Thorfinn (トルフィン, Torufin), also nicknamed Karlsefni, is the main protagonist of the manga and anime, Vinland Saga. He is a former warrior of Askeladd's band, and the son of Thors, the most famous Jomsviking warrior until his defection. Thorfinn is related to the leadership of the Jomsvikings through his mother Helga, who is the daughter of Chief Sigvaldi and the nephew of Thorkell.
After attacking Canute in a rage when the latter killed Askeladd, the death of whom was Thorfinn's goal for most of his life, Thorfinn was enslaved as a punishment. Four years later he gained his freedom and changed his life. He is currently a traveling merchant working with Leif Ericson and attempting to colonize Vinland.
Thorfinn's appearance is pretty consistent throughout the story. He has bushy hair, old clothes, two knives, and a rebellious, angry face. He is also relatively short.
When Thorfinn was a child, he had a happier face, round with bright, curious eyes, and well-kept hair.
He has a somewhat slight build that belies his strength.
Thorfinn's entire body is littered with scars (Chapter 175), most of which were caused by blades. His face remains unmarred until he gains several obvious scars on his face in adulthood, mostly because he refuses to fight with weapons and tries his best to defend himself and neutralize his opponents without causing any lasting harm. In 1015, at age 19, an apathetic Thorfinn does not budge when one of Ketil's guests, Fox, goes at him with a sword to try to make him fear for his life, slicing off the top of his left ear. In 1018, when Snake attacks him for helping Arnheid and refusing to hand over Gardar, he slashes Thorfinn's face with his scimitar, resulting in what would become a long scar starting at his right temple, extending across his right cheek and ending at his jaw, next to his chin (Chapter 86). In May 1019, 23 year old Thorfinn gains a scar across his left cheek when Garm slashes him with his spear (Chapter 135). In June 1021, 25 year old Thorfinn returns to Iceland from Greece with a scar across the bridge of his nose (Chapter 166).
When the series begins, Thorfinn is shown as an innocent and friendly boy who is searching for adventure. He shared a very good relationship with his family and enjoyed stories told by Leif about his adventures. He has a good relationship with his father and looked up to him immensely, shown when he decides to follow Thors by sneaking on his boat to follow him. This would become the foundation of Thorfinn's drive to avenge his father.
However, by the time he joins Askeladd's band, he is a cold-blooded individual, hellbent on his goal to avenge his father. He becomes aloof toward others, unmoved by and uninterested in what they do or thinks of him, choosing instead to keep to himself. This is seen when Thorfinn ignores the invitations from his fellow Vikings to join in on the fun and his refusing to eat dinner with the rest of them.
His flaws lie in his temper and impulsive nature. This is seen when he ignores Askeladd's input despite the benefits it may be able to bring him, which leads to him losing fights against Askeladd. Frequently throughout the series, Thorfinn's reckless nature leads to his own suffering and failure. Even if he does possess talent far beyond the norm for his age, his hot-headedness is easily his biggest weakness. This weakness also unfolds with an inability to learn from mistakes, and several times, Thorfinn has hallucinations with his late father, asking him if this is really the right way to go, and he just ignores it all. This is probably a metaphor to show that the difference between the old Thorfinn and the current one is not much big, and inside his iron fortress, he is just a wrong-headed boy.
He also showed a great lack of empathy, as he did not seem to care when Askeladd's gang murdered civilians and raped women, he just walked away with disgust. Although he sometimes told his possible victims to run when he was not in the mood to kill them, but he didn't really care anyway.
However, his personality suffers a huge blow after Askeladd's death, where Thorfinn was overcome by despair and tries to attack Askeladd's killer. However, this caused him to lose his purpose and become an empty shell after being sold as a slave. During that time, Thorfinn became totally depressed, melancholy, stoic and unwilling to live, living a deplorable life being mistreated by his merchants, with none of the exuberance of his childhood, the pride and belligerence of his adolescence, or even the will to stand up for himself. Fortunately, he began to regain his will and courage with the help of Einar, Snake and Sverker, who helped him to realize that he is still capable of a meaningful life.
Thorfinn slowly begins to recover and then takes on a more kind and pacifist attitude. He seems to have become more like Thors and seeks to become a merchant to become a better person and forget his dark past as a murderer. His time as a slave also appears to have affected his behaviour. For a while, he refrained from fighting and always tried to resolve the situations in the conversation, but even then this attitude backfired several times, and so he saw that sometimes it was necessary to use force to resolve conflicts. He also seems to have few social skills and doesn't seem to know much about the female body, seen this when after adopting Karli, he tells Gudrid to feed him with her breasts, not knowing that she would need to be pregnant for this to happen.
