Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Iceland  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book on Kindle

The Norse Discovery of America, by A.M Reeves, N.L. Beamish and R.B. Anderson, [1906], at

p. 16



THE clearest and most complete narrative of the discovery of Wineland, preserved in the ancient Icelandic literature, is that presented in the Saga of Eric the Red. Of this narrative two complete vellum texts have survived. The eldest of these texts is contained in the Arna-Magnæan Codex, No. 544, 4to, which is commonly known as Hauk's Book [Hauksbok]. This manuscript has derived its name from its first owner, for whom the work was doubtless written, and who himself participated in the labour of its preparation. This man, to whom the manuscript traces its origin, has, happily, left, not only in the manuscript itself, but in the history of his time, a record which enables us to determine, with exceptional accuracy, many dates in his life, and from these it is possible to assign approximate dates to that portion of the vellum which contains the narrative of the discovery. This fact possesses the greater interest since of no one of those who participated in the conservation of the elder sagas, have we data so precise as those which have been preserved to us of Hank Erlendsson, to whose care, actual and potential, this manuscript owes its existence.

We know that Jorunn, the mother of this man, was the direct descendant of a famous Icelander. His paternal ancestry is not so clearly established. It has been conjectured that his father, Erlend Olafsson, surnamed the

p. 17

[paragraph continues] Stout [Erlendr sterki Olafsson], was the son of a man of humble parentage, and by birth a Norwegian. This View has been discredited, however, and the fact pretty clearly established that Erlend's father, Olaf, was no other than a certain Icelander called Olaf Tot. Hauk's father, Erlend, was probably the "Ellindr bondi" of a letter addressed by certain Icelanders to the Norwegian king, Magnus Law-Amender, in the year 1275. In the year 1283 we find indubitable mention of him in Icelandic annals as "legifer," he having in that year "come out" to Iceland from Norway vested with the dignity of "lawman." It is as the incumbent of a similar office, to which he appears to have been appointed in 1294, that we first find Hank Erlendsson mentioned. It is not unlikely that Hauk had visited Norway prior to 1301; there can be no doubt that he was in that country in the latter part of that year, for he was a "lawman" in Oslo [the modern Christiania] upon the 28th of January, 1302, since upon that date he published an autographic letter, which is still in existence. Whether the rank of knighthood, which carried with it the title of "herra" (Earl), had already been conferred upon him at this time is not certain. He is first mentioned with this title, in Icelandic annals, in 1306, elsewhere in 1305, although it has been claimed that he had probably then enjoyed this distinction for some years, but upon what authority is not clear. While Hauk revisited Iceland upon more than one occasion after the year 1302, much of the remainder of his life appears to have been spent in Norway, where he died in the year 1334.

p. 18

On the back of page 21 of Hauk's Book Arni Magnusson has written, probably with a view to preserve a fading entry upon the same page, the words: "This book belongs to Teit Paulsson [Teitr Palsson], if he be not robbed." It is not known who this Teit Paulsson was, but it is recorded that a man of this name sailed from Iceland to Norway in the year 1344. He may have been the one-time owner of the book, and, if the manuscript was then in Norway, may have carried it back to Iceland with him. Apart from this conjecture, the fact remains that the early history of Hauk's Book is shrouded in obscurity. It is first mentioned in the beginning of the seventeenth century by John the Learned, possibly about 1600, and a few years later by Arngrim Jonsson; it was subsequently loaned to Bishop Bryniolf Sveinsson, who caused the transcripts of the Landnamabok and the Kristni Saga to be made from it, as has already been related. This part of the codex the Bishop may have returned to the owner, himself retaining the remainder, for, with the exception of the two sagas named, Arni Magnusson obtained the codex from Gualveriabœr in the south of Iceland, and subsequently the remaining leaves of the missing sagas from the Rev. Olaf Jonsson, who was the clergyman at Stad in Grunnavik, in north-western Iceland, between the years 1703 and 1707.

Hauk's Book originally contained about 200 leaves, with widely varied contents. Certain leaves of the original manuscript have been detached from the main body of the book, and are now to be found in the Arna-Magnæan Collection; a portion has been lost, but 107 leaves of the

p. 19

original codex are preserved. With the exception of those portions just referred to, that part of the manuscript which treats of the Wineland discovery is to be found in this last mentioned volume, from leaves 93 to 101 [back] inclusive. The saga therein contained has no title contemporary with the text, but Arni Magnusson has inserted, in the space left vacant for the title, the words: "Here begins the Saga of Thorfinn Karlsefni and Snorri Thorbrandsson," although it is not apparent whether he himself invented this title, or derived it from some now unknown source.

The Saga of Thorfinn Karlsefni was written by three different persons; the first portion is in a hand commonly ascribed to Hauk's so-called "first Icelandic secretary." On p. 99, l. 14, the ink and the hand change, and beginning with the words Eirikr svarar vel, the chirography is Hauk's own, as is readily apparent from a comparison with the autographic letter of 1302, already referred to. Hauk's own work continues throughout this and the following page, ceasing at the end of the second line on p. 100, with the words kolludu i Hopi, where he gives place to a new scribe, his so-called "second Icelandic secretary." Hauk, however, again resumes the pen on the back of p. 101, and himself concludes the saga. Two of the leaves upon which the saga is written are of an irregular shape, and there are holes in two other leaves; these defects were, however, present in the vellum from the beginning, so that they in no wise affect the integrity of the text; on the other hand the lower right-hand corner of p. 99 has become badly blackened, and is, in consequence,

p. 20

partially illegible, as is also the left-hand corner of p. 101; similarly pp. 100 and 101 [back] are somewhat indistinct, but, in the original, still not undecipherable. Initial letters are inserted in red and blue, and the subtitles in red ink, which has sadly faded. There are three paginations, of which the latest, in red, is the one here adopted.

The genealogy appended to the saga has been brought down to Hank's own time, and Hank therein traces his ancestry to Karlsefni's Wineland-born son. By means of this genealogical list, we are enabled to determine, approximately, the date of this transcript of the original saga, for we read in this list of Hallbera, "Abbess of Reyniness," and since we know that Hallbera was not consecrated abbess until the year 1299, it becomes at once apparent that the saga could not have been completed before that year. This conclusion is corroborated by additional evidence furnished by this ancestral list, for in this list Hauk has given himself his title "herra," (earl). As has been stated, Hauk is first accorded this title in 1305, he is last mentioned without the title in 1304; which fact not only confirms the conclusion already reached, but enables us to advance the date, prior to which the transcript of the saga could not have been concluded, to 1304. It is not so easy to determine positively when the saga was finished. As Hank's own hand brings the saga to a conclusion, it is evident that it must have been completed before, or not later than, the year 1334, the year of his death. If we accept the words of the genealogical list literally, it would appear that Hauk wrote this

p. 21

list not many years before his death, for it is there stated that Fru Ingigerd's daughter "was" Fru Hallbera, the Abbess. But Hallbera lived until 1330, and the strict construction of Hauk's language might point to the conclusion that the reference to Hallbera was made after her death, and therefore after 1330. Hauk was in Iceland in the years 1330 and 1331, doubtless for the last time. One of the scribes who aided him in writing the codex was probably an Icelander, as may be gleaned from his orthography, and as it is highly probable that the contents of the codex were for the most part copied from originals owned in Iceland; it may be that the transcript of this saga, as well as the book itself, was completed during this last visit. It has been claimed that a portion of Hank's book, preceding the Saga of Thorfinn, was written prior to Hank's acquirement of his title, a view founded upon the fact that his name is there cited without the addition of his title, and this view is supported by the corresponding usage of the Annals. If this be true, then, upon the above hypothesis, a period of more than twenty-five years must have elapsed between the inception of the work and the completion of the "Thorfinn's Saga." Doubtless a considerable time was consumed in the compilation and transcription of the contents of this manuscript; but it seems scarcely probable that so, long a time should have intervened between the preparation of the different portions of the work. Wherefore, if the reference to the Abbess Hallbera be accepted literally, the Conjecture that the earlier portion of the codex was written prior to 1299 would appear to be doubtful, and it

p. 22

may be necessary either to advance the date of this portion of the manuscript or place the date of the Saga of Thorfinn anterior to that suggested. However this may be, two facts seem to be clearly established, first, that this saga was not written before 1299, and second, that this eldest surviving detailed narrative of the discovery of Wineland was written not later than the year 1334.

