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Jarl Borg is one of the main antagonists in the History Channel's show Vikings. Whilst he starts out as a relatively minor antagonist, he quickly escalates to the main antagonist during the earlier half of season two.
Character & Appearance
Borg is the Jarl of Götaland, and is introduced as a cunning, ruthless, manipulative character who shows some early signs of insanity (The keeping of his dead wife's skull), though he is a capable ruler who inspires loyalty among his own men.
He knows how to read people, and play on their insecurities to his own advantage; the most obvious example of this is the way he convinced Rollo Lodbrok to betray Ragnar, Rollo's own brother.
He is an extremely skilled warrior; usually making use of axes; in one battle he uses an axe alongside a shield, and in another wields an axe in each hand, both to deadly effect. He wears little to no armor, relying instead on speed and agility to survive in a battle.
He is bent on getting revenge against any insult made towards him; for example, when he attacks Kattegat, Ragnar's home, despite knowing that King Horik was the one who insulted him, not Ragnar.
In spite of all this, he can, on occasion, be reasonable; shortly before his downfall, he admitted to Ragnar that he was a better man than himself.
Jarl Borg is first mentioned by King Horik, in a conversation with Ragnar Lodbrok. Horik and Borg both lay claim to an area of land; Horik, knowing Ragnar's rapidly growing reputation, sends Ragnar along with his brother to negotiate and offer terms to Jarl Borg.
Upon meeting Ragnar, the Jarl refuses all offers of negotiation, believing the Land to be his by right. When war becomes inevitable, Ragnar allies himself with the King; Rollo, however, sides with Borg, the Jarl having noticed how his younger brother is so loved, leaving Rollo in the shadows, and playing on that to win him over.
The Jarl, along with Rollo, are now leading an army to meet Ragnar and Horik's forces in the field. The meeting occurs in a canyon; it is from there that the battle begins. Borg cuts down many men in the fight, whilst Rollo kills many, one of whom was a close friend. However, when Rollo comes face-to-face with his brother, and has an opportunity to kill him, he cannot bring himself to do it, thus ending the battle.
In another attempt at negotiation, Borg, Horik and Ragnar talk together. Ragnar manages to sway Borg into accepting Horik's offer of one third of the profits from the Land the two men were at war over, by proposing that the three men work together to raid England together, which would result in vast profits and possible land. Both the King and the Jarl accept the offer.
The next time Borg is seen is four years later. Finally, Earl Ragnar is ready to launch his raid, and is gathering strength at his home in Kattegat. Jarl Borg is the first to arrive, followed by Horik. Despite the awkwardness, the two men are polite enough to one another. However, later on, King Horik pulls Ragnar aside and mentions that he does not trust the Jarl, and wishes for him not to come to England with the two of them. Ragnar, having no choice but to go by the King's word, informs Borg of this decision, leading to a bitter enmity between Horik and Ragnar against Borg. The Jarl returns home, whilst Horik and Ragnar leave for England.
Furious at the decision to exclude him from the raid, the Jarl, now remarried though still very much in love with his previous wife's memory, announces his intention to take over Kattegat to his new wife's family and his own men. The attack comes swiftly after, and despite a valiant effort to protect the village by Rollo, now looking for redemption for his past betrayal, it falls to the Jarl's men, due to most of the strong men of the village being away in England.
Though Rollo was unable to protect the village, he did manage to smuggle away Ragnar's wife and children, keeping them safe in an old barn in the hills. Borg sends out men to find the family, but to no avail. His attack on Kattegat leads Ragnar to return home early, leaving Horik and his men behind. Whilst in control of the village, Borg seeks out the seer and asks about his destiny; the seer replies that he sees an eagle, and that the eagle is his destiny. Borg interprets this to be good, though the seer makes no further comment on the matter.
One night, Ragnar, along with his son Bjorn and some others, sneak into the village at night and burn the grain supply. The Jarl, infuriated by this, rides out with his men in an effort to kill the man responsible; this, however, is a trap. Ragnar and his men, along with Lagertha's soldiers, appear from over a hill and a battle ensues. After being overpowered, the Jarl orders a retreat, thus relieving Kattegat of his control.
Not long after, King Horik returns from England, revealing that the majority of his forces were slaughtered by King Ecbert of Wessex. Hungry for vengeance, the King is insistent on returning to England as soon as possible; though, not having enough men to launch a successful raid, he decides he needs Jarl Borg for his ships and men. Ragnar, reluctantly, accepts this, and sends his brother yet again to negotiate with the Jarl.
Jarl Borg accepts Ragnars offer, after seeking council from his 'wife' (The skull of his dead wife) and, along with his family, returns to Kattegat, on much friendlier terms. He speaks to Ragnar and apologizes for his previous behavior, expressing a wish to make amends. It is soon revealed to be too late for that; that night, Borg's men are locked in the barn that they are sleeping in and the barn is burned down, whilst Rollo and several others arrest the Jarl and throw him before Ragnar. It is there that he learns the truth behind the 'eagle' mentioned by the seer; Ragnar announces his intention to punish the Jarl via the Blood eagle, an execution method whereby the back is sliced open, the ribs hacked from the spine to open up a cavity, and the lungs pulled out from behind and dangled over the shoulders so they resemble the wings of an eagle. Borg later mentions that, should one endure the blood eagle without showing any sign of the agony it causes, he is worthy of Valhalla, but should he scream, then he is not worthy. He is then thrown into a dungeon, awaiting trial.
King Horik is shocked by this decision, and advises Ragnar to not act immediately, but rather to wait, in case another ally cannot be found to take Borg's place. Ragnar accepts this, and the King meets the imprisoned Jarl in secret. It is there that Borg tries to manipulate Horik, by convincing him that Ragnar wishes betrayal upon him, and seeks to take his place as King. Borg suggests that Horik help him escape, so he can kill Ragnar Lodbrok and ally himself to the King. Horik seems to consider taking this course; however, 'Earl Ingstad' arrives before any action is made, thus making Borg useless to Horik and, in turn, leaving him to his fate at the hands of Ragnar.
When Jarl Borg is led into a room full of people, and realizes he is doomed, he accepts his fate. Indeed, he does not scream throughout the ordeal, and even smiles through the agonizing pain as he dies, the last thing he sees being an eagle.