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Askeladd (Asheraddo アシェラッド) also known as Lucius Artorius Castus (Rukiusu Arutoriusu Kasutusu ルキウス・アルトリウス・カストゥス), was a cunning, mysterious Viking who commanded mercenary band of Vikings that included Thorfinn. Askeladd was half Danish and half Welsh, claiming descent from the legendary Lucius Artorius Castus, for whom he was named by his mother, with "Askeladd" being a nickname.

He was contracted by Floki to assassinate Thors and shortly after took Thorfinn in, who grew up on the battlefield and became obsessed with avenging his father's death by killing his commander. After his band was wiped out by Thorkell, Askeladd pledged his service to Canute to achieve this goal of keeping Wales safe from Viking invasion.

Appearance

As a child, Askeladd's chin-length wavy light blond hair was parted in the middle and worn loose. His eyes were light blue. His eyebrows were already rather thick, flicking out upwards at the outer edges. He was always plastered black and white with residue from his various jobs, earning himself the nickname of "the Ashen Lad". Askeladd wore trousers and a short sleeved tunic belted over a long sleeved shirt with a piece of fabric. Being very poor, his clothing was frayed and dirty, and he wore no footwear. After being taken in by his father at the age of 11, Askeladd is noticeably cleaner and wears nicer clothing. His appearance is similar when he arrives on the shores of Wales at age fourteen, though his hair is shorter and less noticeably parted.

Askeladd in his early 20s can be seen in a very brief flashback, likely at the Battle of Maldon in 991. He looks much the same as he does later in adulthood, including his clothing, though his goatee does not include a moustache. Adult Askeladd is first seen in the present-day Vinland Saga timeline in his early 30s. As an adult, Askeladd is an average-sized Viking warrior, standing at 170cm and weighing in at 65kg. He is muscular but lean, an expected build for such a fast man, though his stature belies his incredible strength. His eyes are light blue and his hair remains light blond in adulthood, telling of his Welsh and Danish heritages. He wears it short and slicked back. His eyebrows are thick and flicker upwards at the outer edges, and he styles his facial hair in a small, neatly groomed goatee.

Askeladd's other features include heavy eyelids (which make his unimpressed facial expressions particularly obvious), prominent cheekbones, sunken cheeks, an aquiline nose and a creased brow. He is often shown frowning, cocking one eyebrow, and/or wearing a sly smirk, often showing teeth. Adult Askeladd is typically pictured in the same warrior's outfit: a light, cowl-neck gambeson with detailing on the sleeve fringes (hooded and red in some of the anime), belted over a dark long sleeved shirt tied at the wrists, dark trousers, and dark boots hitting right below the knee. He typically wears an impressive dark breastplate, reminiscent of the Roman tradition, as well as a scabbard and his sword at his left hip. He occasionally wears a dark capelet and gloves, and a heavier long cape in colder weather.

As he grows older throughout the series, Askeladd's widow's peak becomes more pronounced as his hair thins, leading Thorfinn to occasionally call him names such as "baldy" and "pointy hair". His face also becomes more heavily lined as he approaches his mid-40s. After the battle against his own men, he gains a visible scar above his right eye.

Personality

Askeladd is a sly, manipulative, cunning and charismatic man. He is a great fighter, able to even go toe to toe with the likes of Thors. His biggest strength however lies in his intelligence and ability to strategize and adapt, a skill bolstered by his ability to know what kind of person someone is simply by looking at their face. He is quick to act and seize what he wants, yet slow to anger. As a captain, his bands looks up to him as a bold and lucky person worthy of leading.

Askeladd took care of his mother from a very young age, living in squalor and working very hard with no complaint. Witnessing how his mother and her people (the Welsh) were mistreated by the Norse and the English led Askeladd to despise his Scandinavian heritage and to embrace the Romano-Celtic heritage of his mother. He grew up with his mother telling him of their ancestor Artorius and how the great hero would someday come back to save their people from their plight, a belief he wistfully holds on to in adulthood (though he later decides anyone can play the role and puts his hopes in Canute).