In the vellum codex, known as Number 557, 4to, of the Arna-Magnæan Collection, is an account of the Wineland discovery, so strikingly similar to that of Hauk's Book that there can be no doubt that both histories were derived from the same source. The history of the discovery contained in the above codex is called the "Saga of Eric the Red." This may well have been the primitive title of the saga of Hauk's Book, which, as has been noted, obtains its modern name, "Thorfinns Saga Karlsefnis," from the entry made by Arni Magnusson, early in the eighteenth century. That both sagas were copied from the same vellum is by no means certain; if both transcripts be judged strictly by their contents it becomes at once apparent that this could not have been the fact, and such a conjecture is only tenable upon the theory that the scribes of Hauk's Book edited the saga which they copied. This, while it is very doubtful in the case of the body of the text of the Hauk's Book Saga of Thorfinn, may not even be conjectured of the Saga of Eric the Red. The latter saga was undoubtedly a literal copy from the original, for there are certain minor confusions of the text, which indicate, unmistakably, either the heedlessness of the copyist, or that the scribe was working from a

p. 23

somewhat illegible original whose defects he was not at pains to supply. If both sagas were copied from different early vellums, the simpler language of the Saga of Eric the Red would seem to indicate that it was a transcript of a somewhat earlier form of the saga than that from which the saga of Hauk's Book was derived. This, however, is entirely conjectural, for the codex containing the Saga of Eric the Red was not written for many years after Hauk's Book, and probably not until the following century. So much the orthography and hand of 557, 4to, indicate, and, from the application of this test, the codex bas been determined to date from the fifteenth century, and has been ascribed by very eminent authority to ca. 1400.

The Saga of Eric the Red begins with the thirteenth line of page 27 of the codex [the title appears at the top of this page], and concludes in the fifth line on the back of page 35, the hand being the same throughout. Spaces were left for initial letters, but these were not inserted, except in one case by a different and indifferent penman. With the exception of a very few words, or portions of words, upon page 30 [back] and page 31, the manuscript of the saga is clearly legible throughout. Certain slight defects in the vellum have existed from the beginning, and there is, therefore, no material hiatus in the entire text, for the sense of the few indistinct words is either clearly apparent from the context, or may be supplied from the sister text of Hauk's Book.

In his catalogue of parchment manuscripts, Arni Magnusson states that he obtained this manuscript from

p. 24

[paragraph continues] Bishop John Vidalin and adds the conjecture, that it had either belonged to the Skaholt Church, or came thither from among Bishop Bryniolf's books. This conjecture, that the book belonged to the Church of Skaholt, has, however, been disputed, and the place of its compilation, at the same time, assigned to the north of Iceland.

The Saga of Eric the Red [and both texts are included under this title] presents a clear and graphic account of the discovery and exploration of Wineland the Good. In this narrative the discovery is ascribed to Leif, the son of Eric the Red, who hit upon the land, by chance, during a voyage from Norway to Greenland. This voyage, as has already been stated, probably took place in the year 1000.

After his return to Greenland, Leif's account of the land which he had discovered seems to have persuaded his brother, Thorstein, and possibly his father, to undertake an expedition to the strange country. This voyage, which was not destined to meet with a successful issue, may well have fallen in the year following Leif's return, and therefore, it may be conjectured, in the year 1001. About this time there had arrived in Greenland an Icelander of considerable prominence, an old friend of Eric's, named Thorbiorn Vifilsson, who had brought with him his daughter, Gudrid, or, as she is also called, Thurid. He must have arrived before Thorstein Ericsson's voyage, for we are told that it was in Thorbiorn's ship that this voyage was undertaken. It seems probable that Thorbiorn arrived at Brattahlid [Eric's home] during Leif's absence from Greenland, and if this be true it follows

p. 25

that Thorbiorn and Gudrid must have been converted to Christianity before its acceptance in Iceland as the legalized religion of the land; for very soon after their arrival in Greenland Gudrid alludes to the fact of her being a Christian, and, from the language of the saga, there can be no question that her father had likewise embraced the new faith. The presence of these companions in the faith may have materially aided Leif in the work of proselytism, in which he engaged upon his return to Greenland. We are told that Thorbiorn did not arrive at Brattahlid until the second year after his departure from Iceland, wherefore, if the assumption that he arrived during Leif's absence be sound, it becomes apparent that he must have left Iceland in the summer of the year 998 or 999.

Eric's son, Thorstein, wooed and married Gudrid, and the wedding was celebrated at Brattahlid in the autumn. It is recorded in the saga that Gudrid was regarded as a most desirable match. Thorstein may have promptly recognized her worth, and his marriage may have occurred in the autumn of the same year in which he returned from his unlucky voyage. It could not well have been celebrated in the previous year, for Thorstein's allusions on his death-bed to the religion of Greenland, indicate that Christianity must have been for a longer time the accepted faith of the land than it could have been at the close of the year 1000.

In the winter after his marriage, Thorstein died, and in the spring, Gudrid returned to Brattahlid. Thorfinn Karlsefni arrived at Brattahlid about this time, possibly

p. 26

the next autumn after Thorstein's death, and in his company came Snorri Thorbrandsson. Karlsefni was married to Gudrid shortly after the Yule-tide following his arrival. If he arrived in Greenland in the autumn of the year 1002, this wedding may, accordingly, have taken place about the beginning of the year 1003. In the summer following his marriage, Thorfirm appears to have undertaken his voyage of exploration to Wienland, that is to say in the summer of the year 1003. A longer time may well have elapsed after Gudrid's arrival before her marriage with Thorstein, and similarly it is even more probable that a longer interval elapsed between Thorstein's death and Gudrid's second marriage. The purpose of this conjectural chronology is to determine, if possible, a date prior to which Thorfinn Karlsefni's voyage to Wineland could not have been undertaken. While therefore it is altogether probable that this voyage was made after the year 1003, it does not appear to be possible, for the reasons presented, that it could have taken place before that year.

Problems suggested by the text of another version of the history of the discovery and exploration, namely, that contained in the Flatey Book, are considered elsewhere, as are also points of difference between that narrative and the history as set forth in the Saga of Eric the Red. It remains to be said, that the text of this saga does not present such difficulties as those which are suggested by a critical examination of the narrative of the Flatey Book. This version of the history of the discovery does contain, however, one statement which is not

p. 27

altogether intelligible and which is not susceptible of very satisfactory explanation, namely, that "there came no snow" in the land which the Wineland explorers had found. This assertion does not agree with our present knowledge of the winter climate of the eastern coast of that portion of North America situated within the latitude which was probably reached by the explorers. The observation may, perhaps, be best explained upon the theory that the original verbal statement of the explorers was, that there was no snow in Wineland, such as that to which they were accustomed in the countries with which they were more familiar. With this single exception there appears to be no statement in the Saga of Eric the Red which is not lucid, and which is not reasonably consistent with our present knowledge of the probable regions visited. The incident of the adventure with the Uniped may be passed without especial mention in this connection; it gives evidence of the prevalent superstition of the time, it is true, but it in no way reflects upon the keenness of observation or relative credibility of the explorers. It follows, therefore, that the accounts of the discovery contained in Hauk's Book and AM. 557, 4to, whether they present the eldest form of the narrative of the Wineland explorers or not, do afford the most graphic and succinct exposition of the discovery, and, supported as they are throughout by contemporaneous history, appear in every respect most worthy of credence.

