Vinland Saga: 5 Historical Connections It Has To Real Life Vikings (& 5 That Were Made For The Anime)
Based on a beloved manga, what does this Viking-based series actually have in common with the real-life historical Vikings? Well, let’s find out!
That’s right, Amazon Prime isn’t just for movies anymore, it’s territory for the weebs now. Tired of samurai and ninja? Sick of the age of a man living by their katana? Maybe even exhausted of hearing about Nobunaga and the Warring States? Well, you’re in luck, because we finally have an anime based on actual history that covers a new subject, Vinland Saga!
This hit series finally got an adaptation by Wit Studio just last season that did quite well. The manga has been beloved for over a decade, and people commonly rank it up there with the greats like Berserk or Vagabond. But, what does this Viking-based series actually have in common with the real-life historical Vikings? Well, let’s find out.
10 Real Life: Thorfinn Karlsefni Was Real
The main character of this epic adventure is Thorfinn, son of Thors. Thorfinn starts off as a bright-eyed lad who wants nothing more than to go on an adventure. But, by the time Leif finds him again, the child has become a bloodthirsty killer. Now, the murderer aspect is made up, but Thorfinn Karslefeni did exist in history back around 1010 AD. He followed Leif’s route to Vinland, settled down, and had a child there with his wife. Sorry but actually history doesn’t count as spoilers, so be forewarned.
9 Made For The Anime: They Made Thorfinn Into A Warrior
Thorfinn is been based on his real-life counterpart of the same name, but his personality, friends, and even love interest are different. A lot of it has yet to be covered in the anime, but the people Thorfinn meets on his path of non-violence are not at all part of the historical text we know him from. But, more than that, there’s nothing in either the Saga of The Greenlanders or Sage of Erik The Red (the two books that mention Thorfinn) that state that Thorfinn was even a decent fighter. The fights on the show are insanely exciting, but not at all a realistic depiction of the person.
8 Real Life: Thorkell Is Based On A Legendary Jomsviking Leader
Who is Thorkell the Tall you ask? Well, in history, he’s the commander of the Jomsvikings. In the anime? He’s a happy-go-lucky mad warrior who just so happens to be related to the commander of the Jomsvikings. Of course, this does put him high up the “corporate” Viking ladder, but he’s not quite at the top yet. Not too much is known about the historical Thorkell outside of his achievements, other than the fact that he had a looming figure.
So, the anime takes quite a few liberties with his characterization. They make him playful, air-headed, and in a rush to find the path of the “warrior” he thought Thors was on. Though he was known as an associate of Prince Canute, so they kept that aspect intact.
7 Made For The Anime: Thors Karlsefni Never Existed
The funny thing about a real-life character like Thorkell chasing after the pursuits of Thors is that Thors isn’t based on anyone. Maybe, at most, he’s based on the real-life Thorfinn’s father Thord Horsehead, but Thord was just a normal guy. He wasn’t some grandiose warlord of battle, and he didn’t teach his son about the ways of non-aggression. Thors is probably one of the most important characters in Vinland Saga, or at least his memory and legacy are. But, we think the Mangaka wanted to tell a story of pacifism in the age of Vikings and nothing about Thorfinn’s lineage allowed them to teach the character about non-violence. So, they did what any good storyteller does, and made a character that would allow their plot to move forward. And job well done we say.
6 Real Life: The First Battle Scene Was Based On A Real Naval Skirmish
Now, the man who caused Thorfinn to go down a path of mindless slaughter was Askeladd, but Thors was the one who pushed non-violence onto the boy. Thors the Troll was one of the best warriors Iceland, Greenland, England, or even Denmark had ever seen. He was climbing his way to the top of the Jomsvikings quite quickly until he finally decided that he was tired of war.
Escaping by faking his own death during a battle, the man ran to Iceland to start his family. But, the battle he used to stage his demise is one that is well known in history. It was called the Battle of Hjörungavágr and happened in 986 A.D. Neat, huh?
5 Made For The Anime: Not Every Viking Runs Into Death Screaming For Valhalla
Now, contrary to popular belief, Norse religion doesn’t only include Valhalla, there is a lot more to it. In fact, as far as the older religions go, it is one of the more detailed ones we know of. Many Vikings during the time period Vinland Saga takes place in followed either Norse teachings or were slowly converting to Christianity. TV, Film, and Anime seem to exaggerate this, but the idea of dying in battle to ascend to Valhalla was well known, but not treated as gospel. Many warriors simply didn’t believe in it, and most didn’t make it their sole desire to die under a blade. But, in Vinland Saga, it seems like the place that every single warrior and pillager is chasing.
4 Real Life: The Entire Basis For The Show Is Based On A True Story
Why is the show called Vinland Saga? Well, it’s for more reasons than you would think. Of course, it’s because Thorfinn and friends want to travel to Vinland. But, it could also be interpreted as a long story that tells the tale of finding Vinland. And, thirdly, its name comes from the actual historical text we mentioned earlier. Both the Saga of The Greenlanders and the Saga of Erik The Red make up a combined text commonly referred to as the Vinland Saga’s. Get it now?
3 Made For The Anime: Thorfinn Wasn’t Known As A Friend Of Canute Or Thorkell
Again, Thorfinn was a real dude, but most of what the show pitches about him before the journey to Vinland is made up. He wasn’t known for being especially close to Thorkell the Tall, he wasn’t known as a close friend of Prince Canute, and he wasn’t known for being the next in line to lead the Jomsvikings (manga spoiler sorry, but seriously, read ahead).
But, if they just sort of covered his life as it actually was, there wouldn’t be much of a show, so they picked a part of his history that wasn’t well documented.
2 Real Life: Thorfinn Really Did Follow Leif Erickson’s Route To Vinland
While it wasn’t known just how close Leif Erickson and Thorfinn were, it was clear that Thorfinn followed his route to Vinland. Leif was every bit the sea-faring master that both the history books and show paint him to be. Did he go around buying slaves that looked like Thorfinn in real life? Who’s to say. But either way, it’s great to see such a unique characterization of a historical figure everyone knows the name of, but little to nothing about specifically.
1 Made For The Anime: But His Time With Askeladd Was Made Up
Now obviously a lot of the side characters are made up, or at best they’re based on someone very loosely. But the main characters tend to be at least based on people of similar or same names from the annals of history. Leif Erickson was a real dude, Thorkell the tall was supposedly real, and Thorfinn was absolutely real. But Askeladd? Who knows. The guy is an illegitimate son of the lord of Wales, and not much is even known about him in the show. So it’s even harder to trace his fictional origins to ones in reality, of which there are few.