Iron Fist Ketil is a name that sends chills down the spine of the enemies. He is almost a legend in the world of Vinland Saga. When the Farmland Saga (or the slave arc) in the series began, we are introduced to Thorfinn and Einar’s master, Ketil, who ran a huge bountiful farm.
Iron Fist Ketil is namedropped for the first time in chapter 67 of Vinland Saga manga by Thorgil, who ridicules Olmar for being a scaredy cat despite being the son of the great warrior.
While this comes as a huge revelation, doubts set in equally fast when we take a better look at the farm owner Ketil. When meting out punishments to the kids who stole a sack of flour from his stores, Ketil comes across someone who is very compassionate and kind to a fault, and even a big coward.
This behavior was totally against the picture of the fierce warrior that Thorgil had painted just moments ago in the chapter. And then, when he was being comforted (more like finding solace) in Arnheid’s arms later, Ketil himself confesses that he is no ‘Iron Fist’, and that he was merely just a coward.
But, a lot of readers took this as Ketil trying to suppress the demons from his past. It was mistaken for his resolve to move away from violence, because when Arnheid tried to escape, Ketil goes berserk and beats her to a pulp. And immediately after that, he draws his medieval ‘Ulfberth’ sword from his trunk and declares that he will fight Canute.
Subsequently, while firing up his retainers, Ketil proceeds to call himself the Iron Fist. So naturally, it brings us to the question, is Ketil really the ‘Iron Fist’?
Is Ketil really ‘Iron Fist Ketil’?
To answer in short, Ketil is not the real ‘Iron Fist Ketil’. He might have been a warrior in the past, and he probably had the same shape and was of the same age as the real thing, but Ketil really was not the one known as the Iron Fist. Snake confirms this piece of information in Vinland Saga.
Everyone at the farm, except Snake, believed that he is the real Iron Fist. Even his children, especially Thorgil, believed him to be the legendary warrior and wanted to live up to that name. It is highly possible that he shaped his personality on ‘Iron Fist Ketil’ who he believed was his father.
But then if Ketil was not really the warrior others thought he was, why did he stick with that name?
Well, as Ketil himself says, he was a coward. But when people started mistaking him for Iron Fist Ketil, it made the bandits and the outlaws farm people wary of attacking or interfering with his farm. After all, they would be facing a formidable warrior with a fearsome reputation, and that’s not something they wanted.
This ensured that the farm would have a certain level of protection, just because of the reputation of the ‘Iron Fist’.
Ketil was a coward, he was afraid of violence and he was afraid of war. But, as a Norseman he could not have survived being a coward. And since the name guaranteed that his farm stayed away from the petty issues that it would have otherwise faced, Ketil decided to let it stay.
After all, no one would believe that such a great warrior was actually a liar banking on false reputation. So, the name stuck, all the while Ketil reaped the benefits from it, but also being afraid of the consequences that it might bring.
Snake was the only person who knew the truth of it, and he went along with the story because he had nowhere else to go. And so he ended up being a guard at the farm.
That brings us to the next question.
Who is the real Iron Fist Ketil?
The real Iron Fist Ketil was the man who trained Snake and taught him the ways of battle. Snake, who met Iron Fist Ketil when he was 15 or 16 years old, described him as a great beast of a man. He became akin to an older brother to Snake.
According to the legends that Thorgil recounts, the strength of Iron Fist Ketil was so great that he would shatter his own weapons once the battle began. He then proceeded to kill his opponents barehanded, and still was able to kill more foes than any other.
It is even rumored that Iron Fist Ketil once beat a bear to death with his bare hands.
Some years after he was mentored, when Snake got into trouble, he went in search of Iron Fist Ketil again, thinking he would be able to save him. However, when he followed the rumors and ended up at the farm, he realized that the Ketil who was present there was not the real deal.
The identity of the real Iron Fist Ketil has been kept a secret till now. However, there are some theories going on in the fandom regarding their identity.
Some claim that the real Iron Fist died long time ago because otherwise he would have come to challenge Ketil on the farm for stealing his name and legend.
There are also people who feel that Sverkel’s son was the real Iron Fist Ketil, but then he went off to war and the one who came back was an impostor. However, due to Ketil’s appearance and profile being similar to that of the Iron Fist, Sverkel probably was not able to recognize the difference. War changes people after all. But then, there is no substantial proof that supports this theory.
Some theories, on the other hand, quote Snake and Sverkel’s peculiar relationship, and say that Sverkel himself might have been Iron Fist Ketil. He might have changed his name after settling down on the farm. Additionally, in a bonus page in the manga, Yukimura said that there was something important in his trunk and there are hints to the old man being a viking himself in his good days.
Once again, this is purely speculation, and for now, the real identity of Iron Fist Ketil is a secret.
What are your thoughts on who the real Iron Fist Ketil could be? Let me know your answers in the comments below!!