Harbard is one of the most mysterious characters to ever appear on the hit TV show Vikings. This intriguing figure turns up in Kattegat during Season 3, and although he only remains for a short time, the chaos and drama that ensues in his wake leaves viewers puzzled about Harbard’s true identity.
Who is this Harbard that charmed shield-maidens and appeared to possess mystical powers?
Throughout his time on Vikings, not once is Harbard’s background explicitly revealed. Several tantalizing clues are dropped, however, that have led to heated debate among fans about whether Harbard is actually one of the Norse gods incognito.
The two predominant theories that have emerged are that Harbard is either Odin or Loki in disguise. Both of these gods were known to roam the mortal world in secret, so this has fueled speculation that Harbard could be one of them walking among the Vikings.
The mystery surrounding Harbard has sparked much discussion over the years as to who he really is and why he came to Kattegat.
In this article, we will dive deep into the key theories about Harbard’s identity, analyzing the evidence to try and determine if he is Odin, Loki, or perhaps just a mischievous wanderer.
Examining the symbolism and Norse mythological connections around Harbard can help unravel this secret at the heart of Vikings.
Harbard’s Appearance on Vikings
When Harbard first arrives in Kattegat during Season 3 of Vikings, he comes quietly with no fanfare. Appearing at Helga’s door, he asks for assistance with a wound on his hand. Helga obliges this seemingly ordinary wanderer and invites him in to dine with her, Aslaug, and Siggy.
Yet right from the start, there are hints that Harbard is no ordinary man. Prior to his arrival, all three shield-maidens experience vivid dreams of a mysterious, foreboding figure arriving in Kattegat. This prophecy comes true when Harbard appears. As they get to know him, Helga and Aslaug in particular seem enchanted by this stranger sharing epic tales of the gods.
Harbard begins an affair with Aslaug, Ragnar’s wife, who is drawn to Harbard’s mystical aura. However, Siggy remains wary and believes this outsider will bring trouble to Kattegat. Tragically, Siggy’s fears prove correct. While under Harbard’s spell, Aslaug becomes distracted and nearly loses her sons Ivar and Sigurd, who fall through ice on a frozen lake. Siggy gives her life to rescue them.
Many fans believe Harbard somehow orchestrated this near-disaster to lure Aslaug away from protecting her children. Was he malicious or simply aloof to the consequences of his powers over Aslaug? Either way, the stage is set for Harbard’s true motives being questioned.
The biggest clue about Harbard’s potential true identity comes when he is able to miraculously cure Aslaug’s son Ivar of his physical pain. Ivar is disabled and often cries out in agony from the pain of his bones. Yet with just a gentle touch, Harbard takes away the suffering, much to Aslaug’s amazement. Only a supernatural being could instantly heal Ivar like this.
By now Aslaug is fully seduced by Harbard and allows him to continue having his way with the women of Kattegat.
After being confronted by an angry Sigurd, Harbard disappears into a thick fog, almost like a magician.
Clearly, this is no ordinary Viking wanderer visiting town. But is Harbard really one of the mighty Norse gods in disguise?
Theories on the True Identity of the Mysterious Harbard
Given the mystical nature of Harbard’s abilities and disappearances, it’s no wonder that theories abound about who he really could be. The two predominant possibilities that have been debated are:
Harbard as Odin in Disguise
There are several clues that suggest Harbard may in fact be Odin, the most powerful and wise Norse god. Disguising himself as an old wanderer is something Odin was known to do as he traveled among mortals. The name “Harbard” even means “Greybeard,” fitting for an elderly disguise of the god.
When Harbard first arrives in Kattegat, he entertains the women by telling stories of the gods, at one point acting as if he was there when Thor confronted Utgard-Loki. This intimate knowledge of the gods hints that Harbard may actually be one of them.
The character Floki also speculates that Harbard is another name for Odin when Helga describes Harbard’s miracles. As a devout believer in the old gods, Floki senses that this stranger is more than he seems.
Harbard and Odin
However, some elements of Harbard don’t fully align with Odin. For instance, the vindictive acts of nearly drowning Aslaug’s sons seem out of character for the wise and noble Odin. So while there is a case for Harbard representing this god, there are also inconsistencies.
Harbard as the Trickster Loki
Therefore, another prime theory is that Harbard is in fact the notorious trickster Loki in disguise. The chaos that follows Harbard, from Siggy’s death to seducing Aslaug, aligns with Loki’s penchant for causing mischief. Harbard’s charming powers over women also echo Loki’s reputation for promiscuity and taking many lovers.