p. 28


Olaf was the name of a warrior-king, who was called Olaf the White. He was the son of King Ingiald, Helgi's son, the son of Olaf, Gudraud's son, son of Halfdan Whiteleg, king of the Uplands-men ( 8). Olaf engaged in a Western freebooting expedition and captured Dublin in Ireland and the Shire of Dublin, over which he became king ( 9). He married Aud the Wealthy, daughter of Ketil Flatnose, soil of Biorn Buna, a famous man of Norway. Their son was called Thorstein the Red. Olaf was killed in battle in Ireland, and Aud ( 10) and Thorstein went then to the Hebrides ( 11); there Thorstein married Thurid, daughter of Eyvind Easterling, sister of Helgi the Lean; they had many children. Thorstein became a warrior-king, and entered into fellowship with Earl Sigurd the Mighty, son of Eystein the Rattler. They conquered Caithness and Sutherland, Ross and Moray, and more than the half of Scotland. Over these Thorstein became king, ere he was betrayed by the Scots, and was slain there in battle. Aud was at Caithness when she heard of Thorstein's death; she thereupon caused a ship ( 12) to be secretly built in the forest, and when she was ready, she sailed out to the Orkneys. There she bestowed Groa, Thorstein the Red's daughter, in marriage: she was the mother of Grelad, whom Earl Thorfinn, Skull-cleaver, married. After this Aud set out to seek Iceland, and had on board her ship twenty freemen ( 13). Aud arrived in Iceland, and

p. 29

passed the first winter at Biarnarhofn with her brother, Biorn. Aud afterwards took possession of all the Dale country ( 14) between Dogurdar river and Skraumuhlaups river. She lived at Hvamm, and held her orisons at Krossholar, where she caused crosses to be erected, for she had been baptized and was a devout believer. With her there came out [to Iceland] many distinguished men, who had been captured in the Western freebooting expedition, and were called slaves. Vifil was the name of one of these; he was a highborn man, who had been taken captive in the Western sea, and was called a slave before Aud freed him; now when Aud gave homesteads to the members of her crew, Vifil asked wherefore she gave him no homestead, as to the other men. Aud replied, that this should make no difference to him, saying that he would be regarded as a distinguished man wherever he was. She gave him Vifilsdal ( 15) and there he dwelt. He married a woman whose name was . . . their sons were Thorbiorn and Thorgeir. They were men of promise, and grew up with their father.


There was a man named Thorvald; he was a son of Asvald, Ulf's son, Eyxna-Thori's son. His son's name was Eric. He and his father went from Jaederen ( 16) to Iceland, on account of manslaughter, and settled on Hornstrandir, and dwelt at Drangar ( 17). There Thorvald died, and Eric then married Thorhild, a daughter of Jorund, Atli's son, and Thorbiorg the Ship-chested who had been married before to Thorbiorn of the Haukadal

p. 30

family. Eric then removed from the North, and cleared land in Haukadal, and dwelt at Ericsstadir by Vatnshorn. Then Eric's thralls caused a land-slide on Valthiof's farm, Valthiofsstadir. Eyiolf the Foul, Valthiof's kinsman, slew the thralls near Skeidsbrekkur above Vatnshorn. For this Eric killed Eyiolf the Foul, and he also killed Duelling-Hrafn, at Leikskalar. Geirstein and Odd of Jorva, Eyiolf's kinsmen, conducted the prosecution for the slaying of their kinsmen, and Eric was, in consequence, banished from Haukadal. He then took possession of Brokey and Eyxney, and dwelt at Tradir on Sudrey, the first winter ( 18). It was at this time that he loaned Thorgest his outer dais-boards ( 19); Eric afterwards went to Eyxney, and dwelt at Ericsstad. He then demanded his outer dais-boards, but did not obtain them. Eric then carried the outer dais-boards away from Breidabolstad, and Thorgest gave chase. They came to blows a short distance from the farm of Drangar ( 20). There two of Thorgest's sons were killed and certain other men besides. After this each of them retained a considerable body of men with him at his home. Styr gave Eric his support, as did also Eyiolf of Sviney, Thorbiorn, Vifil's son, and the sons of Thorbrand of Alptafirth; while Thorgest was backed by the sons of Thord the Yeller, and Thorgeir of Hitardal, Aslak of Langadal and his son, Illugi. Eric and his people were condemned to outlawry at Thorsness-thing ( 21). He equipped his ship for a voyage, in Ericsvag; while Eyiolf concealed him in Dimunarvag ( 22), when Thorgest and his people were searching for him among the islands.

p. 31

[paragraph continues] He said to them, that it was his intention to go in search of that land which Gunnbiorn ( 23), son of Ulf the Crow, saw when he was driven out of his course, westward across the main, and discovered Gurmbiornsskerries. He told them that he would return again to his friends, if he should succeed in finding that country. Thorbiorn, and Eyiolf, and Styr accompanied Eric out beyond the islands, and they parted with the greatest friendliness; Eric said to them that he would render them similar aid, so far as it might lie within his power, if they should ever stand in need of his help. Eric sailed out to sea from Snaefells-iokul, and arrived at that ice-mountain ( 24) which is called Blacksark. Thence he sailed to the southward, that he might ascertain whether there was habitable country in that direction. He passed the first winter at Ericsey, near the middle of the Western-settlement. In the following spring he proceeded to Ericsfirth, and selected a site there for his homestead. That summer he explored the western uninhabited region, remaining there for a long time, and assigning many local names there. The second winter he spent at Ericsholms beyond Hvarfsgnipa. But the third summer he sailed northward to Snaefell, and into Hrafnsfirth. He believed then that he had reached the head of Ericsfirth; he turned back then, and remained the third winter at Ericsey at the mouth of Ericsfirth ( 25). The following summer he sailed to Iceland, and landed in Breidafirth. He remained that winter with Ingolf ( 26) at Holmlatr. In the spring he and Thorgest fought together, and Eric was defeated; after this a reconciliation

p. 32

was effected between them. That summer Eric set out to colonize the land which he had discovered, and which he called Greenland, because, he said, men would be the more readily persuaded thither if the land had a good name.


Thorgeir, Vifil's son, married, and took to wife Arnora, daughter of Einar of Laugarbrekka, Sigmund's son, son of Ketil Thistil, who settled Thistilsfirth. Einar had another daughter named Hallveig; she was married to Thorbiorn, Vifil's son ( 27), who got with her Laugarbrekka-land on Hellisvellir. Thorbiorn moved thither, and became a very distinguished man. He was an excellent husbandman, and had a great estate. Gudrid was the name of Thorbiorn's daughter. She was the most beautiful of her sex, and in every respect a very superior woman. There dwelt at Arnarstapi a man named Orm, whose wife's name was Halldis. Orm was a good husbandman, and a great friend of Thorbiorn, and Gudrid lived with him for a long time as a foster-daughter. There was a man named Thorgeir, who lived at Thorgeirsfell ( 28); he was very wealthy and had been manumitted; he had a son named Einar, who was a handsome, well-bred man, and very showy in his dress. Einar was engaged in trading-voyages from one country to the other, and had prospered in this. He always spent his winter alternately either in Iceland or in Norway.

