Episode 4, A True Hero
I’ve known the fate of Thors from the beginning and have been dreading it. I think this is a testament to the great characterization Vinland Saga has given Thors. Even with so few episodes, I feel I know him. Or at least I want to know more about him. Exactly what happened that made him hate fighting so much. From the first episode it seems that he was a bloodthirsty warrior. I may be the birth of his daughter that softened his heart. Regardless, he turned his life toward peace and put his sword down. He even seemed to develop a hatred for violence. However, when the village is threaten he has no chose but to prepare for war once again.
Thors begins this episode quickly defeating many of the bandits. He avoids shedding any blood (when possible) focusing on punches, throws and breaking bones. On of the men, Bjorn goes “mad,” his pupils turn white and he indiscriminately attacks his own men. Thors notes that he’s eaten a “berserker mushroom.” Thors knocks him out with his bare hands, however, Bjorn gets up. Meanwhile, the last ship gets closer to Thorfinn and the other villagers. Thors arrives, after defeating Bjorn. Having defeated half of Askeladd forces, offers to allow him to leave. He assesses the situation and because Thorfinn is present he’s handicapped.
He challenges Askeladd to a duel. He accepts. After Askeladd calls him the “troll of Jom,” he quickly understands that Floki is responsible. When they begin to fight, Askeladd gets the first strike. As Thors approaches him he cuts the boats sails, causing them to fall. This distracts Thors long enough for Askeladd to slash him. The hit is too shallow. Askeladd is impressed by Thors, believing his trip was “worth it.” Accepting, Askeladd strength, Thors knows he can’t go easy on him. He begins to dominated the fight. Chipping away at his sword, Thors is relentless. However, Askeladd is able to predict the arc of his sword. He shatters it.
This was what Thors was waiting for. When Askeladd “swing wide,” he takes advantage. Thors hits Askeladd’s arm, disarming him and takes his sword. Despite winning, Thors refuses to kill Askeladd. He would accept a surrender all the same. However, Askeladd is unwilling to say it in front of his men. He tell Thors that the “duel won’t end until Thors kills him.” He asks why Thors is “wasting” his talent. Thors responds that a true warrior doesn’t need a sword. Bjorn awakens and grabs Thorfinn, holding a knife to his throat. Despite Thors winning the duel, Askeladd breaks the rules. With no choice, Thors accepts his death. Askeladd commands his archers to shoot.
Thors asks Askeladd to keep his promise and allow the villagers to go. He then asks Leif to bring his head to Sigvaldi, the leader of the Jomsvikings so he knows that he didn’t refuse to fight. Released, Thorfinn hugs his father on last time. Devastated, he vows to kill Askeladd. The look in his eyes shocks the other men. Askeladd, decides to leave him assuming he will die anyway. First, Thorsfinn’s lust for vengeance, while I would like to see it, is not what his father would have wanted for him. He really emotional right now, so we’ll see how long his rage will carry him. However, he hasn’t learned the lesson his father taught him regarding violence.
A common theme in this series so far is to “value ones life.” Basically, do recklessly throw it away. Obviously, Thorfinn not going to die anytime soon but he seems to be reckless by nature. In contrast with this theme or in accordance to it, Thors life had literal value (Askeladd was paid to kill him), and according to Askeladd he was worth than a “hundred warriors.” In the end his life was valuable enough to save his men and most importantly his son. I’m not sure Thorfinn will learn that lesson until later in the series. I think he’s going to have to go through the same journey his father did, first through violence then to peace.