How Historically Accurate is Vinland Saga, Exactly?

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How Historically Accurate is Vinland Saga

Not only is Vinland Saga an excellent action drama series in its own right, but it’s also something of a rarity. Very few manga or anime series try to create a dramatic story in an authentically-historic setting, but how historically accurate is Vinland Saga, exactly?

To see the similarities and differences between the anime and the real world, we’ve broken the series into three sections: story, setting and characters.

We’ll be focusing on the anime for this dive, but will also make references to the rest of the Vinland Saga manga, so beware of potential spoilers.

Table of Contents

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Is Vinland Saga Based on a True Story?

Whether Vinland Saga is a true story or not depends on your threshold. Most people wouldn’t consider the Vinland Saga anime to be a true story, but it has a lot of individual moments that, in themselves, are true events.

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The first season’s ending concerns the rise to power of Prince Canute, which was a true story. However, most key points at the start of the first season, including Thorfinn’s father and Canute’s timidness, appear to be embellished.

Most of Vinland Saga’s storylines follow a similar pattern – there is a thin line of truth running through each plot, but certain characters, scenarios and timelines are moulded to fit the dramatic narrative.

Is Vinland Saga’s Historical Setting Accurate?

Is Vinland Saga’s Historical Setting Accurate
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One area where Vinland Saga is particularly accurate is its setting. The timeline is correct, alongside many of the big events that occur during the anime.

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At the time in history when Vinland Saga was set, England was indeed being invaded by the Danes, led by King Sweyn, while there were also discussions about which of his sons would replace him when he died.

Also, Vinland was indeed a legendary land that some Norse and Vikings aspired to reach. Nowadays, Vinland is recognised as North America.

Most of the towns, boats and swords used in the anime are also accurate for their time, although the sizes of certain things are skewed for dramatic effect.

Are Vinland Saga’s Characters Real People from History?

Vinland Saga Historical Characters
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The most interesting thing about Vinland Saga’s historical accuracy is its characters. Most of the characters in Vinland Saga are real, but their features have been dramatised.

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Vinland Saga’s main character is based on the real-life Thorfinn Karlsefni, who is one of the most famous explorers from the Norse region around the time the series takes place. Thorfinn wrote a series of stories about his explorations which are known as The Vinland Sagas.

Unlike in the anime, Thorfinn didn’t come from a Viking father – Thors is an anime-only character – and did not appear to fight in any conquests. In fact, his famous expedition to Vinland occurred a few years before the events in the series.

Prince Canute, initially mistaken as a woman in the anime, was also known in real life for having beautiful looks. Canute is also known as one of the first Viking rulers to support Christianity, which plays a large part in the series.

However, Canute was also seen as an exceptionally strong person, unlike what we see at the start of the series. Although, historical accounts need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and we may yet see this side of Canute in Vinland Saga Season 2.

Thorkell is one of the most accurately-depicted characters in Vinland Saga. Known in real life as Thorkell the Tall, he was a feared warrior who defected to the English and thought against Canute before returning to his side and becoming one of his strongest generals.

However, Thorkell is blemished through his personality – the real-life Thorkell was much more measured and calculating than the battle-hungry version seen in the series.

The most notable fabrication in Vinland Saga is Askeladd, who has no real-life equivalent and was purely designed to play the mentor to Thorfinn.

As historical action series go, Vinland Saga is a quite faithful retelling of a time when many historical accounts were dramatised and incomplete. However, its biggest achievement is bringing this time period to life in a way that feels just as exciting as any contemporary story.