Occasionally on this blog, I review television programs of note. When I do this, I am not endorsing the show in particular but rather speaking of a positive message within the show. One such show that I cannot endorse for all viewers is the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom (2015-2020). The show is a “blade-slinger” story set in the England of the late 800s CE and is about the conflict between the Saxon land holders and the invading Danes, Vikings, and Northmen (Norsemen) from Denmark and other points north. Uhtred is the hero (or perhaps anti-hero) of the story. He is a Saxon by birth who is born heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Bebbanburg at a time when Alfred the Great is seeking to draw together all of the Kingdoms of England under one king. Uhtred is kidnapped by the Danes and adopted into the family of Ragnar Ragnarson. Thus, Uhtred is known both as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Uhtred Ragnarson, and simply Uhtred, Son of Uhtred and he grows to become the greatest warrior of England and supports King Alfred time and time again. But Alfred cannot quite accept that Uhtred will not accept his God and so he does not fully trust him and sometimes wishes him banished or even dead. Time and again Uhtred saves Alfred’s England, only to be mistrusted by Alfred. Season 3, Episode 10 offers brilliant dialogue emphasising darkness and light, good and evil, and the struggle of the two within the various people groups.
As King Alfred dies, Father Beocca, one of Uhtred’s most constant friends says, “All that Alfred stood for is crumbling. You, Uhtred, cannot be dragged into the shadows. You must become the light….” But as Uhtred is on trial in the open court of the palace, the following dialogue unfolds, Beocca: Do you object to the people bearing witness to justice, Lord Aethelwold? Aethelwold: I do not. Lady Aelswith: Uhtred, the king swore that you were to die. Why the change in his heart? Uhtred: Because he believed that I deserved his forgiveness. Aelswith: Is that a boast? Uhtred: Look to his chronicle. I am on every page. Aelswith: That is a lie. You are not named, even once! Uhtred: But I am there. Unwritten, Lady, but I am there! The warriors of Wessex know it. The Danes know it. And it is what the king has told me himself. Aelswith: I have heard enough. Uhtred: I am with him from the Somerset Marshes to Ethandun and all of the battles that have followed. We were bonded, him and I. He was the man that I could never be, nor did I wish to be. He was a man that I loved and despised but it was never less than an honor to serve him. He was my king. And he did not wish to go to his God without granting me what I have earned many times over! My freedom….
At this point, Edward, the heir to the throne of England is brought into the conversation. It is his first test as king apparent. Uhtred: Perhaps your father chose not to announce my freedom for this very reason so that the people could witness their new king, Edward, dispensing justice. Fairly, I hope. Beocca: Will you accept the decision of Edward Rex? I will. I
give you my word….
Edward: A heathen would not be trusted completely until he had embraced Alfred’s god as his own. And yet it was a heathen he did trust most. It was the word of Uhtred that he respected most. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, I find the letter written by my father to be true. Alfred’s pardon does stand. You are a free man, able to choose your own path. Beocca: May I ask, Lord Uhtred, may I ask? Now that you are a free man once more, where will your path lead? I would like to know….
Uhtred: One day, Father, I hope that my path will eventually lead north to Bebbanburg, but now, I believe I am needed here….
Then as the followers of Edward prepare for another battle
with the Danes of the North,
Uhtred: All of you, hear me. Yes, it is likely that the
Danes will have greater numbers, but this is a battle that we can win. Though it will take all of us, every man and every sword, and we will fight with all the guile and wit that Alfred has instilled.
man must find a weapon and every man must fight! Wessex will always be the light. And no matter how heavy our swords become, we must fight. Fight! Fight and keep on fighting until the victory is ours! We march!
king on his own terms. He cannot be his father. He can only be himself. The
chronicle will grow. Pages will be added. But Uhtred of Bebbanburg will not be mentioned. Although I, too, was victorious. My name is Uhtred, son of Uhtred. My name is Uhtred Ragnarson. Destiny is all.