“The Northman,” directed by Robert Eggers, is a Viking drama with fantasy and vengeance at play. Set in 895 A.D., the film revolves around the life of Amleth, a young prince who witnesses men murder his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven, brutally. After the incident, he promised revenge for his father’s death. Amleth traveled through the sea and swore to be capable enough to bring justice to his father, save his mother, and bring death upon his father’s traitor brother. Every film set in the Viking age is expected to delve into the vast myth, and “The Northman” is no exception. Every ritual and concept represents the detailed study that went into bringing the film to life.
‘The Northman’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
“The Northman” follows the journey of Amleth, a young prince set to avenge his father’s death. Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil, returns home after the war, and his son is evidently proud of him. After reuniting with his family, Aurvandil presents his son with a necklace, an ornament that was once worn by the prince whose kingdom he annexed. This necklace would remain an important part of Amleth’s life. It reminded him of his father and all that was taken away from him. Aurvandil had confided in his wife, Queen Gudrun, how he was injured in the war. He hoped for Amleth to take over the throne after his death. The next morning, he took Amleth to the temple of Odin. A seer initiated a ceremony where the father and son acted like dogs who sought the help of God to transform into humans. They proved their worth to the gods, and in that moment of trance, Amleth promised to avenge those who might bring harm to his father. Incidentally, right after they stepped out of the temple, Aurvandil was greeted by arrows that pierced his body. Amleth ran away on his father’s advice. He watched the brutal act unfold from behind a rock.
The enemy revealed himself by removing his face armor; it was his half-brother, Fjolnir. Aurvandil had trusted his brother all his life, and, upon learning the truth, he demanded that his brother strike him to death. He also mentioned how his death would be avenged by his own blood. With a swing of his sword, Fjolnir beheaded his brother. He was declared King of the Kingdom of Hrafnsey. Fjolnir advised his men to hunt for Amleth and kill him. Amleth ran for his life but was caught by a guard, whom he injured with the knife that he had, and ran away. He covered himself with a red blanket he found lying around. His house was ransacked, men and women were murdered, and he watched his mother being dragged out by Fjolnir’s men and carried on their shoulders. Amleth escaped with the help of a boat he had and promised to do the right thing for his family.
Thus began Amleth’s journey, who grew up to be a hulky man and a Viking berserker. We witness him raiding villages after performing a ritual the previous night with his company. On the night of their successful raid, Amleth met with a seeress in the temple of Odin, who reminded him of his duty and hinted at the future that awaited him. He had to cross the ocean to the edge of the world, to an island in the north where there would be a burning lake bursting from a black mountain’s peak. He had to follow a vixen to arrive at a sword that would serve him well to destroy his enemy. This prophecy plays a crucial role in redirecting Amleth to the path of revenge.
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How Did Amleth Plan To Seek Revenge From Fjolnir?
The morning after the prophecy, Amleth learned that a few of the slaves were to be transported to Iceland to Fjolnir. He was surprised to know that Fjolnir had now settled in Iceland after losing the Kingdom of Hrafnsey. He was now a sheep farmer and lived with his wife and sons. Amleth knew that this was his chance to avenge his father’s death, and it matched with the prophecy as well. He chopped off his hair, hid the necklace his father gifted him, and marked himself as salve with the hot iron. He swam into the ocean and climbed onto the boat that carried the slaves for Fjolnir. He met Olga on the boat, a young Slovak woman with silver hair who spoke to the Gods of the Earth. Amleth shared how he was traveling to seek revenge, and in that moment of crisis, they found comfort in each other.
Amleth met Fjolnir, but, of course, he was not recognized. Fjolnir wanted to sell all the slaves who were brought, and to avoid that, Amleth showed his strength even in captivity. Fjolnir was impressed by him and advised the men to keep him. Olga was chosen as well to take care of the kitchen. While conducting the work he was assigned, Amleth managed to peek into his mother’s room. He counted the days to avenge his father’s death. He was greeted by a vixen who led him to a temple where the spirit of Heimir, the fool, directed him to the path through which he could find the sword that was named “Undead.” Amleth met with the spirit that guarded the sword and managed to destroy him. With the weapon of revenge in his hand, he was set to attack Fjolnir’s family. At the chieftain’s feast, Amleth was sent to play a deadly game. He managed to be the last remaining slave to stay alive and had to fight against a strong opponent. During the fight, Gunner, the young son of Fjolnir and Gudrun, stepped into the field out of excitement and grabbed hold of the ball to help them win the match, but in the process, he was injured. Amleth crushed the opponent to death and impressed Fjolnir’s family since he exhibited loyalty and strength. His work as a slave was reduced, and he was allowed to be with a woman for the night.
That night, Olga and Amleth made love. Olga spoke to the Earth and received an answer in the form of a mushroom that was poisonous enough to destroy the guards. She believed that they were destined to be together, and she was a part of the fight he was fighting. The next night, Amleth waited for Thorir’s friends in the dark. At the right moment, he struck them with the deadly blade of the Undead and mutilated their bodies. He tied the dismembered body part and shaped it into a horse, and hung it for all to witness the threat. After looking at the massacre, the family was left in disarray. They suspected the Christians of the deed, but it did not seem to be the reason for the killing. He knew someone was hungry for blood, but the question was who.
