This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Warning: contains spoilers for Vikings season 1-5.
There’s a special place in Hel reserved for those who would spoil the twists and turns of movies and TV shows. Vikings fans know this only too well. Last year, a disgruntled insider revealed crucial plot developments and even major character deaths from the series’ upcoming sixth and final season. It was a malicious act that begged a response. Even still, the culprit’s punishment seemed… disproportionate. A little roughing up might have been appropriate, even some mild psychological torture. But an axe to the face? Not even the rogues who first spoiled the secret of Bruce Willis’s ghostliness deserved that.
Mercifully, no real-life spoilers were harmed in the making of that arresting opening paragraph. Vikings did indeed have a whistle-blower, but it wasn’t a production assistant or a lighting tech, no: it was one of its own characters. I am, of course, talking about that one-man spoiler machine; that prognosticator of prognosticators; the man who had a hotline to the Norse Gods right up until the moment Ivar the Boneless severed the connection with the business end of a chopper: the seer.
Before we look at what the seer predicted for season six, let’s delve a little in to who this guy was, and why the people of Kattegat seemed to put so much stock in his words.
Watching the watcher
The seer hinted that he was an impossibly ancient, possibly Asgardian creature, whose blessing and curse it was to divine the future as ordained by the Gods themselves. He couldn’t see with his eyes, but he could see through his mind’s eye, any number of terrifying and beautiful things.
When we appraise the Seer from our enlightened 21st century vantage point, we see an old man whose features told the tale of profound congenital disability; whose blatherings were a mixture of cod philosophy and sheer guesswork lent weight by the reverence placed in his words by the supernaturally naïve, mystically hungry denizens of Kattegat.
Though we’re pre-programmed to sneer at such quackery, the Seer was no loose-fitting horoscope issuing hopelessly vague pronouncements about pets and hairstyles, but a one-man Minority Report, whose position in Kattegatian society was esteemed and pivotal. We can only assume that there are countless unseen others like him operating throughout the wider Viking world of the show; a franchise of seers stretching out across ancient Scandinavia. Would you like some fries with your famine forecast?
Vikings has always played fast and loose with historical accuracy, blurring the lines between fact, fiction, record, myth and legend. Series creator Michael Hirst has never made a secret of this and, truth be told, it’s a large part of the show’s charm. Even still, it may surprise you to learn that most of what the show tells us about the Seer, and the functions and rituals of the Viking “priest” class, is pure invention and imagination. Even the other characters’ habit of licking the Seer’s hand, which seems such an oddly specific chunk of behaviour that it couldn’t fail to be true, was an ad lib that just sort of stuck. I’m glad that it did, else I would never have been able to make the joke you’re going to read in about two seconds time about the seer having his palms crossed with slaver.
Though the Seer’s character has little basis in the real-world, he helped to bring an air of mystery and mysticism to the show’s narrative. In a world where men and women live and die by the sword, in a town where life and death are equally cheap, there’s very little room for ponderousness, profundity or careful interpretation, all of which the Seer made possible. As a viewer, it’s always fun to try to discern shapes in, and join the dots of, the seer’s utterings, especially since not only the characters, but the writers, too, have always believed in the truth of his powers.
The Seer is the real deal
It was always apparent that the Seer “knew” a lot more about what was going on around him – or what was about to go down – than he tended to reveal. As he once told Ragnar, “I do not lie about what I see… Only sometimes I withhold things, for human beings cannot bear too much reality.”
That certainly seemed to be the case during his final meeting with Jarl Borg, the invader, usurper and double-dealer who briefly became Ragnar’s scourge in the show’s second season. The seer told Jarl Borg that he could not only see an eagle hovering above him, but that he himself was an eagle. Jarl Borg went off a happy man, believing that the eagle portended power and greatness, so he must have been pretty miffed when Ragnar blood-eagled him to death as an eagle soared above his head. You’d want a refund after that, wouldn’t you?
“You didn’t tell me that I was going to be shot by a mad clown?”
“Yes I did, I quite clearly said that I could hear a loud bang and much laughter.”
Rollo, despite his imposing presence and warrior’s gait, was frequently consumed by bitterness and jealousy as he trailed in his brother Ragnar’s wake. During a particularly self-pitying moment, the seer told Rollo that if he only knew what the Gods had in store for him, he’d “go down now and dance naked on the beach.” The Seer elaborated: “The bear will marry a princess. And I can tell you that you will be present at the ceremony.”
Rollo was that bear, and his journey to Paris to be crowned a Frankian King was the culmination of a real rags-to-riches story, even if there was much betrayal and heartache along the way.
