「嵐」 (Arashi)

The elegance and depth of Yukimura Makoto’s writing leaves me in awe sometimes.  In Vinland Saga he’s created a story founded on profound ideas.  These are ideas that he places great importance on – his public statements on twitter (often in excellent English, though he rarely uses that language for this purpose) reflect his profound dismay over the state of the world.  And not only that, on Japan’s responsibility to do more ((in terms of accepting refugees, for example).  Yukimura is no dilettante – he’s clearly focused a lot of his energy on wrestling with the issues Vinland Saga brings to light.  Many things have changed in a thousand years, but perhaps not so much as we think.

There’s been an arc to this story, a patient and subtle layering of themes to bring us to the point we’re at now.  With each act of man’s inhumanity to man, it becomes clearer that the problem not any specific man, any specific warrior of government.  The problem is the world – this world, early 11th Century Scandinavia.  The world is broken – “wrong”, as Einar puts it here.  “It’s wrong for freedom to be taken away by violence”.  It sounds so simple  – I mean, of course it us.  But it’s the basis on which this entire world operates.

The tragic tale of Arnheid and Gardar is at the center of this part of the story, and powerful and heartbreaking it is.  But like everything else in Vinland Saga  – Thors’ life and death, Askeladd’s season, Einar’s arc  – it all comes back to Thorfinn.  This is his saga – and in an Icelandic saga, that makes all the  difference.  This is the Saga Age we’re watching play out here, after all.  It isn’t always immediately clear how what we’re seeing directly relates to Thorfinn, but it becomes clear in due time.  That comes down to the mastery of Yukimura’s writing.  You can’t necessarily look at a single plank and see where it fits in the finished structure, but Vinland Saga doesn’t have a nail out of place.  And that becomes clear when you step back and take it in from a distance.

Arnheid doesn’t journey to Snake’s camp with the intent of trying to free her husband, I don’t think.  She genuinely intends to treat his wounds, and to find a way to tell him what happened to their son.  And she wouldn’t have had the chance to do that if it had been up to Snake, but one of his men takes pity on her and allows her to go to Garder.  And the Gardar who apologizes to her and promises to make amends seems almost like the husband she knew back in Sweden.  But Gardar is still the wild animal he’s become – been forced to become.  Death and blood follow him everywhere. and an increasingly irate Snake has a trail of it to follow.

Again, for all the terrible things we witness, it’s a simple conversation in the waning moments that winds up dominating the episode.  Thorfinn has stayed up all night to make sure Einar doesn’t do something stupid, and neither of them have slept.  The sheer unfairness of life consumes them.  What hope can there be in such a world?  Einar asks Thorfinn about his dream of slavery and war in the world.  Thorfinn opines that most slavery comes as a result of war – stop war, and you eliminate most slavery.  But how do you stop war in a land where every man is raised to believe that it’s the natural order of things?

I closed last week’s post this way:

Ultimately this all ties back to Thorfinn, in his spiritual infancy, trying to find a reason to believe there’s something better out there – and that it can be reached without killing those who would block his path.  It seems impossible that he might find it in his world – but perhaps the answer lies in leaving that world behind altogether. 

This is obviously the moment we’ve been building towards, but it felt almost like an epiphany as I watched the final scenes of that episode.  It’s all been woven together so beautifully to get us to this point – every stitch, every strand.  The moment when the true path became clear was like the sun breaking on the horizon in the dawn.  Thorfinn knows that simply avoiding doing more damage to the world is not enough – he must create in equal measure to what he destroyed if he’s ever to find peace from the burden of the souls he carries.  But whenever and wherever in this world he tries to do that, this world will find him.

Killing for peace is not the answer Thorfinn seeks, but it’s the paradox those who seek peace must confront.  Gardar became a savage because this world did that to him.  It always finds you.  So the only solution, then, is to leave the world altogether, and build a new one someplace else.  It’s audacious to say the least, but audacity is a quality all great explorers must possess.  And one of those great explorers  – and a fellow outcast – is headed towards Ketil’s farm now, with the King of Denmark in pursuit.  This world will not let justice happen easily – already, Thorfinn and Einar are deeply entangled in Gardar’s terrible struggle.  But the course has been laid in, and the real journey has finally begun – it not yet a journey of the body, certainly one of the soul.




