Anime & Comics

Is Vinland Saga based on a true story? Viking anime origins explored

Is the Vinland Saga anime and manga based on a true story? Anime fans explore the fascinating origins of this Viking adventure.

Aside from season 4 part 3 of Attack on Titan, the 2023 Winter anime broadcasting slate has been dominated by the second season of Vinland Saga.

Whilst the MAPPA masterpiece’s lack of action may be wearing down the patience of casual fans, season 2 continues to impress with some of the most emotionally disturbing character development in recent history.

Now, fans are curious as to whether any of the characters or events from Vinland Saga are actually based on real life or whether the true story of Nordic conquest remains firmly a part of history only.

Is Vinland Saga based on a true story?

Whilst the story of Vinland Saga itself is not based on a true story, both the anime adaptation and original manga series do feature multiple historical events and characters from real life.

Aside from being set during the time when Vikings invaded Northern England and dominated many nations across Northern Europe, this also includes our main character.

Thorfinn might have been a blood-thirsty child warrior turned farming novice in the Vinland Saga anime, but he was actually a famous Icelandic explorer in real life.

Thorfinn Karlsefni, born between 980 – 985AD, was a merchant trader and explorer who was best-known for following Leif Eriksson’s route to Vinland; the coastline of North America that includes modern-day Newfoundland, Gulf of Saint Lawrence, to New Brunswick.

In an interview with Comic Space, mangaka Makoto Yukimura revealed that he first learned about Karlsefni from reading Wikipedia, and that Vinland Saga’s MC was based on the adventures of this famous explorer.

Yukimura explained how “He is said to be the second or third European to cross the Atlantic Ocean. There is an old document that says he crossed the ocean with the intention of establishing a country on the other side of the Pacific and was prepared to live there permanently.”

However, Thorfinn isn’t the only Vinland Saga character to have been based on real historical figures, including Canute, Thorkell, and the aforementioned Leif Erikson.

Prince Canute, known as ‘Cnut the Great’, was indeed the King of England, Denmark, and Norway for the time period when Vinland Saga was set.

Similarly, Thorkell, known in real life as ‘Thorkell the Tall’, was also one of Canute’s leading generals in his army and interestingly, was also the leader of the famous Jomsvikings.

However, fans of the anime may be familiar most with Leif Erikson, referred to in historical texts as ‘Leif the Lucky’, thanks to the popular Netflix series Vikings: Valhalla; of which Leif is the main character.

Erikson is thought to be the first European to set foot on continental America, having attempted to establish a colony in the said Vinland region.

Interestingly, there remains speculation that an unearthed Norse settlement from over 1000 years ago called L’Anse aux Meadows in modern-day Newfoundland was established by the famous explorer.

So, whilst the main storyline from the Vinland Saga anime and manga are indeed fictional, the series does take significant inspiration from real-world historical texts and figures.

By Tom Llewellyn – [email protected]

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Tom Llewellyn

Tom Llewellyn is the Head of World Content, Anime, and Comics at HITC Entertainment and also helps oversee all things deemed ‘nerd culture’ at Forever Geek. After gaining a BSc degree in Animal Behaviour, Tom continued his education with a Master’s degree in Science Communication (MSc) and post-graduate research; with his own independent project being published in the Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens in 2021. Since joining GRV Media in early 2020, Tom has amassed over 48 million views on his content and has conducted interviews with various actors and filmmakers from the wonderful world of anime.

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