The Battle of the Tyne is a military engagement that is part of the Vikings-English Wars campaign. It depicts the third confrontation between the Vikings and the Kingdom of Northumbria. The events take place in Season 1 Episode 7, A King's Ransom.
The Vikings have returned to Northumbria for the third time. The first time was the Raid of Lindisfarne. The second time was the Raid of Hexham. Ragnar has recently become the new Earl of Kattegat. It is now June of 794 AD, and the height of the summer raiding season. Earl Ragnar is leading three longships across the North Sea and up the River Tyne into Northumbria. After sailing up the River Tyne, the Vikings set up camp on Northumbrian soil.
Ragnar's return has thrown King Ælle into a blustering tizzy. King Ælle is infuriated at Lord Wigea's failure to stop the Vikings from returning, and has the nobleman thrown into his new venomous snake pit to die a cruel death. Ælle's court descends into fractious religious squabbling rather than uniting against their imminent threat. Ælle then sends for his brother, Lord Æthelwulf of Northumbria, entrusting him with command of the army sent to repel the Vikings' attack.
Lord Æthelwulf and his advisers provide another stupendous display of Saxon overconfidence. The arrogant Æthelwulf pronounces the Vikings as "scavengers, little more than beasts." He then discards the idea of a direct assault on the Northmen in favor of somehow making the Vikings give up their position, which proves disastrous for the Saxons. While this is happening, Rollo and Ragnar are aware of the Saxon army watching them. Ragnar resists Rollo's typical boneheaded plea to make a frontal attack. Ragnar explains to his brother the idea of evening the odds, saying he wants to see what the Saxons will do.
That night, Ragnar and his warriors attack the Saxon camp. They stride in, slaughter the Saxons like cattle, burn the place down, and take the king's brother as prisoner. Their skills are further highlighted by the fact that this takes place right after the Saxons mused on how the Northmen must be no more than stupid beasts. Rollo starts the fighting by kicking one of the sleeping Saxons in the head and then throwing a torch into his tent, setting him on fire. Rollo is very casual about the whole thing.
Tostig really demonstrates his ferocity as a warrior, despite his age. Even Ragnar has his gaze turned away from the battle to witness Tostig felling two Saxons at a time. After Tostig kills them, he shrieks, "ODIN!" It's a cry so piercing and terrifying that it alone jolts Lord Æthelwulf awake, who had managed to sleep through the raging sounds of a pitched battle all around him. Floki manages to defeat Lord Æthelwulf by tearing out the pegs holding his tent up and dropping it on his head before he can even get out and fight.
After the raid, the surviving Saxon soldiers, including Lord Æthelwulf are tied up. Rollo is walking around the burned camp when he picks up a Saxon sword. As he examines the blade, he notes that in comparison to the Vikings' swords, the Saxon blades are stronger and sharper. This reveals that the Vikings have been handily beating their enemy who has superior technology through sheer ferocity and by being a lot smarter than the Saxons think they are. Ragnar asks Lord Æthelwulf if they should go visit the king.
King Ælle is furious that his brother has lost. The court begins arguing about what to do. Bishop Unwan thinks that this is the work of God, while a noble thinks it's the work of the devil. Another lord thinks that they should just pay off the Vikings so they'll go away. King Ælle eventually agrees with this plan. The Vikings arrive outside Ælle's stronghold, with Lord Æthelwulf as proof of life. They are invited to talk and eat with King Ælle. Instead of replying, the Vikings turn around head back the way they came. The group discusses whether they should accept. Rollo doesn't think it is a good idea, pointing out that the Vikings don't stand a chance if the king just decides to have them killed. Ragnar replies that the king won't do that because they have his brother. Ragnar wants to accept the invitation because he wants to see the way the Saxons live.
