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Manga / Vinland Saga

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"A true warrior needs no blade."

A manga series created by Makoto Yukimura, author of Planetes. Vinland Saga was started in 2005, and follows a series of adventures during the age of the Vikings.

Taking place in the 11th century, the story chronicles the life of Thorfinn Thorsson, an Icelandic boy who becomes a warrior to avenge his father's death. He does so by dogging the heels of his father's killer, Askeladd, by fighting in Askeladd's band. But it's not some story of deception. Askeladd is aware that Thorfinn wants to kill him, and he gleefully uses this information to manipulate the boy into doing his bidding in exchange for a one-on-one duel.

As we follow Thorfinn around, the story expands to the Danes' pacification of England of the early eleventh century and the rise to power of King Canute. The first 8 volumes center on Thorfinn as a revenge-obsessed teenager, before a Time Skip into his life as a young adult facing a different kind of struggle.


Ultimately the series has a lot of brutal (but fun!) battles. It's also fairly accurate about viking culture, so it teaches you stuff while you read (yes, it's that awesome). It's also got some pretty snappy dialogue and humorous little exchanges between characters both major and minor.

It's a Historical Fiction retelling of the classical Viking sagas known as The Vinland Sagas, although focusing on Thorfinn Karlsefni rather than on Leif "The Lucky" Erikson.

The series is licensed in English by Kodansha Comics USA, with nine omnibus volumes being released and a tenth confirmed to be published later in summer 2018, bringing the series up-to-date with the Japanese release.

A 24-episode anime series, covering the manga's first arc, was announced in 2018 and released on July 7th, 2019. It is animated by WIT Studio with supplemental animation by studio MAPPA.


This series provides examples of:

  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Ketil's 'guests' eventually convince Olmar into believing in this trope. It's deconstructed: Not only is his attempts to cut down slaves 'to become a man' a miserable failure he can't go through on, but when he actually ends up killing a man in a fixed duel he becomes horrified, beginning his Character Development.
  • Action Girl:
    • In a Canon omake, Ylva fantasizes about becoming a badass pirate queen. The fact that she eagerly joins in on the occasional whale hunt proves she's no tender maid.
    • Hild is a bear hunter/trapper by trade.
  • Action Prologue: Both manga and anime opens on an action scene, though a different one: The manga opens with Askeladd's band aiding the Franks, while the anime opens with a Flash Back of Thors' defection from the Jomsvikings during the Battle of Hjorunga Bay.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Episode 4-6 of the anime is original content showing Thorfinn's first few months with Askeladd's band.
    • A minor example, but Thorgrimm and Alti, two Mauve Shirt brothers of Askeladd's band appear during the band's very first scene in the anime, they don't appear in the manga til later.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: invoked In Thorfinn's nightmare, Valhalla is depicted as an never-ending battleground for the "glorious dead." The aforementioned dead people are rotting away and there is nothing glorious about it at all.
  • Amazonian Beauty: After looking like a typical teenage girl in the prologue (albeit one who does homestead labor everyday), Ylva has bulked up considerably when she reappears after the Time Skip, having had to support her family basically by herself for years. It could also be Thors's genes showing. Downplayed, as she doesn't fight except for roughhousing with Thorfinn. Around the time the anime started airing, she appears again with her bulk dialed back a little, but then she starts wearing full armor anticipating a feud and she looks like a legit Jomsviking.
  • Anchored Ship: Thorfinn and Gudrid get married at some point during their journey to Constantinople, with the official celebration being held once they returned to Iceland. This ship was arguably anchored from the very beginning, as the two of them were also married in real life.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted, arrows are often used to great effect - sometimes to the point of exaggeration (albeit in the earliest chapters) where crossbows can smash shields into pieces, unlike with regular bows.
  • Anti-Hero: Thorfinn, the main character, who spends the first arc as bloodthirsty and vengeance-driven and motivated by a personal vendetta. Later chapters sees him grow out of the role into a genuinely heroic figure seeking to atone for his violent past.
  • The Anti-Nihilist: Since God won't save the world, Canute will do it himself.
  • Anyone Can Die: Only Thorfinn is left in the story out of all the characters from the opening chapters. It's safe to say that any character that doesn't have a historical basis, and even some that do, will meet a grisly end.
  • Arc Words: Once per story, expect someone to utter the words "somewhere not here."
  • Armor Is Useless: Zigzagged. In one fight, Askeladd gets struck in the back with an axe, with his armor being the only thing between it being a painful blow and a fatal one. Askeladd the proceeds to split his attacker's head in half vertically despite the latter wearing a helmet. However, the act clearly unnerves the rest of his attackers.
  • Art Evolution: When it changed from being a weekly Shonen to a monthly Seinen, the art became more detailed and a few of the character designs were tweaked as well, most notably with Bjorn.
  • Artistic License – History: The story has many historical characters and generally has a nice sense of the "feel" of the era, but is not very accurate to the specifics of real history.
    • For instance, the great explorer Thorfinn didn't join a band of vikings at the age of 6 to avenge his father's murder, followed by being sold into slavery for a good 8 years before beginning his expedition.
    • Likewise, his father wasn't a Jomsviking and his grand uncle wasn't Thorkell the High. He may have been descended from the semi-legendary Bjorn Ironside, though.
    • And Canute's rise to the throne presumably was not so dramatic as having his father assassinated by a descendant of Artorius, the figure King Arthur is based on.
