Is Vinland Saga based on a true story? Explained

Thorfinn and Askeladd as seen in Vinland Saga season 1
Thorfinn and Askeladd as seen in Vinland Saga season 1 (Image via WIT Studio)

When watching Vinland Saga, one cannot help but notice the nuances where the anime and real-life elements overlap. Several events, timelines, and characters just seem to match numerous historical references. Thus, fans of the series are often led to question whether the series is based on a true story or not.

The Vinland Saga follows the story of Thorfinn, a boy who dreams of traveling, after hearing stories about Vinland from Leif Erikson. However, after witnessing his father's death at the hands of Askeladd, his life's goal became to kill him in a fair duel. But this opportunity was snatched away from him, after which he was sold into slavery.


Is Vinland Saga historically accurate?

Thorfinn as seen in Vinland Saga season 2 (Image via MAPPA)
Thorfinn as seen in Vinland Saga season 2 (Image via MAPPA)

While there are several moments and elements in Vinland Saga that are true events, the story as a whole isn't historically accurate. The series' mangaka Makoto Yukimura has done a good job of molding history and fiction together, which gives fans a feeling that the manga and anime are based on a true story.

First and foremost, the series' timeline is accurate, as it takes place in the early 1000s, when the Danes, led by King Sweyn, invaded England in the hopes of expanding their territory.

Canute as seen in the anime (Image via MAPPA)
Canute as seen in the anime (Image via MAPPA)

This was around the same time that Prince Canute came to power, just like in the Vinland Saga season 1 finale. However, his personality, as shown at the start of the season, cannot be confirmed. Prince Canute was not portrayed as feminine or timid. However, as seen in season 2, he was portrayed to be quite handsome and strong.

Besides Canute, there are several other characters in the series that are based on real-life people. The series' protagonist, Thorfinn, is based on one of the most famous explorers of the Norse region at the time, Thorfinn Karlsefni.

Leif Erikson as seen in Vinland Saga season 2 (Image via MAPPA)
Leif Erikson as seen in Vinland Saga season 2 (Image via MAPPA)

Similarly, Leif Erikson, or popularly known as Leif the Lucky, was a character based on a popular true-life explorer, as his passionate adventure stories are what inspired Thorfinn Karlsefni to explore the European continent for Vinland, the land which was later found to be part of North America.

Thorkell as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)
Thorkell as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)

As for the Vikings, Thorkell was one of the most accurately-depicted characters in the series, as even in real life, he was known as Thorkell the Tall. Contradicting his air-headed personality in the anime, Thorkell was actually calm and collected, and one of the strongest generals of King Canute.

Thors as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)
Thors as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)

In addition, he was the person supposed to be the leader of the Jomsvikings, not Thors, Thorfinn's father, as depicted in the series.

Speaking of Thors, he is a fictional character, and there is no one who seems historically similar to him in terms of personality. Thus, Thors may have been created to start Thorfinn's story as a bloodthirsty killer, looking to avenge his father by killing his murderer Askeladd in a fair duel.

Askeladd as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)
Askeladd as seen in the anime (Image via WIT Studio)

That being said, Askeladd himself isn't based on any real-life characters. He appears to have been created, like Thors, solely to foster Thorfinn's character development. Thors and Askeladd have a surprising amount of influence in Thorfinn's story, despite the fact that they have no historical references.

Thus, while Vinland Saga does have its similarities to real-life events, it isn't completely based on a true story.