The Norse Discovery of America, by A.M Reeves, N.L. Beamish and R.B. Anderson, , at sacred-texts.com
(1) It has been claimed that the Icelandic discovery attained a practical result through the imparting of information to those to whom the discovery of America has been generally ascribed, and notably to Columbus and the Cabots. The tendency to qualify Columbus' fame as the original discoverer dates from the time of Ortelius, while the effort to show that his first voyage was influenced by information which he received from Icelandic sources was, perhaps, first formulated in extenso within the present century. The theory that Columbus obtained definite information from Icelandic channels, rests, after all, upon the following vague letter, which is cited by Columbus' son in the biography of his father, as follows:
"In the month of February, of the year 1477, I sailed one hundred leagues beyond the island of Tile, the southern portion of which is seventy-three degrees removed from the equinoctial, and not sixty-three, as some will have it; nor is it situated within the line which includes Ptolemy's west, but is much further to the westward; and to this island, which is as large as England, the English come with their wares, especially those from Bristol. And at the time when I went thither the sea was not frozen, although the tides there are so great that in some places they rose twenty-six fathoms, and fell as much. It is, indeed, the fact that that Tile, of which Ptolemy makes mention, is situated where he describes it, and by the moderns this is called Frislanda."
John and Sebastian Cabot are supposed, by similar theorists, to have derived knowledge of the Icelandic discovery through the English, and especially the Bristol trade with Iceland. These theories do not require further consideration here, since they have no bearing on the primitive history of the Wineland discovery.
(2) Lit. law-saying men, publishers of the laws. The office was introduced into Iceland contemporaneously with the adoption
of the law code of Ulfliot, and the establishment of the Althing [Popular Assembly] in the year 930, and was, probably, modelled after a similar Norwegian office. It was the duty of the "law-sayer" to give judgment in all causes which were submitted to him, according to the common law established by the Althing. The "law-sayer" appears to have presided at the Althing, where it was his custom to regularly announce the laws. From this last, his most important, function called "law-saying" [logsaga], the office received its name. From the time of its adoption, throughout the continuance of the Commonwealth, the office was elective, the incumbent holding office for a limited period [three years] although he was eligible for reelection.
(3) Rafn was distantly related to Ari Marsson and Leif Ericsson. His ancestor, Steinolf the Short, was the brother of Thorbiorg, Ari Marsson's grandmother, and through the same ancestor, Steinolf, Rafn was remotely connected with Thiodhild, Leif Ericsson's mother.
(4) By this Thorfinn, the second earl of that name, is probably meant, i. e., Thorfinn Sigurd's son. "He was the most powerful of all the Orkney earls. * * * Thorfinn was five years old when the Scotch king, Malcolm, his maternal grandfather, gave him the title of earl, and he continued earl for seventy years. He died in the latter days of Harold Sigurdsson," [ca. A. D. 10641.
(5) It is recorded in Icelandic Annals that King Olaf Tryggvason effected the Christianization of Halogaland in the year 999.
(6) Lit. "house-neat-wood." May be rendered either brown, weather vane, or gable decoration of a house. That the names should have been used interchangeably for the similar object, in both house and ship, is the less remarkable, since we read of a portion of a ship's prow having been removed from a vessel and placed above the principal entrance of a house, that is, in some part of the gable-end of the dwelling.
(7) If the meaning is, as suggested in this passage, that the "house-neat" was hewed to the northward of Hóp, the only intelligible interpretation of the following clause would seem to be that although Karlsefni attained the region which corresponded
with Leif's accounts of Wineland, he did not succeed, on account of the hostility of the natives which compelled him to beat a retreat, in accomplishing a thorough exploration of the country, nor was he able to carry back with him any of the products of the land.
(8) Lit. the Uplanders, i. e., the people of the Norwegian Oplandene; a name given to a district in Norway comprising a part of the eastern inland counties.
(9) Olaf the White is called in the Eyrbyggja Saga "the greatest warrior-king in the western sea." This expedition, in which he effected the capture of Dublin, appears to have been made about the year 852. As the forays of these "warrior-kings" were mainly directed against the people living in and about the British Isles, and hence to the westward of Norway, the expression, "at herja í vestrviking," "to engage in a westerly foray," came to be a general term for a viking descent upon some part of the coast of Great Britain, Ireland, or the adjacent islands. These free-booting expeditions began on the Irish coasts, perhaps as early as 795. In 798 the Norsemen plundered the Hebrides, and in 807 obtained a lodgment upon the mainland of Ireland.
