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This is to me, one of the most intriguing and complex of relationships.
Notice how post Askeladd's death, that he apears time to time (in Thorfinn's mind) to give him advice. Do you think of hated enemies' advice in moments of peril? The thing is Askeladd was Thorfinn's adult role model for most of his life. He was his advisor in life, and seems to have remained so (along with Thors) even in death.
In the duels, one of the reasons Thorfinn would lose would be cause his rage overcamed him. Yet this rage really only showed up in the duels, when conversing with Askeladd normally you would figure they were almost friends.
Now...Askeladd knew Thorfinn wanted to kill him, and should he have gotten the opportunity there is no doubt Thorfinn would do it. However in all their duels (including the unseen ones), Askeladd never finishes Thorfinn off. He instead gives Thorfinn advice on how to live, how to look at things.
What was the reason for this do you think? Was this due to the promise to Thors? To spare the others...meaing Askeladd was honor bound to never kill Thorfinn (though he sends him out on dangerous solo missions, seemingly uncaring if Thorfinn dies or not)? Or was it cause Thorfinn is simply a useful warrior for his troupe? Maybe he saw himself in Thorfinn, since he was driven by hate and revenge due to the treatment of his mother and the people of Wales?
The whole thing is a total bs, the kid killed a hundred adults but his father's killer.
When U ask why we see Askelad beside Thorfin during his last fight, its b/c for his whole life Askelad was an example how to get out of the worst scenario, Askelad was always an underdog and kept winning over and over again. Who is a better advisor during a fight? His father who did run away to some wasteland, who wasted money to buy a half dead slave and who did end up dieying in the middle of nowhere? or Askelad?
Actually I believe that Askelaad became adoption father of Thorfinn the day he gave the order to kill Thors. The promise made to keep everybody alive and especially Thorfinn was probably a sign of Askelaad's decence. Through the whole story Askelaad dirtied his hands but this was the way of war at that time. In the end, Askelaad I believe only fought for his people in an honnest way. Although he is very independant of mind. I believe although this guy is probably despicable from a « modern moral » pov, his ways are probably more honorable than anybody else in this manga. While Thors is a true hero in paradise, Askeladd is its alterego in the purgatory.