「賭け」 (Kake)
“A Gamble”

Zaiden’s Take

Given all the recent incidents around the world – Brazil, Indonesia, etc – I have to say, don’t try forest fires at home kids! But if you can’t beat a fearsome warrior in straight combat without losing so many men, going all out with the forest fire makes a lot of sense, even if there’s no honour to be had. We’ve already seen it before with Thors. So it’s not surprising to see Askeladd resort to underhanded tricks, and he took a calculated gamble that his quarry wouldn’t perish within the flames – namely Prince Canute as a political bargaining chip for the highest bidder.

The drunk priest’s outburst reminded me of Yang Wenli’s philosophical pondering on alcohol. How could one abandon one of humanity’s oldest friend? Even if God invented the cheap swill he enjoys, I’m sure that he’d be a bigger fan of Jesus. His blood is wine in the Eucharist and he can transform water into alcohol. But too bad there’s no Holy Grail War where you can summon Jesus as a heroic spirit to fight for your side and produce infinite amounts of liqueur for everybody to enjoy. Because Vinland Saga is actually true to history for the most part, unlike Fate, though I like ’em both as they are. Anyhow, I think the priest’s outburst scene was meant to indicate the fragility of the priest’s belief in God. I’m quite sure that people definitely had their faith challenged in those times, especially when people you care about get raped or die brutal deaths for no good reason. So I find it absolutely fascinating to see the depiction of this ageless struggle playing out, as it surely must have even back then.

Vinland Saga has shown us a mix of motives that drive its cast, some being more obvious, others much less so. Thorkell’s men make it clear that the prospects of Valhalla drive them forwards, and the temptation of a good shag even make them consider converting to Christianity. Thorfinn, Thorkell, Ragnar and the Priest have extremely clear-cut motives. Thorfinn wants to avenge his father; Thorkell wants to fight for the sheer joy of it; Ragnar desires to protect his prince; the Priest just wants his booze. On the other hand, some people look to be driven, but are shrouded in mystery. We’ve seen glimpses of Askeladd’s desire through his extremely brief flashback, we still have no idea why Floki arranged for Askeladd to kill off Thors, and Prince Canute himself hasn’t even spoken up yet. His appearance seems extremely feminine and timid, making it quite clear why he had elected to wear a helmet this entire time. In an age like that of the vikings, where strength mattered beyond all else, I don’t suppose those good looks would get him anywhere and it would probably count against him in terms of trying to inspire confidence and respect from his men. Now we can see why Thorkell opted to lead the charge at London Bridge despite being significantly outnumbered – this Prince and his advisors seem extremely lackluster when it comes to the art of war.

The boy prince has certainly been the greatest mystery so far, and we know surprisingly little about him in a series where we’re usually shown how all the cogs have been turning – e.g. we as viewers understand that Floki schemed to have Thors killed off. Perhaps Ragnar’s over-protectiveness has been extremely stifling, sheltering the prince to an extent where he’s not getting the opportunities to face tough experiences that he can grow from. Maybe it will take an extreme figure like Askeladd, who murdered Thorfinn’s father and molded the boy as he liked, to help Canute undergo a personality transformation. I’d be extremely excited to see what comes of this, considering history buffs should have a vague idea of how things should proceed here. Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss. As always, thank you for reading my writing, and I’ll throw it over to Enzo for his insightful thoughts on this episode!

Guardian Enzo’s Take

The word “cinematic” gets tossed around a lot as praise for a TV show (I’ve done it myself here and there) but I think it really applies to Vinland Saga. Following this series really is like watching a short movie every week – or at least, watching an HBO drama (which usually may as well be a theatrical movie, based on budget). It’s also a universal in a way most anime epics, such as Golden Kamuy, are not. When we see material like this presented though an anime perspective but mostly lacking in tropes and culturally specific aesthetic, the result can often be stunningly good.

