'Vikings' shieldmaiden inspired by namesake Astrid Kirchherr who photographed the Beatles, says Josefin Asplund
The German photographer was the first woman to have photographed the Fab Four
If you have been a “Vikings” fan, you couldn’t have missed Astrid. But did you know, Astrid never existed in the real Viking era? Rather, the show’s creator, Michael Hirst derived her from the legendary German photographer, Astrid Kirchherr, who is recognized as the first woman to have photographed the Fab Four.
In an exclusive interview with Josefin Asplund, who played Astrid in 'Vikings', we discovered how Hirst, the man behind of the hit History channel show, connected the modern woman to the Nordic shieldmaiden.
Astrid (Josefin Asplund) was a shieldmaiden, queen of Vestfold and Rogaland (in historical Norway), lover and third-in-command to Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick). Her character was introduced in the second half of Season 4 of ‘Vikings’, as a member of Lagertha’s court in Hedeby, where the queen trained the young and newbie warrior in arts of war and arts of love, and turned her into a formidable shieldmaiden. She was later kidnapped by King Harald Finehair (Peter Franzen) and was forcibly married to him before she met her tragic demise.
Astrid, as her journey depicts, was one of the most powerful female characters on the show and it is only natural for one to assume that it befits the Viking culture and the Nordic legends. When we posed the question to Asplund about how she felt about her character and how it represented the emancipated woman of its era, she walked us through the origin of Astrid.
“There is no character of Astrid in the original story. She was inspired by the real character, Astrid Kirchherr, and she’s a German photographer. She used to photograph the Beatles in the sixties and the seventies and hung out with them. And Michael is a huge fan of the Beatles and is inspired by her. He took the little stories from the 70s and then put her in the Viking period,” Asplund explained.
Even the look of Astrid was extracted from how Kirchherr styled herself in those days with short, pixie cut hair, only more grungy to suit the Viking culture.
Astrid Kirchherr was the first woman who could be attributed to the initial success the boys achieved as singers and being the original “boy band”, as well as the one behind their famous “moptops”. It was in 1962 before Ringo Starr joined the Beatles and Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best were a part of the band.
It so happened that Kirchherr, first stumbled upon them in her hometown, Hamburg, where she heard them singing at a club. She approached them for a group photo and later took them to a local fairground, where she shot their first-ever group photo. And thus, she became very close to the band and instrumental in their publicity. Kirchherr was also the first one to cut their hair and style them with the moptops which would later become the hottest trend of those decades, for young men across the world. The style, in fact, was inspired by local German boys, Kirchherr grew up observing.
If you look up Kirchherr, you will land at some of the most incredible photoshoots of the Fab Four in their early days. Her photograph collection is preserved in the book 'Astrid Kirchherr with The Beatles', which explores her relationship with the Beatles, her influence on the band’s image and her special chemistry with the “Fifth Beatle”, Sutcliffe.
And thus, a modern cultural icon got weaved into a fictional character, which speaks volumes of a historical community.
‘Vikings’ final season (Season 6) is now on its midseason break but will be back with its last few episodes by end of 2020. Stay tuned for more such interesting trivia and updates on the History channel’s hit historical drama.