(10) Aud, or as she is also called Unnr, the Enormously-wealthy or Deep-minded, was one of the most famous of the Icelandic colonists. She was one of the few colonists who had accepted the Christian religion before their arrival in Iceland. Her relatives, however, seemed to have lapsed into the old faith soon after her death, for on the same hill on which Aud had erected her cross, they built a heathen altar, and offered sacrifices, believing that, after death, they would pass into the hill.
(11) [Sodor], lit. the southern islands; a name applied specifically, as here, to the Hebrides.
(12) Knorr, a kind of trading-ship. It was in model, doubtless, somewhat similar to the modern typical sailing craft of northern Norway. It was, probably, a clinker-built ship, pointed at both ends, half-decked [fore?] and aft, and these half-decks were in the larger vessels connected by a gangway along the gunwale. The open space between the decks was reserved for
the storage of the cargo, which, when the ship was laden, was protected by skins or some similar substitute for tarpaulins. The vessel was provided with a single mast, and was propelled by a rude square sail, and was also supplied with oars. The rudder was attached to the side of the ship, upon the starboard quarter, and the anchor, originally of stone, was afterward supplanted by one of iron, somewhat similar in form to those now in use. When the vessel was in harbour a tent was spread over the ship at both ends. The vessel was supplied with a large boat, called the "after-boat," sometimes large enough to hold twenty persons [Egils Saga Skallagrímssonar, ch. 27], which was frequently towed behind the ship; in addition to this, a smaller boat often appears to have been carried upon the ship. Upon Queen Aud's vessel there were twenty freemen, and besides these there were probably as many more women and children, perhaps forty or fifty persons in all. As Aud was going to a new country to make it her permanent home, she took with her, no doubt, a considerable cargo of household utensils, timber, grain, live-stock, etc.
(13) Frjáls, a freedman, from frí-háls, i. e., having the neck free; a ring worn about the neck having been a badge of servitude. Slaves were called thralls. The thrall was entirely under the control of his master, and could only obtain his freedom by purchase, with the master's approval. He was occasionally freed by his lord, as a reward for some especial act of devotion, for a long period of faithful service, or, in Christian times, as an act of atonement or propitiation on the part of the master. The early settlers of Iceland brought with them many of their thralls from Norway; others were captured in the westerly forays, or purchased in the British Isles,--indeed the ranks of the slaves would appear, both from actual record and from their names, to have been mainly recruited from the British Isles. The majority of these were probably not serfs by birth, but by conquest, as witness the case of Vifil in this saga. The freeing of thralls was very common in Iceland, and there are frequent references in the saga to men who were themselves, or whose fathers had been freedmen. The master could kill his own thrall without punishment; if he killed the slave of another he was required to pay to the master the value of the slave,
within three days, or he laid himself liable to condemnation to the lesser outlawry. The thralls were severely punished for their misdeeds, but if one man took into his own hands the punishment of the thralls of another, it was held to be an affront which could be, and usually was, promptly revenged by their master. It was this right of revenge for such an affront which led Eric the Red to kill Eyiolf Saur, who had punished Eric's thralls for a crime committed against Eyiolf's kinsman, Valthiof. The master, however, was made liable for the misdeeds of his thrall, and could be prosecuted for these; the offense in Eyiolf's case was, that he took the execution of the law into his own hands.
(14) Dalalend, lit. the Dale-lands. The region of which Aud took possession is in the western part of Iceland, contiguous to that arm of the Breidafirth [Broad-firth] which is known as Hvamms-firth. Hvammr is on the northern side of this firth at its head, and Krosshólar [Cross-hill] is hard by. Both Hvammr and Krosshólar still retain their ancient names.
(15) [Vifilsdale] unites with Laugardalr to form the Hördadair, through which the Hörda-dale river flows from the south into Hvamms-firth, at the south-eastern bight of that firth.
(16) Jæderen was a district in south-western Norway, in which the modern Stavanger is situated.
(17) Drangar on Horn-strands, where Eric and his father first established themselves, is on the northern shore of the north-west peninsula of Iceland. Erics-stead, to which Eric removed after his father's death and his own marriage to Thorhild, was in Haukadalr, in western Iceland, in Queen Aud's "claim."