Now it is to be told that one autumn, when Einar was in Iceland, he went with his wares out along Snaefellsness,

p. 33

with the intention of selling them. He came to Arnarstapi, and Orm invited him to remain with him, and Einar accepted this invitation, for there was a strong friendship [between Orm and himself]. Einar's wares were carried into a store-house, where he unpacked them, and displayed them to Orm and the men of his household, and asked Orm to take such of them as he liked. Orm accepted this offer, and said that Einar was a good merchant, and was greatly favoured by fortune. Now, while they were busied about the wares, a woman passed before the door of the store-house. Einar enquired of Orm: "Who was that handsome woman who passed before the door? I have never seen her here before." Orm replies: "That is Gudrid, my foster-child, the daughter of Thorbiorn of Laugarbrekka." "She must be a good match," said Einar; "has she had any suitors?" Orm replies: "In good sooth she has been courted, friend, nor is she easily to be won, for it is believed that both she and her father will be very particular in their choice of a husband." "Be that as it may," quoth Einar, "she is the woman to whom I mean to pay my addresses, and I would have thee present this matter to her father in my behalf, and use every exertion to bring it to a favourable issue, and I shall reward thee to the full of my friendship, if I am successful. It may be that Thorbiorn will regard the connection as being to our mutual advantage, for [while] he is a most honourable man and has a goodly home, his personal effects, I am told, are somewhat on the wane; but neither I nor my father are lacking in lands or chattels, and Thorbiorn would be greatly aided

p. 34

thereby, if this match should be brought about." "Surely I believe myself to be thy friend," replies Orm, "and yet I am by no means disposed to act in this matter, for Thorbiorn hath a very haughty spirit, and is moreover a most ambitious man." Einar replied that he wished for nought else than that his suit should be broached; Orm replied that he should have his will. Einar fared again to the South until he reached his home. Sometime after this, Thorbiorn had an autumn feast, as was his custom, for he was a man of high position. Hither came Orm of Arnarstapi, and many other of Thorbiorn's friends. Orm came to speech with Thorbiorn, and said that Einar of Thorgeirsfell had visited him not long before, and that he was become a very promising man. Orm now makes known the proposal of marriage in Einar's behalf, and added that for some persons and for some reasons it might be regarded as a very appropriate match: "thou mayest greatly strengthen thyself thereby, master, by reason of the property." Thorbiorn answers: "Little did I expect to hear such words from thee, that I should marry my daughter to the son of a thrall ( 29); and that, because it seems to thee that my means are diminishing, wherefore she shall not remain longer with thee since thou deemest so mean a match as this suitable for her." Orm afterward returned to his home, and all of the invited guests to their respective households, while Gudrid remained behind with her father, and tarried at home that winter. But in the spring Thorbiorn gave an entertainment to his friends, to which many came, and it was a noble feast, and at the banquet Thorbiorn called for silence,

p. 35

and spoke: "Here have I passed a goodly lifetime, and have experienced the good-will of men toward me, and their affection; and, methinks, our relations together have been pleasant; but now I begin to find myself in straitened circumstances, although my estate has hitherto been accounted a respectable one. Now will I rather abandon my farming than lose my honour, and rather leave the country than bring disgrace upon my family; wherefore I have now concluded to put that promise to the test, which my friend Eric the Red made, when we parted company in Breidafirth. It is my present design to go to Greenland this summer, if matters fare as I wish." The folk were greatly astonished at this plan of Thorbiorn's, for he was blessed with many friends, but they were convinced that he was so firmly fixed in his purpose that it would not avail to endeavour to dissuade him from it. Thorbiorn bestowed gifts upon his guests, after which the feast came to an end, and the folk returned to their homes. Thorbiorn sells his lands and buys a ship, which was laid up at the mouth of Hraunhofn ( 30). Thirty persons joined him in the voyage; among these were Orm of Arnarstapi, and his wife, and other of Thorbiorn's friends, who would not part from him. Then they put to sea. When they sailed the weather was favourable, but after they came out upon the high seas the fair wind failed, and there came great gales, and they lost their way, and had a very tedious voyage that summer. Then illness appeared among their people, and Orm and his wife Halldis died, and the half of their company. The sea began to run high, and

p. 36

they had a very wearisome and wretched voyage in many ways, but arrived, nevertheless, at Heriolfsness in Greenland, on the very eve of winter. At Heriolfsness lived a man named Thorkel. He was a man of ability and an excellent husbandman. He received Thorbiorn and all of his ship's company, and entertained them well during the winter. At that time there was a season of great dearth in Greenland; those who had been at the fisheries had had poor hauls, and some had not returned. There was a certain woman there in the settlement, whose name was Thorbiorg. She was a prophetess, and was called Little Sibyl ( 31). She had had nine sisters, all of whom were prophetesses, but she was the only one left alive. It was Thorbiorg's custom in the winters to go to entertainments, and she was especially sought after at the homes of those who were curious to know their fate, or what manner of season might be in store for them; and inasmuch as Thorkel was the chief yeoman in the neighbourhood it was thought to devolve upon him to find out when the evil time, which was upon them, would cease. Thorkel invited the prophetess to his home, and careful preparations were made for her reception, according to the custom which prevailed, when women of her kind were to be entertained. A high seat was prepared for her, in which a cushion filled with poultry feathers was placed. When she came in the evening, with the man who had been sent to meet her, she was clad in a dark-blue cloak, fastened with a strap, and set with stones quite down to the hem. She wore glass beads around her neck, and upon her head a black lamb-skin hood,

p. 37

lined with white cat-skin. In her hands she carried a staff, upon which there was a knob, which was ornamented with brass, and set with stones up about the knob. Circling her waist she wore a girdle of touch-wood, and attached to it a great skin pouch, in which she kept the charms which she used when she was practising her sorcery. She wore upon her feet shaggy calf-skin shoes, with long, tough latchets, upon the ends of which there were large brass buttons. She had cat-skin gloves upon her hands, which were white inside and lined with fur. When she entered, all of the folk felt it to be their duty to offer her becoming greetings. She received the salutations of each individual according as he pleased her. Yeoman Thorkel took the sibyl by the hand, and led her to the seat which had been made ready for her. Thorkel bade her run her eyes over man and beast and home. She had little to say concerning all these. The tables were brought forth in the evening, and it remains to be told what manner of food was prepared for the prophetess. A porridge of goat's beestings was made for her, and for meat there were dressed the hearts of every kind of beast, which could be obtained there. She had a brass spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus tusk, with a double hasp of brass around the haft, and from this the point was broken. And when the tables were removed Yeoman Thorkel approached Thorbiorg, and asked how she was pleased with the home, and the character of the folk, and how speedily she would he likely to become aware of that concerning which he had questioned her, and which the people were anxious to know. She replied

p. 38

that she could not give an opinion in this matter before the morrow, after that she had slept there through the night. And on the morrow, when the day was far spent, such preparations were made as were necessary to enable her to accomplish her soothsaying. She bade them bring her those women, who knew the incantation, which she required to work her spells, and which she called Warlocks; but such women were not to be found. Thereupon a search was made throughout the house, to see whether any one knew this [incantation]. Then said Gudrid: "Although I am neither skilled in the black art nor a sibyl, yet my foster-mother, Halldis, taught me in Iceland that spell-song, which she called Warlocks." Thorbiorg answered: "Then are thou wise in season!" Gudrid replied: "This is an incantation and ceremony of such a kind, that I do not mean to lend it any aid, for that I am a Christian woman." Thorbiorg answered: "It might so be that thou couldst give thy help to the company here, and still be no worse woman than before; however I leave it with Thorkel to provide for my needs." Thorkel now so urged Gudrid, that she said she must needs comply with his wishes. The women then made a ring round about, while Thorbiorg sat up on the spell-dais. Gudrid then sang the song, so sweet and well that no one remembered ever before to have heard the melody sung with so fair a voice as this. The sorceress thanked her for the song, and said: "She has indeed lured many spirits hither, who think it pleasant to hear this song, those who were wont to forsake us hitherto and refuse to submit themselves to us. Many things are now revealed to me which

p. 39

hitherto have been hidden, both, from me and from others. And I am able to announce that this period of famine will not endure longer, but the season will mend as spring approaches. The visitation of disease, which has been so long upon you, will disappear sooner than expected. And thee, Gudrid, I shall reward out of hand for the assistance which thou hast vouchsafed us, since the fate in store for thee is now all made manifest to me. Thou shalt make a most worthy match here in Greenland, but it shall not be of long duration for thee, for thy future path leads out to Iceland, and a lineage both great and goodly shall spring from thee, and above thy line brighter rays of light shall shine than I have power clearly to unfold. And now fare well and health to thee, my daughter!" After this the folk advanced to the sibyl, and each besought information concerning that about which he was most serious. She was very ready in her responses, and little of that which she foretold failed of fulfillment. After this they came for her from a neighbouring farmstead, and she thereupon set out thither. Thorbiorn was then sent for, since he had not been willing to remain at home while such heathen rites were practising. The weather improved speedily when the spring opened, even as Thorbiorg had prophesied. Thorbiorn equipped his ship and sailed away, until he arrived at Brattahlid. Eric received him with open arms, and said that it was well that he had come thither. Thorbiorn and his household remained with him during the winter, while quarters were provided for the crew among the farmers. And the following spring Eric gave Thorbiorn

p. 40

land on Stokkaness, where a goodly farmstead was founded, and there he lived thenceforward.


