Let's see how Thorfinn is doing among the men of Askeladd in Vinland Saga Episode 06: will he be brought up for the brutality of war

After presenting the manga Thu and having reviewed the Episodes 01, 02, 03, 04 e 05, let's see how the situation develops in Vinland Saga Episode 06, Entitled The start of the journey!

Thorfinn joined Askeladd's men in order to earn the opportunity to duel and kill his father's killer. How will it fare?

Askeladd negotiates the price of his help to the Danes in Vinland Saga Episode 06
Askeladd negotiates the price of his help to the Danes in Vinland Saga Episode 06

Vinland Saga Episode 06: the plot

Vinland Saga Episode 06 opens with Thorfinn and Askeladd's men at sea. Pirates enjoy the rain and take advantage of it to wash themselves, complaining about Thorfinn and his being holed up in a corner.

The war against the British

A brief summary of the events that led to a further one follows Danish invasion of England, and at the outbreak of a war between the Danes and the British. Askeladd disembarks his men near Gainsborough, in the midst of a battlefield littered with corpses. Pirates are little more than annoyed by the bodies that clutter the road and by the stench, but Thorfinn is much more impressed.

Askeladd and Bjorn argue over the war situation and Askeladd reveals that at the moment the king of Denmark is sending hired Vikings around to set the stage. Only later would he invade England with his army. In fact, Askeladd and Bjorn meet a Danish army officer, who admits he had trouble with the soldiers of the local English lords. Askeladd manages to be promised gold and all that can be plundered to the British, in exchange for face the enemy instead of the Danish army.

Thorfinn kills a man for the first time
Thorfinn kills a man for the first time

The first murder of Thorfinn

However, the night is interrupted by english, who attack the Vikings by surprise. But Askeladd's men are not intimidated and brutally respond to the attack. Thorfinn tries to muster up his courage and join the battle to prove himself, but ends up pinned to the ground by an Englishman. It's just the intervention of Askeladd to save his life, followed by a cynic: “On the battlefield the first to die are the weak. Comets."

Angry and frustrated, Thorfinn gets up from under the corpse of the Englishman and, between luck, short stature and a lot of ringworm, manages to kill an enemy. Or, to be precise, manages to kill his first human being. We see Thorfinn becoming aware of what he has done in a mixture of horror and anger.

La military campaign against the British it goes on and we see how Thorfinn continues to fight, improving and becoming better and better at killing people. Even the men of Askeladd begin to consider him a warrior, until it is Askeladd himself who asks Thorfinn to go in reconnaissance and the boy learns to fight with two daggers.

The two unnamed British women of Vinland Saga, Episode 06
The two unnamed British women of Vinland Saga, Episode 06

The two British women

Some time later, we find Thorfinn alone, injured and running away from English pursuers in the night. The morning after, two English women, mother and daughter, discuss the current English king, Ethelred. According to the older woman, Ethelred is an idiot, while the former King Edgard was a better ruler, who had even made friends with the Danes. Ethelred, on the other hand, had attracted the ire of the Danes for free. While the two women argue, they see Thorfinn passed out and injured on the river side.

Thorfinn wakes up in their home and the two women offer him clean food and clothes. However, Thorfinn can't answer their questions, since he doesn't speak their language, and his daughter suspects he is a Danish. However, this does not matter to the mother, why saving him is the right thing to do, what Jesus Christ would have wanted him to do. But the daughter is not convinced: the Danes are enemies of England and her father has joined the army to push them back. But the mother says it doesn't matter, because women and children are not obliged to get involved in these disputes.

The unnamed mother, while combing Thorfinn's hair
The unnamed mother, while combing Thorfinn's hair

The English mother protects Thorfinn

The discussion ends when the daughter discovers that Thorfinn is full of fleas and the two women run for cover, that is, to a bathroom. While his mother brushes his hair, Thorfinn admits he doesn't understand what they are saying, but the woman, having confirmed that the boy is Danish, is only happy to know that he is not silent. When an English soldier comes to their farm to investigate a Danish explorer in the area, the mother lies to him, saying that Thorfinn is his youngest son. In the evening, the daughter argues with her mother, telling her that the Danish kid will never be able to replace her dead brother.

However, before the girl can go looking for the soldier, Thorfinn takes a burning stick from the fire and, also in Danish, he tells the two women to run away. The mother tries to chase Thorfinn, who escaped into the night, but without success.

Thorfinn's "friends" have arrived. Unfortunately.
Thorfinn's "friends" have arrived. Unfortunately.

The assault of the Danes

We find out that Thorfinn went to set fire to a house by the sea: it is a signal for Askeladd and his men. The mother rushes to the beach with the other villagers to put out the fire and watches in horror as Thorfinn kills four men. Seeing the old woman, Thorfinn yells at her to run away and hide in the forest, but her mother doesn't understand and looks at him, crying.

But the scene is interrupted by drums in the night: they are the Askeladd ships that dock on the beach and massacre the villagers. Askeladd congratulates Thorfinn on the excellent work. But Thorfinn is sad and watches the old woman, who gave him a day of normal life, disappear among the Vikings. But resigning himself to not being able to have a normal life, Thorfinn sighs and rejoins the Danes.

Thorfinn turning on the signal for Askeladd
Thorfinn turning on the signal for Askeladd

The war in Vinland Saga Episode 06: punch in the stomach

There are many manga that speak of war and its atrocities. From Fullmetal Alchemist a Gundam, Up to Berserk, there are many works that explore war, its indiscriminate violence, its weight on the innocent.