(18) Brokey [Brok-island, which receives its name from a kind of grass called "brok"] is the largest of the numerous islands at the mouth of Hvamms-firth, where it opens into Breida-firth. It is claimed that Eric's home was upon the northern side of the island, at the head of a small bay or creek, called Eiriksvágr, and it is stated that low mounds can still be seen on both Öxney and Sudrey, which are supposed to indicate the sites of Eric's dwellings.
(19) In the skáli, which was, perhaps, at the time of which this saga treats, used as a sleeping-room, there was a raised dais or platform, called the "set," on either side of what may be called a nave of the apartment, extending about two-thirds the length of the room. This "set" was used, as a sleeping-place by night.
(20) Drangar [Monoliths] and Broad-homestead were both situated on the mainland, a short distance to the southward of the islands on which Eric had established himself.
(21) One of the famous "settlers" of Iceland, named Thorolf Moster-beard, like many another "settler," because he would not acknowledge the supremacy of king Harold Fairhair, left his home in the island of Moster, in south-western Norway, and sailed to Iceland, where he arrived about the year 884. He was a believer in the "old" or heathen faith, and when he reached the land, he cast the pillars of the "place of honour" of his Norwegian home into the sea; upon these the figure of the god Thor was carved, and where these penates were cast up by the sea, according to the custom of men of his belief, he established himself.
(22) Dimunarvágr [Dimun-inlet] was, probably, in that group of small islets called Dimun, situated north-east of Brokey at the mouth of Hvamms-firth.
(23) Very little information has been preserved concerning Gunnbiorn, or his discovery. His brother, Grimkell, was one of the early Icelandic colonists, and settled on the western coast of Snowfells-ness, his home being at Saxahóll. It is not known whether Gunnbiorn ever lived in Iceland, but it would seem to be probable that it was upon a voyage to western Iceland, that he was driven westward across the sea between Iceland and Greenland, and discovered the islands which received his name, and likewise saw the Greenland coast.
(24) Blacksark and Whitesark may have been either on the eastern or the south-eastern coast of Greenland. It is not possible to determine from the description here given whether Blacksark was directly west of Snæfellsjökull, nor is it clear whether Blacksark and Whitesark are the same mountain, or
whether there has been a clerical error in one or the other of the manuscripts.
(25) The principal Norse remains [i. e., remains from the Icelandic colony in Greenland] have been found in two considerable groups; one of these is in the vicinity of the modern Godthaab, and the other in the region about the modern Julianehaab [the famous Kakortok church ruin being in the latter group]. It may be, that the first or Godthaab ruins, are upon the site of the Western Settlement, and the second, or Julianehaab group, upon that of the Eastern Settlement.
(26) This Ingolf was called Ingolf the Strong. He was probably a son of the Icelandic colonists, named Thorolf Sparrow. His home was on the southern side of Hvamms-firth.
(27) Thorbiorn's and Thorgeir's father was the same Vifil who came out to Iceland with Queen Aud, and who received from her the land which is settled, Vifilsdale, as has been narrated in this saga.
(28) Thorgeirsfell was upon the southern side of Snowfellsness, to the eastward of Arnarstapi.
(29) The simple fact that Thorgeir was a freedman would seem to have offered no valid reason for Thorbiorn's refusal to consider his son's offer for Gudrid's hand, since Thorbiorn was himself the son of a man who had been a thrall; the ground for his objection was, perhaps, not so much the former thraldom of Einar's father, as the fact that he was a man of humble birth, which Thorbiorn's father, although a slave, evidently was not.
(30) Hraunhöfn [Lava-haven] was on the southern side of Snowfells-ness, nearly midway between Laugarbrekka and Thorgeirsfell. It was this harbour from which Biorn Broadwickers'-champion set sail, as narrated in Eyrbyggja.
(31) The word velva signifies a prophetess, pythoness, sibyl, a woman gifted with the power of divination. The characterization of the prophetess, the minute description of her dress, the various articles of which would seem to have had a symbolic meaning, and the account of the manner of working the spell, whereby she was enabled to forecast future events, form
one of the most complete pictures of a heathen ceremony which has been preserved in the sagas.