From a young age, Askeladd shows his ability to plan ahead, convincingly play a role, and patiently wait for his opportunity to strike. He is an expert at maintaining a facade, typically acting arrogant and giving off the impression of simply being bored, amused, unaffected or entertained by the things happening around him. This often allows him to lower the guard of his foes, thus giving him the opportunity to shape the situation to his advantage and seize victory.

As a Viking, Askeladd seems to hold remuneration and riches in high esteem, whether it be for their own sake, for amusement, or as a means to an end. He is not above using underhanded methods to reach his goals, even if that includes breaking a Warrior's Oath. He uses violence and murders with no hesitation if it is of benefit to him and his plans. He is often cold-hearted: unbothered by seeing his own men dying in battle (or by having to kill them himself after they turn on him); coldly ordering the massacre of defenseless people; denying a dying man's last request after ordering his assassination; and seemingly not caring if Thorfinn dies.

Askeladd however also seems to have a less dark side. He avenged the person he saw as partially responsible for his mother's misery and cared for her until her death, remaining easily angered by taunts to her station even decades later. He cares for the welfare of the people of Wales, scheming to keep them safe from both the Norse and the English. Unlike the rest if his Viking band, he does not seem to revel in violence simply for violence's sake outside of battles and duels, or to seek some of the typical indulgences of the Viking lifestyle — he is never shown drunk, fighting for no purpose, or claiming women after raids. He sends Atli off with advice and a golden bracelet despite he and his brother Torgrim turning on him previously, and gives the dying Bjorn a warrior's death by granting him a duel. When Bjorn tells Askeladd he just wanted to be his friend, Askeladd allows him to know he really was his only friend before he dies. After being forced to kill King Sweyn in order to save both Canute and Wales, a fighting Askeladd yells at Thorfinn to stay out of things, a moment of inattention that costs him his life. His last words to Thorfinn are wise advice rather than taunts. He tells him to let go of things and move on, and that his real battle is to be a true warrior and go farther than Thors did.

History

Story

Background

Askeladd is the son of Lydia, a Welsh noblewoman who was captured and enslaved by his Viking father, Olaf. Due to being an illegitimate child, Lydia's son wasn't given a proper name by his father and, although Lydia gave him the name Lucius Artorius Castus after their ancestor, he was still considered nameless. Although Lydia was Olaf's favorite for some years, when her health failed, she was relegated to the stables and thus her son had to work from a very young age to provide for them both. Lydia's child would receive the nickname Askeladd (One covered in Ashes) from the fact that he would always be covered in ashes and manure. Lydia told Askeladd about their ancestor King Artorius, the great Roman hero, as well as her belief that Artorius was healing from his wounds in Avalon so that he could return and free his people of their suffering. When Askeladd was eleven years old, Lydia finally lost her mind carried a sheet over her head and walked through the village. When Lydia came across Olaf, she confused him for the savior Artorius and clung onto him in joy. As Olaf is about to kill Lydia, Askeladd realizes that the hero Artorius will never return and that only a normal person could save his mother. With no other option Askeladd grabs a sword and fights his father. Despite never swinging a sword before, Askeladd displayed natural talent, but was still defeated. By the end, Olaf realizes that Askeladd is one of his children and decides to take him out of slavery, having taken interest in the son he never knew until now. For two years, Askeladd feigned warming up to his father while hiding his murderous intent, such as showing Olaf proper respect, recognizing the former as his savior from slavery and even learning to get along with his half-brothers. Ultimately, Askeladd stabbed Olaf with the sword of one of his half-brothers in the middle of the night while the latter was in his bed, avenging Lydia's suffering. With one of his half-brother being framed for the murder and being executed, Askeladd was able to get away with his revenge and was given the right to inherit his property. A year after his father's death, Askeladd visits Wales to bring Lydia back home and meets Welsh General Gratianus for the first time. Lydia dies after returning to her homeland. Askeladd would soon spend the next 19 years as a Danish Captain, charging a band of Mercenary Vikings, while still holding a deep-seated hatred for Vikings and the Danes, despite being both of those things himself, while waiting for Artorius or anything else to change the world.

