actually based on a monk from the pages of history. Three monks were abducted from Lindisfarne and one of them “became part of the Viking culture,” according to Blagden.

“Well, Michael [Hirst] has actually based Athelstan on a real-life monk,” Blagden revealed. “In historical records that they were peering through, it was recorded that three monks were taken back to Scandinavia from the first Viking raid on Lindisfarne, and the other two died and one survived, and one of them became part of the Viking culture. He’s got this whole story of this monk and what happens to him, I can’t ruin anything, but he’s completely based on this historical figure.”

George Blagden talks about the ‘balance’ when it comes to entertainment and history in ‘Vikings’

Blagden also went on to explain the need for characters to be “appealing.” The object is to entertain and not to show a documentary on the lives of the Vikings. Blagden says Michael Hirst, the creator of the series, does a great job of getting the “balance” between history and entertainment right.

“About taking liberties, we are in the business of entertaining, so we don’t want to make Vikings a documentary. We want there to be lots of fun and really appealing characters, and if we were just representing stock historical figures accurately, you’d see them picking their nose or going to the bathroom or doing daily things…,” Blagden continued. “You really have to find that balance between entertaining and respecting history, which Michael [Hirst] does brilliantly.”

Athelstan is based on a real historical figure, which may be surprising news to fans who love the character so much.