(32) The expression "Leif had sailed," would seem to refer to an antecedent condition, possibly to the statement concerning the arrival of Thorbiorn and his daughter at Brattahlid; i. e., "Leif had sailed" when they arrived. If this be indeed the fact, it follows that Thorbiorn and his daughter must have arrived at Brattahlid during Leif's absence in Norway, and obviously before his return to Greenland, in the autumn of the year 1000. Upon this hypothesis, it is clear, that Thorbiorn and Gudrid must have been converted to Christianity before its legal acceptance in Iceland; that is to say, before the year 1000; and further, that Thorstein Ericsson may have been married to Gudrid in the autumn after his return from his unsuccessful voyage, namely, in the autumn of the year 1001; accordingly Karlsefni may have arrived in the following year, have been wedded to Gudrid at the next Yule-tide, 1002-3, and have undertaken his voyage to Wineland in the year 1003. This chronology is suggested with the sole aim of fixing the earliest possible date for Karlsefni's voyage or exploration.
(33) The expression "margkunnig," conveys the impression that Thorgunna was gifted with preternatural wisdom.
(34) It has been suggested, that this Thorgunna is the same woman of whom we read in the Eyrbyggja Saga: "That summer, when Christianity was accepted by law in Iceland, a ship arrived out of Snowfells-ness; this was a Dublin ship. . . . Thorgunna was a large woman, tall, and very stout; with dark brown eyes set close together, and thick brown hair; she was for the most part pleasant in her bearing, attended church every morning before she went to her work, but was not, as a rule, easy of approach nor inclined to be talkative. It was the common opinion that Thorgunna must be in the sixties." In the autumn after her arrival Thorgunna died, and strange events accompanied her last illness. As she approached her end, she called the master of the house to her, and said: "It is my last wish, if I die from this illness, that my body be conveyed to Skálholt, for I foresee that it is destined to be one of the most famous spots in this land, and I know that there must be
priests there now to chant my funeral service. I have a gold ring, which is to go with my body to the church, but my bed and hangings I wish to have burned, for these will not be of profit to any one; and this I say, not because I would deprive any one of the use of these things, if I believed that they would be useful; but I dwell so particularly upon this," says she, "because I should regret, that so great affliction should be visited upon any one, as I know must be, if my wishes should not be fulfilled."
(35) The Fródá-wonder is the name given to the extraordinary occurrences which befell at the farmstead of Fródá soon after Thorgunna's death. The "wonder" began with the appearance of a "weird-moon," which was supposed to betoken the death of some member of the family. This baleful prophecy was followed by the death of eighteen members of the household, and subsequently by the nightly apparitions of the dead. The cause of this marvel was attributed to the fact that the Mistress of Fródá had prevailed upon her husband to disregard Thorgunna's injunction to burn the drapery of her bed; and not until these hangings were burned was the evil influence exorcised, and the ghostly apparitions laid, the complete restoration of the normal condition of affairs being further facilitated by the timely recommendations of a priest, whose services had been secured to that end.
(36) It is not certain what variety of wood is meant; the generally accepted view has been that it was some species of maple. That the tree called mosurr was also indigenous in Norway is in a manner confirmed by a passage in the Short Story of Helgi Thorisson, contained in Flatey Book (vol. i, p. 359): "One summer these brothers engaged in a trading voyage to Finmark in the north, having butter and pork to sell to the Finns. They had a successful trading expedition, and returned when the summer was far-spent, and came by day to a cape called Vimund. There were very excellent woods here. They went ashore, and obtained some 'mosurr' wood." It is reasonably clear, however, that the wood was rare and, whether it grew in Finmark or not, it was evidently highly prized.
(37) Thiodhild is also called Thorhild, and similarly Gudrid
is called Thurid. It has been conjectured that Thorhild and Thurid were the earlier names, which were changed by their owners after their conversion to Christianity, because of the suggestion of the heathen god in the first syllable of their original names.
(38) Such a fall as this of Eric's does not seem to have been generally regarded as an evil omen, if we may be guided by the proverb: "A fall bodes a lucky journey from the house but not toward it."
(39) The display of an axe seems to have been peculiarly efficacious in laying such fetiches. From among numerous similar instances the following incident may be cited: "Thorgils heard a knocking outside upon the roof; and one night he arose, and taking an axe in his hand went outside, where he saw a huge malignant spectre standing before the door. Thorgils raised his axe, but the spectre turned away, and directed itself toward the burial-mound, and when they reached it the spectre turned against him, and they began to wrestle with each other, for Thorgils had dropped his axe."