Olga added the mushrooms to the broth that she cooked. She served the guards the food, and after a few minutes, they started hallucinating to the point where they killed themselves. Taking this opportunity, Amleth entered the unguarded house and went into his mother’s room. He confessed that he was Amleth, her son, and he was there to avenge the death of his father and her husband. But what Gudrun said shocked him. She revealed that his father was a beast who never truly loved her. She was only given the crown because she bore him a son. She was a slave before becoming a queen, despite the romantic tales she used to tell Amleth about her. According to her, he was a coward and a lust-stained slaver. She rather preferred his half-brother, who respected her even after knowing her past. She added that he was born after a man forced himself on her, whereas her son, Gunner, was born out of love. It was she who had advised Fjolnir to murder his brother/her husband, knowing he was weak as a result of the war wound. She was also the one who wanted her son to be murdered, knowing that he would be a hindrance to the future they were planning. She tried to seduce Amleth, saying that she could be his queen if he won the war, but that was her way of trying to snatch the sword he held. Amleth left in a fury; he was bewildered after learning the truth. In that moment of rage, he murdered Fjolnir’s elder son, Thorir.
‘The Northman’ Ending Explained: What Was The Future Almeth Envisioned? What Does The Seeress’s Prophecy Signify?
The death of Thorir shook Fjolnir and his family. The heart was removed from Thorir’s body, which infuriated Fjolnir further. He now knew who was behind it all. He questioned every enslaved person whom he doubted for supporting Amleth. Olga proudly accepted that he had helped him. Just when he was about to strike her neck, Amleth emerged and offered him his son’s heart. His men were distracted, Olga’s life was saved, and she escaped. When Amleth was held captive by Fjolnir’s men, he took the heart, but Amleth raised suspicion when he mentioned that it could be the heart of a rabid dog as well. He was constantly beaten to confess the truth about his son’s heart, but he refused to do so. Fjolnir left the room, promising to be back to eat his heart. The guards left the sword “Undead” in the room since they were unable to release it from its cover. Just as the room was empty, ravens appeared and helped to free Amleth. The raven was the symbol of his father’s presence, who was assumed to have been born as a raven after his death. The raven appeared multiple times in “The Northman,” guiding Amleth whenever he needed help. He was taken away to a safe location by Olga, who came for him.
The two realized how they were destined to be with each other. He helped Olga escape, and she came back to save him. They planned to run away, especially after Amleth felt he no longer knew what was right and wrong. His mother’s confession left him confused, and his desire for revenge had weakened. He had kinsmen in Orkney, where they could find a safe passage, and that was where they decided to go. After boarding the ship, promising to leave the past behind, Amleth noticed blood on Olga’s neck. It was the scar that was left by Fjolnir’s sword. He went ahead and kissed the spot, though after tasting her blood, he confirmed that she was carrying his blood within her. He envisioned the future, where he saw his son and his daughter. His daughter would be the maiden king that the seeress had prophesied. She had mentioned that the reason why she spoke about Amleth’s future was that it was from his death that a new beginning would start, indicating the birth of his children, and particularly his daughter, who needed to be protected. A dive into the future made Amleth realize that running away was not the right path. He would return to murder his family for revenge, and he had to stop it from happening. It was no longer the past that decided Amleth’s fate, but rather the future that depended on him. He asked Olga to travel to Orkney while he returned to Iceland to murder Fjolnir and his family.
He returned in darkness and murdered the guards. He freed the slaves and walked into his mother’s room. She attacked him, but this time he managed to pierce his sword straight through her heart. Gunner jumped on him after watching his mother die. Amleth did not stop himself, and he murdered young Gunner as well. When Fjolnir entered the room, he kept his sword away and took the bodies of his son and wife. He asked Amleth to meet him at the Gates of Hell. The two faced each other at the Gates of Hell, situated at the mouth of the volcanic mountain. Initially, Fjolnir managed to bring Amleth to his knees, but a sudden outburst of power and will overcame Amleth, and he managed to free himself from the situation. He slashed off Fjolnir’s head with one blow of his sword and watched his beheaded body collapse in front of his eyes. But before collapsing, Fjolnir pushed his sword through Amleth’s heart.
At the end of “The Northman,” Amleth too lay on the ground at the Gates of Hell. He envisioned how Olga and his two children were now safe and healthy. She asked him to make the passage that he had always dreamt of. He watched a Valkyrie travel to the Gates of Valhalla, where he would now be carried to. He had managed to secure a place in the majestic hall of Asgard, which was ruled by Odin.
Robert Egger’s “The Northman” is a fascinating watch, particularly for the precision and detail that went into the making of the film. The film also has Bjork, who, after nearly twenty years, returned to the screen to play the role of the seeress whose prophecy impacted the life of Amleth. The film with its captivating visuals, particularly the savagery, the gore, the horror, and ultimately the tale of honor, keeps the audience engaged. It sticks to the demands of the genre and does not make any exceptions regarding the character treatment. The fight between men to protect the fate of the maiden king was an interesting touch.
“The Northman” is a 2022 Period Drama film directed by Robert Egger.