“I hope that someday, our gods can become friends,” Ragnar told Athelstan after he confessed to seeing Jesus in the gentle drops of rain and Thor in the roar of thunder. He was a conflicted man that was no longer sure about which faith to subscribe to. His problems with faith didn’t affect Athelstan’s treatment of people though.
He was the long-awaited bridge between Vikings and Saxons whom both sides loved and respected. Both Ragnar and Ecbert loved Athelstan, but neither of them got to keep him. Hate overwhelmed love in the end, and Floki killed the innocent monk who still went down as one of the most lovable characters in Vikings. So what made Athelstan so special?
Making friends is the one thing Athelstan never stopped doing throughout the show. He managed to make friends wherever he went. Athelstan begged for Ragnar to spare his life as the Danes attacked the Lindisfarne monastery, only to drunkenly tell him the location of the other Christian towns he could raid moments later.
When he came to Kattegat, Athelstan created a bond with Gyda and Bjorn and became the parent they needed while their father and mother raided England. He also managed to change both Ecbert and Ragnar’s feelings towards him and even made friends with both of them, becoming the guy everyone went to when they needed to understand themselves.
Floki killed Athelstan for being a Christian, but who is to blame for that? Athelstan was loved on both sides of the divide because he enjoyed being a Christian and being a Dane at the same time. Now, this was impossible in Vikings with all that hate flying around. At one point, he would have had to choose a side and stick with it if he was to survive.
While in Wessex, he started a romance with Judith, which he knew could result in death if anyone discovered it. Then while aware of the hatred that Rollo and Floki had for him, decided to come back to Kattegat with Ragnar. He never accepted the reality of the situation, which was that he had to choose a side if he was to survive.
The only people Athelstan betrayed throughout his time on the show are the deities on both sides of the divide. While he was Ragnar’s slave, he considered him family and was even willing to deny Jesus to be sacrificed for the sake of Ragnar.
It is not clear how he came to love Ragnar so much, but he remained loyal to him even when he was back in England. He even saved Rollo, one of the Vikings that never liked him personally. Then when Ecbert took him into his service, he remained equally loyal and was committed to establishing a peaceful existence between the two distant families he now had.