It’s also interesting to compare Vinland Saga against 2019’s other great anime epic, Dororo. That show was structurally quite Western, but it presented a quintessentially Japanese experience – survival in one of Japan’s most notorious eras, with a full grounding in Japanese and Buddhist mythology. What Yukimura Makoto seems to be trying to do is to divorce his work from Japanese prejudices as much as possible – the dedication he shows in researching his subject is legendary. And while ultimately such a thing can never fully succeed because we are who we are and our upbringing shapes our artistic sensibility, he’s managed to create something remarkably universal and thought-provoking.

The elephant in the room for this series is certainly Prince Canute – and his devout Christianity. That’s been the case for a few weeks but never more so than here, where he’s a presence in almost every scene. That’s an interesting effect because Canute still hasn’t uttered a word – if it weren’t for the fact that he has a seiyuu (and a well-known one) I’d have started to suspect Yukimura-sensei decided to make him a mute. Again, if you know your history you know the role Canute is fated to play in these events more or less, but the path VS is taking with him is certainly an interesting one.

As it stands, we have a three-cornered drama playing out in the forests of northern England. Canute and his retinue – Ragnar and the drunken priest whose name I don’t know – are prisoners of Thorkell and his men. They’re making no effort to conceal themselves as they saunter north and why should they, when the whole reason Thorkell kidnapped the prince was to provoke an attack? Thorkell jovially muses on the relative merits of Norse religion vs. Christianity (the tone masks what’s actually a rather serious part of Vinland Saga’s narrative) and good-naturedly mocks the silent prince and his Christian companions as they wait for the attack they know is coming.

Thorkell is an interesting contrast to Askeladd, seemingly as simple as the latter is complex. Thorkell is not stupid by any means – his sense of both tactics and strategy is clearly elite – but his desires seem very straightforward. Fatty autumn fish and meat, battles worth fighting, and ultimately an escort from the Valkyries into Valhalla for an eternity of the first two. He doesn’t love to fight because he’s cruel or sadistic – he just gets off on the rush. When a party of the main army (claiming to be 2000 – a ruse seen through immediately by Thorkell – but probably about 400) arrives to “surround” him, Thorkell lets Canute and his entourage go without a worry. They’ve performed their function, so what does it matter?

The wild card here is Askeladd – and being the wild card seems to be Askeladd’s existential role in life. He’s been shadowing Thorkell’s pursuers and when the moment comes, he sets the forest alight with plans to have Thorfinn snatch the prince in the confusion. It’s a classic Askeladd plan – minimizing risk to he and his men, utlilizing Thorfinn’s skill and fearlessness, and offering an escape hatch if it fails. The approaches of he and Thorkell to this confrontation could hardly be more emblematic of just how polar opposite these two men are, and Canute more than anything seems just a pawn in a larger struggle.

Ragnar does make note of that last point – “Why is it never the Prince’s decision?”. But while we see Canute’s face at last thanks to Askleadd’s request/demand, there are still no words – just an extremely feminine visage and a defeated expression. The moment that stays with me, though, is the reunion of Thorfinn and Thorkell, where the latter finally gets the chance to tell the boy that he knew his father. We’ve not seen the last of this – Thorkell acknowledges Thors as “the one man stronger than me”, and clearly has no idea he’s dead, and now Thorfinn knows a man his father may have called friend walks the same paths as he. Loyalties are going to be tested on many fronts, that much is certain, and as far as what was going on in England at this time that’s 100% historically accurate.


      1. Greenland naming was kind of PR stunt by Eric the Red… father of Leif Ericsson we me before, and discoverer of Green;and. He hoped to attaract colonists by vision of green and fertile land. Alas, Greenland had even harsher climate than Iceland, and while 900-1300 “Medieval Warm Period” allowed for colonies to be established and prosper for a while, by 1400s incoming Little Ice Age has doomed viking colonists to extinction…

      2. Yeah, Greenland was sure as hell never “ice free”. The old adage “Icelend is green and Greenland is icy” is an oversimplification, but for all recorded human history Greenland has been one of the coldest and most hostile environments to support permanent human habitation.