(40) Thorfinn Karlsefni's ancestral line was of rare excellence; it is given in Landnáma at rather greater length, but otherwise as here: "Thord was the name of a famous man in Norway, he was a son of Biorn Byrdusmior," etc. His grandmother's father, Thord the Yeller, was one of the most famous men in the first century of Iceland's history; he it was who established the Quarter-courts.
(41) Swan-firth is on the southern side of Hvamms-firth, near its junction with Breida-firth, in western Iceland. It is not improbable that the two ships sailed from Breida-firth, the starting-point for so many of the Greenland colonists.
(42) It has been claimed that this Thorhall, Gamli's son, was no other than the Thorhall Gamli's son, of Grettis Saga. It would appear, however, to be pretty clearly established, that the Thorhall, Gamli's son of Grettis Saga, was called after his father Vindlendingr [Wendlander], and that he was an altogether different man from the Thorhall, Gamli's son, of the Saga of Eric the Red.
(43) The celebration of Yule was one of the most important festivals of the year, in the North, both in heathen and in Christian times. Before the introduction of Christianity it was the central feast of three, which were annually held. Of the significance of these three heathen ceremonials, we read: "Odin established in his realm those laws which had obtained with the Ases. . . At the beginning of winter a sacrificial banquet was to be held for a good year, in mid-winter they should offer sacrifice for increase, and the third [ceremonial], the sacrifice for victory, was to be held at the beginning of summer."
(44) Freydis also accompanied the expedition, as appears further on in the saga.
(45) This passage is one of the most obscure in the saga. If the conjecture as to the probable site of the Western Settlement in the vicinity of Godthaab is correct, it is not apparent why Karlsefni should have first directed his course to the north-west, when his destination lay to the south-west. It is only possible to explain the passage by somewhat hazardous conjecture. Leif may have first reached the Western Settlement on his return from the voyage of discovery, and Karlsefni, reversing Leif's itinerary, may have been led to make the Western Settlement his point of departure; or there may have been some reason, not mentioned in the saga, which led the voyagers to touch first the Western Settlement.
(46) Dgr is thus defined in the ancient Icelandic work on chronometry called Rímbegla: "In the day there are two 'dgr;' in the 'dgr" twelve hours." This reckoning, as applied to a sea-voyage, is in at least one instance clearly confirmed, namely in the Saga of Olaf the Saint, wherein it is stated that King Olaf sent Thorarin Nefiolfsson to Iceland: "Thorarin sailed out with his ship from Dorntheim, when the King sailed, and accompanied him southward to Mri. Thorarin then sailed out to sea, and he had a wind which was so powerful and so favorable, that he sailed in eight 'dgr' to Eyrar in Iceland, and went at once to the Althing." The meaning of the word is not so important to enable us to intelligently interpret the saga, as is the determination of the distance, which was reckoned to an average "dgr's" sail; that is to say, the
distance which we may safely conclude, was traversed, under average conditions, in a single "dgr" by Icelandic sailing craft. Having regard to the probable course sailed from Norway to Iceland, it would appear that a "dgr's" sail was approximately one hundred and eight miles. This result precludes the possibility that any point in Labrador could have been within a sailing distance of two "dgr" from the Western Settlement. The winds appear to have been favorable to the explorers; the sail of seven "dgr" "to the southward," from Greenland with the needful westering, would have brought Karlsefni and his companions off the Labrador coast. Apart from this conjecture, it may be said that the distance sailed in a certain number of "dgr" (especially where such distances were probably not familiar to the scribes of the sagas), seem in many cases to be much greater than is reconcilable with our knowledge of the actual distances traversed, whether we regard the "dgra" sail as representing a distance of one hundred and eight miles or a period of twenty-four hours.
(47) This may well have been the keel of one of the lost ships belonging to the colonists who had sailed for Greenland with Eric the Red a few years before; the wreckage would naturally drift hither with the Polar current.
(48) Lit. Scotch. This word seems to have been applied to both the people of Scotland and Ireland. The names of the man and woman, as well as their dress, appear to have been Gaelic, they are, at least, not known as Icelandic; the minute description of the dress, indeed, points to the fact that it was strange to Icelanders.
(49) i. e. Thor. It has been suggested, that Thorhall's persistent adherence to the heathen faith may have led to his being regarded with ill-concealed disfavor.
(50) There can be little doubt that this "self-sown wheat" was wild rice. The habit of this plant, its growth in low ground as here described, and the head, which has a certain resemblance to that of cultivated small grain, especially oats, seem clearly to confirm this view. The explorers probably had very slight acquaintance with cultivated grain, and might on this account more readily confuse this wild rice with wheat.