War Arc

Askeladd's role in the series is as the captain of a notorious band of Viking pirates. He is the unlawful murderer of Thors. He's Thorfinn's 'boss' even though Thorfinn rarely listens to him, apart from when he gets a chance to fight Askeladd (his usual reward). He is a mentor for Thorfinn and a catalyst that brings about the change in Canute. He mainly focuses on obtaining more fame and respect amongst his enemies while also trying to protect Wales from a Danish invasion. When King Sweyn announces an invasion on Wales as a prelude to fight in Ireland, he secretly gives Askeladd a choice, to save Wales or Canute. Not wanting to lose both in the process, Askeladd feigns madness, declares himself as Artorius reborn and kills the king. He meets his end at Canute's hands when the prince stabs him, recognizing the ruse the moment his father died.

Aftermath

Askeladd continues to have an impact on Thorfinn after his death. He often appears in Thorfinn's dreams and nightmares, as noted by Einar, who hears Thorfinn scream out Askeladd's name while in the throes of a nightmare. Thorfinn tells Einar of Askeladd, saying he was the man that killed his father, and that he was a very strong a cruel man. He continues, saying he followed him into battle to get revenge, as he hated him enough to kill him, though he eventually got killed by someone else in front of him. Einar tells Thorfinn no good will come of hating the dead. Thorfinn, recalling Askeladd's last moments (telling him to stay away from the fight, and then to become a true warrior), tells Einar he no longer hates Askeladd, which makes it harder to deal with as he is empty now that his hatred is gone (Chapter 68).

Thorfinn eventually remembers his dream, seeing Askeladd there once again. Thorfinn hangs on to a cliff with great difficulty, with warriors waging battle underneath him. Askeladd, sitting on a tall pillar, greets Thorfinn, noting he never learns and always comes back. When Thorfinn asks him if this is Valhalla, he replies that it is the real world — where all the "shit winds up", the final destination of all warriors, an ultimate state of warfare with no winners, losers or end, where everyone is an enemy and where Thorfinn used to live. He explains that Thorfinn escaped, for better or worse, by getting "hollowed out", and that though he is in no position to say so as the man who dragged him there in the first place, that Thorfinn is lucky he was one of the lucky few to leave. He inquires about what fills Thorfinn now that being a warrior, which was all he was, has been drained away. As Thorfinn derails in negativity, he tells him to pay attention to his surroundings, including a tower of corpses reaching for him. Thorfinn kicks them and Askeladd says he should at least hear their curses, as they are all people he killed. As the corpses at the bottom start shooting arrows at Thorfinn, Askeladd hops off his pillar to fight them off. He yells at Thorfinn that now is no time for moping around, as he shouldn't want to end up back there. He tells him to let the corpses hang off of him and climb, that that is his true battle — to go, take those he killed with him, fight his true battle and become a true warrior, echoes of his last words to Thorfinn before his death. When Thorfinn wakes, he swears to never harm another person again and declares that he will make amends for his past deeds and be reborn (Chapter 71).

Thorfinn, who had recently sworn off violence, finds himself facing a fight with Snake unless he gives up on helping Arnheid and hands over Gardar. As he ponders how he could make it out of the situation without using violence, fighting or hurting anyone, he sees Askeladd next to him. This vision of Askeladd puts voice to his own concerns, rationalizations and conscience: he doesn't really have a choice, and the violence is justified if it's altruistic and has no lust or hatred behind it. Askeladd asks him if he will hold true to his oath of peace, or surrender to the way of battle to save someone. He asks him which holds the path to being a "true warrior", and which he will choose (Chapter 85).

In 1019, when Thorfinn tries to fight off Garm at Jomsborg without killing him, he uses several of Askeladd's tactics, first by verbally taunting Garm and manipulating him into giving in to anger to lead him to make mistakes (Chapter 155). As Garm charges straight at him, he grabs him by the wrists and headbutts him, mirroring moves Askeladd had used on him. Thorfinn thinks it is a horrid thought that the things Askeladd taught him are what kept him alive. When Garm comes to, Thorfinn tells him that when the blood rushes to someone's head, their movements become quite simple as they become too fixated on the one mark they're attacking, a lesson he learned from Askeladd (Chapter 156).

When Thorfinn stops by Greenland for a few days before setting off for Vinland, he speakd to Leif. Leif remarks he is all grown up and that Thors would be proud if he could see him now. When Leif tells him "Follow your heart, my son", Thorfinn sees a smiling Thors and a smirking Askeladd behind Leif (Chapter 176).