    • The extent that the Welsh keep to their old Roman identity and culture (since they were formerly Romano-British under the Western empire) is exaggerated for dramatic reasons. Also the Welsh Roman past and present as depicted falls victim to Hollywood History with their dress, technology and even naming conventions being centuries out of date, such that they would not look too out of place alongside the Romans of Asterix. Granted, they're supposed to be deliberately out of sync with the world around them.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted altogether for the most part, with only two minor exceptions.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The priest plays with this. Many vikings are intimidated by his words, but he never got his point through. The main reason is that he doesn't know the answer.
    Viking: I would defend my brother to death!
    Priest: Would you do that for anyone?
    Viking: I don't know.
    Priest: Neither do I.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap:
    • After Ragnar's death, Canute flips out, not wanting to leave without his body. Askeladd gives him one of these and he shuts right up.
    • Thorfinn had to do this, more like a Wake Up Punch, on Einar to stop him from taking revenge after Arnheid's death.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Downplayed example; Thorfinn is depicted as standing alone on a battlefield full of corpses in the anime intro.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: After Askeladd kills King Sweyn, Canute kills Askeladd, as part of a plan to transfer control of the Danish army and kingdom to Canute. Thorfinn, being hugely upset to learn that he has been robbed of the chance to avenge himself on Askeladd, launches an attack on Canute but only manages to slash Canute's face. Canute, declaring that someone must take control of the situation, picks up the fallen crown from the floor and crowns himself, all the while bleeding profusely from his face. Friggin' awesome. Anyone else see the pun?
  • Badass Army: The Jomsvikings. While the other vikings are mostly pirates, these men are an elite mercenary army. They even go for The Faceless look, always wearing their eye covering helmets and their cloaks covering their lower faces.
  • Bastard Bastard: Askeladd.
  • Badass Boast: When facing off against Thorkell the second time, Thorkell tells Thorfinn that if he wants to hear more about his father, he'll have to keep fighting him. Thorfinn responds by telling Thorkell he's okay with that, but Thorkell might not be in any condition to speak after they duel. Strangely enough, this isn't an actual boast on Thorfinn's part- it's a statement of fact.
    • In the same battle Askeladd mutters "To think the day would come that I, Askeladd, would be unable to escape from just 50 men," while standing on a mound of corpses.
    • Thorfinn later delivers a boast to a group of armed and armoured vikings who are trying to kill him while he's alone, surrounded and unarmed, telling them that all their fancy weapons and armour doesn't make them strong — it just makes the vikings too slow to hit him. He then goes on to prove it.
    • He makes a rare boast playing up his past as the legendary Thorfinn Karlsfeni to Garm when he finally decides to properly fight him instead of just deflecting all his attacks. Said boast is that he can beat Garm bare-handed without killing Garm since he has much more combat experience than Garm.
  • Badass Bookworm: Hild.
  • Beard of Sorrow:
    • Thorfinn obtains one in arc 2 after the death of Askeladd. And the worst part is that he is not old enough to grow a full beard.)
    • The priest who accompanies Canute in arc 1 also wears a really bushy beard, as a result of his revelations about religion concluding that the world is Hell and that God is not going to make things better, ever. Once he finds someone willing to accept his views and has the power to do something about it, he takes a thorough shave and looks decades younger, being only 23.
  • Berserk Button: Do not threaten Wales while in the same room as Askeladd. Or mention his mother.
  • The Berserker: Bjorn is a real bärsärk and uses a mushroom to achieve this state.
  • The Blacksmith: Thors becomes an apprentice blacksmith in Iceland. He's not very good at it.
  • Blood Knight: Thorkell fits this trope to a t, going so far as to betray his countrymen for the sake of a decent battle. He even looks like a danish Kenpachi.
    • Thorgill is a bit less insane and more serious, but he sure loves to fight. And when he does, it's just as messy.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Thorkell, and how. Just make sure you don't disappoint him.
  • Boisterous Weakling: Olmar, through and through. Though ironically he is much less boisterous since he actually killed a man for the first time.
  • Bold Explorer: Leif the Lucky is the man who found Vinland, though he's now old and retired.
  • Break the Cutie: In Thorfinn's case, it'd be more accurate to call it curb stomp the cutie.
    • Anne, in record time too! And, to an extent, Canute.
    • Hild.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Askeladd invokes this in a duel against Thorfinn, claims that the slaying of Thorfinn's father Thors doesn't particularly stick out in his mind, since he has killed so many other people. But it's clear he's just baiting Thorfinn and remembers that day perfectly well.
  • Call-Back: In the sixth chapter, Thors tells his young and eager-to-go-to-war son, who has told him that he wants a weapon to kill "enemies", that he has no enemies. Thorfinn repeats the line verbatim some fifteen years and many chapters later, having come to the same conclusions as his father in the meantime.
    • During his fight with Garm, Thorfinn uses a combat move that Askeladd used on him during their final duel years earlier. The shot composition is nearly exactly the same.
  • Call-Forward: The final episode of the first season of the anime ends with shots of Hild, Gudrid, and Einar at wherever they were during the events of the episode, Hild travelling with the man who saved her and taught her to hunt, Gudrid on a beach, and Einar on a slaver ship.
  • Celibate Hero: Thorfinn is far too busy being moody to sleep with anyone. Askeladd as well, seeing how he never seems to care much or find time for sleeping with anyone. Not to mention how disgusted and hateful he was towards the vikings from his past, whom he considered "filthy" and "moronic," who care about "base desires" (read: sex). His final actions might qualify him.
  • Character Development: Multiple examples. Thorfinn spends most of the second arc undergoing major character development from the sullen stoic he was in the first arc to something closer to his father, while the first arc is mostly devoted to how Canute turns into a proper king and subsequently into an even better one at the end of the second arc.
  • Cheerful Child: Thorfinn used to be a sweet kid, though even then he showed aspects of his eventual Screaming Warrior nature.
  • Clean Cut: Askeladd sends his men into shock when he slices a guy (helmet and all) in two. Not with an absurdly sharp blade either.
  • Cooldown Hug Canute does one to Bjorn in chapter 39. Naturally becomes an Interrupted Cooldown Hug.
  • Cool Old Guy: Lief the Lucky, Askeladd and Thorkell are very cool old guys.
  • Cool Sword: Snake atypically wields an imported scimitar.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Thorfinn in chapter 83
  • Covers Always Lie: One cover for an issue of Afternoon, the magazine which the series runs in, features Thorfinn sporting an armor strikingly similar to the one his father wore back in the days, still Thorfinn never wore such armor in the series till then and not once in the whole "prologue" arc; given his later development it could be seen as a foreshadowing, but no, the Thorfinn on that cover is the earlier revenge bent version of him, and his development would strike dozens of chapters later; the safest bet is it that cover was just for promotional purposes.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Happens on occasion, usually as a result of the wrong mook picking a fight with a named character. An army-based one is the centrepiece of the second arc, pitting farmhands against professional warriors.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: Also happens on occasion, showcasing that even when a battle looks like a done deal the 'loser' may still get a lucky blow. Thorfinn's first battle against Thorkell is one example: Despite being thoroughly trounced by the bigger and more experienced fighter Thorfinn escapes relatively intact and takes off two of Thorkell's fingers.
  • Decadent Court: Sweyn Forkbeard's court.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Askeladd, and Thorfinn to a degree.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Askeladd is presented with 2 choices, both of which he hates, so he Takes a Third Option that requires his death.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Played with. Thorfinn is the initial focus character, but the story is initially more about Askeladd and Canute, with Thorfinn mainly just staying in the background angrily waiting for his chance to kill the former. However, once Askeladd sacrifices himself so that Canute can be crowned king and Thorfinn is sold into slavery, Thorfinn firmly becomes the protagonist.
    • The promotional material for the anime makes it seem like Thors will be the protagonist, and due to the anime moving the France campaign chapter (aka the opening chapter) to where it is chronologically, we don't know from the start that Thors is going to die.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Once Thorfinn has brought Thorkell down (removing his eye in the process), Canute (who Askeladd uses to further his plans) comes in and rallies everybody to his cause.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Though many of the protagonists have (or gain) more modern morals, they aren't ones widely shared:
    • The topic of slavery is brought up several times, and Ylva complains about wanting some as if she's just asking for new clothes. Thors might have had different views on human ownership, but in The Viking Age, slavery was common.
    • In chapter 20, Thorfinn is interrupted from his sleep in a barn when some of his comrades bring in an English woman, ready to rape her. We'd expect Thorfinn to do something... but all he does is walk out in disgust. But hey, it's a story about Vikings.
    • The topic of Cycle of Revenge and Revenge Before Reason is brought up multiple times and seen as natural: In the viking age, having family members killed required you to seek revenge by slaying the killer or their family back. Thors and later, Thorfinn) are considered oddballs for their intent on breaking this mode of thinking.
  • The Determinator: Thorkell and Thorfinn. Thorfinn in his pursuit of revenge. Thorkell, for fun.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Ari towards Ylva. One Time Skip later, success!
    • Einar seems to have set his eyes in the wrong woman too.
  • The Dragon:
    • Bjorn serves as Askeladd's right hand man.
    • Floki of the Jolmsviking serves as one of sorts to King Sweyn.
  • Drunk with Power: Sveyn Forkbeard gives a long monologue on the nature of power and The Chains of Commanding that comes with ruling, treating the crown he wears as a curse that makes the wearer want to get more power. After becoming king, Canute becomes just as bad as his father.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: When Canute first appears he's mistaken for a woman by the main characters. Thorfinn gives him the derogatory nickname of 'Princess'. Adds a whole new layer of (unintentional) subtext between them, though it's meant as an insult.
    • A very severe one, point of fact, to the degree that they'd be fighting words to almost anyone else — Warrior cultures take manliness very seriously.
    • An actual lady is used as a body double, and because of her, people suspect that Prince Canute really is a lady.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: While he's dreaming about the fifth circle of hell, Thorfinn almost gets dragged down into the battlefield by all the men he's killed.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first chapter involved a general who was comically fat and overweight and stood out pretty heavily against all the other realistically drawn characters. Since then everyone has had generally realistic body proportions.
  • Elite Mooks: The Jomsvikings. So far, only named characters have survived battling them, let alone killing one.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Coinciding with his Rage Against the Heavens moment, when Canute listens to Willibard's explanation of love, he quickly gets what he is supposed to be doing with his life and starts ordering people around.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Askeladd loves his mother so much that when he swears on her name, he means it. When he swears on his father's name, however...
  • Evil Plan: Askeladd's plot to take control of the throne.
  • Evil Uncle: Given the Black-and-Gray Morality of the series, it's more Kill-Happy great-uncle ( Thorkell to Thorfinn).
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In his first appearance, Thorfinn has unkempt hair befitting his anger and surliness. In a flashback, a younger, innocent and happy Thorfinn has neat and shorter hair. With the Time Skip into the Farmland Saga, his hair gets longer and stays unkempt until he makes a friend, after which he ties it up. When Thorfinn finally returns home after the Farmland Saga ends, Ylva gives him a haircut and shave against his wishes. The last time his hair was that short was in the aforementioned flashback, and now he's finally taking steps to go to Vinland.
  • Expy: Several characters in the manga bear resemblances to ones from Berserk. The fact that both series have very similar art styles further enhances this.
    • First off, Thorfinn is quite close personality-wise to Pre-Eclipse Guts, though they quickly diverge post-timeskip.
    • Canute, once he becomes king, cleaves very close to Griffith in character, appearance, and ambition. This also makes him a Char Clone. Again, the two end up diverging pretty rapidly.
    • Thorkell strongly resembles Nosferatu Zodd. Both are massive men with a love of combat who consider the protagonist a Worthy Opponent and eventually start working for Canute/Griffith. The only thing differentiating the two is that Thorkell is unable to turn into a massive, Minotaur-like monster at will.
  • Eye Scream: Frequently. At least two major characters have had eyes removed in battle and both survived without bleeding out.
  • Fan Disservice: The few instances of female nudity (including nipples) are always in unsavory situations, as the women are sex slaves, dying or about to be killed. The closest it has ever gotten to straight Fanservice is when Gudrid is being bathed, but even then her bits are tastefully hidden and it's for an arranged marriage she really does not want.
  • Fallen Princess: Askeladd's mother fell hard.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: When Thorfinn gets injured during a mission in England, he gets nursed back to health by an English woman and her daughter. The mother was particularly set on taking care of Thorfinn because he reminded her of her deceased son, even though they knew that he was a viking. Later, Thorfinn sends a signal to Askeladd and the other vikings to raze the place. However, Thorfinn did tell the woman to get away, but the damage had already been dealt to her. One of the few times that we see a glimpse of remorse from Thorfinn.
  • Fingore: Thorfinn cuts the first joints off two of Thorkell's fingers. Askeladd clips off fingers of an English officer to make him talk and whenever there's a battle, there are severed hands and fingers flying in the background.
  • Flash Step: Thorfinn's preferred method of short-range transportation.
  • Foregone Conclusion: History teaches us that Canute will end up as king — but then again the story up to that point was apparently only the prologue.
    • Also vikings did not live for long on Vinland since a conflict with the locals drove them out. Meaning that even there Thorfinn will only find conflict. The Norse colonies on Greenland also disappeared during the Little Ice Age in the 14th-15th century (who are believed to have gotten wood from logging on the Newfoundland coast), wiping out the last Norse contact with the New World.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Askeladd remarks early on that a man with a gut wound won't last the night later this fate befalls Bjorn.
    • Early in his life, Thorfinn witnesses his father telling a dying slave about the story of Vinland. When he later meets a dying slave himself, he asks himself if there are any words he can tell her...
  • For the Evulz: Though in the context of the series, he's not actually all that evil (in fact coming off as a lot less horrible than guys like Askeladd), there's no denying that all Thorkell wants to do is kill people because it's fun. By most other series' standards that behavior would be considered Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Funny Background Event: In a tavern where Thorkell and one of his men are discussing what to do next, his vikings are holding a Bar Brawl and Food Fight, with scenes like a naked man dancing on a table and "Hey! Whose ear is this?"
  • Frame-Up: Canute has this done to Ketil and his son, to take over his farm, who is one of the most prosperous in the region.
  • Gallows Humor: Lots and lots of it.
  • Generation Xerox: Canute ends up practically becoming his father, which his hallucinations/father's ghost ends up lampshading. It's foreshadowed and implied that Thorfinn may end up like his own father as well.
  • Genre Deconstruction: To anyone who's actually read them, it's easy to see how Vinland Saga series deconstructs the classical Icelandic Sagas by looking at the values of the time through a modern lens. Things that would be described as laudable or commonplace in the sagas are here seen as moral evils. Pacifism, humility, humanism and the ability to break a Cycle of Revenge are decried by the setting's society even though it's shown as the "right" thing to do, people aren't always fated to follow in their parents' footsteps and that's a good thing, and people who act like the stereotypical saga hero are usually seen as villainous or highly destructive. Though given the fate of your average saga hero, Vinland Saga isn't threading new ground on the latter part.
  • Genre Shift: The series had Family-Unfriendly Violence since chapter one to obviously be taken as part of the seinen demographic, oddly enough it started its serialization on Weekly Shonen Magazine (yeah, right along with a friendly series such as Fairy Tail), then it moved to Morning Two an actual seinen magazine but it wasn't a magazine popular enough to house Vinland Saga's impending success, the series finally found its place in Afternoon a popular seinen magazine which housed/houses many popular works and coincidentally is also serializing another historical epic, Historie
    • The post-Prologue arc, which has earned itself the title of "Best Farming Manga" or "Farmland Saga" among fans.
      • The irony is that vinland means farmland so the fan nickname is a proper translation of the manga's title.
  • Gonk: The Frankish King at the start and the tracker Ears later on.
    • Averted, to an extent, with characters like Thorkell. Due to the mangaka's realistic style, characters don't have to have exaggerated features to be ugly.
  • Grass Is Greener: In Vinland, apparently.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: For some characters, their eye size change along with their character development: Cheerful Child Thorfinn had big innocent eyes, hellbent on revenge Thorfinn had narrow slits most of the time and spiritually awakened slave Thornfinn has big ol' idealistic eyes again.
    • Canute's eyes however are getting narrower and narrower.
  • Good Old Ways: Legatus clings stubbornly to the Roman traditions, while Thorkell lives like it's still seven hundred AD.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: No one is a clear cut hero or villain. While Thorfinn is currently making his best effort to be good, he recognizes that he has already caused enough pain and suffering for three lifetimes and he still feels the urges to go back to violence and killing.
  • Hell Is War: The place Thorfinn falls to in in his nightmare and where he meets Askeladd appears to be the fifth circle of hell, where the wrathful are condemned to spar with each other for eternity. It's a horrible swampy battlefield where warriors continually strike each other down, sink down into the murk, and then reemerge back in one piece.
  • Hero Antagonist: In the Black and Black morality of Vinland Saga it's hard to call anyone a 'hero' but Thorkell's motivations are much more simply and his deeds much less villainous than many other characters. Really, all he wants to do is chop people into tiny pieces!
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Askeladd, in order to save both Canute and Wales.
    • Which is made all the more ironic that he of all people (who was previously considered a completely evil bastard) would end up becoming a martyr that saves an entire country.
  • Heroic BSoD: Thorfinn, after Askeladd dies.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: When he first begins working for Askelaad, Thorfinn tries to warn a family to flee before the vikings come for them. By the time of the main story, he doesn't even raise an eyebrow when Askelaad's crew slaughters an entire village.
  • Hidden Disdain Reveal: Askeladd's men turn against him to save their own hides against an army they could never defeat. Askeladd returns them this message:
    Askeladd: You all and I have been together for a long time, up until this day. We laughed together, drank together, found our way out of many hellholes together. And I never told any of you about this, but for the last ten years we've been together I hated every single last one of you.
  • Historical Fiction: The story of Canute follows quite closely the life of the actual historic king, but takes very great liberties with the details. However, many of the battles actually did take place. There's also the incident where he told the waves to cease, to prove that he was not God.
    • Vinland Saga is a rare case of fiction that differentiates between Vikings (namely the warriors/pirates who set out for adventure and plunder) and the lands Vikings come from (the Scandinavian nations such as Denmark). Usually the word Viking is used as a blanket term for all these people.
  • Historical Domain Character: Obviously Canute, his elder brother Harald, and their father Sweyn. Surprisingly, there was also an actual Thorkell the Tall who fought for the English but joined Canute after the death of his brother Henning, who had been a childhood mentor to Canute, just like Ragnar in the manga. Though their actual existance is disputed, Thorkell was reportedly a commander of the Jomsvikings.
  • How Dare You Die on Me! Thorfinn shouts this at Askeladd as he is dying.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Canute as of late.
  • Important Haircut: Thorfinn gets one from Ylva, his first in years, after he's manumitted.
    • Gudrid cuts off her long braid to show that she wants to sail with the men. With her wedding imminent, even.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Thorkell defends London armed with LOGS! Note that he's defending London against ships, against which logs are rather effective (moreso than arrows, anyhow).
  • Indy Ploy: During Thorkell's pursuit, the protagonists improvise quite a bit. (With varying degrees of success.)
  • Infant Immortality: Heheh, what a funny concept!
  • Irony:
    • A slave girl once told Thorfinn he reminded her of herself. He replied that he wouldn't know how a slave feels and that if he was one, he would kill his master and escape. By chapter 54, Thorfinn has become a dutiful slave to his master.
    • The one English woman laments her greed and sinfulness in stealing a ring and hiding it, taking it out every so often to marvel at its beauty. It's only because she not only stole it, but spent time fussing with it that she survived the pillaging of her village and escaped to inform the surrounding towns of the devastation, which is the only reason the pillaging vikings were, in a sense, karmically punished.
  • Jerkass: Thorfinn, whose single-minded obsession with revenge has made him rude, withdrawn and basically without a moral compass. When he is finally reunited with Leif, Thorfinn refuses to listen to him about abandoning his revenge and going back home to Iceland.
  • Just a Kid: An English woman's reaction to finding Thorfinn on her front step.
  • Kick the Dog: Oh boy, Askeladd's band. And they're the protagonists of the first arc!
  • Killing Intent: Very common when named characters get involved and it gets personal. Thorfinn practically radiates killing intent constantly while around Askeladd, and in one memorable example Thorkell's killing intent gets visualized thusly, causing his opponent to have a Villainous BSoD.
  • King Incognito: Askeladd is the illegitimate offspring of a danish lord and also the last living descendant of King Arthur of all people.
    • Thorfinn is son of Helga, Daugther of Jomsviking leader and Thors, Jomsviking captain. He has the bloodline that qualify him to compete for Jomviking leadership, he didn't think much of it until this fact later revisited when Thorkell try to promote him into the leadership.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Askeladd to Floki.
    Askeladd: Kneel before me! Let me give you the honor of kissing my feet and then you can die!
  • Knight Templar: Halfdan will not tolerate people flouting the laws of Iceland.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Askeladd does this before his first duel with Thorfinn.
  • Lighter and Softer: Ironically, after Thorfinn gets sent into slavery, the story becomes a fair amount lighter than it was before, with Thorfinn becoming a pacifist with no desire for revenge. It also begins to have more comedic moments and we seen Thorfinn smile a lot more, especially after he returns home. There is still dark elements to the story however.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Canute and Sven.
    • By now Thors and Thorfinn too.
  • Little Stowaway: In chapter 8, Thors is departing from Iceland with the purpose to join the Jomsvikings in an attack on England. As families and locals see the voyagers off, Thorfinn (who was shown to be very upset about his father leaving in the previous chapter) is nowhere to be found, and Ylva suggests that he is sulking because he was previously scolded by Thors. After the ship has rowed out to the open sea and Thors declares that they have "reached the current" and the ship will now travel on its own, Thorfinn's voice asks whether that means "we can't go back, father?" Moments later, Thorfinn emerges from a barrel and hurries to the railing to pee.
  • Lonely at the Top: Enforced with King Canute. Due to Drunk with Power.
  • The Low Middle Ages: Set right towards the end of the dark ages.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Whenever Askeladd, Thorkell or Thorgill fight. Slicing and dicing human bodies effortlessly as they do kind of breaks the realistic aspect of the manga…
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Many leaders use respect, fear, or both and rarely use love; who use hate don't last in this work.
    • Halfdan uses fear.
    • Askeladd uses respect.
    • Ketil uses love, then fear to foil Canute's plan to forcibly take his farm.
    • King Canute first use fear, than use love to his English subjects.
  • Made a Slave: A fate of many characters in the manga; pre-Christian Scandinavia had a slave-based economy and being taken as thralls was not unusual. Most of the main characters on Ketil's farm are thralls, current or former.
  • Made of Plasticine: People are dismembered left and right and blows take off heads cleanly. Thorkell reduces a man he's fighting into little more than bloodied stumps and pieces at one point.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Thorkell gets a few of his fingers sliced off by Thorfinn - right after he had stabbed him through the same hand - and all he does is look at it, and then ask Thorfinn for his name.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Askeladd once more.
  • Manly Tears: Thorfinn gets sprayed with them in chapter 131 when he meets an Old Friend of his father.
    • Due to his character developement, Thorfinn becomes a much kinder and compassionate person who sheds tears for others.
  • Marital Rape License: Well, Askeladd's father, Olaf, didn't exactly marry his mother, Lady Lydia, but he did kidnap her and make her his "mistress."
    • Sigurd attempts this on Gudrid as well, which earns him a (non-fatal) stabbing and a Runaway Bride.
  • Mauve Shirt: Ears
    • Atli and his brother Torgrim count too. They are the only two members of Askeladd's band who survive Thorkell's massacre, though Torgrim mentally broke just from Thorkell's murderous glare.
  • Meaningful Name: Askeladd. Named after a Scandinavian folk hero known for his wiliness and tendency to go from rags to riches.
  • Metronomic Man Mashing: Thorfinn's first 'fight' with Thorkell ends with one of these.
  • The Mountains of Denmark: In volume 1, the village that is described as being on the Jutland Peninsula actually looks a lot more like the fjords of Norway than the almost perfectly flat marshland of Denmark.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Askeladd: "Let me teach you the real name my mother gave to me Lucius Artorius Castus."
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Because your knife will get stuck impaled in Thorkells hand and he beats the shit out of you with it.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Father Willibald seems to swing between this and The Alcoholic.
  • Ninja: Flash-stepper, uses dual daggers, combat style based on dodging and stealth, usually sent on assassinations and scouting missions... it's very reasonable to call bullshit on Thorfinn being a pirate.
  • Not So Stoic: Askeladd. Any mention regarding Wales or his mother is enough to cause a reaction. This becomes a problem as his default look is to have no reaction at all, thus allowing King Sweynn to deduce how to try to manipulate Askeladd.
  • Older Than They Look: A more realistic example then most but none the less Thorkell does not look like he's in his fifties.
    • Younger Than They Look: Willibald, the old priest. Once he's shaved and has his beard cut, he actually looks like 23. Before that he looks almost three times his age.
  • Old Retainer: Ragnar
  • One Steve Limit: Actually averted. Chapter 76 introduces a character named Thorfinn. It seems Leif mistook him for the other one at first but adopted him anyway.
  • The Only One Allowed To Kill You: Thorfinn really wants to kill Askeladd.
  • Papa Wolf: Thors gives up the warrior's life, but will not hesitate to protect his son.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The anime begins with Thorfinn's childhood flashback in the manga presented chronologically, before the business with the Franks as in the first manga chapter. This way, the beginning shows the generally somber and elegiac War Is Hell tone of the work better than starting off with War Is Glorious/Rule of Cool, with ninja Thorfinn and Vikings carrying longboats on land. Though that doesn't mean it's completely devoid of action and feats as Thors' Jomsviking past is shown onscreen, with Thorkell fighting beside him.
  • Prolonged Prologue: Chapter 54 - "End of Prologue"
    • The fun part, if you know the Icelandic Sagas this should not come as a surprise.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Deconstructed, subverted and played straight: While they're all proud warriors, most are also sellswords, murderers, thieves and rapists, as well as honest merchants and farmers when necessary, just like the vikings really were.
  • Psycho for Hire: Askeladd's band are all unscrupulous bastards willing to do anything for the right price, Thorkell and his band too, but his payment is a good battle. Thorfinn isn't a psycho, but he's got pretty loose morals.
  • Put on a Bus: Thorgimm and Alti are put on a Viking Longship.
    • The Bus Came Back: Alti returns as a beat up and scraggly prisoner of a faction that wants revenge on Floki for Thors's death. From his begging, it sounds like he followed Askeladd's advice and started a family. No word on what happened to Thorgimm yet.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Canute, after coming to the realization that God is an All-Powerful Bystander, becomes determined to fix the Crapsack World himself and create a heaven on Earth.
    Canute: I suppose God is watching us from above even now. We lose our friends, and father and son kill one another. And he chooses to sit on his throne and watch it all happen. It is unforgivable. I will create a worldly paradise in this land. A place of peace and prosperity. A utopia for those who live in suffering. Perhaps the work will not be finished in my generation, but I will be the one to take that first bold step. God will surely call me to his side with love. And when that time comes, I will say to him: "We no longer need heaven or your trials. We have our paradise on Earth."
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Vinland crew consists of Thorfinn, his sworn brother (Einar), a wise merchant (Leif), and the other Thorfinn (Wide Eyes). They are later joined by a runaway bride (Gudrid), an orphaned baby (Karli), the baby's pet dog (Karli's Mama), and a professional hunter (Hild). The absurdity is even lampshaded by Wide Eyes.
  • Rags to Riches: Askeladd went from being a slave boy to a respected and feared mercenary captain using nothing but his wits, firmly establishing his status as a Magnificent Bastard, at the age of fourteen.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: ...It's about Vikings.
    • Though interestingly enough, all the main characters thusfar have been very... not horny. Now, Ax-Crazy on the other hand...
  • Rasputinian Death: After receiving injuries upon injuries upon injuries, Gardar gets stabbed in the chest right through to the back during his sleep and treats it like it was nothing. Hell, he doesn't even notices it. He wakes up and starts strangling Snake. When he finally dies from that injury, he just thinks he's tired and he's had about a good 20 minutes of chit-chat with Arnheid. This is without accounting for his recent life as an abused slave.
  • Rated M for Manly: Badass action with no girl in sight for years, and Manly Tears in appropiate moments. This manga will make your chest grow hair on its own.
  • Redemption Rejection: In the anime, Thorfinn nearly goes home with Leif in the final episode of season 1. However, he can't bring himself to leave things unfinished with Askeladd and abandons Leif at the last moment. This ultimately leads to Thorfinn being sold into slavery with his revenge stolen from him.
  • Retired Badass: Thors, he used to be called 'The Troll' and for good reason.
  • Retirony: At the battle of Jomsborg, an older fellow nicknamed Pops declares that this will be his last fight. Instead of dying valiantly in battle as he'd always planned, Pops now plans to spend his last few years spoiling his grandson. Pops is immediately squashed by a catapult missile.
  • Revenge: It's not just his motivation, it's Thorfinn's entire reason for existence (as he points out himself).
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: When Thorkell's band seems likely to catch up to Askeladd's band, everyone besides Thorfinn and Bjorn turn on Askeladd, demanding that he hand Canute over to them so they can offer him to Thorkell for their lives. When Thorkell does arrive, he has his band slaughter them to nearly a man because of their cowardice.
  • Rule of Cool: The fight scenes often feature people neatly sliced apart, and the mightiest warriors just seem downright superhuman. Not realistic, but still appreciated.
  • Sadistic Choice: Sveyn Forkbeard gives Askeladd the choice between staying Canute's retainer or saving his homeland Wales from a Viking invasion.
  • Scars Are Forever:
    • The cut on the cheek that Thorfinn gave Canute in the incident detailed in Awesome Moment of Crowning above has turned into one Badass scar years later.
    • Thorfinn gets part of an ear sliced off and a large cut on his face as a slave (on the opposite side as Canute's).
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: At one point, Askeladd's band raids a town for food. The apparent head of the village begs them to leave them at least half of the food so they can survive the winter. Askelad decides to kill everyone so that none of them can report his band to their enemies who are looking for them. Little do they know that the daughter of the village head happened to be outside when they arrived, so she saw her entire family and village get slaughtered and survived long enough to report them to their enemies, eventually leading to the destruction of the entire viking band. If they hadn't killed everyone, they might not have been tracked down.
  • Shout-Out:
    • At one point there's a background character that looks suspiciously like Hagar the Horrible.
    • Vicky, Ylfi and others from Vicky the Viking appear in two crowd shot.
    • The Frank Chieftain is named Jabbathe; think about it for a moment.
    • The character Snake looks awfully familiar to a certain other "Snake", if not David Hayter himself.
    • One of the vikings performs a Kinniku Buster on another tavern-goer.
    • Thorkell is a Super Saiyan!
    • When Thorkell is hunting down Floki, he axes a door, sticks his face through the hole, and shouts "Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Floki!"
  • Shown Their Work: Yukimura has often noted the pains he took to be as accurate as possible, such as the journey he took to Iceland at the beginning of his work on the story, and how he used a variety of historical and apocryphal stories to base his characters on. The weapons, armor, and outfits are accurate. You won't find vikings in horned hats duking it out with knights in plate armor here.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Thorfinn's mother, with elements of a Mama Bear back when Thors was still an arrogant warrior.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: During the prologue arc, King Sweyn's sister is one of the victims when the English break the peace and attack Danish territory in England, catching the Danes off guard and massacring even women and children. This gives Sweyn an excuse to go to war, which means the Jomsvikings are summoned to his armies, which gives Floki an excuse to go after Thors, which ultimately leads to Thorfinn joining Askeladd, etc. She doesn't even have a speaking line nor is she shown clearly in the manga, but the anime adds a shot of a blonde woman who is probably her due to the resemblance to Canute.
  • Smug Snake: Floki all the way.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Jomsvikings are shown to still be a formidable force in the Baltics even though the manga is set fifteen years after the Battle of Hjorunga Bay, where the brotherhood was destroyed according to The Saga of the Jomsvikings.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": A historical case with Canute or Knut. Also happens with Sweyn/Sven. But other than that the important names generally have a well-established romanization, surprisingly.
  • Spirit Advisor: Thors and Askeladd both serve as this to Thorfinn.
    • Lord Sven to Canute.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: When Thorfinn finally returns home. He isn't even recognized by his own sister, and gained a younger brother and nephews while he was gone. And he's been gone so long, he doesn't even remember how old he is.
  • The Stoic: As a brooding teen, Thorfinn has two expressions: disinterest and anger. The only exception is that when he gets badly hurt it shows. Still doesn't slow him down much.
    • This makes the look on his face when he realizes his attempt at evading a strike from Thorkell ended up launching him higher than the treetops even more hilarious.
  • Take a Third Option: " Wales or Canute. Choose." And oh, but he did.
  • Telephone Polearm: Thorkell sometimes fights using tree trunks.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Askeladd figures out the way to get Canute to power and prevent Wales from being attacked is to die. He declares he is the descendant of King Arthur, decapitates Sveyn, and then acts like he has gone mad and goes on a murderous rampage. He deliberately makes sure that Canute is the one to deliver the death blow, putting the final piece into place
  • Those Two Guys: Thorgrimm and his brother Atli.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Thors forswears killing after leaving the Jomsvikings and fights to maintain this vow even while facing off against Askeladd and his band. He tries but fails to impart this principle unto Thorfinn before his death, leading to Thorfinn's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the coming years.
    • Thorfinn follows in his father's footsteps and takes up this vow as well in the midst of his Character Development in Arc 2. Most of the tension in the story from that point stems from Thorfinn struggling to maintain his vow despite being trapped in a world of nonstop violence, war, and revenge.
  • Time Skip: After the prologue.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Several characters, most notably Prince King Canute, after his bodyguard and father-figure is killed; he learns from the disaffected priest that what the bodyguard felt was not "love" but "preference," that God is basically a Jerkass, and comes to the revelation the only way humans will ever attain Paradise is to say "screw you" to the Almighty and make it on earth with our own hands. The level however, is more in Social Badass than in Combat Badass, but undeniably Badass nonetheless.
  • Trickster Mentor: Askeladd likes to think he is more a mentor to Thorfinn then nemesis.
  • Tsundere: Ylva certainly has a few Tsundere-ish tendencies.
  • Turn Coat: Thorgrimm tries too, but Thorkell despises a coward.
  • A Twinkle in the Sky: A realistic example (relatively).
  • The Uriah Gambit: Guess who pulled it off? If your answer is Askeladd, you're correct! He uses it to kill Ragnar.
    • King Sweyn tried to do this to get rid of Canute. Talk about a COMPLETE backfire.
  • Tyke Bomb: Askeladd kept Thorfinn around because he thought the little boy had guts, after he killed his father. In the following years, Thorfinn becomes his special assassin to take out enemy leaders, and the reward is always a duel that gives Thorfinn a chance to avenge his father's death.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: According to Canute, yes. Yes it does. Just don't let anyone die for his sake, his single life isn't worth it. He eventually goes as far as to poison his very supportive brother to take over Denmark as well.
  • Vengeance Denied: Thorfinn never gets to avenge his father by killing Askeladd, as Askeladd assassinates King Sweyn and is swiftly killed by his bodyguards. The story's next arc focuses on where he goes after losing what had been his reason to live.
  • Victory Is Boring: According to Thorkell.
  • Villain Protagonist: Thorfinn starts the story party to many horrible raids by the vikings he is with and shows zero remorse for the terrible things they do even if he doesn't commit the worst atrocities himself. Starting with the second arc though, he begins his transformation to a full on hero, which he is fully by the third arc.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Snake and Old Man Sverker on Ketil's farm. More than half of any dialogue they have around each other is a barrage of insults. And they're both pretty damn good.
  • War Is Glorious: The manga is set in 11th century Scandinavia at the apex of the Viking Age, so a lot of characters think this way. Notably, the main characters (and the narration itself) does not take this position and a lot of time is shown showing the opposite side of warfare and fighting.
  • Warrior Heaven: Well it is about Vikings... Averted, however, in that the warriors who go there are now rotting corpses in an advanced state of decomposition who do nothing but continuously hack each other apart. Thorfinn visits it in a dream and gets advice from Askeladd.
  • We All Live in America:
    • Most characters are fairly Japanese in spirit. It's easy to equate Japanese samurai and Danish vikings, as they are both warrior cultures, and there certainly are similarities, but there are differences between them.
    • Olmar and Garm act like Japanese Delinquents (including ridiculous hair which they must spend a lot of time on...) in medieval Europe. Chalk it up to Rule of Funny.
  • Wham Episode: Chapters 52, 53 and 54, wherein Askeladd kills King Sweyn, and reveals he's the rightful heir to Britain, in the process saving both Wales and Canute, before being killed by Canute, leading to Thorfinn's Heroic BSoD. All this culminates in Canute taking the crown for himself. For reference, 54 is called "End of the Prologue".
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Chapter 24. It's no wonder that most of these Vikings have no concept of the emotion, but some of the others are interested enough to ask the priest for more info on it.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After Thorfinn and Einar leave the farm, brief remarks are made on how the survivors coped after the events of the Farmland Saga.
  • World's Strongest Man: Thors, implicitly.
  • Worthy Opponent: When 13-year-old Thorfinn is dueling Thorkell, a grown man and longtime Viking, Thorkell is impressed enough with how well the youngster is doing to casually brain one of his followers for laughing at Thorfinn's Badass Boast.
  • You Are What You Hate: Askeladd, who hates Danes and vikings in general, but is one himself.
  • You Killed My Father: Essentially Thorfinn's motivation for everything he does. Despite being the main character, his desire for revenge makes him something below one-dimensional in personality, and it's literally all he can think of. He's repeatedly given The Reason You Suck Speeches by Askeladd over it, and when Canute gets to kill Askeladd instead of him, he snaps and is reduced to a hollowed-out shell, completely burnt out.
  • Younger Than They Look: Father Willibald is only in his twenties, but he looks like an old man. It's his shaggy beard and monk's tonsure that probably does it.


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