Beyond Time & Culture: The Revitalisation of Old Norse Literature and History in Yukimura Makoto’s Vinland Saga

Maxime Danesin

Abstract


Due to unprecedented opportunities of global and cultural exchanges in the past decades, fragments of our past go beyond borders, nationalities and cultural differences. Contemporary popular culture is an important vector to convey them, even on the other side of the Earth, where European’s past can become the future inspiration for foreign writers and artists. And Japan is no exception. It has started to be filled with European images from the past, whether it is in the medieval-fantasy backgrounds of video games or in highly praised literary works. Japanese popular literature participates in this movement, assimilating and reorganizing European cultural elements, before sending back to us those same fragments, deformed and/or revitalised.

Amidst the various motifs extracted from our History and used by Japanese authors, one has caught our attention: the Vikings and their expedition to Vinland, in Yukimura Makoto’s manga Vinland Saga. Far from presenting stereotyped images of simple-minded and brutal Norse warriors, this historical work offers a new and foreign approach of Thorfinn Karselfni’ story and the two Sagas of the Icelanders mentioning him, the Grœnlendinga saga and Eiríks saga rauða. In this article, I study how Yukimura Makoto reconstructs the Icelandic’s Sagas and develops its historical context, in order to create his own rewriting of this famous Norse cultural element. By doing so, I argue that he provides the Japanese readers – and by ricochet European ones – with a transcultural and revitalised Old Norse Literature and History in the 21st century.


Keywords


Vinland Saga, Yukimura Makoto, Manga, Contemporary Japanese Literature, Vínland Sagas, Old Norse Literature, Vikings, European Middle Ages, Neo-Medievalism, Transculture, Intertextuality

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Mutual Images Journal by Mutual Images Research Association is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.