Vinland Saga was one of those shows that no one truly expected to become the hit anime series for the year 2019. A historic anime based around the Nordic Vikings is a cool premise, but to become a best seller is a completely different ball game. And perhaps it owes some of that success to its amazingly well-written characters which include Thorfinn, the main lead who we have lovingly dubbed as a Short King We Stan.
Welcome to Character Analysis – a segment where we break down famous characters spanning light novels, manga, and anime for the fans that might not know a lot about them. Usually, it’s to help clear out confusion or queries but it’s also just interesting to see what makes a character so iconic.
I know, I know. There are a lot of jokes about Thorfinn physically being this unassuming character, diminutive and innocent looking. But he’s more than just his anger. Thorfinn is a complex protagonist, with motivations and convictions that stem from trauma. And the fact that he was based on a real person from human history adds another layer to his characterization.
He’s an interesting one, to say the least. Beyond his physical attributes and quest for revenge, lies a character extremely well suited to be the center of a well-written but gritty Seinen manga such as Vinland Saga. Seeing Thorfinn reacts to the tragedies that come upon him, alongside how he tackles the issues he faces in a setting as cold and grim as its Nordic surroundings, that’s what we’re here for. So, let’s dive in.
Thorfinn: A Brief Introduction To The Son Of Thors
The Thorfinn we meet at the start of the series is an inquisitive but innocent child, who is friendly to his fellows and shares a good relationship with his family. But he especially looked up to his father, Thors Snorresson.
Thors would equally dote on Thorfinn, making sure he was on the path to growing into a pacifist. Since Thors himself was raised to be a bloodthirsty warrior, he regretted the path he had taken in life until he got married to Thorfinn’s mother, Helga. He didn’t want his son to grow up with the same regrets but, alas. That wasn’t meant to be.
When Thorfinn saw his father being killed, that traumatized him and nullified whatever he had tried teaching him about choosing peace. Seeing his kind father be slain down by Askeladd was the turning point for him, where became cold-hearted and merciless.
This is the Thorfinn we grow to know, one obsessed with the idea of avenging his father’s death. He’s brash, impudent, and angry. But much like his father morphed into the person Thorfinn grew to love, Vinland Saga also determines the course Thorfinn takes to become the same.
Thorfinn’s Real-life Inspiration
With how historically in-depth Vinland Saga goes, it’s no surprise that the protagonist himself is named after a real-life historical figure. Specifically, an explorer who echoes how Thorfinn is currently a traveler in the manga.
Thorfinn Karlsefni was not a vengeful warrior, but an explorer from Iceland born around 900 AD. The ‘Karlsefni’ wasn’t a surname, but a sort of title that he earned as a child growing up in that era. Karlsefni could be translated in many ways, but the most viable one was the ‘boy of promise’.
He wasn’t like a Jomsviking, with no real proficiency as a fighter but he was known for being an ambitious adventurer who made the voyage to search for the hidden land of ‘Vinland’.
Perhaps Makoto Yukimura, the creator of Vinland Saga, took inspiration from the counterpart to show the person our Thorfinn could become. Once he lets go of his regrets and the past that weighs him down, maybe he would become a promising individual once again.
His Temper Isn’t The Only Short Thing About Him!
People often remark about Thorfinn’s build, which is slight at best. He doesn’t look as foreboding as he is, with his short stature and big doe eyes. Perhaps that’s why it’s so unsettling to see him go into battle with all the anger and strength of a demigod.
Thorfinn claims that he stopped growing when he turned 17 years old, but that doesn’t fully explain his short height. Especially when you consider how his genetics are. But a lot of theories going around attribute his slender body to malnourishment and negligence.
After being enslaved, he must’ve been kept on a meager diet which could’ve halted his growing process. And then afterward, after Askeladd died, his depression could’ve left him being negligent towards his needs. Which could’ve also contributed to his health.
But the most widely accepted theory for Thorfinn being as short as he is? It makes him easier to draw for the mangaka. The short underdog is a pretty common protagonist trope in manga solely because it’s less time-consuming for the manga artist to create and integrate them into scenes.