Eric was married to a woman named Thorhild, and had two sons; one of these was named Thorstein, and the other Leif. They were both promising men. Thorstein lived at home with his father, and there was not at that time a man in Greenland who was accounted of so great promise as he. Leif had sailed ( 32) to Norway, where he was at the court of King Olaf Tryggvason. When Leif sailed from Greenland, in the summer, they were driven out of their course to the Hebrides. It was late before they got fair winds thence, and they remained there far into the summer. Leif became enamored of a certain woman, whose name was Thorgunna. She was a woman of fine family, and Leif observed that she was possessed of rare intelligence ( 33): When Leif was preparing for his departure Thorgunna ( 34) asked to be permitted to accompany him. Leif enquired whether she had in this the approval of her kinsmen. She replied that she did not care for it. Leif responded that he did not deem it the part of wisdom to abduct so high-born a woman in a strange country, "and we so few in number." "It is by no means certain that thou shalt find this to be the better decision," said Thorgunna. "I shall put it to the proof, notwithstanding," said Leif. "Then I tell thee," said Thorgunna, "that I am no longer a lone woman, for I am pregnant, and upon thee I charge it. I

p. 41

foresee that I shall give birth to a male child. And though thou give this no heed, yet will I rear the boy, and send him to thee in Greenland, when he shall be fit to take his place with other men. And I foresee that thou wilt get as much profit of this son as is thy due from this our parting; moreover, I mean to come to Greenland myself before the end comes." Leif gave her a gold finger-ring, a Greenland wadmal mantle, and a belt of walrus-tusk. This boy came to Greenland, and was called Thorgils. Leif acknowledged his paternity, and some men will have it that this Thorgils came to Iceland in the summer before the Froda-wonder ( 35). However, this Thorgils was afterwards in Greenland, and there seemed to be something not altogether natural about him before the end came. Leif and his companions sailed away from the Hebrides, and arrived in Norway in the autumn. Leif went to the court of King Olaf Tryggvason. He was well received by the king, who felt that he could see that Leif was a man of great accomplishments. Upon one occasion the king came to speech with Leif, and asked him, "Is it thy purpose to sail to Greenland in the summer?" "It is my purpose," said Leif, "if it be your will." "I believe it will be well," answers the king, "and thither thou shalt go upon my errand, to, proclaim Christianity there." Leif replied that the king should decide, but gave it as his belief that it would be difficult to carry this mission to a successful issue in Greenland. The king replied that he knew of no man who would be better fitted for this undertaking, "and in thy hands the cause will surely prosper." "This can only be," said Leif, "if I enjoy the

p. 42

grace of your protection." Leif put to sea when his ship was ready for the voyage. For a long time he was tossed about upon the ocean, and came upon lands of which he had previously had no knowledge. There were self-sown wheat fields and vines growing there. There were also those trees there which are called "mausur" ( 36), and of all these they took specimens. Some of the timbers were so large that they were used in building. Leif found men upon a wreck, and took them home with him, and procured quarters for them all during the winter. In this wise be showed his nobleness and goodness, since he introduced Christianity into the country, and saved the men from the wreck; and be was called Leif the Lucky ever after. Leif landed in Ericsfirth, and then went home to Brattahlid; he was well received by every one. He soon proclaimed Christianity throughout the land, and the Catholic faith, and announced King Olaf Tryggvason's messages to the people, telling them how much excellence and how great glory accompanied this faith. Eric was slow in forming the determination to forsake his old belief, but Thiodhild ( 37) embraced the faith promptly, and caused a church to be built at some distance from the house. This building was called Thiodhild's Church, and there she and those persons who had accepted Christianity, and they were many, were wont to offer their prayers. Thiodhild would not have intercourse with Eric after that she had received the faith, whereat he was sorely vexed.

At this time there began to be much talk about a voyage of exploration to that country which Leif had discovered.

p. 43

[paragraph continues] The leader of this expedition was Thorstein Ericsson, who was a good man and an intelligent, and blessed with many friends. Eric was likewise invited to join them, for the men believed that his luck and foresight would be of great furtherance. He was slow in deciding, but did not say nay, when his friends besought him to go. They thereupon equipped that ship in which Thorbiorn had come out, and twenty men were selected for the expedition. They took little cargo with them, nought else save their weapons and provisions. On that morning when Eric set out from his home he took with him a little chest containing gold and silver; he hid this treasure, and then went his way. He had proceeded but a short distance, however, when he fell from his horse and broke his ribs and dislocated his shoulder, whereat he cried, "Ai, ai!" By reason of this accident he sent his wife word that she should procure the treasure which he had concealed, for to the hiding of the treasure he attributed his misfortune ( 38). Thereafter they sailed cheerily out of Ericsfirth in high spirits over their plan. They were long tossed about upon the ocean, and could not lay the course they wished. They came in sight of Iceland, and likewise saw birds from the Irish coast. Their ship was, in sooth, driven hither and thither over the sea. In the autumn they turned back, worn out by toil, and exposure to the elements, and exhausted by their labours, and arrived at Ericsfirth at the very beginning of winter. Then said Eric, "More cheerful were we in the summer, when we put out of the firth, but we still live, and it might have been much worse." Thorstein

p. 44

answers, "It will be a princely deed to endeavour to look well after the wants of all these men who are now in need, and to make provision for them during the winter." Eric answers, "It is ever true, as it is said, that 'it is never clear ere the answer comes,' and so it must be here. We will act now upon thy counsel in this manner." All of the men, who were not otherwise provided for, accompanied the father and son. They landed thereupon, and went home to Brattahlid, where they remained throughout the winter.


Now it is to be told that Thorstein Ericsson sought Gudrid, Thorbiorn's daughter, in wedlock. His suit was favourably received both by herself and by her father, and it was decided that Thorstein should marry Gudrid, and the wedding was held at Brattahlid in the autumn. The entertainment sped well, and was very numerously attended. Thorstein had a home in the Western-settlement at a certain farmstead, which is called Lysufirth. A half interest in this property belonged to a man named Thorstein, whose wife's name was Sigrid. Thorstein went to Lysufirth, in the autumn, to his namesake, and Gudrid bore him company. They were well received, and remained there during the winter. It came to pass that sickness appeared in their home early in the winter. Gard was the name of the overseer there; he had few friends; he took sick first and died. It was not long before one after another took sick and died. Then Thorstein, Eric's son, fell sick, and Sigrid, the wife of Thorstein, his name-sake;

p. 45

and one evening Sigrid wished to go to the house, which stood over against the outer-door, and Gudrid accompanied her; they were facing the outer-door when Sigrid uttered a loud cry. "We have acted thoughtlessly," exclaimed Gudrid, "yet thou needest not cry, though the cold strikes thee; let us go in again as speedily as possible." Sigrid answered, "This may not be in this present plight. All of the dead folk are drawn up here before the door now; among them I see thy husband, Thorstein, and I can see myself there, and it is distressful to look upon." But directly this had passed she exclaimed, "Let us go now, Gudrid; I no longer see the band!" The overseer had vanished from her sight, whereas it had seemed to her before that he stood with a whip in his hand and made as if he would scourge the flock. So they went in, and ere the morning came she was dead, and a coffin was made ready for the corpse; and that same day the men planned to row out to fish, and Thorstein accompanied them to the landing-place, and in the twilight he went down to see their catch. Thorstein, Eric's son, then sent word to his namesake that he should come to him, saying that all was not as it should be there, for the housewife was endeavouring to rise to her feet, and wished to get in under the clothes beside him, and when he entered the room she was come up on the edge of the bed. He thereupon seized her hands and held a pole-axe ( 39) before her breast. Thorstein, Eric's son, died before night-fall. Thorstein, the master of the house, bade Gudrid lie down and sleep, saying that he would keep watch over the bodies during the night; thus she did, and