[paragraph continues] There is not, however, the slightest foundation for the theory that this "wild wheat" was Indian corn, a view which has been advanced by certain writers. Indian corn was a grain entirely unknown to the explorers, and they could not by any possibility have confused it with wheat, even if they had found this corn growing wild, a conjecture for which there is absolutely no support whatever. The same observation as that made by the Wineland discoverers was recorded by Jacques Cartier five hundred years later, concerning parts of the Canadian territory which he explored. It is no less true that this same explorer found grapes growing wild, in a latitude as far north as that of Nova Scotia, and, as would appear from the record, in considerable abundance. Again, in the following century, we have an account of an exploration of the coast of Nova Scotia, in which the following passage occurs: "All the ground between the two Riuers was without Wood, and was good fat earth hauing seueral sorts of Berries growing thereon, as Gooseberry, Straw-berry, Hyndberry, Rasberry, and a kinde of Red-wine-berry: As also some sorts of Graine, as Pease, some eares of Wheat, Barley, and Rye, growing there wild," etc. [Purchas his Pilgrimes, London, 1625.]
(51) Lit. "holy fish." The origin of the name is not known. Prof. Maurer suggests that it may have been derived from some folk-tale concerning St, Peter, but adds that such a story, if it ever existed, has not been preserved.
(52) It is not clear what the exact nature of these staves may have been. These "staves" may have had a certain likeness to the long oars of the inhabitants of Newfoundland, described in a notice of date July 29th, 1612: "They haue two kinde of Oares, one is about foure foot long of one peece of Firre; the other is about ten foot long made of two peeces, one being as long, big and round as a halfe Pike made of Beech wood, which by likelihood they made of a Biskin Oare, the other is the blade of the Oare, which is let into the end of the long one slit, and whipped very strongly. The short one they use as a Paddle, and the other as in Oare." [Purchas his Pilgrimes, London, 1625.]
(53) The white shield, called the "peace-shield," was displayed by those who wished to indicate to others with whom
they desired to meet that their intentions were not hostile, as in Magnus Barefoot's Saga, "the barons raised aloft a white peace-shield." The red shield, on the other hand, was the war-shield, a signal of enmity, as Sinfiotli declares in the Helgi song, "Quoth Sinfiotli, hoisting a red shield to the yard, . . . 'tell it this evening. . . . that the Wolfings are coming from the East, lusting for war.'" The use of a white flag-of-truce for a purpose similar to that for which Snorri recommended the white shield, is described in the passage quoted in note 52, "Nouember the sixt two Canoas appeared, and one man alone coming towards vs with a Flag in his hand of a Wolfes skin, shaking it and making a loud noise, which we took to be for a parley, whereupon a white Flag was put out, and the Barke and Shallop rowed towards them." [Purchas his Pilgrimes.]
(54) The natives of the country here described were called by the discoverers, as we read, Skrælingjar; since this was the name applied by the Greenland colonists to the Eskimo, it has generally been concluded that the Skrælingjar of Wineland were Eskimo. Prof. Storm has recently pointed out that there may be sufficient reason for caution in hastily accepting this conclusion, and he would identify the inhabitants of Wineland with the Indians, adducing arguments philological and ethnographical to support his theory. The description of the savages of Newfoundland, given in the passage in Purchas' "Pilgrims," already cited, offers certain details which coincide with the description of the Skrellings, contained in the saga. These savages are said by the English explorers to be "full-eyed, of black colour; the colour of their hair was diners, some blacke, some browne, and some yellow, and their faces something flat and broad." Other details, which are given on the same authority, have not been noted by the Icelandic explorers, and one statement, at least, "they haue no beards," is directly at variance with the saga statement concerning the Skrellings seen by the Icelanders on their homeward journey. The similarity of description may be a mere accidental coincidence, and it by no means follows that the English writer and Karlsefni's people saw the same people, or even a kindred tribe.
(55) John Guy, in a letter to Master Slany, the Treasurer and
[paragraph continues] "Counsell" of the New-found-land Plantation writes: "The doubt that haue bin made of the extremity of the winter season in these parts of New-found-land are found by our experience causelesse; and that not onely men may safely inhabit here without any neede of stoue, but Nauigation may be made to and fro from England to these parts at any time of the yeare. . . . Our Goates haue liued here all this winter; and there is one lustie kidde, which was yeaned in the dead of winter." [Purchas his Pilgrimes, vol. iv, p. 1878.]
