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Erik the Viking is a 1989 British comedy-fantasy film written and directed by Terry Jones. The film was inspired by Jones's children's book The Saga of Erik the Viking (1983), but the plot is completely different. Jones also appears in the film as King Arnulf.[4][5]

Erik the Viking
US cinema poster
Directed byTerry Jones
Produced byJohn C. Goldstone
Written byTerry Jones
Music byNeil Innes
CinematographyIan Wilson
Edited byGeorge Akers
Prominent Features
Svensk Filmindustri
Distributed byUIP (UK)
Orion Pictures (US)
SF (Sweden)
Release date
  • 1 September 1989 (1989-09-01) (Sweden)
  • 22 September 1989 (1989-09-22) (US)
  • 29 September 1989 (1989-09-29) (UK)
Running time
107 min.[1][2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$1,932,642[3]


The film is based largely upon Norse mythology. In the film's opening scene Erik (Tim Robbins), a young Viking, discovers that he has no taste for rape and pillage, and suffers guilt over the death of Helga (Samantha Bond), an innocent woman.

Erik learns from the wise woman Freya (Eartha Kitt) that Fenrir the wolf has swallowed the sun, plunging the world into the age of Ragnarök. Erik resolves to travel to Asgard to petition the gods to end Ragnarök. Freya informs him that to do so he must seek the Horn Resounding in the land of Hy-Brasil. The first note blown upon the Horn will take Erik and his crew to Asgard, the second will awaken the gods, and the third will bring the crew home. Erik sets out with a crew of all ages and professions from his village, including Harald (Freddie Jones), a Christian missionary who disbelieves in the entire narrative.

Keitel Blacksmith (Gary Cady) is persuaded by his apprentice Loki (Antony Sher) into secretly opposing Erik's plan, as peace would end the demand for Keitel's swords. Keitel joins Erik's crew to sabotage Erik's plans. Meanwhike Loki sneaks out to inform Halfdan the Black (John Cleese), a local warlord afraid that peace will mean the end of his reign. Halfdan's crew sets sail in pursuit.

Arriving at Hy-Brasil, Erik and crew are astonished to find it a sunlit land where the people, who dress like ancient Greeks, are exceedingly friendly and hospitable (if musically untalented). Erik promptly falls in love with Princess Aud (Imogen Stubbs), daughter of King Arnulf (Terry Jones). During one of their romantic encounters, Erik hides from Arnulf using Aud's magic cloak of invisibility.

Aud has warned the Vikings that should blood ever be shed upon Hy-Brasil, the entire island would sink beneath the waves. Erik and his crew defend Hy-Brasil against Halfdan's ship. Loki is found aboard the ship, and pretends to have sneaked aboard to sabotage it. In gratitude for Erik's having saved Hy-Brasil, King Arnulf presents him with the Horn Resounding, which is much larger than Erik had imagined. Loki steals the Horn's mouthpiece in the night, without which it cannot be sounded, and persuades Keitel to throw it in the sea. Snorri, one of Erik's men, catches them in the act, and Loki kills him. A single drop of the man's blood falls from Loki's dagger, triggering an earthquake that causes the island to sink.

Erik's crew, joined by Aud, prepare to escape in their ship with the Horn safely aboard, but Arnulf refuses to join them, denying that the island is sinking up to the very moment he and the other islanders are swallowed by the waves. Aud, who witnessed Snorri's murder and was able to recover the mouthpiece, sounds the first note on the Horn. The ship is propelled over the edge of the flat Earth and into space, coming to rest upon the plane of Asgard. Erik sounds the second note to awaken the gods, and he and his crew climb a path made of stars to approach the great Hall of Valhalla.

Erik and the crew encounter old friends and enemies slain in battle. The gods are revealed to be petulant children who have no interest in answering mortal prayers. Harald the missionary sees neither hall, nor ghosts or gods, and passes intangibly through its walls due to his Christianity. Odin persuades Fenrir to spit out the sun, but tells Erik that the end of Ragnarök will not bring peace to the world. Odin then informs Erik that he and his crew can neither return home, nor may they remain in Valhalla, since they were not slain in battle; instead they are to be cast into the fiery Pit of Hel. Some of the crew who died earlier in the adventure attempt to save them, but even as they are drawn into the Pit, they hear the Horn Resounding's third note, blown by Harald who had returned to the ship, which flings them clear.

Erik's crew, including the formerly dead men, immediately find themselves back in their home village. They are dismayed to find that Halfdan and his soldiers have arrived before them and are holding the villagers captive. Halfdan and his men are suddenly crushed to death by Erik's ship as it falls out of the sky with Harald aboard. As the villagers celebrate Erik's return and Halfdan's defeat, the sun rises, ending the age of Ragnarök.



Principal photography took place at Shepperton Studios. Some footage of Erik's village and environments was shot in Norway, while the Hy-Brasil sequence was filmed in Malta. Artwork was made by Tolkien artist Alan Lee.

Amadeus star Tom Hulce was originally going to star as Erik, but he decided instead to pursue his stage career.

The production by the Monty Python company Prominent Features received financial backing from Swedish Svensk Filmindustri, which contributed to the film having its premiere in Sweden on 1 September 1989, followed by the US on 22 September, and the UK on 29 September. On cinema it had a running time of 107 minutes,[1][2] but unhappy with the film's slow pacing, Jones cut it down to 89 minutes for the VHS release the following year.[6]

In 2006 Jones was given the opportunity of re-editing the film for its DVD release. He delegated the actual editing work to his son Bill, who produced a 75-minute[7] "Director's Son's Cut", with re-ordered scenes and much tighter pacing as well as a completely remixed and re-dubbed soundtrack.

A video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System was in development by Eurocom and was to be published by Video System but was cancelled before release.[8]


Erik the Viking currently holds a 47% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[9]


  1. ^ a b BBFC: Erik the Viking 1989 Retrieved 2013-03-05
  2. ^ a b The Swedish Film Database: Erik the Viking Retrieved 2013-03-05
  3. ^ Erik the Viking at Box Office Mojo
  4. ^ Willman, Chris (1 November 1989). "'Viking' Fumbles With Too Few Laughs". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  5. ^ Jones, Terry (1989). Erik the Viking: the Screenplay. New York: Applause Theatre Book Publishers. ISBN 1-55783-054-1.
  6. ^ BBFC: Erik the Viking 1990 Retrieved 2013-03-05
  7. ^ BBFC: Erik the Viking 2006 Retrieved 2013-03-05
  8. ^ Caoili, Eric (15 July 2009). "Eurocom's Mystery Terry Jones NES Game: Erik the Viking". GameSetWatch. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Erik the Viking (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 October 2016

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