In Norse mythology, Loki is known to assume disguises and manipulate situations to wreak havoc for his amusement. Letting Siggy drown to hurt Aslaug sounds exactly like the wicked games Loki would play. He has no concern for the morality of his tricks.
Some fans argue that the story Harbard tells about Thor is actually Loki’s perspective, since Loki was often by Thor’s side on adventures. This inside knowledge suggests Harbard could indeed be Loki posing as Odin’s wanderer companion to hide in plain sight.
Harbard in the Poetic Edda
Looking deeper into Norse mythology reveals more context for the Harbard mystery. In particular, the Poetic Edda contains a story where Thor encounters a prankster ferryman named Harbard who engages him in a battle of insults and wits.
In this tale, Harbard blocks Thor from crossing a river and mocks his appearance and exploits. When Thor explains his victories over giants, Harbard dismisses them and instead boasts of his affairs with women. There are multiple references implying that this Harbard is actually the trickster god Loki in disguise.
Thor threatens Greybeard (1908) by W. G. Collingwood
Greybeard mocks Thor by W. G. Collingwood
The parallels between this story and Harbard’s behavior on Vikings are too strong to ignore. It provides perhaps the best evidence that Harbard’s true identity is Loki using one of his many aliases to cause mischief in Kattegat and toy with the Vikings for his own amusement.
Weighing the Evidence: Is Harbard Really Loki or Odin?
Given the extensive theories and analysis around the mystery of Harbard, how can we determine the most likely possibility for this enigmatic character’s true identity? Let’s weigh the key evidence:
On the side of Harbard representing Odin, we have his appearance as an elder wanderer, his knowledge of godly stories, and Floki’s speculation that he is one of Odin’s names. However, his vindictive behavior seems out of character for the venerable Odin.
In contrast, the strongest case can be made for Harbard being the cunning Loki in disguise. Harbard’s penchant for causing chaos and seducing women perfectly aligns with Loki’s mischievous personality and reputation in Norse myths. The tale in the Poetic Edda of Loki tricking Thor while taking the name Harbard draws a direct parallel.
Given these factors, it seems most plausible from the evidence that Harbard is intended to be Loki walking amongst the people of Kattegat and toying with them for sport. His intentions are not benevolent, but selfish and troublesome. Loki is embellishing his talents for deception by hiding right under the Vikings’ noses.
Yet some ambiguity around Harbard’s origins remains. It is possible the writers left the mystery open-ended on purpose. Perhaps Harbard is a general representation of the capricious and fickle nature of the old Norse gods and the chaos they could bring forth. Or maybe Harbard is simply a wanderer who tapped into mystical powers never fully explained.
While we may never know his exact origins, the preponderance of clues points to Harbard being the cunning trickster Loki in disguise. He arrives in Kattegat to sow misfortune and discord for his own amusement, calling into question the faith and gullibility of these Viking men and women so easily misled.
Conclusion: Harbard’s Identity Remains Mysterious Yet Intriguing
The character of Harbard in Vikings remains shrouded in mystery since we never learn his true origins or motives. However, an in-depth analysis of the clues and Norse mythology connections reveals that Harbard most likely represents the god Loki in disguise.
The preponderance of evidence pointing to this theory includes:
- Harbard’s penchant for causing mayhem aligning with Loki’s trickster personality
- Direct parallels between Harbard’s behavior and the Poetic Edda story of Loki tricking Thor
- Harbard’s seduction and manipulation of women echoing Loki’s promiscuous reputation
While it’s possible Harbard is intended to be ambiguous, the signs suggest he is Loki walking among the Vikings, disguised as a wise wanderer. He brings chaos and conflict to Kattegat for his own amusement and fascination with manipulating mortals.
Yet the mystery surrounding Harbard is a core part of what makes his character so intriguing. His brief but dramatic role on the show leaves us wondering just who or what this stranger was that arrived out of nowhere and disappeared so quickly. Was he a god, an ordinary troublemaker, or something in between? We may never know for sure, and that is what provides Harbard’s story such appeal.
The mystique around Harbard exemplifies the uncertainty and capriciousness that Vikings associated with their gods. His mythological connections add depth to the story and characters of Vikings in ways open to interpretation by the viewer. Just like on the show, Harbard’s legacy continues to be debated among fans hungering to unravel the secrets of his true identity.
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