I love world-building in the manga. It’s one of my favorite aspects of any storytelling. I love how authors and artists can conjure up an entire culture and space that is a product of their imagination, it shows how far creativity can go when applied. Though Vinland Saga is more of a historical tale than it is fantastical, it doesn’t make the setting any less wondrous.
Welcome to Lore Analysis – where we take a look at some of the biggest and trending franchises in the Otaku world right now and examine what makes their story so iconic. Whether that’s an interesting premise, fascinating characters, or cool background factors the fans don’t know about, we break it all down!
Vinland Saga is a Seinen manga, with Makoto Yukimura at the helm of both writing and illustrative work. Based on the exploration voyages from Norse lore, the story mainly takes place in the land of Vinland, which is an actual place of historical value. However, that is not the only thing from history that has inspired the tale of Vinland Saga.
There are characters, other locations, and even certain historical events that are used as the backbone for creating the timeline for this historical manga. And sometimes you don’t need the larger-than-life fantasy and magic to create an impactful story. Sometimes, history itself can be an epic worth retelling. Or at least, it can be a little embellished. Let’s break down the historical connections in Vinland Saga.
Table of Contents
Vinland: A Real Location Outside Of Europe
Contrary to popular beliefs, the Vikings weren’t savage warriors who went into war with everyone and their mother. They were, first and foremost, explorers. They were adventurers, braving uncharted waters to map the world the best they could. That’s how they came across Vinland, in the first place.
Vinland, or Winland, was a place right on the coast of North America, discovered by Leif Erikson. This was nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ America. It had appeared in Norse folktales, but no one believed it is an actual explored site until archeological evidence was discovered in 1960, proving that Norse Exploration Of The Americas was a viable historical fact.
It’s kind of amazing how history immortalized this place because the only other evidence historians had of these exploration voyages were stone tablets inscribed with Nordic tales. And those could’ve been taken as myths rather than actual historical logs. But now, we know better, and a lot of that history has been incorporated into the manga.
An Amalgamation Of Two Pre-Existing Nordic Epics
It’s not uncommon for an author to take inspiration from literature already existing and shape it into something new for a fictional account. You see it all the time with works that are based on historical people or events but are technically fictional retellings.
Similarly, the Vinland Saga is born from two Norse chronicles. The first is known as the Saga Of The Greenlanders which revolves around Erik The Red and his cohorts, who colonized Greenland. The second is the Saga Of Erik The Red, which is an Icelandic origin tale of the colonization of North America.
Both of these epics are interwoven, especially when it is revealed that it was Erik’s son, Leif, who ends up discovering Vinland with his help. It was Leif Erikson’s mapping to Vinland that was followed by Thorfinn in both the anime and in real life.
Characters Pulled Straight From History!
Some of the characters and events in Vinland Saga are pulled straight from Scandinavian history. This even includes our main protagonist, Thorfinn.
Thorfinn Karlsefni was an inquisitive explorer in the year 1010 AD. He followed in Leif Erikson’s footsteps to Vinland as well, settling there and starting a family. Unlike the Thorfinn of the manga, who was a traumatized child that grew up to be a ruthless fighter hell-bent on avenging his father’s death.
Then there is Thorkell The Tall, who in the manga is a jovial warrior who shares blood with the commander of the legendary Jomsvikings. Whereas in history, he was the Jomsviking commander himself. We aren’t sure if he was as lighthearted as his anime counterpart but both share one trait and that is being in the favor of Prince Canute.
Then there is Thors The Troll who was a very feared fighter in Scandinavian history, being one of the most promising members of the Jomsvikings. It is also true that he eventually went off to Iceland after the Battle Of Hjörungavágr because he had become a pacifist.
It is amazing how taking a few liberties from history and inspiration from the wars humanity has waged against each other could lead to a story as moving and humane as the Vinland Saga. Historical or fictional accounts aside, the feelings it invokes in the reader are very, very real.