p. 46

early in the night Thorstein, Eric's son, sat up and spoke, saying that he desired Gudrid to be called thither, for that it was his wish to speak with her: "It is God's will that this hour be given me for my own and for the betterment of my condition." Thornstein, the master, went in search of Gudrid, and waked her, and bade her cross herself, and pray God to help her; "Thorstein, Eric's son, has said to me that he wishes to see thee; thou must take counsel with thyself now, what thou wilt do, for I have no advice to give thee." She replied, "It may be that this is intended to be one of those incidents which shall afterward be held in remembrance, this strange event, and it is my trust that God will keep watch over me; wherefore, under God's mercy, I shall venture to go to him, and learn what it is that he would say, for I may not escape this if it be designed to bring me harm. I will do this, lest he go further, for it is my belief that the matter is a grave one." So Gudrid went and drew near to Thorstein, and he seemed to her to be weeping. He spoke a few words in her ear, in a low tone, so that she alone could hear them; but this he said so that all could hear, that those persons would be blessed who kept well the faith, and that it carried with it all help and consolation, and yet many there were, said he, who kept it but ill. "This is no proper usage, which has obtained here in Greenland since Christianity was introduced here, to inter men in unconsecrated earth, with nought but a brief funeral service. It is my wish that I be conveyed to the church, together with the others who have died here; Gard, however, I would have, you burn upon a pyre, as speedily as possible,

p. 47

since he has been the cause of all of the apparitions which have been seen here during the winter." He spoke to her also of her own destiny, and said that she had a notable future in store for her, but he bade her beware of marrying any Greenlander; he directed her also to give their property to the church and to the poor, and then sank down again a second time. It had been the custom in Greenland, after Christianity was introduced there, to bury persons on the farmsteads where they died, in unconsecrated earth; a pole was erected in the ground, touching the breast of the dead, and subsequently, when the priests came thither, the pole was withdrawn and holy water poured in [the orifice], and the funeral service held there, although it might be long thereafter. The bodies of the dead were conveyed to the church at Ericsfirth, and the funeral services held there by the clergy. Thorbiorn died soon after this, and all of his property then passed into Gudrid's possession. Eric took her to his home and carefully looked after her affairs.


There was a man named Thord, who lived at Hofdi on Hofdi-strands. He married Fridgerd, daughter of Thori the Loiterer and Fridgerd, daughter of Kiarval the King of the Irish. Thord was a son of Biorn Chestbutter, son of Thorvald Spine, Asleik's son, the son of Biorn Iron-side, the son of Ragnar Shaggy-breeks. They had a son named Snorri. He married Thorhild Ptarmigan, daughter of Thord the Yeller. Their son was Thord Horse head. Thorfinn Karlsefni 1 was the name of

p. 48

[paragraph continues] Thord's son ( 40). Thorfinn's mother's name was Thorunn. Thorfinn was engaged in trading voyages, and was reputed to be a successful merchant. One summer Karlsefni equipped his ship, with the intention of sailing to Greenland. Snorri, Thorbrand's son, of Alptafirth ( 41) accompanied him, and there were forty men on board the ship with them. There was a man named Biarni, Grimolf's son, a man from Briedafirth, and another named Thorhall, Gamli's son ( 42), an East-firth man. They equipped their ship, the same summer as Karlsefni, with the intention of making a voyage to Greenland; they had also forty men in their ship. When they were ready to sail, the two ships put to sea together. It has not been recorded how long a voyage they had; but it is to be told that both of the ships arrived at Ericsfirth in the autumn. Eric and other of the inhabitants of the country rode to the ships, and a goodly trade was soon established between them. Gudrid was requested by the skippers to take such of their wares as she wished, while Eric, on his part, showed great munificence in return, in that he extended an invitation to both crews to accompany him home for winter quarters at Brattahlid. The merchants accepted this invitation, and went with Eric. Their wares were then conveyed to Brattahlid; nor was there lack there of good and commodious storehouses, in which to keep them; nor was there wanting much of that which they needed, and the merchants were well pleased with their entertainment at Eric's home during that winter. Now as it drew toward Yule Eric became very taciturn, and less cheerful than had

p. 49

been his wont. On one occasion Karlsefni entered into conversation with Eric, and said: "Hast thou aught weighing upon thee, Eric? The folk have remarked, that thou are somewhat more silent than thou hast been hitherto. Thou hast entertained us with great liberality, and it behooves us to make such return as may lie within our power. Do thou now but make known the cause of thy melancholy." Eric answers: "Ye accept hospitality gracefully, and in manly wise, and I am not pleased that ye should be the sufferers by reason of our intercourse; rather am I troubled at the thought, that it should he given out elsewhere, that ye have never passed a worse Yule than this, now drawing nigh, when Eric the Red was your host at Brattahlid in Greenland." "There shall be no cause for that," replied Karlsefni, "we have malt, and meal, and corn in our ships, and you are welcome to take of these whatsoever you wish, and to provide as liberal an entertainment as seems fitting to you." Eric accepted this offer, and preparations were made for the Yule feast ( 43), and it was so sumptuous, that it seemed to the people they had scarcely ever seen so grand an entertainment before. And after Yule Karlsefni broached the subject of a marriage with Gudrid to Eric, for he assumed that with him rested the right to bestow her hand in marriage. Eric answered favourably, and said that she would accomplish the fate in store for her, adding that he had heard only good reports of him. And not to prolong this the result was that Thorfinn was betrothed to Thurid, and the banquet was augmented, and their wedding was celebrated; and this befell at Brattahlid during the winter.

p. 50


About this time there began to be much talk at Brattahlid, to the effect that Wineland the Good should be explored, for, it was said, that country must be possessed of many goodly qualities. And so it came to pass, that Karlsefni and Snorri fitted out their ship, for the purpose of going in search of that country in the spring. Biarni and Thorhall joined the expedition with their ship, and the men who had borne them company. There was a man named Thorvard; he was wedded to Freydis ( 44) a natural daughter of Eric the Red. He also accompanied them, together with Thorvald, Eric's son, and Thorhall, who was called the Huntsman. He had been for a long time with Eric as his hunter and fisherman during the summer, and as his steward during the winter. Thorhall was stout and swarthy, and of giant stature; he was a man of few words, though given to abusive language when he did speak, and he ever incited Eric to evil. He was a poor Christian; he had a wide knowledge of the unsettled regions. He was on the same ship with Thorvard and Thorvald. They had that ship which Thorbiorn had brought out. They had in all one hundred and sixty men, when they sailed to the Western settlement ( 45), and thence to Bear Island. Thence they bore away to the southward two "dœgr" ( 46). Then they saw land, and launched a boat, and explored the land, and found there large flat stones [hellur], and many of these were twelve ells wide; there were many Arctic foxes there. They gave a name to the country, and