Relationships

Thorfinn

Askeladd's relationship with Thorfinn is very hard to define. He is most often manipulative and indifferent with Thorfinn, but also sometimes takes on a bit of a mentor's role, offering him advice and trying to lead him to the correct conclusions. Originally, Askeladd lets Thorfinn tag along with his band because he shows promise and determination, and he knows Thorfinn only wants to kill him in a proper warriors' duel and will not try anything underhanded that would put his life at risk. Thorfinn takes care of himself and is a valuable, fearless fighter that is disposable to Askeladd, who only has to entertain him with occasional duels to have him do anything he wants, including perilous things like delivering messages to potentially aggressive soldiers, killing commanders, taking on the 230cm tall Thorkell one-on-one, or running into a burning forest to rescue Prince Canute. Askeladd acts indifferent when Thorfinn appears to have failed or died in these situations, though he typically seems pleasantly surprised when he finds out he has succeeded or survived. Although he knows Thorfinn hates him for killing Thors dishonorably, he trusts Thorfinn to undertake his tasks to the best of his abilities as long as he is promised his duels, and seems to have a high opinion of Thorfinn's skills in situations other than duels against him. Askeladd can be quite cruel to Thorfinn, for example taunting him about his father to make him lose his cool when they duel, not holding back in duels when Thorfinn has lost and is already down (even as a child), and insulting him. On the other hand, he frequently offers Thorfinn advice, telling him how to improve and that his emotions and thirst for revenge blind him. He also occasionally talks to him in a more amicable fashion, such as telling Thorfinn of the Roman ruins around them, which prompts Thorfinn to remind him he is not one of them and that he hates him. Thorfinn is aware Askeladd thought he was manipulating him, and Askeladd admits that Thorfinn will likely beat him someday as he grows up and Askeladd grows old, but this does not change the status quo of their relationship. It is insinuated that Askeladd may see some of himself in Thorfinn, as he too sought vengeance against the person who hurt his parent and he also despises Vikings and their lifestyle. After his last duel with Thorfinn, he tells him he will give him a lesson on how to kill a man you truly hate, and tells him of how he killed his own father as a child. He insinuates that either Thorfinn does not actually hate him, and/or that his lack of success after a decade means he needs to use his head. When he is fighting off Sweyn's men in a suicidal battle, Askeladd yells at the rushing Thorfinn to stay out of things, a moment of inattention that costs him his life. It is not known if this was to protect Thorfinn or to keep him from interfering and messing up his last ditch plan. His last words to Thorfinn are wise advice rather than taunts. He offers Thorfinn the chance to take his life before he dies, tells him to let go of things and move on, and that his real battle is to be a true warrior and go farther than Thors did. Later, when Thorfinn lets go of his hate, he comes to see Askeladd as a bit of a fatherly figure and often dreams of him or thinks of him when he needs to make difficult decisions or employ certain tactics.

Bjorn

Bjorn, who has been in Askeladd's band for over a decade, is Askeladd's subordinate, right-hand man, and possibly his only true friend. When Bjorn states he's in it for the killing and not the money, Asleladd laughs and says that's why he likes him. When Askeladd asks him why he stuck with him all these years, Bjorn simply replies that he wanted to follow him. Despite Bjorn's efforts, Askeladd keeps him at arms' length and Bjorn knows very little about him, other than the fact that he is Danish (which he is in reality only half correct about). Askeladd is however closer and more open with Bjorn than the rest of his men, often speaking and laughing with him and even offering up his thoughts about certain things (such his suspicions about Floki's true plans). On Bjorn's end, although he inherently trusts him, Bjorn is unafraid to approach Askeladd to offer his own thoughts, advice and doubts or to question him about his thoughts and actions. When Askeladd suspects his band will turn on him, he does not doubt Bjorn's loyalty and tasks him with protecting the prince, knowing Bjorn will put his life on the line to carry the task through and will not hesitate to fight and kill his former brothers in arms if he has to. Even after Askeladd boldly proclaims he despises all Danes, Bjorn is unshaken and carries out his orders. When it is made clear Bjorn will not recover from the gut wound he received from Atli while attempting to spirit Canute away, Askeladd agrees to have a duel with him, granting him a warrior's death and a chance to die with his sword in hand. Askeladd is visibly horrified when he misses the sure kill. Bjorn tells him he only wanted to be his friend, and Askeladd admits Bjorn was his only friend before finishing him off. Whether Askeladd meant it or simply said what Bjorn wanted to hear is unspecified. He carries away Bjorn's body himself.

