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Nicole Kidman’s Queen Mother Who Is Not Left for Heaven
Eggers and his collaborators have not been coy about how The Northman is intentionally descended from a tale that predates Shakespeare. Indeed, Eggers told us months ago that he felt liberated to indulge his world-building eccentricities in the Viking saga because he knew audiences would be inherently familiar with the structure of a story in which the son avenges a murdered father, who in turn had died by his uncle’s hand. It informs everything from William Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet, to The Lion King. However, the actual source material is far older.
“Shakespeare based his Hamlet on Saxo Grammaticus’ Prince Amleth from the 12th century,” Skarsgård tells us in a separate interview, citing a Danish historian and theologian whose tale of the vengeful nephew prince is the oldest complete version of this story we have today. “But Saxo Grammaticus most likely based Prince Amleth of Jutland, which we based our movie on, on an even older Icelandic saga from the ninth or 10th century. So it’s a really ancient tale, and it leant itself beautifully to the type of movie we wanted to make, because it’s a timeless, classic revenge story.”
All of which is true. The story of Amleth is the inspiration of Hamlet—an anglicized rewording that moves a single letter from the end of the prince’s name to the beginning. And by going back to that earlier, more medieval telling Eggers, co-writer Sjón, and Skarsgård (who is also a producer on The Northman) were able to establish an easy through-line for the audience to follow, even as their movie deconstructed that line in order to examine elements of this story that are far more psychologically debased and primal. Take for example, the relationship between Amleth and his ultimately not-so-dear mother, Gudrún.
In the most perverse scene in the movie, Amleth finally confronts his mother in her bedroom and attempts to convince her to run away with him. It’s a so-called liberation. At first she tries to ease his anger through a mother’s love, and when that doesn’t work she tries a different tact: she becomes brutally honest.
“I see you’ve inherited your father’s simpleness,” she mocks before laughing at her son and revealing it was she who convinced Fjölnir to slay his own brother. Worse still, she begged Fjölnir to also kill her son who was then but a boy.
This twist works on multiple levels, including by embracing what has been a much debated subtext read by some into the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude: He blames her for being indifferent to his father’s death—“Frailty, thy name is woman!”—and ponders openly whether she was complicit in his murder. He is told, eventually, by his father’s ghost to leave Gertrude for Heaven. Nonetheless, there’s a raw resentment between the mother and son that audiences have debated for centuries. In the 20th century, a Freudian interpretation has grown popular. It suggests there’s a latent Oedipal jealousy in Hamlet’s fury with his uncle. He subconsciously wants to be the one in his mother’s bed.
Source: Den of Geek