p. 51

called it Helluland [the land of flat stones]. Then they sailed with northerly winds two "dœgr," and land then lay before them, and upon it was a great wood and many wild beasts; an island lay off the land to the southeast, and there they found a bear, and they called this Biarney [Bear Island], while the land where the wood was they called Markland [Forest-land]. Thence they sailed southward along the land for a long time, and came to a cape; the land lay upon the starboard; there were long strands and sandy banks there. They rowed to the land and found upon the cape there the keel of a ship ( 47) and they called it there Kialarnes [Keelness]; they also called the strands Furdustrandir [Wonder-strands], because they were so long to sail by. Then the country became indented with bays, and they steered their ships into a bay. It was when Leif was with King Olaf Tryggvason, and he bade him proclaim, Christianity to Greenland, that the king gave him two Gaels ( 48); the man's name was Haki, and the woman's Haekia. The king advised Leif to have recourse to these people, if he should stand in need of fleetness, for they were swifter than deer. Eric and Leif had tendered Karlsefni the services of this couple. Now when they had sailed past Wonder-strands they put the Gaels ashore, and directed them to run to the southward, and investigate the nature of the country, and return again before the end of the third half-day. They were each clad in a garment which they called "kiafal," which was so fashioned that it had a hood at the top, was open at the sides, was sleeveless, and was fastened between the legs with buttons and loops,

p. 52

while elsewhere they were naked. Karlsefni and his companions cast anchor, and lay there during their absence; and when they came again, one of them carried a bunch of grapes and the other an ear of new-sown wheat. They went on board the ship, whereupon Karlsefni and his followers held on their way, until they came to where the coast was indented with bays. They stood into a bay with their ships. There was an island out at the mouth of the bay, about which there were strong currents, wherefore they called it Straumey [Stream Isle]. There were so many birds there that it was scarcely possible to step between the eggs. They sailed through the firth, and called it Straumfiord [Streamfirth], and carried their cargoes ashore from the ships, and established themselves there. They had brought with them all kinds of live-stock. It was a fine country there. There were mountains thereabouts. They occupied themselves exclusively with the exploration of the country. They remained there during the winter, and they had taken no thought for this during the summer. The fishing began to fail, and they began to fall short of food. Then Thorhall the Huntsman disappeared. They had already prayed to God for food, but it did not come as promptly as their necessities seemed to demand. They searched for Thorhall for three half-days, and found him on a projecting crag. He was lying there and looking up at the sky, with mouth and nostrils agape, and mumbling something. They asked him why he had gone thither; he replied that this did not concern anyone. They asked him then to go home with

p. 53

them, and he did so. Soon after this a whale appeared there, and they captured it, and flensed it, and no one could tell what manner of whale it was; and when the cooks had prepared it they ate of it, and were all made ill by it. Then Thorhall, approaching them, said: "Did not the Red-beard ( 49) prove more helpful than your Christ? This is my reward for the verses which I composed to Thor, the Trustworthy; seldom has he failed me." When the people heard this they cast the whale down into the sea, and made their appeals to God. The weather then improved, and they could now row out to fish, and thenceforward they had no lack of provisions, for they could hunt game on the land, gather eggs on the island, and catch fish from the sea.


It is said that Thorhall wished to sail to the northward beyond Wonder-strands, in search of Wineland, while Karlsefni desired to proceed to the southward, off the coast. Thorhall prepared for his voyage out below the island, having only nine men in his party, for all the remainder of the company went with Karlsefni. And one day when Thorhall was carrying water aboard his ship, and was drinking, he recited this ditty:

When I came, these brave men told me,
  Here the best of drink I'd get,
Now with water-pail behold me,--
  Wine and I are strangers yet.
Stooping at the spring, I've tested
  All the wine this land affords;
Of its vaunted charms divested,
  Poor indeed are its rewards.


p. 54

And when they were ready, they hoisted sail; whereupon Thorhall recited this ditty:

Comrades, let us now be faring
  Homeward to our own again!
Let us try the sea-steed's daring,
  Give the chafing courser rein.
Those who will may bide in quiet,
  Let them praise their chosen land,
Feasting on a whale-steak diet,
  In their home by Wonder-strand.

Then they sailed away to the northward past Wonder-strands and Keelness, intending to cruise to the westward around the cape. They encountered westerly gales, were driven ashore in Ireland, where they were grievously maltreated and thrown into slavery. There Thorhall lost his life, according to that which traders have related.

It is now to be told of Karlsefni, that he cruised southward off the coast, with Snorri and Biarni, and their people. They sailed for a long time, and until they came at last to a river which flowed down from the land into a lake, and so into the sea. There were great bars at the mouth of the river, so that it could only be entered at the height of the flood-tide. Karlsefni and his men sailed into the mouth of the river, and called it there Hop [a small land-locked bay]. They found self-sown wheat-fields on the land there; wherever there were hollows, and wherever there was hilly ground, there were vines ( 50). Every brook there was full of fish. They dug

p. 55

pits on the shore where the tide rose highest, and when the tide fell there were halibut ( 51) in the pits. There were great numbers of wild animals of all kinds in the woods. They remained there half a month, and enjoyed themselves, and kept no watch. They had their livestock with them. Now one morning early when they looked about them they saw a great number of skin-canoes, and staves ( 52) were brandished from the boats, with a noise like flails, and they were revolved in the same direction in which the sun moves. Then said Karlsefni: "What may this betoken?" Snorri, Thorbrand's son, answered him: "It may be that this is a signal of peace, wherefore let us take a white shield ( 53) and display it." And thus they did. Thereupon the strangers rowed toward them, and went upon the land, marvelling at those whom they saw before them. They were swarthy men and ill-looking, and the hair of their heads was ugly. They had great eyes, and were broad of cheek ( 54). They tarried there for a time looking curiously at the people they saw before them, and then rowed away, and to the southward around the point.

Karlsefni and his followers had built their huts above the lake, some of their dwellings being near the lake, and others farther away. Now they remained there that winter. No snow came there, and all of their live-stock lived by grazing ( 55). And when spring opened they discovered, early one morning, a great number of skin-canoes rowing from the south past the cape, so numerous that it looked as if coals had been scattered broadcast out before the bay; and on every boat staves were waved.

p. 56

Thereupon Karlsefni and his people displayed their shields and when they came together they began to barter with each other. Especially did the strangers wish to buy red cloth, for which they offered in exchange peltries and quite grey skins. They also desired to buy swords and spears, but Karlsefni and Snorri forbade this. In exchange for perfect unsullied skins, the Skrellings would take red stuff a span in length, which they would bind around their heads. So their trade went on for a time, until Karlsefni and his people began to grow short of cloth, when they divided it into such narrow pieces that it was not more than a finger's breadth wide, but the Skrellings still continued to give just as much for this as before, or more.

It so happened that a bull, belonging to Karlsefni and his people, ran out from the woods, bellowing loudly. This so terrified the Skrellings, that they sped out to their canoes, and then rowed away to the southward along the coast. For three entire weeks nothing more was seen of them. At the end of this time, however, a great multitude of Skrelling boats was discovered approaching from the south, as if a stream were pouring down, and all of their staves were waved in a direction contrary to the course of the sun, and the Skrellings were all tittering loud cries. Thereupon Karlsefni and his men took red shields ( 52) and displayed them. The Skrellings sprang from their boats, and they met then, and fought together. There was a fierce shower of missiles, for the Skrellings had war-slings. Karlsefni and Snorri observed that the Skrellings raised up on a pole a great

p. 57

ball-shaped body, almost the size of a sheep's belly, and nearly black in colour, and this they hurled from the pole upon the land above Karlsefni's followers, and it made a frightful noise where it fell. Whereat a great fear seized upon Karlsefni and all his men, so that they could think of nought but flight, and of making their escape up along the river bank, for it seemed to them that the troop of the Skrellings was rushing towards them from every side, and they did not pause until they came to certain jutting crags, where they offered a stout resistance. Freydis came out, and seeing that Karlsefni and his men were fleeing, she cried: "Why do ye flee from these wretches, such worthy men as ye, when, meseems, ye might slaughter them like cattle. Had I but a weapon, methinks, I would fight better than any one of you!" They gave no heed to her words. Freydis sought to join them, but lagged behind, for she was not hale; she followed them, however, into the forest, while the Skrellings pursued her; she found a dead man in front of her; this was Thorbrand, Snorri's son, his skull cleft by a flat stone; his naked sword lay beside him; she took it up, and prepared to defend herself with it. The Skrellings then approached her, whereupon she stripped down her shift, and slapped her breast with the naked sword. At this the Skrellings were terrified and ran down to their boats, and rowed away. Karlsefni and his companions, however, joined her and praised her valour. Two of Karlsefni's men had fallen and a great number of the Skrellings. Karlsefni's party had been overpowered by dint of superior numbers. They now returned to. their

p. 58

dwellings, and bound up their wounds, and weighed carefully what throng of men that could have been, which had seemed to descend upon them from the land; it now seemed to them that there could have been but the one party, that which came from the boats, and that the other troop must have been an ocular delusion. The Skrellings, however, found a dead man, and an axe lay beside him. One of their number picked up the axe, and struck at a tree with it, and one after another [they tested it], and it seemed to them to be a treasure, and to cut well; then one of their number seized it, and hewed at a stone with it, so that the axe broke, whereat they concluded that it could be of no use, since it would not withstand stone, and they cast it away.

