|“||Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies!||”|
– King Ælle, All His Angels
King Ælle of Northumbria, according to some historical accounts, was responsible for the death of Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok. Shipwrecked on the shores of Northumbria, Ragnar was captured. Ælle had him thrown into a pit full of venomous snakes. "How the little pigs would grunt," Ragnar is reported to have said, "if they knew how the old boar suffers!" The "little pigs," Ragnar's term of endearment for his sons, did more than grunt. Word of their father's death galvanized them into action.
Ælle's hatred toward Ragnar begins at their first encounter. Ragnar defeats his men twice and loots his kingdom. Ælle executes Wigea, one of his lieutenants for his failure. Then, Ragnar demands 2000 pounds not to attack Ælle's kingdom and to release his brother, captured one little before. Ælle springs a trap but Ragnar and his troops repel the attack. Ragnar kills Aethelwulf, Ælle's brother, and the King pays the ransom but swears to avenge of Ragnar and to declare him a war no mercy.
He allies with King Ecbert and defeats Ragnar's army. Then he becomes temporary prisoner to exchange him against Rollo, injured and captured during the battle.
He is present with King Ecbert, Ragnar, Lagertha, Rollo, Aethelwulf (Ecbert's son) and Judith, when Kwenthrith poisons Burgred and becomes Queen of Mercia.
Always allied with King Ecbert, the two kings do a pact: to share the Mercia between them. But, after Queen Kwenthrith's death, Ecbert betrays Ælle and becomes King of Mercia, Ælle swears of to avenge Ecbert. Later, Ælle has the pleasure to see Ragnar in a cage as a gift for him, because Ragnar killed his brother. He shows no mercy, has him beaten and tortured before throwing him into a pit of snakes. After Ragnar's death, Judith warns King Ælle that he has no idea of the revenge of Ragnar's sons and the consequences of his actions, but she receives only from the contempt from his father and mockery of her sister. Arrogant, his father confirms her that they are fully prepared at the battle and refuses to demand Ecbert's help. Later, he goes to fight Ragnar's sons and their army with Unwan and his army. At first, he mocks of the Viking's Army but realises too late that they are too many for them. Bjorn, Ubbe, Hvitserk, Sigurd, Ivar and Floki launch their army at the attack, decimating the Saxons, Unwan dying of his injuries in the episode "On the Eve" and capturing Ælle. At first, Ælle is trained behind Ivar's war chariot. When Ælle shows the place where Ragnar is dead, their hate for him reach his paroxysm. Cowardly, Ælle demands how many of gold and silver they want to spare his life but Ivar responded to him by stating that his father, Ragnar, was worth more than simple gold and silver. Ælle is then executed by Bjorn with the blood eagle, much of pleasure of his brothers, and his corpse is hanged at the pit where Ragnar was executed. Bjorn, his brothers and Floki are satisfied to have avenged their father and friend.
Personality and traits
King Ælle is a domineering, hard, and demanding man who does not tolerate neither failures nor excuses, having one of his generals thrown into a pit of snakes after losing only a minor battle. His obese figure and tendency to refrain from direct combat during battles would earn him much disrespect from the Vikings as a people that respect strength and courage. He seems to be a joyful drinker and acts in a loud and intrusive manner when intoxicated, hugging an uncomfortable King Ecbert in the bath house when shouting praises about the victory over the Norsemen. Politically, he is not as cunning as his new ally and doesn't consider himself obligated to honor any agreements (at least not with pagans), as seen when he offers the Vikings gold to leave but use the empty chests as a way to lure them into a false sense of security before his army attacks. Though not trusting Ecbert initially, Ælle was more than happy to marry off his daughter Judith to Ecbert's son and heir Aethelwulf as well as agree to the partitioning of Mercia after Kwenthrith's installment to the throne.
Despite these traits, Ælle was an extremely religious man, who was powerful and respected within his own kingdom. In contrast to Ecbert, Ælle rarely showed true sense of betrayal as far as allies were concerned and generally lived his family. Unlike the Wessex family, Ælle had a sense of diplomacy and righteousness, wich were often replaced by acts of anger.
|“||I swear before God almighty, I declare war eternal on the Northman Ragnar Lothbrok. I swear to our lord Jesus Christ and to the blessed virgin, one day I will avenge myself on him, and bring him to justice and to death, so help me God.||”|
– King Ælle, A King's Ransom
|“||Contend, Oh Lord, against those who contend with me. Fight against those who fight against me! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers. Say to my soul, "I am your salvation".||”|
– King Ælle, A King's Ransom
|“||Deliver me oh Lord from my enemies!||”|
– King Ælle, All His Angels
- Ælle is alternatively spelled as Ælla.
- The Icelandic saga, the Tale of Ragnar's Sons and the writings of Symeon of Durham (died in 1129) are the main sources on the Northumbrian King Ælle.
- During the Season 1 episode A King's Ransom Ælle may have been at his villa of Ad Murum (Latin: at the [Hadrian's] Wall), which was located at the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Monkchester (modern Newcastle upon Tyne), which was close by where the Viking fleet led by Earl Ragnar Lothbrok entered Nothumbria through the Tyne River during his third expedition to England.
- Though depicted in the Series as being king of Northumbria in the 790's-early 800's, the real-life King Ælle was alive in the 860's AD some sixty-seventy years later and was king for at least two years. Not enough time to cement permanent dynastic rule before the invasion of the Great Heathen Army.
- Though the saga The Tale of Ragnar's Sons mentions King Ælle keeping a snakepit, it would have been highly unlikely to have a number of tropical snakes available in Anglo-Saxon England. Vipera berus, or the Common European Adder, are the only snake species in Britain known to be venomous, though they are tempermentally quite timid and unlikely to attack except when cornered.
- Ivan Kaye co-starred in the 2013 film Hammer of the Gods, where he portrays the Viking warlord Ivar the Boneless, the very person credited with the execution of King Aella of Northumbria.
|Season one appearances|
|Rites of Passage||Wrath of the Northmen||Dispossessed|
|Trial||Raid||Burial of the Dead|
|A King's Ransom||Sacrifice||All Change|
|Season two appearances|
|Brother's War||Invasion||Treachery||Eye For an Eye||Answers in Blood|
|Unforgiven||Blood Eagle||Boneless||The Choice||The Lord's Prayer|
|Season three appearances|
|Mercenary||The Wanderer||Warrior's Fate||Scarred||The Usurper|
|Born Again||Paris||To the Gates!||Breaking Point||The Dead|
|Season four appearances|
|A Good Treason||Kill the Queen||Mercy||Yol||Promised|
|What Might Have Been||The Profit and the Loss||Portage||Death All 'Round||The Last Ship|
|The Outsider||The Vision||Two Journeys||In the Uncertain Hour Before the Morning||All His Angels|
|Crossings||The Great Army||Revenge||On the Eve||The Reckoning|