Throughout Vikings’ six seasons, characters kicked the bucket in a variety of ways, but the manner in which Aslaug, Ragnar Lothbrok’s second wife, died was hotly debated and eventually changed. While her inclusion in the show was controversial because Ragnar was already married when they met, she quickly became a breadwinner in the Vikings family. Although her death was foreseen, the manner in which she died differed from the original plan for her character on the show.
Vikings premiered in 2013 and ran for a total of six seasons. It was based on the Norse legend of Ragnar Lothbrok and followed his and his family’s trials and tribulations. From farmer to warrior, he rose through the ranks to become one of the most powerful Vikings of the 9th century. As the show progressed, viewers saw his family sprout, with new characters appearing throughout the seasons. Aslaug, the mother of four of his sons, played by Alyssa Sutherland, was one of these.
Aslaug is a princess born to renowned parents, including the shield maiden Brunhilde, who joins Vikings in season 1. She becomes pregnant with Ragnar’s child after a brief affair, and her arrival in Kattegat causes friction between her and Ragnar’s first wife, Lagertha. The enmity between the two grows until Lagertha confronts Aslaug in season 4. She challenges her for control of Kattegat, and in spite of Aslaug’s surrender of the throne and request for safe passage, Lagertha shoots her in the back with an arrow. Nevertheless, while the show had always intended for Aslaug to die at Lagertha’s hands, it was originally intended to happen in battle.
Alyssa Sutherland’s input was used to make the decision to change how Aslaug ended up dead. She stated that it would be against her character if Aslaug died in battle. Despite the fact that her mother was a shieldmaiden, Aslaug was not a fighter. As queen of Kattegat, she stayed out of the fighting and instead relied on her abilities as a seer to rule the city. Instead, the scene that was eventually used depicted Aslaug dying with dignity and deciding to give up Kattegat without further loss of life. “I loved how the Queen was so so smart about the way she handled that death. She got the last word,” Sutherland stated in an interview (via Entertainment Weekly) that she approved of the changed scene.
The alteration to Aslaug’s death ensured that Vikings stayed true to her character. Aslaug’s death had to be consistent with her previous actions as one of the show’s main protagonists. While there was no physical battle scene to commemorate Aslaug’s death as a meaning of changing, viewers saw her die in a battle of intellect, words, and tactics, which reflected her character.