Why Did Askeladd Kill Bjorn in Vinland Saga?
When we met Askeladd in Vinland Saga, we saw that he commanded a band of Viking mercenaries that were willing to do almost anything for a buck, and that was the reason why they killed Thors. Chief among all of his followers is Bjorn, who is the “muscle” of the group due to his imposing size and brutish battle style. However, during the war against England, Askeladd had to kill Bjorn. So, why did Askeladd kill Bjorn?
Askeladd killed Bjorn because the Vikings believed that only a warrior’s death could allow them to go to Valhalla, where he would be able to live eternally. Bjorn was fatally wounded during the war. As such, Bjorn requested a duel with Askeladd so that he could die a warrior’s death at the hands of his friend.
Bjorn’s death was one of the things that struck Askeladd the most throughout the first season of Vinland Saga, as he considered him his only friend. Of course, Bjorn was happy enough to have died at the hands of the man that he trusted to send him off to the eternal resting place of Viking warriors. That said, let’s look at the reason why Askeladd killed Bjorn.
Who Is Bjorn In Vinland Saga?
One of the things that we saw about Askeladd was that he had innate leadership skills in him, as he was able to command an entire band of Viking warriors that lived the lives of mercenaries. After all, it was through these men that he was able to kill Thors during the first few episodes of Vinland Saga. And while he has a lot of different men at his disposal, the one man that he trusts the most out of all the people serving under him is Bjorn.
Bjorn was the man that had been in Askeladd’s band of Vikings for a very long time, as he was already there in the battle against Thors. He served as Askeladd’s right-hand man for as long as they can remember and was actually a part of his band not because of the money that they could earn but because he simply loved killing. As a stocky and well-built man, he is often used as the muscle of the group, especially when he eats berserker mushrooms, which increases his strength and ferocity, albeit at the cost of his sanity.
During the entire time that he was with Askeladd, Bjorn was the only member of the band that actually had the guts to offer him counsel. Nevertheless, while he was the one that was closest to Askeladd during their time together in the mercenary band, Bjorn knew little to nothing about him as he didn’t even know that Askeladd was half-Welsh. Still, Askeladd was often seen speaking and sharing things with Bjorn and was more open to him compared to how he treated his other men.
On Bjorn’s part, he saw Askeladd as a true friend that he inherently trusted with his life. When all of the other Vikings under Askeladd’s band were already doubting his decisions while they were fleeing from Thorkell during the war against England, Bjorn was the only one that had faith in him. Askeladd even thought that the other Vikings would turn on him when given a chance to do so but believed that Bjorn was never going to betray him and would not hesitate to fight the other Vikings if he had no choice.
What Happened To Bjorn?
Due to how loyal Bjorn was to Askeladd, he was the one who was tasked to sneak Prince Canute out to safety while acting as his bodyguard. This was during the time when Askeladd’s band was on the run from Thorkell during the war against England. Thinking that the other Vikings would betray him and move to the other side, Askeladd trusted that only Bjorn could do the job.
However, while he was trying to spirit Canute away from the battlefield to safety, Bjorn suffered a gut wound from Atli, who used to be a member of Askeladd’s band but turned into a traitor during the time when the Vikings had no choice but to move over to Thorkell’s side. Nevertheless, Bjorn did his part in trying to keep Canute as safe as possible despite receiving a bad wound from his former ally.
Why Did Askeladd Kill Bjorn?
After his attempt to spirit Canute away, Bjorn knew that he would never recover to full health from the wound that he suffered in the fight against Atli. As such, the only thing that he could do at that point was to ask for a duel from Askeladd.
During the duel with Bjorn, Askeladd was horrified that he wasn’t able to kill Bjorn cleanly with his first strike, as this meant that his ally would have to suffer pain from that attack. However, he eventually finished him off after Bjorn told him that the only thing he wanted to do in life was to become his friend. To that end, Askeladd told Bjorn that he was the only friend in life, as this was something that Bjorn wanted to hear before his friend finished him off. But if Bjorn was Askeladd’s friend, why did he kill him?
The reason why Askeladd killed Bjorn despite the friendship they shared is due to the fact that Vikings believe that there is an afterlife called Valhalla, which is the hall of the Norse gods. Valhalla is the place where proud Viking warriors are sent to after they die a noble death. In that regard, Vikings dream of reaching Valhalla, where they could drink and dine with gods and other proud warriors for all eternity.
Bjorn knew that he was going to die from the wound that he suffered in the fight against Atli. But dying on his deathbed meant that he was never going to be able to reach Valhalla, as only Vikings that died a warrior’s death would make it there. As such, he asked Askeladd for a duel because he wanted to die a warrior’s death at the hands of the man that he trusted the most.
Askeladd, on his part, heeded his friend and closest ally’s wishes because, despite the fact that he wasn’t really fond of the Danish people, he understood what dying in battle meant for the Vikings. As such, he had to be the one to grant his friend’s wishes by killing him in a duel and sending him off to Valhalla, where he could enter the great hall as a proud warrior that gave his all in a fight.