The Historical Truth Behind Floki In The ‘Vikings’ TV Series

Floki is one of the main characters in the Irish-Canadian production ‘Vikings’ on History Channel. Although he might be simply made up by the writers and producers of the show, he can be at the same time loosely based on a certain Flóki Vilgerðarson, who is known to have been the first Norseman to have set sail on purpose to Iceland with a crew of Vikings from Norway.

The saga of Flóki Vilgerðarson and of his Vikings

Flóki Vilgerðarson was a Norwegian Viking who, upon hearing good news about a land located far to the west, decided to travel to modern-day Iceland along with his family. His journey is documented in the ‘Landnámabók’ manuscript, an Icelandic saga which describes the settlements of the Norsemen in Iceland during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Swedish actor Gustaf Skarsgård as Floki in the Irish-Canadian TV series ‘Vikings’ on History Channel. Image source:

According to the same sag, aside from his family members, he is known to have been accompanied by a certain farmer by the name Thorolf and two men called Herjolf and Faxe. On through his journey, Flóki lost two of his daughters as he approached Iceland. He lost the first daughter when he landed in the Shetlands and the second one in the Faroe Islands, both drowning in the nearby waters. From the Faroe Islands onwards, he decided to take three ravens to aid him in finding his way to the western land he had heard good rumors about. This attributed him the nickname ‘Hrafna-Flóki’ (‘Raven-Floki’) in Old Norse.

After setting sail from the Faroese archipelago, he set one of the ravens free, only to see it return to the Faroe Islands. Then, he set the second raven free, but this one flew a little bit high and returned on boat after a very short time. At long last, when he sent the third raven loose, the last one flew northwest, never to return to him again. He then knew the fact that this must be the direction to the western land he had heard good rumors about and that he and his crew were very close to it, so he followed the third raven.

Discovering Iceland

After sailing west past Reykjanes (a headland located on the southwestern tip of the Reykjanesskagi peninsula), Floki’s crew spotted a large bay. One of Floki’s companions, Faxe, said that it was a great land that they discovered. Ever since, the bay has been called Faxaflói (‘The bay of Faxi’ in translation).

Map highlighting the Norse expeditions to Iceland during the 9th century. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

After Floki’s crew landed on shore, they subsequently set up a winter camp near Vatnsfjörður at Barðaströnd. Floki then explored the island and eventually stumbled upon the Ísafjörður fjord. The fjord was all covered in dirt ice at the time. Hence, once there, he gave the name Ísland (literally ‘Iceland’) to the entire newly discovered land.

Documentation sources and external links:

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25 Responses to The Historical Truth Behind Floki In The ‘Vikings’ TV Series

  1. A very interesting read.

  2. Sveinn Rúnar Traustason says:

    Hrafna-Flóki later returned to Iceland and settled in Fljót in Skagafjörður Region with his wife Gró Bjarnardóttir. The valley they settled still bears Flókis name, Flókadalur (Flóki’s Valley). Flókis wife, Gró, was the syster of Höfða-Þórður Bjarnarson who also settled in Skagafjörður with his wife Þorgerður. Þorgerður was the granddaughter of King Kjarval of Ireland, Claimed to be the same as King Cerball mac Dúnlainge of Osraige (Ossory). Höfða-Þórður and Gró were said to be the great grandchildren of Björn Ironside, the son of Ragnar Loðbrók. Höfða-Þórður’s great grandson was Þorfinnur Karlsefni who first attempted settlement in North America with his wife Guðríður. Their son, Snorri Þorfinnsson, was the first known European child to be born in America. He later took over his parents farm, Glaumbær in Skagafjörður region in Iceland. Snorri Þorfinnssons decendants include three Icelandic bishops.,

    NB! There is a small mistake in the article: “… when he (Flóki) stumbled upon the Ísafjörður fjord, which was full of dirt ice at the time, he gave the name Ísland (Iceland) to the entire land.” This would be “drift ice”, not “dirt ice”.

  3. Katrín says:

    Flóki’s daughters didn’t both die. One died near the Shetland Islands, the other one was married into a family in the Faroe Islands. One of her descendants was the famous Þrándur í götu and her bloodline is renowned and respected in the Faroe Islands.