Yukimura has commented that what Bjorn wanted of Askeladd was the kind of sworn brotherhood sometimes seen between Viking comrades, a deep friendship more akin to what Thorfinn and Einar have, a give and take of equals and partaking in a shared destiny. Bjorn however comes to realize that he is more of an adjutant to Askeladd. Meanwhile, Askeladd likely wouldn't have raised an eyebrow if Bjorn had been killed by Thorkell in Volume 6. (*Source needed)

Canute
Lydia

Askeladd's mother was named Lydia and his father was named Olaf. He also had a number of half-siblings through Olaf. Through Lydia, he is descended from Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman Hero and the basis for the King Arthur legend.

Olaf

Olaf was Askeladd's father.

Thors

Thorkell

Floki

Atli

Ragnar

Abilities

Master swordsman: Askeladd was a highly skilled swordsman, displaying a talent for this at age 11, when he defended his mother from his father Olaf. Despite being middle-aged at the time of his death, he survived combat against multiple opponents at once, including King Sweyn's royal guards.

Ranged weapons: Askeladd had skill with throwing hatchets and throwing knives, although they were not his primary weapons.

Leadership skills: Askeladd is also a master tactician as well as a skilled politician. His ability to manipulate those around him turned a horde of pirates and raiders into a close-knit group wholly loyal to him. He has shown himself capable of turning enemies into allies, as seen with Thorfinn, Thorkell, and Prince Canute.

Askeladd could also instantly read a man, an ability he claimed to have picked up from living 40 years among wicked men.

Battles, Raids and Duels

Battles and Raids

  • 991: Battle of Maldon
  • ~1002: Faroe Islands ambush
  • 1008: Eastern England (East Anglia) village raid
  • 1012: Frankish Fortress
  • 1013: Battle of London Bridge
  • 1013 (November): Farming village raid (ninety miles west of London, near Bath)
  • 1013 (November): Marlborough forest battle (near Bath)
  • 1013 (December): Northern Mercian village raid (Earldom of Mercia, Central England)
  • 1013 (December): Band mutiny
  • 1014 (January): King's Feast's regicide

Note: These are Askeladd's known/named battles and raids. Others have occurred.

Duels

Askeladd versus Thors

Askeladd versus Thorfinn

  • First duel: Thorfinn, age 6, asks Askeladd for a duel. He attacks him with a sword much too heavy for him.
  • Second duel: Thorfinn, age 6, asks Askeladd for a duel, yielding his father's short sword.
  • Third duel: In 1012, Thorfinn, age ~16, asks Askeladd for a duel as his reward for killing the commander of the defending Frankish forces Jabbathe's troops had been attacking. Askeladd grants him his request once they reach Gorm's village to winter.
  • Fourth duel: In 1014, Thorfinn, now nearly 18, asks Askeladd for a duel as his reward for defeating Thorkell.

Note: These are Askeladd's known duels with Thorfinn. Others may have occurred.

People Killed

  • Olaf
  • Olaf's concubine
  • Thors Snorresson (Caused)
  • Ragnar (Caused)
  • Bjorn
  • Sweyn
  • Himself (Caused)
  • Numerous Counts of English Soldiers (Caused and Direct)
  • A few of Ragnar's troops (1 direct others caused)
  • Members of his own band

Trivia

  • Askeladd is named after the Norwegian fairy-tale character Askeladden. Askeladden appears in many stories and is the youngest son that no one expects anything from, but in the end, he's the one who succeeds. Usually not through brute strength but by wits, a dose of luck or some other kind of trickery.

Images

Age Manga Anime
11 years old

11 year old Askeladd (Chapter 47)

14 years old

14 year old Askeladd (Chapter 26)

Early 20s

Askeladd in his early 20s, around 991 (Chapter 41)

References


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