(56) i. e., a One-footer, a man with one leg or foot. In the Flatey Book Thorvald's death is less romantically described. The mediæval belief in a country in which there lived a race of one-legged men, was not unknown in Iceland, for mention is made in Rimbegla, of "a people of Africa called One-footers, the soles of whose feet are so large that they shade themselves with these against the heat of the sun when they sleep." It is apparent from the passages from certain Icelandic works already cited, that, at the time these works were written, Wineland was supposed to be in some way connected with Africa. Whether this notice of the finding of a Uniped in the Wineland region may have contributed to the adoption of such a theory, it is, of course, impossible to determine. The reports which the explorers brought back of their having seen a strange man, who, for some reason not now apparent, they believed to have but one leg, may, because Wineland was held to be contiguous to Africa, have given rise to the conclusion that this strange man was indeed a Uniped, and that the explorers had hit upon the African "land of the Unipeds." It has also been suggested that the incident of the appearance of the "One-footer" may have found its way into the saga to lend an additional adornment to the manner of Thorvald's taking-off. It is a singular fact that Jacques Cartier brought back from his Canadian explorations reports not only of a land peopled by a race of one-legged folk, but also of a region in those parts where the people were "as white as those of France."
(57) These words, it has been supposed, might afford a clue to the language of the Skrellings, which would aid in determining their race. In view not only of the fact, that they probably
passed through many strange mouths before they were committed to writing, but also that the names are not the same in the different manuscripts, they appear to afford very equivocal testimony. Especially is the soft melody of these Skrelling-words altogether different from the harsh gutteral sounds of the Eskimo language. We must therefore refer for the derivation of these words to the Indians, whom we know in this region in later times. The inhabitants, whom the discoverers of the sixteenth century found in Newfoundland, and who called themselves "Beothuk" [i. e., men], received from the Europeans the name of Red Indians, because they smeared themselves with ochre; they have now been exterminated, partly by the Europeans, partly by the Micmac Indians, who in the last century wandered into Newfoundland from New Brunswick. Of their language only a few remnants have been preserved, but still enough to enable us to form a tolerably good idea of it.
"Even as there are on the north-western coast of North America races which seem to me to occupy a place between the Indian and Eskimo, so it appears to me not sufficiently proven, that the now extinct race on America's east coast, the Beothuk, were Indians. Their mode of life and belief have many points of resemblance, by no means unimportant, with the Eskimo and especially with the Angmagsalik. It is not necessary to particularize these here, but I wish to direct attention to the possibility, that in the Beothuk we may perhaps have one of the transition links between the Indian and the Eskimo."
(58) The sum of information which we possess concerning White-men's-land or Ireland the Great, is comprised in this passage and in the quotation from Landnáma. It does not seem possible from these very vague notices to arrive at any sound conclusion concerning the location of this country. Rafn concludes that it must have been the southern portion of the eastern coast of North America. Vigfusson and Powell suggest that the inhabitants of this White-men's-land were "Red Indians;" with these, they say, "the Norsemen never came into actual contact, or we should have a far more vivid description than this, and their land would bear a more appropriate title." Storm, in his "Studier over Vinlandsreiserne," would regard
[paragraph continues] "Greater Ireland" as a semi-fabulous land, tracing its quasi-historical origin to the Irish visitation of Iceland prior to the Norse settlement. No one of these theories is entirely satisfactory, and the single fact which seems to be reasonably well established is that "Greater Ireland" was to the Icelandic scribes terra incognita.
(59) The modern Reynistadr is situated in Northern Iceland, a short distance to the southward of Skaga-firth. Glaumbr, as it is still called, is somewhat farther south, but hard by.
(60) Thorlak Runolfsson was the third bishop of Skálholt. He was consecrated bishop in the year 1118, and died 1133. Biorn Gilsson was the third bishop of Hólar, the episcopal seat of northern Iceland; he became bishop in 1147, and died in the year 1162. Bishop Biorn's successor was Brand Sæmundsson, "Bishop Brand the Elder," who died in the year 1201.
