Askeladd: A Traitor or King? Why was he loyal to Canute?

Askeladd is the primary antagonist turned anti-hero of Vinland Saga season 1. First, you hate him for killing Thors. Then, you start liking him for his actions and his past. And next, you hate him again for slaughtering an entire village. It’s a toxic relationship, to say the least.

I can’t say if he’s truly evil or just morally grey. But he’s no ordinary mercenary, for sure. Askeladd is a visionary determined to build a better future for his people. But he’s aware of his darkness and does not feel worthy of the throne.

Undeniably, Askeladd could commit terrible deeds in pursuit of what he believed was best for his people. His actions often crossed ethical boundaries, leading to questions about his true motivations. Was he a traitor to his values, or was he indeed a king in disguise?

1. Was Askeladd a traitor or the true king?

Askeladd betrayed his Danish men and their trust, openly announcing his hatred for them and even killing many of them. Toward the end of the first season, he decapitated King Sweyn and paved the way for Prince Canute to come to power.

While his brutality and single-mindedness are undeniable, Askeladd was also a visionary striving to create a better future for his people, no matter the cost.

Askeladd, meaning “covered in ashes,” was the alt name of Lucius Artorius Castus. He was a traitor to the Danes working as a mercenary. In reality, however, Askeladd was the descendant of a famous Welsh War General – Artorius, and the true king of the Welsh Kingdom.

When Prince Canute queries Askeladd about why someone as selfless as he would not want to be king, Askeladd retorts with, “I’m just a Viking.”

This remark reveals that he understands his character and detests it. Despite his royal heritage, he is a wicked murderer who concedes he doesn’t deserve to be king. Instead, he trusts Canute and bolsters him to ensure he can obtain what he wants.

2. Why was Askeladd loyal to Canute?

Askeladd always had an agenda for every action he took, so his dying for Canute to become king was a shock. Nevertheless, if you take a closer glance at his character, you can realize his loyalty to Canute wasn’t a sham – it accomplished the only goal Askeladd had in life – to save Wales.

Askeladd was loyal to Canute as he believed the latter was susceptible to manipulation if raised correctly. Askeladd wanted to be the puppet master of the Danish King to ensure the safety of his country – Wales. When all else failed, he decided to behead King Sweyn so Canute could be the next king.

It’s a misnomer to say he was truly loyal to Canute. After all, Askeladd killed Ragnar to push Canute into growing up. And to his surprise, the scared prince did grow a pair.

Askeladd: A Traitor or King? Why was he loyal to Canute?
Askeladd: A Traitor or King | Source: Crunchyroll

3. What were Askeladd’s motivations?

In the series, every decision Askeladd makes is motivated by his sense of duty to Wales. For the small country of Wales, which is no match for Denmark, Askeladd is their champion.

Despite what people thought of him, Askeladd was a selfless man who wanted to do the right thing for his people. When Olaf threatened to kill Lydia, Askeladd knew he had to act and take on the role of a savior.

Askeladd: A Traitor or King? Why was he loyal to Canute?
Askeladd | Source: Crunchyroll

But make no mistake, Askeladd would go to extreme lengths to benefit his people. In one episode, Askeladd slaughtered everyone in a village, including women and children. His expressions show he doesn’t enjoy killing, but this episode, after Askeladd was built up as a hero for the Welsh, is a stark reminder of his character’s cold, harsh reality.

4. Exploring Askeladd’s Past

He was born as the illegitimate son of Olaf – a Nordic champion who had captured a Welsh noblewoman named Lydia and enslaved her. Lydia was a descendant of the legendary Welsh hero Artorius and became pregnant with Askeladd.

However, when Lydia fell ill, Olaf lost interest in her and treated her like the other slaves. As a result, Askeladd grew up leading the life of a slave and was given the name “Askeladd,” which means “the ashen lad.”

Lydia often told her son Askeladd the story of Artorius, saying one day, the hero would come and save them. When Askeladd was 11, his mother broke down and mistakenly thought Olaf was Artorius. Olaf attacked her, but Askeladd leaped to her defense. Olaf then saw the potential in his illegitimate son.

Askeladd: A Traitor or King? Why was he loyal to Canute?
Askeladd’s Past | Source: Fandom

Olaf adopted Askeladd, who stayed with him and his sons for two years while learning their ways and earning their trust. Eventually, Askeladd killed Olaf and framed one of his other brothers. With his newfound power and authority, he took his mother back to Wales, where she sadly passed away.

During this period, he encountered Gratianus and nurtured a profound admiration for Wales as a place to be kept safe. His hatred towards his father and Danes increased while his fondness for his mother and Wales flourished.

Watch Vinland Saga on:

5. About Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga is a Japanese historical manga series written and illustrated by Makoto Yukimura. The series is published under Kodansha in its monthly manga magazine – Monthly Afternoon – aimed at young adult men. It currently has 26 volumes in tankōbon format.

Vinland Saga is set in ancient 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.

Epic Dope Staff

Epic Dope Staff

Our talented team of Freelance writers - Always on the lookout - pour their energies into a wide range of topics bringing to our audience what they crave - fun up-to-date news, reviews, fan theories and much much more.


Leave a Reply