The Askeladd Death Scene Is More Meaningful Than You Think

Its time to finally talk about the Vinland Saga Askeladd death scene from Vinland Saga. One of my favourite moment from the enitre manga. Askeladd was a very prominent character in the prologue of Vinland Saga, taking on the role of both antagonist and mentor to the main character of the story, Thorfinn. We would like to explain why his death scene at the end of the prologue really wraps things up nicely not only for his character arc, but also for the character arcs of the main characters of the story Thorfinn and Canute.

Vinland Saga Askeladd Death Scene and Thorfinn

Askeladd and Thorfinn first meet when Askeladd is hired by the scheming Floki from the Jomsvikings to assasinate Thorfinn’s father Thors. Thors is a very strong viking warrior (the strongest we’ve seen in the story so far) who was targeted by Floki, because he was set on removing all the likely candidates for the seat of the leader of the Jomsvikings.

Thor’s personal philosophy is interesting. He is a man that seeks to become “a true warrior” who became convinced that the life of a Jomsviking–pillaging cities, fighting for the glory of battle – is wrong and not the path to becoming a true warrior. this is why he became a deserter years before the events that lead to his murder. He had started a family and was living an honest life away from war in the harsh land of Iceland.

His reputation as a warrior, however, was such that Floki, upon discovering that he is still alive, saw him as a big enough threat to the seat of the Jomsvikings, that he was hellbent on eliminating him. The Jomsvikings respect battle strength above all else, so he wasn’t irrational in thinking fearing this scenario, but he wasn’t aware that Thors, would have never accepted that title due to his personal beliefs.

In any case, Askeladd was the man for the job, although he is pretty closely bested in one on one combat by thors, the Vinland Saga Askeladd death scene happens much later in the story. He gets the job done by dishonest, but clever tactics, which is a good introduction to Askeladd as a character. He is the total opposite of a hot head, does not believe in honor and is always scheming and plotting his way to victory. After killing Thors, Askeladd takes his eight year old son, and the main character of the story Thorfinn into his crew of Vikings. He serves as Thorfinn’s primary motivation, who wants to kill Askeladd in an honest duel, to avenge his father’s death. Because of this obsession, he carries out Askeladd’s orders flawlessly, who rewards him with duels, which Thorfinn inevitably loses throughout the prologue, because of his hot headedness and lack of strategy.

The Askeladd death scene, mentoring Thorfinn
Askeladd easily defeats Thorfinn by imitating the unarmed fighting style of Thorfinn’s father and making him lose his focus

Throughout the prologue, as Thorfinn spends years within Askeladd’s viking crew, it becomes clearer and clearer, that Askeladd has become a sort of father figure for Thorfinn and the main catalyst for Thorfinn’s character development. in the prologue, Thorfinn is very stubborn and willing to use any means to get his revenge. The only thing he can’t let go however, is his pride and his obsession with revenge. By the end of the prologue, at the Askeladd death scene, however, Thorfinn realizes both the depth of the damage his inflicted to innocent people through and how far he has gone from the path his father was seeking, the path to becoming a true warrior.

Vinland Saga Askeladd death scene and Canute

Canute’s character arc also involves a cardinal change in his overall behaviour and appearance. He starts out as a timid prince often mistaken for a girl, who has survived the scheming, murderous court of England by cautiousness and submissive behaviour. In fact, he is shy to the extent that he uses his chief retainer Ragnar as a spokesperson, whispering the words into his ear instead of talking to his subjects directly.

Canute and Ragnar Vinland Saga
A typical scene: Canute relying on Ragnar to be his spokesperson

This strategy for survival falls flat, however, as his father Sweyn, the king of Denmark and England, has decided to favour his brother Harald and get rid of Canute discreetly. Canute was thrust into a do or die situation, wherein which Askeladd becomes the catalyst that helps him rise to the occasion. In the end the Askeladd death scene is the last drop that pushes Canute into becoming the ruthless ruler he is currently in the story.

Askeladd intends for Canute to assume the throne after his father Sweyn’s death and use his position as an advisor to Canute to further his own goals of protecting Wales. He judges Canute to be a worthy candidate, even when most disregarded him completely. Similarly to the actions of Canute in the future, Askeladd is not afraid to go to every length to enforce Canute’s awakening into a king. He kills Ragnar, who he judges to be a corrupting influence to the princes development. Uses decoys to foil Sweyn’s assasination attempt on Canute, and does much more to further the prince’s development.

His most important move all, and probably one of the high points of the entire Vinland Saga, is how he chooses to act at the end of the prologue. When Sweyn successfully backs him into a corner and forces him to choose between Wales and Canute. He decides to save them both by committing treason and chopping of the king’s head.

The Askeladd death scene
The awesome twist at the end of the prologue of Vinland Saga

With this move the final step for Canute’s awaking is in place, Sweyn is removed from the picture, and Canute is set to become the next king.

Wrapping up Askeladd’s character arc

Besides being the primary catalyst for Thorfinn and Canute’s character development, the Vinland Saga Askeladd death scene also neatly wraps up his own character ark. Askeladd was in many ways a tragic character: his mother was the successor of Lucius Artorius Castus, the man credited with defeating the Saxons to found the roman province of Britannia, that later became England and Wales, therefore making Askeladd a legitimate successor to the throne of Britain.

His mother was, however, captured, used and made into a slave by a Norse viking who didn’t even acknowledge Askeladd as his son until he demonstrated his instinctual skill with the sword by protecting his mother from his father. Askeladd used this new standing to cautiously gain respect in his father’s household until the opportunity presented itself to kill him in his sleep.

Askeladd’s journey was a constant climb from the very bottom to the top, living and succeeding in a world that he deeply despised. He hated warriors and Vikings, but became one himself. He killed his own father, but took in Thorfinn, who wished to take him down in a similar vain, but lacked Askeladd’s cunning and ruthless nature. Due to the secretive nature of his plans he never revealed details about his beliefs, not even to his closest comrades like Bjorn. Us as the reader, are also somewhat left in the dark about his actual ambitions until the end. But in his death scene his actual convictions become clear, as he tells Thorfinn to become a true warrior like his father Thors, not a viking, and allows Canute to deliver the finishing blow, thus completing his transformation into the king of England.

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