The 2nd season of Vinland Saga has been highly anticipated by fans, especially those waiting to see how the Farmland arc with Arnheid will go. After all, the biggest question is whether Arnheid is dead. And, as we all know, Vinland Saga is not the kind of anime to hold its punches back. It’s been a rough ride so far, and it doesn’t look like things are going to lighten up anytime soon. With how tragic things can get, there is always hope that things might get better.
However sadly, that was not the case for Arnheid. The manga confirms that Arnheid is dead, succumbing to her injuries after being brutally beaten by Ketil. To say that this was the death that moved many manga readers to tears, would be an understatement. Especially seeing how she was so close to escaping Ketil’s clutches, who had been keeping her as his slave and concubine. But sadly, after Ketil realizes how he’s lost all standing in society, he goes back to see Arnheid trying to flee and it sealed her fate. And there was no happy ending.
However, as I said before, Vinland Saga is one of the rawest anime to come out in recent years, rooted in realism with class politics, slavery, and colonization critique. And Arnheid’s story wasn’t uncommon when it came to slaveholders and female slaves in general. Like, I’ve watched a lot of ‘dark’ anime in my time, filled with heavy subtext and even gore. Yet nothing came close to making me feel the sense of dread I felt in the scene where Ketil closes in on the stable after being disgraced in front of King Canute.
Arnheid being dead hit a lot of fans hard. People wanted to see her escape her honestly dire conditions and get some solace away from her abuser. But it wasn’t meant to be. However, that’s also what I like about Vinland Saga, it doesn’t redeem its villains under the guise of love. So, in today’s Lore Analysis, I want to discuss why Arnheid is dead and Vinland Saga ends up treating tragedy for what it is. Let’s get right into it.
Arnheid and Ketil: Captivity Isn’t Compassion.
One of the most disgusting takes I’ve seen online, because of anime trolls, is how people were actually angry at Arnheid trying to escape from Ketil’s clutches. As if his obsessive love for her somehow negated all the abuse he put her through.
And it honestly makes 0 sense to me. Like none whatsoever. These people are going for the shock factor when they say this, but it’s kind of disturbing when you think how modern-day people might legitimately have this mindset. Because Ketil showcased himself as an ‘empathetic’ slave owner, we are led to believe that he is just a product of his circumstances. He didn’t want to be a slave owner, but society ‘pushed’ that on him. In return, he tries rectifying that by apparently giving his slaves a chance to buy their freedom.
As if that absolves him for assaulting Arnheid in the first place. As if that would redeem him for impersonating a noble warrior and committing crimes against humanity by abusing his slaves. In the end, he gets what is coming to him, after his sons ridicule him and bring his entire façade down.
But, sadly, it took Arnheid being dead that did so.
Arnheid Is Dead, But her Legacy Became Vinland’s Basis:
Arnheid was a kind and beautiful woman, happily married to her husband, Gardar, and together they had a son named Hjalti. They were a content family living in a village, with no worries on the horizon. So, when she’s taken away from that peaceful life, with her son killed because unmarried female slaves sold for better prices, you feel like nothing is fair.
And that’s the thing, it isn’t. She continues to suffer, first at the hands of the invaders and then through Ketil, who forces her to be his mistress. In the end, you think she’s about to escape, get out of it for good. She even found her lost husband again.
But instead, she ends up dying in front of Einar, in Thornfinn’s arms. And she asks “What is the point of me living?”. And Thorfinn just continues to tell her about Vinland, a land where she would suffer no more. Arnheid being dead is the last straw for both of them.
This is where Vinland becomes not just a whim Thornfinn is chasing, but a legitimate place that he will reach.