We are not strangers to works that represent it in detail, explicitly showing us massacres, rape and torture, as Game of Thrones o Goblin Slayer. This is a very valid way to get the message across that war is ugly and terrible. However, Vinland saga shows us that this is not the only possible way, and episode 06 is a prime example.

Indeed, in Vinland saga we never see rapes or torture explicitly represented, nor does the author focus in too much detail on the massacres. People die, are gutted, beheaded and torn to pieces, and this often comes to the fore on the pages of the manga. However, this graphic violence is not excessive, nor is it depicted for more scenes than is necessary to get the message across. Indeed, many of the massacres of innocent civilians are left in the unsaid: we see the weeping women dragged into the barns and the bodies buried after the slaughter, but nothing more.

The unnamed mother who cries when she sees Thorfinn kill people
The unnamed mother who cries when she sees Thorfinn kill people

Humanizing the characters makes their off screen deaths just as terrible

This style of narration, however, it takes nothing away from the horror of war, because we don't need to see rapes and massacres to be touched and disgusted. This is made possible by the fact that Makoto Yukimura humanizes all their characters a lot, continually reaffirming that all are people with their own character, desires, vices and virtues.

First of all, each supporting actor or appearance has its own particular design, which characterizes him as a unique and unrepeatable individual. Nobody is an enemy without a face or personality: all those who die are shown as people, not as cannon fodder, whose death we must not be saddened by.

Second, most of the characters have some small scene in which he speaks and shows us his character. Askeladd's men make jokes, wash, drink, laugh and, in general, are nice people. They even try to involve Thorfinn in their entertainment and treat him like a mascot. If the little boy allowed it, Askeladd's men would be his friends, a whole crew of rough foster uncles.

Similarly, even the British we meet are humanized people. Soldiers who attack Thorfinn believe what they are doing, talk and confront each other just like the men of Askeladd. The villagers of this episode are introduced as they rush to put out a fire, acting selflessly.

The mother and daughter, having had more time on the screen, are characterized even better. Rather, they are very reminiscent of Helga and Ylva, with the altruism of the mother that makes one think a lot about Thors's towards the slave of the first episode. The mother is a genuinely kind character, and after all the massacres we have seen, we are inclined to hope that Thorfinn will stay with her. Because we know that Thorfinn would be happy with the two women and he could finally have a normal life, in which to be a normal child.

Thorfinn realizing that the unnamed mother hasn't run away
Thorfinn realizing that the unnamed mother hasn't run away

The horror in Vinland saga Episode 06

So when Askeladd and his men come to massacre the people of the village, we don't need to see the dead and the slaughter to be sad. It is enough to see the mother cry for Thorfinn, for the fact that a child has been forced to become a murderer, to feel a punch in the stomach. These secondary characters have been humanized so much that knowing that they die and that we will never be able to see them again makes us sad.

And the worst part is that we know that they are killed not by faceless monsters, but by people who are nice to us: Bjorn is nice, Askeladd is nice, their stupid soldiers are nice. That the war reduces such people to killing people like the elderly mother makes us understand that war is a waste of lives and capacity. This is the horror of Vinland saga: not the guts outside, not the raped women, but the precious lives and happy futures that the war takes us away. And the tears of an elderly woman are enough to make us understand.

This it is a well done narration. And a lot of people should learn from Yukimura. There are good authors, like Martin, who use explicit horror well. But many other people use explicit horror to compensate for their inability to tell an emotionally impacting story, and therefore resort to blood, guts and rapes for free shock value.

Thorfinn learning to fight with two daggers in Vinland Saga Episode 06
Thorfinn learning to fight with two daggers in Vinland Saga Episode 06

Unpublished scenes in Vinland Saga Episode 06

As in episode 05, also in Vinland Saga Episode 06 there are both scenes in the manga and unpublished scenes.

In this case, all the first part of the episode is added material and completes the link between past and present seen in episode 05. We then see Thorfinn begin to kill and become a skilled warrior in a succession of fast-paced scenes. With its small details, each scene adds a piece Thorfinn's mosaic of skills and relationships. Conquer Bjorn's esteem, save Askeladd's life (only he can kill him!), Askeladd starts using him as a special solo force and learns to fight with two daggers.

Thus, the filler scenes combine Thors' death with the war in England a few years later. This in the manga is introduced to us by the rescue of Thorfinn by the two English women. So, in the manga it went directly from crying for Thors' death, to crying for the elderly English mother. Who ever said that Yukimura went light with the feels?

Although I am not a fan of filler scenes, I must say that in this anime they are spot on and use that bare minimum to create a chronologically sensible narrative. They also give us more time to get to know Askeladd and Bjorn, who are wonderful. You can give me all the scenes you want with those two: I won't be the one to complain.

Rapes? Blood? But in Vinland Saga Episode 06, the broken comb of the English mother is enough to make us cry!
Rapes? Blood? Not at all Vinland Saga Episode 06 the broken comb of the English mother is enough to make us cry!

Conclusions

In short, Vinland Saga Episode 06 it is evidently another connecting piece, but adds important information. We see Thorfinn grow up and come to terms with the horror of war. Meanwhile, his relationship with Askeladd changes and the boy finds his place in the Viking crew.

From the preview of the next episode, however, it seems that the crew will make a trip to France. So, my predictions at the end of the previous episode will almost certainly be wrong - in the end, we'll really see it clash with the Franks of the very first chapters of the manga! Although I believe it could have been done without, it is a good way to show Askeladd's military prowess and Thorfinn's abilities.

And again, if he shows us more Askeladd, who am I to complain?