Thors is Thorfinn's father.
Helga is Thorfinn's mother.
Ylva is Thorfinn's sister, 9 years his elder.
Gudrid becomes Thorfinn's travelling companion when he sets off for Greece to secure funding for his expedition to Vinland. They later marry at some point during their travels to or back from Greece. Gudrid travels with Thorfinn to found Vinland, along with their friends and their adopted son, Karli.
Thorfinn finds Karli and his mother in the wreckage of a massacred village shortly after setting leaving Iceland. He and his crew take on Karli with the intent of finding him a family, but grow to care for him so much that they are later unable to part from him. Sometime during the crew's expedition to Greece, Thorfinn and Gudrid marry and officially adopt Karli, who henceforth refers to them as his mother and father. Thorfinn and Gudrid do not specify that Karli is adopted when they introduce him to others.
Einar is Thorfinn's best friend and steadfast companion. They are so close that they refer to each other as "brother", both privately and in public. Meeting and befriending Einar was a significant catalyst for positive change in Thorfinn's life. It is Einar's optimism, hope, positivity, compassion and unwavering support and assurances that slowly coax Thorfinn out of the apathetic state he had been in in the years following Askeladd's death. This leads to Thorfinn thinking about how to make amends, move on from his past and find alternatives to violence, as well as his life's purpose. Einar unwaveringly believes in Thorfinn, supporting him even when he does not completely understand what Thorfinn is thinking or striving for. He shows great concern for Thorfinn's life even when Thorfinn does not value his own survival, risking his life for him multiple times with no hesitation. He embraces Thorfinn's goal of creating a peaceful colony in Vinland as his own - he travels to Iceland with him, travels with him to Greece to secure funding for the project, assists him in getting candidates, and finally travels to Vinland with him to found the colony. They essentially do not leave each other's side after first meeting on Ketil's Farm in June 1015.
Einar is the first friend Thorfinn makes since he was a child in Iceland. They meet in June 1015, when the newly enslaved Einar is bought for Ketil's farm and assigned to the same field as Thorfinn, leading them to spending all of their time together (working all day, sharing meals and sleeping in the same barn). Thorfinn is at first surprised Einar tries to protect him when the guests threaten them, and does not hesitate to offer himself to the guests in return for Einar's safety, as he holds no value for his own life at the time. At Einar's prompting after he gets a glimpse of his fighting abilities, Thorfinn admits that he was at war from age 5-6 onward, participated in the Danish invasion of England, and killed more people than he can remember, clearly distressing Einar, who was himself a victim of the Danish raids and dislikes warriors. Thorfinn later shows confusion when Einar keeps waking him from his nightmares (which lead him to thrash, moan and often even scream in his sleep) — Einar says he does so because they're friends. Thorfinn is confused by his answer, flustering Einar. He however thanks him.
The hopeful and enthusiastic Einar lightly chides Thorfinn for being unambitious and lethargic. Thorfinn starts to liven up when they gain use of a horse and start making quick progress on the land they'd been assigned on Ketil's farm. He asks a lot of questions about farming, which Einar is knowledgeable about and happy to discuss, jokingly calling Thorfinn a "great big baby" since everything is fresh and new to him. Thorfinn, becoming a little more himself, starts acting more outwardly friendly, for example being considerate and making himself scarce to leave Einar to talk to the object of his affections (Arnheid) alone. In October 1015, Thorfinn and Einar are able to plant their first wheat crops. Thorfinn is amazed by the growth of the plants and Einar convinces him to loudly pray with him for a good crop. Thorfinn starts opening up to Einar more, telling him of Askeladd and his quest for vengeance, as well as as how he feels empty, has no desires now that his hatred is gone, and feels like "a man without substance" since he knows nothing but how to wage war. Einar comforts him, telling him no one who looks at him now would believe him to a warrior, and assuring him people can indeed can change and that Thorfinn has in fact already begun to change for the better.