  1. As I was reading your great review of the Vinland Saga episode, when I got to the end this Bible verse popped into my head: Ephesians 6:12:

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    When I think about Vinland Saga, I believe this is the true fight that has been going on that Thors understood and now Thorfin. Thorfin speak so much time fighting against his fellow man trying to achieve a victory that was false. All the time he spent amounted to nothing, he actually lost more then he gained anything. But now Thorfin is beginning to understand what his true fight is. Maybe even his true purpose.

    I’m glad we’ve gotten to this point in Thorfin’s story. It was honestly hard journey when I think back to Thorfin as a child proclaiming his vow to kill Askeladd. I’ve seen similar things in anime, but something about how it was done in Vinland Saga truly made me sad. It’s nice to be able to replace that image of child Thorfin with the image of the man he is growing into.

  2. Absolutely loved the conversation between Thorfinn and Einar this episode. And good on Einar not doing something rash and actually thinking things over.

    Einar: “Thorfinn, what you told me the other day… Were you being serious?”
    Thorfinn: “What?”
    Einar: “You asked if it was possible to eliminate war and slavery from the world. It sounds like a fantastical dream to me, but as someone who’s experienced both, you must have some ideas. What should we do? How can we eliminate war and slavery?”

    And when Thorfinn admits that he still doesn’t know how to eliminate war from the world, I can’t help remember the words of Ace Combat Zero‘s Larry Foulke:

    The world won’t change for the better unless we trust one another. Trust is vital in a peaceful world. But that will never happen.

    Then it’s Einar who responds to Thorfinn’s desire to create a place where people don’t need swords.

    Einar: “But how are you going to defend that land? I don’t like war, either. But Vikings eventually show up everywhere. Sometimes you have to fight to defend peace and freedom.”

    And I actually agree with Einar’s assessment (especially since he knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of aggression–same goes for my compatriots who actually bothered to learn anything from Philippine history). No matter how one tries to befriend everyone and make a peaceful world, there will always be other people or entities who are hostile to you or want to abuse you for their own ends.

    I only need to look at our world right now for such examples: Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine (and only pro-Kremlin Vatnik urods + Western tankie simps will think it’s not an invasion but a “Special Military Operation”), China’s excessive territorial claims and its nigh-lustful desire to “reunify” with Taiwan–by force if necessary (Wumao + Western tankie whataboutism and gaslighting can go the way of the Moskvaidi nahui), and North Korea constantly threatening South Korea + launching ballistic missiles in Japan’s direction (and yes, I know that North and South Korea are still technically in a state of war).

    Thorfinn is lucky that he has the option to leave for a “new world”, and we’ll be in for one heartwarming reunion once Leif arrives at Ketil’s farm. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Einar joins Thorfinn on that expedition as well.) But I pity those working on Ketil’s farm without any idea that Canute’s forces are about to “requisition” it, those who can’t leave for one reason or another will certainly be subject to cruelty and suffering. For now, however, Thorfinn and Einar are snapped back to reality by Snake’s men hunting down Gardar.

    1. This is a difficult philosophical question. Just because that world doesn’t exist, does that mean mankind should stop aspiring to it?

      Einar’s point is perfectly valid in context. But Thorfinn’s rejoinder is really the essence of the argument. It’s a cycle, and as long as people keep propagating the cycle it can never be broken, There will always be “valid” reasons to kill other people. But self-defense eventually leads to stuff like “stand your ground” laws.

      1. Well, perhaps I’ve grown too cynical to even dream or hope for a better world where humanity doesn’t f**k s**t up every five minutes (metaphorically speaking). And that’s also the reason why I empathize with (and understand) the sadness of Larry’s addition of “But that will never happen.”–though to be fair, he does mention that he still wants to try. And that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? To try and create that better world.

        But it’s not for the likes of those who will eventually have to fight (and sometimes die) for it, and it’s certainly not for the kind of people that have much to lose in such a world (like those supporting and are part of authoritarian regimes propagating the cycle).

        As for the mention of “Stand your Ground” laws… Well, if individuals are rational enough not to trespass in someone else’s property (or simply listen in good faith), there won’t be a need for those laws. But not everyone is rational or can be reasoned with. And then you magnify that to the level of nation-states–a nation has to defend itself to ensure its survival.


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