Anime News

FEATURE: Get To Know The Characters of Vinland Saga

vinland saga

Vinland Saga Season 2 is well underway, and while we’re still being introduced to new characters, clearly the effects of Season 1 are weighing heavily on Thorfinn and will have serious consequences going forward.


With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the characters we grew to know in Season 1, so everyone can understand a little better why Thorfinn doesn’t fear death or why Canute is covered in blood in the opening.




vinland saga


Thors the Troll, captain of the jomsvikings (a group of warriors so powerful they don’t pay taxes to the king), and quite possibly the single strongest fighter in the entirety of Vinland Saga (at least that we’ve met so far). One of the first things he ever does in the story is take a knife away from Thorfinn, injuring himself in the process, before telling him one of two core lessons that will resonate throughout the series: that no one is inherently anyone else’s enemy.


The other lesson is at the end of his duel with Askeladd. The pirate ambushed him, yet he refused to use a sword until the duel started. When he’s clearly won the duel by having his sword to Askeladd’s throat but hasn’t killed him yet, he says that a true warrior doesn’t require a sword.


RELATED: Vinland Saga Season 2 — All You Need to Know Before Watching


Askeladd responds by offering to make him their leader. When Thors refuses, Askeladd gives the sign for the archers to shoot his opponent. Even when he is dying from the injuries, Thors remains on his feet and sternly tells each character present what to do now that he is dying: Askeladd honor their duel to retreat, Bjorn let Thorfinn go, Leif take his head to the jomsvikings.




vinland saga


The protagonist of the story — we’ve followed him since he was five or six years old, albeit with some time skips to make him around 16 for the majority of Season 1 and around 20 in Season 2.


Thorfinn is a Dane living peacefully in Iceland when his father is called into war. After stowing away on his father’s ship, he sees the pirate Askeladd order his army to murder his father during a duel, leading him to swear revenge.


This vengefulness becomes his main drive for the remainder of the narrative, carrying through for the next 10 years while Thorfinn travels with, but remains an outcast from, Askeladd’s army.


vinland saga


His need for revenge makes him quite strong but extremely easy to manipulate. If Askeladd ever wants him to do anything, the man simply needs to say that he’ll duel Thorfinn in exchange and Thorfinn will jump headfirst into life-threatening danger for the chance. Even when Lief, a family friend who’d been looking for Thorfinn ever since he left on his father’s boat, tried to get him to come home, he was barely willing to speak to the man, choosing to focus on his revenge instead.


This all changes when King Sweyn announces that he will be launching an assault on Wales in the coming Spring and Askeladd feigns insanity and goes on a rampage in order to protect both Wales and Prince Canute.


At the end of the conflict, Askeladd lies dying with Thorfinn over him. He points out to the boy that even after a decade, Thorfinn never gave any thought to what to do after his revenge was complete. He dies in Thorfinns arms, ending Season 1.


vinland saga

At the start of Season 2, several years later, Thorfinn barely emotes. He quietly does his work as a slave and doesn’t so much as flinch when being injured or even having part of his ear sliced off, saying that nothing good had ever happened to him in his life, so why should he fear death? However, we also see that his past is clearly haunting him, as he has nightmares that cause him to scream himself awake.




vinland saga


The primary antagonist of Season 1, though also the main person we are following for much of the story since he decides where the army goes. He’s also Thorfinn’s surrogate father and murder target. That description alone is enough to make him a fascinating character but it goes further.


Askeladd was the illegitimate son of a Viking and a captured Welsh slave and watched his mother’s declining health as a child. After attacking his father, he was taken in due to his martial skill. After two years of planning, he murdered his father and framed one of his brothers.


vinland saga


This shows both his cunning and devotion to Wales, as he runs from home to bring his mother to her country, yet never tells a single person in his army about his connection to them as part of a long-term plan to become an insider working on behalf of Wales from within the Danish army.


This also feeds into why he offers to let Thors become his leader and alters why he becomes Canute’s retainer. His mother told him stories about General Artorius (King Arthur) while he was growing up and he devoted himself to finding a lord to be their wisdom and sword, even at the cost of his own life.


This ability to devise a plan to win, no matter the cost, becomes core to his character for the back half of Season 1, from capturing Canute from Thorkell to fleeing Thorkell by going to Wales to finding a way to not die when his army turns on him and Thorkell and Thorfinn are dueling to decide who gets to kill him. Even when he dies, it’s on his own terms, as he feigns insanity to kill the King, allowing Canute to both have a stronger hold on the crown and call off the Welsh invasion.




vinland saga


Askeladd’s second in command — Bjorn is introduced by eating a berserker mushroom and being absolutely floored by Thors, but future scenes would show him as a levelheaded consultant and mediator of Askladd’s army when not fighting, and a fearsome though careless foe when he eats a mushroom.


