‘Vikings’ Season 5: Here’s What Really Happened When The Vikings Discovered Iceland

In History Channel's 'Vikings,' Iceland is portrayed as a desolate place where many people died, but was it really like that?

Gustaf Skarsgard as Floki and Leah McNamara as Aud
Jonathan Hession / History Channel

In History Channel's 'Vikings,' Iceland is portrayed as a desolate place where many people died, but was it really like that?

Episode 17 of History Channel’s Vikings Season 5 saw devastation continuing to occur in Iceland. But, historically, what really happened when the Vikings first landed there?

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains information about Episode 17 (titled “The Most Terrible Thing”) of History Channel’s Vikings Season 5. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet viewed this episode and wish to avoid spoilers.

Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) has had a pretty rough season in Vikings. Deciding to explore a new country, he took a group of people who initially agreed to follow him blindly. However, over time, the group have turned out to follow the same path of death and revenge that the rest of the Vikings have always undertaken.

After many episodes that saw the group arguing over the right way to do things regarding revenge, Floki decided to exile Eyvind’s (Kris Holden-Ried) group. This was after giving them multiple chances to change their ways. Yet, as Forbes points out, by Episode 16 of Vikings, Floki was giving the group another chance after Helgi (Jack McEvoy) asks for assistance. As result of this, Episode 17 of Vikings saw Ketill (Adam Copeland) slaughter Eyvind’s group. But, historically, what really happened in Iceland?

Adam Copeland stars as Ketill Flatnose
  Jonathan Hession / History Channel

As Britannica points out, while the Iceland seen in History Channel’s Vikings may seem like a desolate place filled with misery, the Icelandic sagas that tell heroic episodes from the Viking Age and are considered to be “among the finest literary achievements of the Middle Ages, reflecting a European outlook while commemorating the history and customs of a people far removed from continental centres of commerce and culture.”

According to history, a man called Hrafna-Floki Vilgertharson was recorded as the first Viking explorer to touch down on Iceland. His story is detailed in one of the Viking sagas in a text called the Landnamabok.

It is unclear exactly when Hrafna-Floki’s first trip occurred. However, it is believed that it was some time after 868.

Hrafna-Floki touched down in Iceland with three people: Thorolf, Herjolf, and Faxe. When they arrived in Iceland for the first time, it is believed that they set up a winter camp in Vatnsfjorthur at Barthastrond.

Initially, after a beautiful summer, the group were not prepared for the harsh winter. However, they managed to survive the bleak conditions and returned home to tell others of their discovery.

There does not appear to be any record of the sort of anarchy and discord as that displayed in History Channel Vikings. However, Hrafna-Floki did say that Iceland was a worthless country after his first voyage there.

While he may not have been initially impressed, he did eventually return to Iceland where he lived out the remainder of his days.

Vikings returns on Wednesday, January 16, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. History Channel provides the following synopsis for Episode 18 (titled “Baldar”).

“Hvitserk is severely tested. Floki makes an amazing discovery. Freydis gives Ivar a surprise. Ubbe negotiates with three Danish kings that have massed their armies in Reading, but the negotiations may have a perilous outcome.”