The group returns and is brought before King Ælle who invites them to feast. As the Northmen take their seats in the hall and begin drinking, King Ælle introduces them to his wife Queen Ealhswith and his son Prince Ecgberht. The Vikings' behavior at the feast is quite funny. Floki takes a moment to admire the workmanship underneath the dinner tables. They tear into the food before the Saxons say grace, much to the Saxons' horror, who are only further repulsed by the Northmen's table manners. The Vikings stare blankly when the Saxons do say grace, and then express their displeasure with the hymns being sung. Floki even tries to eat a plate, unfamiliar with ceramics. Upon finding it inedible, he shatters it. This causes Arne to shatter one with a headbutt. And then they all start breaking things. Ragnar's reaction is to say, "Stop it, stop making me laugh. I'm trying to be serious." Fed up with this behavior, King Ælle asks what it will take for the Vikings to leave and return his brother. Ragnar says, "Two thousand pounds in silver and gold." Ælle accepts his terms, but on the condition that they must remain in their camp until he can gather that kind of money. Upon Bishop Unwan's request, Ælle also stipulates that one of them must become Christian. Rollo volunteers.
During Rollo's baptism, the other Vikings are either amused, confused, or unsure about it. Floki, however, is openly disdainful of the whole matter, spitting on the ritual and refusing to kneel when everyone else does. He is offended by this new, encroaching religion, and sees it as a threat to his people's way of life. At the end of the baptism, Ragnar sees Ælle kneeling and plays along. When Ælle starts to rise, Ragnar hastily scrambles to his feet. As a rival ruler, he would lose face if he were still kneeling while the king stands. Afterwards, the Northmen return to their camp to await payment. Rollo confronts Floki about his anger towards him, telling him he did it as a joke. Floki asks Rollo how he will make it up to Odin. Before Rollo can answer, the shipment of gold and silver from Ælle arrives. But when they check the boxes, they discover they're empty. Suddenly, King Ælle's men attack, but Ragnar and his men prepare to face them head-on.
Despite launching a surprise attack, complete with cavalry, the Saxons are completely routed by the superior tactics and fighting skill of the Vikings. The Vikings open the fight by nullifying the Saxons cavalry charge, along with a large portion of their cavalry. The Vikings had erected a palisade, which is a fence of wooden stakes, with only one open spot to come in or out. The cavalry charges for that opening, with the Vikings just standing and watching. Then, when the horses are just a few feet away, Ragnar raises his arms, signaling two men to raise the hidden part of the palisade, concealed under grass, which causes the horses to suddenly stop their charge and panic, resulting in many of the riders being impaled on the stakes of the palisade. The Saxon offensive formation is shattered, giving the Vikings the advantage as they move into general melee. Tostig kills three Saxons in quick succession. Suddenly, Tostig is felled from behind, and Ragnar rushes from one end of the battlefield to the other to help him and kill the Saxon who struck him in the back. After killing him, Ragnar kneels beside Tostig. Ragnar's look of sheer distress is heart wrenching and shows the depth of the friendship and respect between the two warriors. Tostig's contented smile that he will finally enter Valhalla and see his friends is the only thing that lifts some of the pain of his passing from Ragnar. Challenges by Floki over his faux conversion, Rollo goes on a berserker rampage, mercilessly and muddily dispatching a half dozen or more wounded Saxon soldiers before screaming, “How many Christians?! How many Christians have I killed Floki?! Do you think Odin is angry with me now?!” Floki just grins with amusement, almost as if he had been trying to get just such a rise out of Rollo.
After the battle, Ragnar goes to talk with Lord Æthelwulf. Ragnar tells the nobleman, "It seems your brother, the king, does not care if you live or die." Æthelwulf asks Ragnar to give him the chance to talk to his brother and persuade him to keep his word. Ragnar asks why shouldn't he just kill him now and Æthelwulf says because then he'd have nothing left to bargain with. Ragnar gives him a rather creepy grin and replies, "I have this," and lifts his ax.
Ragnar executes Lord Æthelwulf and sends his body back to his brother on a makeshift sled. After receiving Ragnar's "message," King Ælle finally upholds his end of the deal and pays the Vikings their 2,000 pounds of silver and gold. Ragnar and his men leave for home, while King Ælle watches. He swears unremitting vengeance upon Ragnar and his warriors. It's unlikely Ragnar actually hear this declaration, but as Ælle watches the Vikings sail away, Ragnar is watching the Saxons, and he seems to pick up on what Ælle is thinking and gives him a cheeky little wave as Floki laughs and tosses one of the gold coins into the water.