      3. No, worldwidedepp was right the first time.

        Parts of Greenland taht are now covered in ice were once ice-free hundreds of years ago, confirmed by everything from ice-cores to the dating of ice-locked vegetation and conifers further north where none currently grows, to centuries-old settlements on the South-Eastern and Western parts of Greenland. Even the Church records confirm that the region was not just warm enough to be forested, but cultivated to provide crops for a population large enough to send a bishop and build not just parishes but monasteries and cathedrals (who’s ruins are still there).

        So Eric the Red wasn’t bluffing – and such claims he was lying are just “hand-waive” rationale. The archaeological evidence alone is a testament that southern Greenland successfully supported a colony for centuries. The climate was much warmer between (but not limited to) the 9th and 14th century with a Greenland colonial population at least 4 times the size of Jamestown in what is now Virginia.

        It’s one of a litany of things that put the kibosh on the “Hockey Stick” graph, and every atmospheric geographer and meteorologist I know uses it as a litmus test to see if Joe-schmo is worth talking to; they don’t like to mingle with people who gravitate to research fraud. Neither do Engineers which is why we love using it too.

      4. Yeah but hundreds of years ago I really doubt people explored every last km of Greenland. There was always bound to be areas with ice/snow. It’s such a huge place and given where its located its probably impossible for there to be no snowfall anywhere.

      5. Oh and speaking of the weather, I find it fascinating how there are areas that are some of the coldest ever recorded on Earth such as Oymyakon(It also has a wiki page with temps). Where as you have Svalbard which is further north with much cooler temperatures lol.

        Not an expert on the climate so I have little idea how that could be but whatever. I’m guessing Oymyakon gets the super cold artic winds more than Svalbard or something?

      6. No he wasn’t right – he said it was “ice free” which it most definitively was not. Much of the continent is above the Arctic Circle for crying out loud. There was a warmer spell for a few centuries that impacted especially southern Greenland, but it’s not as if it still didn’t get damn cold there in the winter and much of the island wasn’t still covered by glaciers. This “warm” period probably means summer high temps in the 50s, and even during this interlude the climate was thought to be extremely erratic. It’s all relative.

      7. Hey guys, I think this is only my second time commenting on this site although I’ve been coming here for years. I feel like I’m in a good position to say something about Vinland as a historical location. The real life Vinland is considered to be the province of Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada, which is also where I live. The remains of a Viking settlement are located on the tip of Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula at a place called L’Anse aux Meadows, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There have been replica Viking ships sailed from Greenland and across the Atlantic to this location, including one in 2016. Also, in every scene that shows Vinland I have easily recognized the white and purple flowers as being flowers that are very commonly found here during the summer, it’s been interesting seeing it so well researched and being able to go for a walk outside and see those exact same flowers. While Newfoundland’s winters can be very harsh it’s summers are warm and often humid, to a Viking from Iceland or Greenland I could see how it would seem like a paradise in comparison.

      8. Should I be honored or careful with what I write from now on about Vinland “anime” or is it more Vinland “accurate History lesson” Anime?

        With “Ice Free” i mean of course peoples could life there and found colonies. I think they even used Greenland to be the first “White Peoples” touching America before Columbus

  1. https://randomc.net/image/Vinland%20Saga/Vinland%20Saga%20-%2011%20-%20Large%2005.jpg
    Oh, so that’s why fans have been recently calling Thorkell “best girl”. Personally, I’ve dubbed him, “Thorkell, Blender of Limbs”.

    “I am the god of hel[l]fire, and I bring you:”

    “♪ Fire, I’ll take you to burn
    Fire, I’ll take you to learn ♪”

    Other thoughts:
    – At least Thorkell seems to be aware of Thors’ spouse. Though no word yet on whether he knows of Thors’ passing. Sure, a lot of time has passed since Thors’ death, but news was much slower in those days–especially when you take the vast sailing distances of the Atlantic into account. (I meant this to be a reply to BlackEagle back in episode 09, but I got too busy with other stuff until today.)
    – Man, with that pretty face, one would be forgiven for thinking Canute was a woman dressing up as a man.
    – Even though Jesus Christ was famous for turning water into wine, I’m curious what Norse mead and ale taste like.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *