Season 1, Episode 14: The Light of Dawn
Vinland Saga has given us hints at the importance of religion. This episode focuses on what it means to be a Christian in this series. The episode begins with Anne, a poor girl that has stolen a beautiful ring. Despite being against the teaching of Christianity, she is elated ate her theft. However, she is aware that she is at least suppose to feel guilty and ashamed. She hides the ring in a hollow out tree. She occasionally sneaks out to put it on her worn-out hands with chipped nails. While eating dinner with her family, they pray. Her little brother asks “why.” His father tells them of God’s “judgement.” All good men will go to heaven, while the evil ones go to hell. In what would be the theme of this episode, one of the son notes that the “Danes are evil men.” The father responds “they’re really evil.” The Danes, Askeladd and his men, are running out of supplies.
He tells Ragnar that his men will do what they do best, ” attacking and plundering villages.” If the last few episodes gave us the impression that Askeladd was more complicated than expected, this episode wanted to remind us that it doesn’t mean he good. After dinner Anne rushes out to admire her spoils. She wonders how to atone for her sins. As she contemplates throwing the ring away, she sees Askeladd’s men and hides. As they count the food supplies they concluded that there’s not enough food to feed everyone. Askeladd cannot afford to feed them and his men, so he orders his men to kill all of them. Anne watches as Askeladd’s men massacre men, women and children (including babies). It’s a horrific sight. Anne wanders off, asking God if he’s watching. Anne asks God if her family arrived.
Considering that this is Vinland Saga, this is without a doubt the saddest episode of the series. This episode does a good job humanizing everyone. Great detail is paid to the hands of Anne. Clearly a sign of poverty, it also explains why she would steal the ring. She feels guilty of course, but ironically her thief saves her from death. If she wasn’t admiring the ring by the tree she would have died with her family. Is it better to be alive, but having to witness the death of your entire family? I’m not sure. At the same time, the mass-murder committed by Askeladd and his men is a necessary evil. Askeladd has a responsibility to himself and to his men. Why would he let himself and his men died for strangers? You can’t suggest that his actions are good of course, but needed. It wouldn’t have been better to let the people starve to death. Sharing the food might have worked but Askeladd probably was right that they couldn’t have feed everyone.
Anne may have survived the massacre, but what does she have left? The world of Vinland Saga isn’t pleasant for almost anyone, it’s probably worst for a young pretty woman. I doubt the series will simply move on, but it has in the past. I think Anne’s life will get worst if they show her in the next episode. Finally, what does her Christianity provide her? Is it sufficient to help her through this tragic moment? Will she see it as her punishment? I obviously don’t know the answer but it seems that it will be up to her what she will take away from her horrific experience. Vinland Saga’s ability to focus on even small characters and still make you care is something that most series wouldn’t even attempt to do. It can be risky, but I think it’s paying off.