It now seemed clear to Karlsefni and his people that although the country thereabouts was attractive, their life would be one of constant dread and turmoil by reason of the [hostility of the] inhabitants of the country, so they forthwith prepared to leave, and determined to return to their own country. They sailed to the northward off the coast, and found five Skrellings, clad in skin-doublets, lying asleep near the sea. There were vessels beside them containing animal marrow, mixed with blood. Karlsefni and his company concluded that they must have been banished from their own land. They put them to death. They afterwards found a cape, upon which there was a great number of animals, and this cape looked as if it were one cake of dung, by reason of the animals which lay there at night. They now arrived again at Streamfirth, where they found great abundance of all those things


Click to enlarge


(From a drawing by Kendrick.)

THORVALD, a son of Eric the Red, was a man cast in a mould as heroic as that from which issued his historically better known brother, Leif Erikson. To him the credit is due of having been with Karlsefni, the first white man to explore the American coast south of what is now Massachusetts. His death from an arrow wound, received at the hands of the Skrellings (Indians), was the first tragedy enacted in the settlement of the New World, and his dying words were prophetic of the greatness which the country would some day attain because of its fruitfulness.

p. 59

of which they stood in need. Some men say that Biarni and Freydis remained behind here with a hundred men, and went no further; while Karlsefni and Snorri proceeded to the southward with forty men, tarrying at Hop barely two months, and returning again the same summer. Karlsefni then set out with one ship in search of Thorhall the Huntsman, but the greater part of the company remained behind. They sailed to the northward around Keelness, and then bore to the westward, having land to the larboard. The country there was a wooded wilderness, as far as they could see, with scarcely an open space; and when they had journeyed a considerable distance, a river flowed down from the east toward the west. They sailed into the mouth of the river, and lay to by the southern bank.


It happened one morning that Karlsefni and his companions discovered in an open space in the woods above them, a speck, which seemed to shine toward them, and they shouted at it; it stirred and it was a Uniped ( 56), who skipped down to the bank of the river by which they were lying. Thorvald, a son of Eric the Red, was sitting at the helm, and the Uniped shot an arrow into his inwards. Thorvald drew out the arrow, and exclaimed: "There is fat around my paunch; we have hit upon a fruitful country, and yet we are not like to get much profit of it." Thorvald died soon after from this wound. Then the Uniped ran away back toward the north. Karlsefni and his men pursued him, and saw him from time

p. 60

to time. The last they saw of him, he ran down into a creek. Then they turned back; whereupon one of the men recited this ditty:

Eager, our men, up hill, down dell,
  Hunted a Uniped;
Hearken, Karlsefni, while they tell
  How swift the quarry fled!

[paragraph continues] Then they sailed away back toward the north, and believed they had got sight of the land of the Unipeds; nor were they disposed to risk the lives of their men any longer. They concluded that the mountains of Hop, and those which they had now found, formed one chain, and this appeared to be so because they were about an equal distance removed from Streamfirth, in either direction. They sailed back, and passed the third winter at Streamfirth. Then the men began to divide into factions, of which the women were the cause; and those who were without wives endeavoured to seize upon the wives of those who were married, whence the greatest trouble arose. Snorri, Karlsefni's son, was born the first autumn, and he was three winters' old when they took their departure. When they sailed away from Wineland, they had a southerly wind, and so came upon Markland, where they found five Skrellings, of whom one was bearded, two were women, and two were children. Karlsefni and his people took the boys, but the others escaped, and these Skrellings sank down into the earth. They bore the lads away with them, and taught them to speak, and they were baptized. They said that their mother's name was Vætilldi, and their

p. 61

father's Uvægi. They said that kings governed the Skrellings, one of whom was called Avalldamon, and the other Valldidida ( 57). They stated, that there were no houses there, and that the people lived in caves or holes. They said that there was a land on the other side over against their country, which was inhabited by people who wore white garments, and yelled loudly, and carried poles before them, to which rags were attached; and people believe that this must have been Hvitramannaland [White-men's-land], or Ireland the Great ( 58). Now they arrived in Greenland, and remained during the winter with Eric the Red.

Biarni, Grimolf's son, and his companions were driven out into the Atlantic, and came into a sea, which was filled with worms, 1 and their ship began to sink beneath them. They had a boat which had been coated with seal-tar; this the sea-worm does not penetrate. They took their places in this boat, and then discovered that it would not hold them all. Then said Biarni: "Since the boat will not hold more than half of our men, it is my advice, that the men who are to go in the boat be chosen by lot, for this selection must not he made according to rank." This seemed to them all such a manly offer that no one opposed it. So they adopted this plan, the men casting lots; and it fell to Biarni to go in the boat, and half of the men with him, for it would not hold more. But when the men were come into the boat an Icelander, who was in the ship, and who had accompanied Biarni

p. 62

from Iceland, said: "Dost thou intend, Biarni, to forsake me here?" "It must be even so," answers Biarni. "Not such was the promise thou gavest my father," he answers, "when I left Iceland with thee, that thou wouldst thus part with me, when thou saidst that we should both share the same fate." "So be it, it shall not rest thus," answered Biarni; "do thou come hither, and I will go to the ship, for I see that thou art eager for life." Biarni thereupon boarded the ship, and this man entered the boat, and they went their way, until they came to Dublin in Ireland, and there they told this tale; now it is the belief of most people that Biarni and his companions perished in the maggot-sea, for they were never heard of afterward.


The following summer Karlsefni sailed to Iceland and Gudrid with him, and he went home to Reyniness ( 59). His mother believed that he had made a poor match, and she was not at home the first winter. However, when she became convinced that Gudrid was a very superior woman, she returned to her home, and they lived happily together. Hallfrid was a daughter of Snorri, Karlsefni's son, she was the mother of Bishop Thorlak, Runolf's son ( 60). They had a son named Thorbiorn, whose daughter's name was Thorunn [she was] Bishop Biorn's mother. Thorgeir was the name of a son of Snorri, Karlsefni's son, [he was] the father of Ingveld, mother of Bishop Brand the Elder. Steinunn was a daughter of Snorri, Karlsefni's son, who married Einar, a son of

p. 63

[paragraph continues] Grundar-Ketil, a son of Thorvald Crook, a son of Thori of Espihol. Their son was Thorstein the Unjust, he was the father of Gudrun, who married Jorund of Keldur. Their daughter was Halla, the mother of Flosi, the father of Valgerd, the mother of Herra Erlend, the Stout, the father of Herra Hauk the Lawman. Another daughter of Flosi was Thordis, the mother of Fru Ingigerd the Mighty. Her daughter was Fru Hallbera, Abbess of Reyniness at Stad ( 59). Many other great people in Iceland are descended from Karlsefni and Thurid, who are not mentioned here. God be with us, Amen!


47:1 Karlsefni, one who gives promise of becoming a man.

54:1 The prose sense of the verse is: Let us return to our countrymen, leaving those, who like the country here, to cook their whale on Wonder-strands.

61:1 This reference is to the toredo, or ship worm, that bores into wood and is often a source of danger to unsheathed vessels.

Next: Chapter III. The Wineland History of the Flatey Book