‘Vikings’: Why the Bond Between Ragnar Lothbrok and Athelstan Was so Critical

The final season of Vikings has started and fans are understandably excited. Throughout the seasons, one friendship has stood out well ahead of all others. Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and Athelstan (George Blagden) were the best of friends and were arguably family above all else. Read on to learn why their bond was so critical to the series.

Who was Athelstan?

George Blagden
George Blagden | Paul A. Hebert/WireImage

Athelstan is a monk at the Lindisfarne monastery when Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) takes him as a slave. It was Ragnar’s fist raid on England and it was more than successful. He takes Athelstan as a slave, but they become great friends as time goes on. Athelstan even becomes a member of the Lothbrok family. He had already learned their language while traveling, so it was easy for him to communicate with his captors who turn into family.

An unbreakable friendship

Athelstan finds himself captured back in England when he returned to raid with the Vikings. He is spared by King Ecbert (Linus Roache), who also forms a bond with Athelstan and frees him from being crucified. When Ragnar returns, Athelstan goes with Ragnar instead of staying back in England where he was originally from. His bond with Ragnar is too strong to ignore.

The bonds of brotherhood

Athelstan’s value is seen by all sides, but Ragnar sees him for who he is. Although Athelstan is a critical part of Ragnar’s many raids because of his valuable knowledge of England and again in preparation for the Paris raid, Ragnar appreciates him for who he is and not for what he can get from him.

This is extremely evident when Athelstan doesn’t return from England and Ragnar reacts with worry. He goes out of his way to find him again and they finally reunite. Athelstan chooses Ragnar over everyone else, including the woman he loves. He feels at home with Ragnar and he follows that feeling back to Kattegat with him.

Athelstan’s death forever changed Ragnar Lothbrok

A major point about Athelstan is that he was uniquely spiritual in that he saw truth in both the Viking gods and the Christian God. Athelstan was killed in season 3 at the hands of Floki (Gustaf Skarsgård), mostly out of jealously.

When Ragnar realizes what’s happened, he is devastated by the loss of his closest friend. He is forever changed because of the loss and it signals his ultimate downfall. Athelstan is arguably missed more than any other character on the show after his passing. His true friendship with Ragnar affected not only themselves but everyone who interacted with them.

Ragnar even said that Athelstan was the only person he could truly trust and when he died, it changed everything for Ragnar. He became even more paranoid and looked for other outlets to deal with it. He no longer had his best friend who was always so level-headed and willing to offer great advice.

After the loss of Athelstan, Ragnar eventually fails in Paris on his second attempt to raid it and returns home a broken man. He walks away from everything for years after this. He even chooses to be baptized so he can see Athelstan one more time. Their friendship was so critical to them both that the death of one arguably ruined the other.