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I had always put to mind Thor's meaning of "True Warrior" and Thorkell and the rest of the gang could never understand "without a weapon" or anything like that.
Now that this arc is showing Thorfinn as a slave, and as you said he is so lost and listless, he has no freedom. much like Thors was as a captain not permitted to desert and just keep on fighting, or as the Thorfinn before who has bound himself to Askeladd. This was why his father was so bent on buying that dying slave in the first volume.
When he is put side by side with Einar, who is always so full of energy fighting for his right and freedom, we see a Thorfinn who still hasn't learned what it means to fight for himself, gather his will to live (as Snake showed him couple of chapters ago) and protect his life.
I'm looking forward to the day Thorfinn "wakes up" to realize his life is important, that he is not just a slave that can be ordered around.
Come to think of it, he will fight for a better life, and possibly Canute's objectives of uniting and giving paradise to his people will coincide with Thorfinn's objective?
I think considering war as the main plot is forgetting the main subject is about peace and free land : The name is Vinland Saga. The real Vinland Saga refers to a peaceful occupation of a part of North America. Not about war in England or Denmark.
The war in England was just one step. And I am pretty sure there will be other steps of this kind. It's important to develop about war in order to develop the theme of peace of freedom. But we should not put this part as the most important place in this manga.
That's true it was impressive, well treated and elaborated, but it's an arc not the manga itself. In addition it would have been awkward to avoid discussing such subject when it comes about the Xe century in Scandinavian areas.
But it remains one detail of the development of the character Thorfinn. Yukimura seems to enjoy making him visiting every aspect of a human being (son of a chieftain/main man of a village a.k.a civilian, warrior, now slave -I don't think he'll be a monk xD- next will be surely free man again, but a grown up one,...) and being a warrior is one of them.
Yeah it seems even more clear now that this manga is about Thorfinn's journey to become a great man like his father. But what I can't wait to see is when Thorfinn gets thrown back into battle (which I can almost guarantee he will), how will he react? Will he strive to be a man like his father in combat or fall back to his old ways? It may end up being a combination of both. Its easier to become a sane man of peace when you're not in the middle of a battlefield.
btw what happened to the 3 ships askalad had? and especially the ship from thors