「ケティル農場の戦い」 ( “Ketiru Noujou no Tatakai)
“The Battle of Ketil’s Farm”
And so here we are, at long last. These two roads have finally merged, as they were always fated to do (or so it feels like). As I said in my Golden Kamuy post on LiA, this isn’t really about comparing the two series as much as celebrating both of them. But they really are a fascinating pair of jewels in anime’s crown. Stylistically, Vinland Saga couldn’t be more different from its dance partner. Where GK is pure bombast and narrative bravado, Vinland Saga is elegiac. Where GK rarely takes the time to, VS is constantly reflective. It’s full of characters who know too much about the world to ever feel really hopeful, and the series reflects that knowledge.
This whole Ketil’s farm arc has had the pall of tragedy hanging over it from the beginning. It never seemed like it could be that easy – work hard, gain your freedom. Maybe Ketil would have followed through on that promise, if the mood has struck him – we’ll never know. But that’s not how this world works – which is why Thorfinn is slowly realizing his only option is to find a new one. But the world he’s trapped in at the moment is collapsing. Arnheid is probably dying, and Canute’s ships are about to rain death on all who remain behind to face them.
Like with Ketil and Snake, Canute’s veneer of moderation is really just a facade. His generous offer of ten years of outlawry (effectively exile in this context) and surrender of all his rightful (mostly) possessions is a one-sided one. Canute is a thug, the bully with the biggest fists at his disposal. He may not want to stain Ketil’s land with blood but it’s only because it’s his land now – what he’s stolen through political power he seeks to secure through military might. And of course Ketil’s ragtag band of farmers and bakers has no chance of resistance. Thorgil has pointedly not told the men who they’d be fighting until they were committed, and he sees them as nothing more than cannon fodder in any case.
Snake, of course, knows this. He knows the numerical advantage Ketil’s “army” holds is meaningless. Each Thegn is worth twenty of Ketil’s zaku, and each Jomsviking probably fifty. Badger and the others urge Snake to flee, to abandon a hopeless fight or turn Ketil over to the king. But Snake refuses – even though, as he reveals to the others, Thorgil is a fraud. “Iron Fist” Ketil was a powerful warrior who was a mentor to the young Snake. When he “got into trouble” and came looking to him for help, he realized that this man shared nothing with his friend apart from a name – a name he was trading on to advance his own reputation.
Yet Snake refuses to abandon Ketil – it’s time to “pay his tab” (one suspects there are multiple meanings to this in Snake’s mind) after having lived idly of Ketil’s largesse for years. It’s a sort of honor he has, this man who would stab a wounded prisoner unconscious on a cart. And his men share his sense of loyalty – despite the truth of what Ketil is and Snake’s urgings to flee, they elect to fight and almost certainly die at his side. Indeed this fight does look utterly hopeless. The only wildcard is Thorgil, who’s concocted a plan for he and Olmar to use the cover of Ketil’s army being slaughtered to sneak attack Canute from the sea. Olmar doesn’t have the stomach for it, obviously, but even for Thorgil this is no strategy for victory – just revenge.
Against this backdrop, what is Thorfinn – and Leif – to do? Fighting seems out of the question considering where Thorfinn is in his spiritual journey (Leif is smart enough to see this), though I’m surprised Snake didn’t try and coerce him into doing so. Einar won’t leave Arnheid behind, and Leif won’t leave Thorfinn behind. For Snake, the “honorable” thing to do is stay and fight. But for Thorfinn, the only honor is in leaving – even if that means parting with the old master without properly bidding him farewell. He and Einar owe Ketil nothing – no law making them his property can trump the natural law that states all humans are free. Leif is honorable too, in a different way – he leaves payment for Arnheid, despite everything that’s been done to her.
It’s hard to see how the “Battle of Ketil’s Farm” ends in any other way than the complete decimation of Ketil’s people and probably his own death. Even if Thorgil somehow managed to get to the king and kill him, the battle itself has already been decided. And it’s almost as hard to imagine that this is not Arnheid’s final journey, following in the path of Gardar and her children (one unborn). Even if she sees that ragged wolf and stag, the two who try somehow to make a decent life in this “heap of pain and despair”. She may be going back to give them the farewell they deserve, but it seems certain to be just that and no more – her journey, it seems, ending.
“Thorgil is a fraud. “Iron Fist” Thorgil was a powerful warrior who was a mentor to the young Snake. When he “got into trouble” and came looking to him for help, he realized that this man shared nothing with his friend apart from a name – a name he was trading on to advance his own reputation.”
Wait, isn’t Ketil the “Iron Fist”? (Or as revealed, a fraud using that name.) Thorgil is the eldest son (and actual warrior in his own right, as we’ve seen in previous episodes).
(*Actual thoughts on the episode on a separate post*)
Sorry, exhaustion typo.
Sorry to be the one to notice that… Rough few days? Or getting that whole “Content Creator’s Dilemma”? (e.g.: “If there’s time to rest, that’s time that can be used to be productive and create content.”)
Hope you’re OK. Take breaks and relax when you have to. Quality content still trumps quantity content that turns out to be dog-doo.
Posting my own thoughts on the episode in a bit.
I don’t know if you ever check out LiA (my own website) but I knew this season was going to be brutal, and it is. If I were smarter I’d have said eff it and skipped a bunch of shows I’d normally cover, but I didn’t do that. I’ve almost been able to manage but with GK joining Insomniacs and Vinland at basically the same time, on a workday, it stretches me beyond even my insane limits. I pushed back Insomniacs a day (which itself kind of drove me nuts) but even just VS and GK in one night after work is too much to handle comfortably.
Well, good to see Thorfinn and Leif get some breathing space and finally have a good (albeit short) heart-to-heart talk this episode, and it’s also good that Thorfinn does remember Leif (most likely thanks to the latter’s tales of Vinland).
Badger: “How are they reaching us from so far away?”
Hypothesis 1: They have the sea wind blowing on their backs and giving more range to their arrows. (Incidentally, also the reason why the defenders’ arrows couldn’t reach–they’re against the wind.)
Hypothesis 2: Composite bows or an early version of long bows? (Or simply better quality bows than the ones used by Ketil’s levies.)
Peasant rabble and Snake’s small company of mercenaries (numbering 350) against a hundred elite troops (Jomsvikings and Thegns)…you don’t need to be a veteran Total War player to see where this is going. Ketil may have the numbers, but Snake (and Fox’s earlier reaction) said it best:
“Master, this is my final warning. If we fight, we’ll lose.”
Pater’s also in the battle… Damn…and he’s one of the few good men in the show.
Also, Arnheid on a cart ride through a dark forest with Gardar, Hjalti and her (unborn) child with Ketil… Oh s***, she’s gonna die, isn’t she? But Gardar lets her go back, if only to say farewell to Einar and Thorfinn.
I really appreciated the use of a dark forest as a visual metaphor for the dark, cruel world they live in, and it can also be interpreted as the visualization of a person’s struggles with their own inner darknesses/demons/evils. Also, I’m guessing the (friendly[!]) wolf represents Thorfinn and the stag represents Einar? (Also also, flashbacks of House Stark and House Baratheon.)
Anyway, I sense Arnheid won’t be long for this world, but one hopes that the afterlife gives her, Gardar and their children the happiness that was denied to them in life.
God damn, I love how utterly compelling these characters are.