He lives through the army’s second encounter with Thorkell, though just barely, and sustains a life-threatening injury as a result. While he doesn’t die immediately, it becomes clear that he’s only going to deteriorate, so he requests a duel with Askeladd so that he can die in a fight and go to Valhalla. In his dying moments, he says that he just wanted to be Askeladd’s friend, and despite his hatred for the Danes, Askeladd says that he was.




vinland saga


The final of the trio of Canute’s new retainers going into the end of Season 1 (along with Thorfinn and Askeladd), Thorkell may be the most singularly powerful warrior in the entire cast after Thors dies. He’s monstrously strong and lives to fight, even siding with the English to fight the Danes and being outright sad and disappointed if an enemy flees or loses too easily.


He’s also honorable. When his men interfere in the duel between him and Thorfinn, he stops them and admits defeat. He’s pissed but lets Thorfinn and Askeladd live.


RELATED: Is This Anime Based on a Manga or Light Novel?


He’s also Thorfinn’s granduncle and a member of the jomsvikings. Thors was also a member, his leaving while trying to determine the meaning of a true warrior is something Thorkell never forgot and is still trying to find an answer to.


Thus far, Thorkell has not appeared in Season 2, though he shows up in a few frames of the opening.


Prince Canute


vinland saga


Canute is the second in line for the Danish throne. He starts the season as a meek, quiet boy that can’t even talk to people aside from his retainers. As we learn more about his backstory, we realize that he’s so meek as a self-preservation instinct. If he’d drawn attention to himself back home, it would’ve made him a bigger target for assassination as people fought for the throne.


He’s nearly unrecognizable by the end of the season. Due to all of the conflict he’s seen challenging his faith and the death of his father figure further scarring him, he becomes a commanding presence on the battlefield, calling for an end to violence with authority and deciding that if God wasn’t going to help them while they were on Earth, he would strive to create a new paradise himself.


Thus far, we haven’t encountered Canute in Season 2. However, he is featured in the opening and one of the commercials leading up to the premiere is centered on him, so he will likely factor in at some point.




vinland saga


Canute’s retainer and father figure due to the effective absence of his actual father. A serious and honorable warrior who takes his duties seriously, but as a result, stunts Canute’s growth as a ruler in favor of trying to give the prince a normal-ish upbringing.


He is constantly at odds with Askeladd after they are captured and is eventually killed on Askeladd’s orders to force Canute to grow into a king. In his dying moments, he hates that he needs to entrust anything to Askeladd, but tells him about the king likely trying to kill Canute in order to avoid a possible succession crisis between Canute and his older brother, Harold.


His last request is to see Canute one more time. Askeladd refuses.




vinland saga


Canute’s second retainer, a Christian preacher and heavy drinker. When not in a drunken stupor, he rants about love.


RELATED: The 6 Best Books On The History Of Manga And Anime


His quest to find true love in the world eventually leads to Canute’s metamorphosis when knocked out during his second escape from Thorkell’s men. Between Willibald’s talk about love and Ragnar visiting in his dream to say one last goodbye, the prince wakes up a new man: the king he was destined to become.


King Sweyn


vinland saga


King of the Danes — we hear about him for much of Season 1 but don’t meet him until after Askeladd’s army falls and Akeladd himself joins Thorkell as one of Canute’s retainers.


He’s a tired, old, bloated man who only stops sending Canute to his death because of one of Askeladd’s plans making people suspect that he might be doing so on purpose, which would reflect badly on both him and whoever succeeded him as the next king.


He believes that as king, the crown gives him two orders: to use the authority and power it grants him, and to expand that power. As such, he plans to invade Wales during the following spring as a way to placate the army while he plans a more serious invasion of Ireland later. To protect both Wales and Canute, Askeladd kills him.


Leif Erikson


vinland saga


A family friend to Thors and Thorfinn — he’s introduced by telling stories of his travels to the children of the village and is the first one to bring up Vinland, a land of plenty to the west where there is no war.


We don’t see him for the majority of the middle of Season 1 but he takes on the task of finding Thorfinn and bringing him home after the boy runs away to take revenge for Thors’ death. He finally locates the boy by accident 10 years later and tries to convince him to return to his mother. Thorfinn barely listens to the old man long enough to have a conversation before returning to Askeladd and Canute. Leif’s last words to the boy are that he’ll stay in that same city and wait for him to return so they can go back to Iceland together.


In Season 2, we’ve gotten one scene with him so far, where he is at a slave market looking for Thorfinn. Plotwise, this is more to set up that Thorfinn has become enslaved in the past five years and let Einar, a new major character for the season, learn about the name Thorfinn, so Leif doesn’t get any new character development from this.


Who is your favorite Vinland Saga character? Let me know in the comments below!



Kevin Matyi is a freelance features writer for Crunchyroll. He’s been watching anime for as long as he can remember, and his favorite shows tend to be shonen and other action series.