Long passed are the days where I marveled at Askeladd’s contribution to ‘Vinland Saga’ as the cheeky treasure stealing viking who brought brevity even as he tormented Thorfinn. Episode 12 of Vinland Saga focuses on the psychology of the Danes and their perspective on the world, alongside Thorkell himself. We also see Askeladd continue to vye to capture Canute, and episode 13 goes into the reasons why he does this. In the course of a show about a child who wants to avenge his family, we learn about a man who has already seen his own mother discarded and left for dead by his father. Askeladd’s blood is only half of the danes, and the other half is welsh. His mother was abducted, treated as a concubine, and then left to rot in the stables when she grew ill. The look on his face when we see who he used to be strongly resembles the Thorfinn we have seen as the series progressed. Now the question of the series for me is no longer how Thorfinn will overcome his vengeance, but how his life and hatred are shaped by a man who seems to know similar hardship and anger.
All we have seen in Vinland Saga so far provides us with an interesting dynamic to think about from here on out. Thorfinn’s proud and authentic scandinavian heritage is shared with all of Askeladd’s band, save the man himself. Yet deep inside of him is a conflict about who he is meant to be and how he must come to terms with his vengeance. Though he is currently set in stagnation to deal with his grief and suffering, Thorfinn is in the middle of his journey. And on top of that he shows none of the brass crudeness many of the men in the band do, capable of kindness and thought when he is given brief moments of humanity in other people. Thorfinn directly contradicts the major experience that has shaped Askeladd into the man that he is. Though he seems to believe in the Norse gods, Askeladd admits he hated the Danes and wants to what he can to protect the land that they are in.
I think this is a play of brilliance on the writing in the story. On top of the fact that Thorfinn genuinely misreads Askeladd and holds nothing but hatred for him, over time it seems Askeladd genuinely has come to trust Thorfinn. Does he care for him in spite of his origin? Does he care about the men he works with, the village he hails from? Instead Askeladd’s greatest concern is Canute: he wants to make sure he becomes King and that they can create a treaty that will protect the land from the Danes. He has a genuinely good goal in spite of it being born from hatred, it stems from a desire for good and out of a positive feeling towards his Welsh heritage. Though I do not anticipate Thorfinn being the exact same way- I do not believe he will outright obtain his vengeance and will instead be forced to confront himself- I think Askeladd’s growth is something we will often draw from for the span of the series and parallel with Thorfinn’s growth.
Askeladd seems a man who is growing closer to the completion of his ‘arc’. Knowing what I know about him now I actually do think he will die, but not before he completes or partially completes the last remaining vestige of his goals. We’ll learn more about Askeladd’s goals and how far he has come to completing his arc soon, I’m sure. But for myself I am waiting for the mirror that Thorfinn can provide us. How will he deal with his vengeance in comparison to Askeladd? That’s what will prove compelling from here on out.