"I drink to your safe return in English ale. I wish that it were English blood."
Description: Kirk Douglas as Einar the viking drinks a toast to King Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine) who has returned from pillaging the English countryside in the motion picture The Vikings (1958).
Einar is the son of King Ragnar. He is handsome, lusty and a deadly warrior. When Ragnar returns to his village with Lord Egbert, a map maker who has provided Ragnar with detailed drawings of the coastline for his raids, he introduces his son. "This is Einar, my only son in wedlock. He's so vain of his beauty, he won't let a man's beard hide it. He scrapes his face like an Englishman." Then, with much pride, Ragnar pounds his chest, and proclaims, "What man ever had a finer son? Odin could have sired him, but I did!"
Prince Einar's life soon changes when he accuses a slave named Eric (Tony Curtis) of stealing a hunting hawk, which he did not. When Einar pushes Eric to the ground, Eric gives his bird a kill command and the bird disfigures Einar leaving a jagged scars down his face and a milky-white blind eye.
Later, at a viking banquet, Eric is paraded in front of Ragnar for punishment. "Look how he glares a t me. If he wasn't fathered by a black ram in the full of the moon, my name in not Ragnar."
Turning to Lord Egbert, Ragnar inquires, "What would you do with him in your country?" Lord Egbert modestly replies, "We have a special reward that is rather entertaining in a noisy way." Ragnar questions, "What's that?" Egbert responds, "It's nothing much. It's just a pit full of wolves, half-mad with starvation and trained to appreciate the flavor of human blood." Ragnar shouts, "Ahh, you see? The English are civilized!"
Ragnar says, "Well, he was a good slave. Make his death quick," but Einar has other plans, and says, "The sun will cross the sky a thousand times before he dies, and you'll wish a thousand times that you were dead." Einar rips a stone pendant from Eric's neck and tosses in on the ground, which Egbert retrieves.
Suddenly, Kitala (Eileen Way), the village shaman rattles her metal chains, and warns, "You can't kill the slave." Ragnar asks, "What do the Runes say?" Kitala throws the wooden Runes pieces on the ground, and concludes, "If Odin wills that Eric should die, then Thor's hammer would sound his death nell. But the skies are silent. The curse of Odin waits on him who kills the slave."
Cleverly reasoning the situation, Ragnar decides, "Then no MAN shall kill him. Let the tide of the sea do it. Bind him. Cast him in the slop pool at low tide." Again Kitala protests, "You'll not kill him, but you throw him into the slop pool to be drowned and eaten by crabs." Ragnar growls, "Then let the crabs be cursed by Odin. That's my decision."
Eric is taken to the slop pool and tied to a stake as the sea rolls in and the crabs in the waters approach to feed on his flesh. Imploring the Gods, Kitala looks to the sky and pleads, "Odin! Send a wind and turn back the tide!"
Back at the feast Lord Egbert asks King Ragnar what happens if Eric survives the ordeal? Laughing, Ragnar replies, "If he's still alive the the tide turns then any fool that fishes him out can have him."
Shortly after Kitala petitioned the Gods, a blast of wind blows open the door of the banquet hall signaling a message that the tides are reversing. Egbert goes to the tide pool and retrieves Eric as his own slave.
Egbert has a good reason for helping Eric for he is Ragnar's illegitimate son, born of a rape when Ragnar killed King Edwin and raped his wife, Queen Enid (Maxine Audley) twenty years earlier. The pendant (the pummel stone of the royal sword Requiter) that Eric's had since the vikings adopted the boy years ago, revealed his royal lineage to a noble family in England.
To protect Eric, ("He's the son of a barbarian but I love him as if he was Edwin's child") Queen Enid sent her newborn son to Italy, but the boy was taken in a viking raid. Unbeknownst to Eric he is the rightful air to the throne of Northumbria in Britain, now controlled by King Aella (Frank Thring), who became King upon the death of his cousin, King Edwin. Egbert is no friend of Aella, who was about to have him killed before he escaped and sought safe passage with King Ragnar. And so Egbert bides his time until he can use the information to his best advantage.
After Einar kidnaps Welsh Princess Morgana, the betrothed of King Aella, and holds her for ransom, he falls under her spell, but she will have nothing to do with him. "She said she would kill herself if I touched her," he laments to Ragnar. "Ah they all say that. What they mean is they'll kill themselves if you don't," he replies.
Drunk from the mead served at the banquet, Einar returns to the Princess, who says, " If you touch me. I'll kill myself. Einar replies, "There's a sword to do it with. Because I'm going to touch you. Come on! Kick! Bite! Scratch! Come on!" But Morgana gives him no passion, saying, "I will not lift one finger to resist you."
Before Einar has his way with the Princess, Eric arrives and knocks him out. Then Eric, Morgana and Kitala steal a boat and escape to England. Einar recovers from the attack, and with his father, Ragnar, they pursue the Princess in long boats, but in the fog, Ragnar's ship runs aground and Einar believes his father dead.
Eric saves Ragnar from a watery grave, and then using a compass made of mysterious metal, guides his boat to England where he is sentenced to death by King Aella, who orders him thrown into a pit of starving wolves.
His arms bound, Ragnar stands upon the precipice of the pit. "I claim the right of a Viking to die with a sword in my hand." Aella replies, "And I deny you that right. Go ahead push him in." Ragar turns to Eric, and says, "Would deny me the right to enter Valhalla?" Against the King's wishes, Eric cuts Ragnar's bonds and gives him a sword. Ragnar then shouts, "Odin!" and bravely jumps into the wolf pit.
The King is outraged at Eric's actions. "You have dared to defy a king. You shall join Ragnar in the pit. I want all here to see the reward for such defiance." Aella's anger is fueled by the fact that Morgana now loves the slave.
A member of the clergy, who knows Eric is the rightful King asks for mercy, but Aella persists, saying, "But if a common slave can rob me of a queen, and slay an enemy too cunning for a whole nation to defeat, then the day will come when he will be a deadlier foe to England that Ragnar ever was. With or without God's sanction I tell you as your king this can not be."
Fearing for Eric's life, Morgana steps forward and promises to fulfill her pledge as the King's betrothed in exchange for Eric's life. Although, Aella promises to spare Eric, the orders, "Hold out the hand that has defied me." He then cuts off Eric's left hand and tells those in attendance, "Let this serve as a lesson for all vikings. Take him to his ship and cast him adrift."
Eric manages to return to Ragnar's village, informs them how Ragnar died, and negotiates a truce with Einar so they can both rescue the Princess. The vikings successfully storm Aella's castle where upon Eric pushes Aella into the wolf pit and Einar finds the Princess in the Tower chapel. But Morgana refuses his love, and tells him "I hate you. It's Eric I love." Grabbing her wrist, Einar declares, "If I can't have your love, I'll take your hate."
Morgana pleads for Eric's life, revealing that Eric is Einar's half-brother, but Einar will not listen and the two men begin a deadly sword fight on the battlements of the castle.
At one point, Einar has the upper hand, but he pauses when he begins to believe that Eric may be his brother. In that moment, Eric stabs Einar with the remains of his broken sword. Dying, Einar reaches for his fallen weapon. Eric, who still does not know that Einar is his brother, hands the blade to the dying warrior. With sword in hand, Einar stands one last time, shouts, "Odin! and falls dead to the ground.
In the tradition of a viking funeral, Einar is placed aboard a long boat that is set afire and left to sail out to sea as it takes Einar's body to Valhalla where he can greet his father Ragnar and all the other fallen warriors who reside with Odin in the world beyond the living.