Books Mentioned in Show 70 - Twilight of the Aesir II

The Twilight of the Æsir: Unraveling the Saga of Viking Beliefs and Transformations

In the 70th episode of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, titled “Twilight of the Æsir II,” the narrative explores the profound transformation of northern Europe as Christianity slowly permeates a region steeped in Pagan Germanic beliefs. This episode is a sequel to the series “Thor’s Angels,” offering a deep dive into the last bastions of ancient Norse mythology and its gradual eclipse by Christianity​

The Intersection of Myth and Reality

The episode delves into how ancient Norse beliefs, including those in elves, trolls, and magic, might have been ancient interpretations of concepts we today understand as parallel universes or other dimensions. It suggests that what we dismiss as myth may have been early attempts to explain phenomena beyond the understanding of the time​

Magic and Its Impact

Discussing the nature of belief and its tangible effects, Carlin points out that belief in magic, while not real in a scientific sense, can have very real consequences. This observation underscores how collective belief shapes societies and influences decisions and actions, from the consultation of oracles to the interpretation of omens​

Norse Gods and Mythology

The show provides a rich tapestry of Viking religious beliefs, detailing the roles and stories of gods like Odin and Thor. It emphasizes the complexity of these beliefs, including the roles of elves, dwarves, trolls, Valkyries, and giants, which formed the backbone of Viking spirituality and world understanding​

Comparing Norse Religion with Monotheism

The podcast highlights the stark differences between Norse polytheism and monotheistic religions like Christianity. It discusses how the Norse gods, unlike their monotheistic counterparts, were not omnipotent or omniscient but had their limitations and idiosyncrasies​

The Decline of Paganism

The episode delves into the decline of Paganism, accelerated by the conversion of Viking elites and slaves to Christianity. This shift not only transformed religious practices but also led to significant social and political changes within Viking society

Vikings in European Context

Carlin discusses the extensive influence of Vikings in Europe, particularly in Britain, and their interactions with Christian states. This part of the narrative explores the Vikings’ role in shaping medieval European history, including their settlements and conflicts​

Media vs. Historical Reality

An interesting aspect of the episode is its critique of modern media’s portrayal of Vikings, contrasting it with the historical reality. The discussion suggests that popular culture often simplifies and sensationalizes the complex and nuanced history of the Vikings​

The Evolution of Viking Society

The podcast traces the evolution of Viking society from decentralized systems to more structured hierarchical systems under the influence of Christianity. This transformation had profound implications for individual freedoms and societal dynamics

Harold Fine Hair and the Saga of Expansion

The story of Harold Fine Hair, who aspired to unify Norway, serves as a focal point for discussing the Vikings’ exploration and settlement of new lands. Carlin narrates how this ambition led to the discovery and colonization of Iceland, Greenland, and beyond​

Viking Seafaring Prowess

A significant portion of the episode is dedicated to the Vikings’ extraordinary seafaring skills. Their maritime explorations were unprecedented in their scope and daring, often undertaken in treacherous and unpredictable northern seas

The Perils of Viking Voyages

Carlin vividly describes the dangers of Viking-era sea voyages, drawing parallels with modern sea disasters to illustrate the perilous nature of these journeys. These accounts highlight the bravery and skill of Viking mariners in the face of overwhelming odds​

Eyewitness Accounts of Vikings

The episode also brings to light rare eyewitness accounts of Viking-era Scandinavians, like that of Ibn Fadlan in Southern Russia. These accounts provide a glimpse into the lives and customs of the Vikings, albeit through the lens of external observers​


“Twilight of the Æsir II” concludes by reflecting on the transformative impact of the Viking era. It emphasizes the blend of cultural, religious, and societal changes that defined this period, marking a significant transition in the history of northern Europe and the Viking people​