Assassin's Creed Valhalla Historian Explains Vikings' Image Problem, Women Warriors

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been announced, featuring a new story revolving around Vikings. The series is known for its accurate depictions of historical time periods, and an interview with historian Thierry Noel sheds more light on how the time period and Norse people will be depicted.

To start, Noel is careful to define the word “Vikings” outside its usual pop-cultural imagery of brutal plunderers. He said that Vikings actually refers to the elite Norse class, which includes traders, explorers, and seafarers as well as invaders. Some of the history of Vikings was written by monks or victims of Viking invaders, which helped shape a more brutal and negative perception. That said, he points out that this is taking place in the Dark Ages, a period where relatively little is known compared to the surrounding Roman Empire era and medieval era. What we do know about the Vikings was that the society was surprisingly forward-thinking.

The gap between the reality of Norse society and the image we have of the reckless Viking was really interesting to me,” Noel told Ubisoft. “They were a fascinating society in terms of culture and pretty fair in the way they treated women, who had important rights at the time. It was certainly contradictory to the common image we have of Vikings.”

In Valhalla, your character Eivor (pronounced “Ay-vor”) can be a man or a woman. Noel said that there is no clear answer for whether women were warriors in Norse culture, but their mythology was full of formidable women and so they incorporated that into the story. Eivor starts by leaving their homeland to discover a new settlement, and in the actual historical record, the Vikings carved through a divided England.

“At that time, England was a multiethnic society. It was dominated by the Anglo-Saxons, but there were also Britons, descendants of Ancient Rome, and many others,” he said. “It was a wealthy land, but it was a divided land, especially between rival Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. This was all very appealing for the Vikings, who took advantage of the situation of a divided England.”

The one that didn’t fall, Noel said, was Wessex, ruled by Aelfred. Noel says he’s a “very important character.”

The first gameplay trailer for Valhalla is coming on May 7 as part of an Inside Xbox presentation centered on Xbox Series X games. It will also support Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature, letting you buy the game on one platform and upgrade at no additional cost. While you wait to see the first footage of Valhalla in action, check out the first stunning screenshots and read our Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pre-order guide.

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