There are very few anime that are showcasing their protagonists as weak and working on their journey like Vinland Saga is with Thorfinn. But then again, Vinland Saga is a story that is truly in its own league. With how it can be heart breaking and inspiring at the same time, it’s one of those shows that you experience once and instantly get the hype. And one of its strongest fortes is how it builds its characters from the ground up.
For example, a lot of people might consider Thorfinn a weak protagonist, but that is simply untrue. Quick disclaimer: Spoilers ahead but the reason why this is happening is that Thorfinn has hit his lowest point when it comes to his mental fortitude. He already lost quite a lot of his motivation to avenge his father when Askeladd died in the 1st season of the anime. But especially after the brutal death of Arnheid in the 2nd season, it was like a make-or-break for him.
However, strangely enough, it feels like these events are what finally sparked a fire in him. This is where the true plot of Vinland Saga can finally unfold, and we can see Thorfinn go from weak now to a gradual growth that feels like it was a long time coming. That’s the best part about Vinland Saga in my opinion. It’s the fact that everything, no matter how minuscule, adds up to something greater. And that everything, whether it’s a tragedy or a moment of respite, feels earned. Not a lot of anime pull together a story with so much emotional weightage and deliver it consistently.
But again, the characters are what make it. Specifically, characters like Thorfinn, who we have seen go through so much, battered and bruised until it feels like the man has nothing more left to lose. But does that mean Thorfinn is weak now? That’s what we are here to break down in today’s segment of Character Analysis. Let’s dive right into his character arc!
Thorfinn: More Than Just Weak.
With the death of Thorfinn’s father, we saw the demise of an innocent child, and the birth of a vengeful man. Thorfinn’s father was Thors Snorreson, one of the most famous Jomsviking warriors to ever live. Hell, he was so notorious for his feats that it earned him the moniker of the ‘Troll of Jom’. And while he did soften significantly after his marriage to Helga, he was originally a hardened soldier.
And turns out, when push comes to shove, it’s like father, like son. Thorfinn’s father dying at Askeladd’s command to save Thorfinn’s life is what did him in. And so, Thorfinn realized that to avenge him, he needed to grow much stronger than the loved and pampered child he had been. And that is a rude awakening call for anyone, but specifically, in a culture was battle grazed as the Vikings.
By the time he joins Askeladd’s band, Thorfinn isn’t weak anymore, but a cold-blooded individual hell-bent on seeing his goals through. He shows such single-minded devotion to his revenge, acting aloof to anyone else who approaches him. The only time you see him show any emotion is in his anger and rage, which could raze entire men to the ground.
So, how do we end up with him becoming a mere husk of himself? Well, that’s just how his life takes a turn. When Askeladd dies, he is left with no purpose, his revenge gone up in flames. And when he meets people like Ketil, slave owners, and abusers galore, it’s like he draws himself even more inward. Especially when he couldn’t end up saving the people he had grown to care about from those monsters. That kind of thing does anyone in. But is that the end?
Protagonists That Aren’t Perfect From The Get-Go!
Thing is, you rarely get to see the downfall of a hero in anime. Or well, a proper step back instead of some motivational speech bringing him back from the brink. Thorfinn starts as strong but grows weaker and more brittle with every hardship he ends up enduring.
But, just like before, these new pains give rise to a new purpose in life. Vinland Saga had been about Thorfinn’s revenge for so long, but revenge just eats you up from the inside. What Arnheid’s death did, was lead him to a place where he could move on from his pain.
It gave him the drive to work towards finding Vinland, a land with no suffering like the ones his loved ones had endured.