Vinland Saga had topped the list of anime series for last season without the slightest doubt. Makoto Yukimura’s work has been molded into what is likely to become a classic in the long run.
The main attraction for the series lies in its excellent production and sensitivity to the source material. Vinland Saga is what happens when the themes, plot, characters, music, and animation all manage to resonate and enhance each other to create a cohesive interpretation of the manga.
What draws the audience even closer is the fact that it is based on a true story. The characters that they see and hear actually existed thousands of years back. This fact alone makes the series a thrilling watch.
In this article, I will be discussing the historical accuracy of Vinland Saga and whether it is heading down the same path as its source material.
Not really. Tales in Vinland Saga are loosely based on stories and myths about the Vikings from the 11th century but are not factual or historically accurate. Anime, in general, takes lots of inspiration from historical events, myths, and legends; Vinland Saga is no different. The myths and legends just happen to be Nordic.
It has been speculated that many of the characters in Vinland Saga are based on historical figures too, though names and context have likely been changed and adapted to suit the story.
Are the characters based on real-life people?
Vinland Saga is based on the Vinland Sagas, which comprises of two sagas, The Saga of Erik The Red, i.e., the father of Leif Eriksson, and The Saga of The Greenlanders.
Both sagas have been the object of inspiration while developing Thorfinn, the protagonist of Vinland Saga, who is based on real-life explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni. Even his father was inspired by a character of the Norse legends known as Thord Horsehead; however, in the anime, his name was it is hanged to Thors.
Leif is based on the historical Leif Erikson, an explorer credited in modern times with discovering the North American continent where Vinland is located. Askeladd is inspired by a Norse folklore character called Askeladden, and Canute was an actual Danish king.
However, one thing to remember is that while many characters of Vinland Saga are based on real-life people, the Mangaka takes artistic liberties and has his own way of portraying them.
Vinland Saga’s Historical Accuracy
Vinland Saga is initially set in 1013 AD England, which has been mostly conquered by the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard. The story draws elements from historical accounts of the period, such as The Flateyjarbók, The Saga of the Greenlanders, and The Saga of Eric the Red.
Now, while the broad historical strokes are largely accurate like Sweyn Forkbeard was indeed King of Denmark, and events like battles and major political deaths happen at the right time and place, the personalities, motivations, and backstories of the characters are less accurate, and mostly, very different than their historical counterparts.
Accuracy of Viking’s Portrayal
Historically, Vikings have been depicted as violent raiders and conquerors in history, yet the theme of the anime is structured around non-violence.
So it’s more accurate to say that while Vinland Saga is based on the setting, events, and context of the Vikings from the North, the story itself takes a lot of detours as the Mangaka personally crafts his own narrative.
Vinland Saga follows the life of Thorfinn and the lives of Icelandic settlers at a superficial level. The politics between Denmark and England serve as a background for the events that take place in his life.
How correct is the setting?
There are four places that make up the geographical setting of the events in the anime: Iceland, Denmark, England, and America (Vinland).
Iceland is the birthplace of Thorkin. According to history, Vikings settled in Iceland after searching long for a peaceful place.
Three seafarers were credited to discovering Iceland: one of which is a familiar name – Floki, who is a commander of the Jomsvikings. In this case, the anime follows history accurately.
II. Denmark and England
Despite settling in Iceland, the Vikings trace their origins back to Denmark. In history, Vikings’ raid and conquer England with King Sweyn at the head of the monarchy. In the anime, you can see that Askeladd is a half-Welsh and half-Dane warrior hinting at intermingling coming from Viking raids.
Jomsvikings, whom Thor has deserted, are seen fighting the English in the anime, which points towards the King and his army’s preparation to conquer England.
Although not mentioned in the anime, America plays a huge role. According to history, “Vinland” refers to North America, where the Vikings settled temporarily. They thought of America as the green and warm lands where their greatly desired peace lay.
Will the ending change?
The anime builds itself upon the theme of non-violence, which is ironic given the history of the Vikings. In the light of Jomsvikings and the army of Mercenaries lead by Askeladd, the author attempts to bring forth their desire to settle in peace – achieved either through war or non-violent means.
The series focuses on Thorfinn’s personal growth and the events that act as a catalyst for that. In the beginning, while his actions and character seem insignificant to the overall political scenario taking place in the Viking Age, given the importance of Thorfinn Karlsfelni and his actions in Viking history.
In the last few chapters of the manga, Thorfinn is heavily foreshadowed to follow his historical counterpart’s footsteps based on the things he’s said.
While this makes some fans worry about the ending, which was not the best historically speaking, most others aren’t worried about the end goal, as, in the end, Vinland Saga is not about the destination, but about how they get there.
About Vinland Saga
Vinland Saga is set within Viking times, where a young Thorfinn’s life goes astray when his father Thors, a well-known retired warrior, is killed while on a journey.
Thorfinn then finds himself under the jurisdiction of his enemy – his father’s killer – and hopes to seek revenge on him when he grows stronger. The anime is loosely based on the expedition of Thorfinn Karlsefni in his search for Vinland.