After the farmhands destroy their crops, Einar is incensed and does not understand why Thorfinn is so calm. Thorfinn urges him not to seek revenge. He explains that he was always on the side of the plunderers and destroyers before, has no right to be angry himself, and that if Einar is going to "kill the farmhands", he ought to also kill Thorfinn 100 times over. Einar calms down long enough to tell Pater about the incident, but Thorfinn and Einar unfortunately run into the farmhands on the road. Thorfinn once again tries to hold Einar back, but when the farmhands insult them and Einar goes in for the punch, Thorfinn steps in and punches their tormenter first, breaking his jaw in one blow before he even realizes what he's doing. Thorfinn keeps trying to calm Einar down, but is knocked unconscious after a blow to the head. Upon waking, having had another bad dream (which he remembers this time), Thorfinn tearfully tells Einar that he has led a life of violence and swears he will never be violent or harm another person again; that he will be "reborn", make amends, and "lead the true battle". Einar admits he doesn't quite know what Thorfinn means, but is nevertheless on board and says they will be reborn together.
Thorfinn was born in Iceland in the winter of 996 , where his family had fled after Thors had decided to abandon the Jomsvikings. He grew up not knowing about his father's past or his connection to the Jomsvikings.
He lived with his family and was a happy, lively boy. He played with the children in the village especially in mock combat with a wooden sword and shield, even though he was always one of the first to lose. One day Floki, and his Jomsviking crew come to Iceland to get aid from his father, Thors. When his father was going out to a battle, Thorfinn hid in a barrel on his father's ship. A mercenary called Askeladd, who was hired by Floki to take down Thors, came and dueled Thorfinn's father. Thors took down half of Askeladd's men, including his second in command, and then the two faced off. Thors won the battle, but in exchange for Thorfinn's life, he was killed by many arrows from Askeladd's men. After his father died, Thorfinn vowed to seek vengeance for his father, by becoming one of Askeladd's men and dueling him every time he completes a mission in combat, so he can avenge his father's death in a fair battle.
Thorfinn has now became a shell of his former self and is constantly haunted by the lives he took in his nightmares.
"No he is the real thing, for sure. A fighter that agile is rare to come across...." --Garm
Overall Abilities: Thorfinn grew up on the battlefield, having experienced it following his father's death and, as such, has a wealth of battle experience. He quickly grew into a highly skilled warrior capable of swiftly killing warriors at least twice his age. As Thorfinn's fight style plays focus on striking vital points instead of clashing with blades directly, he developed a nimble style that emphasizes speed. Thorfinn's strength is recognized by fighters such as Thorkell the Tall stating he was capable of becoming the next head of the Jomsvikings.
Dual Wield: Thorfinn's fighting style emphasizes speed combined with the dual-wielding of two knives, one of which was formerly owned by Thors. By targeting his opponents' weak points and taking advantage of his speed, he could typically finish off an opponent swiftly while avoiding their attacks.
Knife Throwing: Thorfinn is also able to effectively use throwing knives, although they are not his primary weapon.
Enhanced Durability: Although he doesn't usually engage in unarmed combat, Thorfinn knows how to take solid hits if given the chance to prepare for them. This ability appears when he withstands 100 blows from Drott to earn the right to speak to Canute. However, when set upon by Ylva in a rage, he was completely unprepared and was knocked out.
Enhanced Agility: Thorfinn's agility is amongst the fastest in the series, he is capable of evading a platoon of soldiers within seconds on a battlefield, as well as scale a wall of a fortress, including jumping over a moat. In combat, he can use his agility to strike from an angle where he may finish his opponent and to find his balance quickly after taking a hit or dodging.
Enhanced Speed and Reflexes: Thorfinn's speed is regarded as his primary asset in combat. During the invasion of London, he earned Thorkell's praise despite losing to him in combat. His reflexes have enabled him to dodge and react to surprises attacks such as Snake's drawing attack. Although, he was not able to dodge Garm's spear. Despite Garm proving faster than Thorfinn as well as wounding him, Thorfinn was nonetheless able to dodge his movements with his eyes. At Jomsburg, he was able to cover a distance of several meters before his pursuers could notice he had run away from them. A testament to Thorfinn's reflexes is shown when he was acknowledged by Garm as being the only fighter he has met to dodge his spear so quickly.
Enhanced Strength: Thanks to years of manual labor as a slave on a farm, Thorfinn achieved an explosive increase in strength when he reached adulthood. With this new skill acquired, he was able to throw a man away with just one punch and break the bones of a Jomsviking even though he was wearing armor and Thorfinn was a little weaker. Other feats include breaking a sword with his knee.
Battles & Duels
- Thorfinn and Askeladd has dueled on multiple occasions. However, Askeladd's death greatly affected Thorfinn as it was his primary goal to avenge the death of his father & kill the man who killed his father.