  4. Bob says:

    King Rollo traveled to Iceland a couple of times as well. I believe he was exiled by King Harold blue tooth.

  5. Linda B says:

    My son just named his baby boy Floki

  6. Eric Bram says:

    There is another error in the article. Talking about Floki’s use of the ravens, you write, “After setting sail from the Faroese archipelago, he set one of the ravens free, only to return to the Faroe Islands.” Grammatically, this means that Floki set one of the ravens free and then Floki returned to the Faroe Islands. I think what you really mean is that Floki set one of the ravens free only to see it return to the Faroe Islands. So you should change “only to return” to “only to see it return.”

    • Victor Rouă says:

      Hello and thank you for reading The Dockyards. Thank you for pointing out that mistake as well. In the meantime, that sentence has been rephrased.

      • Sean-Lloyd Roebuck says:

        My late wife was directly related to the Floconess family from the ness of from what I understand as a peninsula granted to him after a successful voyage he had undertook with Lief Ericsson son of Eric the Red who became the king of Iceland. My mother-in-laws cousin still lived in the city of Floconess in 1982. Her name was Gunvar Floconess and was a teacher of the second grade. I’m just trying to put things together for my daughter, so if you have any information you can share, I’d appreciate it! I was told he was an accountant to the king. My email address is: [email protected]

  7. yankydoodledandy says:

    Thank you. Just finished watching Vikings season 5, and Floki’s travel and settlement in Iceland was covered. Good to read the real-life history behind it.

  8. Geraldine F. Habitz says:

    Much of the television series “The Vikings” was fictional. Ragnar Lodbrok never existed. He was a legendary figure said to be based on the lives of other Norse warriors. Nothing is known of the warriors upon whom Ragnar’s legend was based, not even a name. Floki was a myth just as Odin and Thor were mythical Norse “gods.” How can any of this article be acknowledged as “real” history — even the post by Sveinn Rúnar Traustason? After 70 years of reading Norse history, and finding nothing that substantiates Ragnar Lodbrok’s existence, its difficult to believe that a major encyclopedia publishes his life as being real.

    • Morgan HC says:

      There was someone called Flóki Vilgerðarson who did exist, and who did go to Iceland. Ergo if Floki’s journey was based on this Floki’s, yes, for all intents and purposes he did exist. You need to read the Landamabok manuscript for his information.

      There was a real Ragnar,(not necassarily Lothbrok/Lodbrock) however, the one in The Vikings is probably based on several Ragnars from places like Daneland and Sweden.

  9. Matthildur says:

    Hrafna Floki was a rich kid that borrowed dadys boat fore a trip wit his friends to Iceland. partied all summer in Iceland with his friends. And then had go go home to dady because he had not build a proper house for his animals. And not broken the land ore hayed.

  10. Rian O'Maolchonaire says:

    Iceland was known to the Irish by the late 8th century at latest, as Dicuil’s Geographical Treatise proves. He had been educated at Iona where he learned geography and the spherical concept of the Earth, as he calculated by the lack of darkness Irishmen experienced sailing there in summer, that there would be complete darkness in winter. This whole series is very historically inaccurate. Ragnar Lothbrook was the first Viking to try to settle in Ireland permanently. He seized the Abbacy of Armagh for himself and made his wife Ota Abbess of Clonmacnoise, and tried to turn Ireland Pagan. He was sentenced to die by the Brehons and drowned in Lough Rea in 845 by my ancestor Maolseachlainn, the High King of Tara. Aulaf the White had settled Dublin by then and became King of the Vikings, however, he died on the way to attack York, and was succeeded by Ivar the Boneless en route. Ragnar was called various derivatives of Thor-man by the Irish historians because he was devoted to Thor, the God of agriculture, hence his desire to farm in Ireland. The Kings of Dublin descended from Ivar the Boneless styled themselves as Kings of Tomar after him. There already were Irish people settled in Iceland when the Vikings got there, it says so right in the Icelandabok, Floki may be the most realistic part of the series

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