“You didn’t tell me that I was going to win the lottery?”
“Yes I did, I quite clearly said that I could see a lot of balls, and much rejoicing.”
Ragnar, too, received predictions about Paris. The seer told him that “not the living but the dead” will conquer the city. But did the seer actually foretell that Ragnar would feign death in order to surprise the Parisian King and win the day, or did he actually just give him the idea. Prophecy, or self-fulfilling prophecy? This sort of ambiguity would follow Ragnar to his death.
Ragnar, Paris, and the End
Ragnar stood at the crossroads of the ancient world and the new one. When he first teamed up with Floki to build a fleet to take his people across the ocean, fear and death were the Vikings’ chief exports, which they delivered by the long-boat-load to mostly English shores. Nothing could quell their lust for land and conquest. Or so it seemed. It wasn’t long before the Vikings were reeling under ever-breaking waves of new and transformative ideas. Travel has the uncanny knack of broadening the mind, whether you’re carrying a sword or a camera.
Ragnar was heavily influenced by the Christians and their outlook, first through his unlikely but steadfast friendship with Athelstan – the monk he stole into slavery after slaughtering most of the inhabitants of Lindisfarne – and next through his even more unlikely kinship (perhaps Kingship) with the cunning and duplicitous King Ecbert. In the end, though, Ragnar proved just as duplicitous, using his own violent death as a means to sic his sons and their armies upon the treacherous monarch.
By the end of Ragnar’s life, he’d renounced the gods and his own society’s supernatural traditions. He reserved the most intricate of his dismissals for the seer himself. The Gods are phoney, and the Seer’s a conman: people see what they want to see in prophecy and divination; anything can mean anything after the fact if you put your mind to it.
Long before Ragnar left for England and his final, snake-carpeted resting place, the seer told him that he wouldn’t die until the blind man saw him. Ragnar scoffed. Much later, when Ragnar discovered that the driver of the carriage taking him to his execution was a blind man, and that seeing him hadn’t precipitated his instant death, he felt suitably vindicated. However, the last thing he saw as he looked up from the pit of venomous snakes in which his bleeding body had been cast was the robed figure of an incognito King Ecbert: was he, in fact, the blind man? Blind to Ragnar’s last gambit against him? The look on Ragnar’s face didn’t suggest that he’d recanted his rejection of the Gods, but it was a look that certainly seemed to say:
The future of the past
The bulk of the Seer’s yet-to-bloom predictions, which have no choice but to come to fruition (or not) in the final season, concern the sons of Ragnar. Reviewing the Seer’s prophecies for them, it’s fair to say that there’s something of a mixed-bag of fortunes in store for the four brothers.
Ubbe will be a King, but not of Kattegat. That sounds great on the surface of it, but knowing the seer it probably means that Ubbe is going to be mistaken for a King and stabbed to death by one of their angry, profoundly short-sighted rivals or something.
The seer told Hvitserk that he will accomplish what others before him failed to accomplish, but that the cost will be too high. Given how set Hvitserk has been on killing Ivar, it’s likely that he’ll be the one to pull ye olde trigger, but he might take himself, or others, out in the process.
Ivar himself faces a pretty unambiguous demise, if the seer’s words are to be taken literally: ‘Your chariot lies as broken as your legs, a snake has circled in your skull and your eyes betray you. Your path is full of garbage; oh, the horror, the horror.’ It’ll be interesting to see how Ivar tries to parry, or rage against, his supposed fate.
Bjorn has perhaps the rosiest outlook of the quartet. He was ‘told’ (by way of vision) that ‘no one will ever forget the name of Bjorn Ironside, greater than Ragnar’. Although he was also warned that ‘the war is not over’. Not exactly a startling revelation there, granted, given that the Vikings tend to have war for breakfast.
Pity poor Lagertha, though, who has been burdened with an even less ambiguous prophecy than even Ivar’s.
“Will I be killed by a son of Ragnar?” she once asked the seer.
“Yes,” he said.
“Oh,” she must’ve been thinking. “Erm, what you probably meant to say was, when the moon rises in the sky, and the owl hoots in the forest, a figure will…”
“Nope. No I didn’t. Don’t put words in my mouth. You’re dead, baby. Deader than a Jarl Borg with two tickets for The Eagles’ farewell tour.”
Ivar’s the most obvious choice of executioner, which probably means that Lagertha’s own son, Bjorn, will be the one to kill her.
Unlike the Seer (RIP), I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Vikings Season 6 premieres on Dec. 4. We have everything you need to know about the new season right here.