(61) We read concerning the introduction of Christianity into Iceland: "Thorvald [Kodransson] travelled widely through the southern countries; in the Saxon-land [Germany] in the south, he met with a bishop named Frederick, and was by him converted to the true faith and baptised, and remained with him for a season. Thorvald bade the bishop accompany him to Iceland, to baptise his father and mother, and others of his kinsmen, who would abide by his advice; and the bishop consented." According to Icelandic annals, Bishop Frederick arrived in Iceland, on this missionary enterprise, in the year 981; from the same authority we learn that he departed from Iceland in 985.
(62) Heriulf or Heriolf, who accompanied Eric the Red to Greenland, was not, of course, the same man to whom Ingolf allotted land between Vág and Reykianess, for Ingolf set about the colonization of Iceland in 874, more than a century before Eric the Red's voyage to Greenland. The statement of Flatey Book is, therefore, somewhat misleading, and seems to indicate either carelessness or a possible confusion on the part of the scribe. Heriulf, Eric the Red's companion, was a grandson of the "settler" Heriulf, as is clearly set forth in two passages in Landnáma.
(63) In the "King's Mirror," an interesting Norwegian work of the thirteenth century, wherein, in the form of a dialogue, a
father is supposed to be imparting information to his son concerning the physical geography of Greenland, he says: "Now there is another marvel in the Greenland Sea, concerning the nature of which I am not so thoroughly informed; this is that which people call 'Sea-rollers.' This is likest all the sea-storm and all the billows, which are in the sea, gathered together in three places, from which three billows form; these three hedge in the whole sea, so that no break is to be seen, and they are higher than tall fells, are like steep peaks, and few instances are known of persons who, being upon the sea when this phenomenon befell, have escaped therefrom." There can be little question that Heriulf experienced a perilous voyage, since out of the large number of ships, which set sail for Greenland at the same time, so few succeeded in reaching their destination.
(64) This has been assumed by many writers to have been Labrador, but the description does not accord with the appearance which the country now presents.
(65) Certainly a marvellous coincidence, but it is quite in character with the no less surprising accuracy with which the explorers, of this history, succeed in finding "Leif's-booths" in a country which was as strange to them as Greenland to Biarni.
(66) This statement has attracted more attention, perhaps, than any other passage in the account of the Icelandic discovery of America, since it seems to afford data which, if they can be satisfactorily interpreted, enable us to determine approximately the site of the discovery. The observation must have been made within the limits of a region wherein, early in the eleventh century, the sun was visible upon the shortest day of the year between dagmálastadr and eyktarstadr; 'it is, therefore, apparent that if we can arrive at the exact meaning of either dagmálastadr or eyktarstadr, or the length of time intervening between these, it should not be difficult to obtain positive information concerning the location of the region in which the observation was made.
The result of the application of Professor Storm's simple and logical treatment to this passage in Flatey Book, "the sun had there Eyktarstad," etc., is summed up in Capt. Pythian's statement,
"the explorers could not have been, when the record was made, farther north than Lat. [say] 49°;" that is to say, Wineland may have been somewhat further to the south than northern Newfoundland or the corresponding Canadian coast, but, if we may rely upon the accuracy of this astronomical observation, it is clear that thus far south it must have been.
(67) A wooden granary. The word "hjálmr" appears to have a double significance. In the passage in the Saga of King Olaf the Saint: "Wilt thou sell us grain, farmer? I see that there are large 'hjálmar' here,' the word 'hjálmar' may have the meaning of stacks of grain. The use of the word as indicating a house for the storage of grain is, however, clearly indicated in the Jydske Lov of 1241, wherein we read: "But if one build upon the land of another either a 'hialm' or any other house," etc. As there is no suggestion in the saga of the finding of cultivated fields, it is not apparent for what uses a house for the storage of grain could have been intended.
(68) Lit. war-hurdle. This was a protection against the missiles of the enemy raised above the sides of the vessel. In this instance, as perhaps generally on ship-board, this protecting screen would appear to have been formed of shields attached to the bulwarks, between these the arrow, which caused Thorvald's death, doubtless, found its way.
(69) The Landnámabók makes no mention of this Thori; its language would seem to preclude the probability of a marriage between such a man and Gudrid; the passage with reference to Gudrid being as follows: "His son was Thorbiorn, father of Gudrid who married Thorstein, son of Eric the Red, and afterwards Thorfinn Karlsefni; from them are descended bishops Biorn, Thorlak and Brand.
(70) Námkrytill [namkirtle] is thus explained by Dr. Valtýr Gudmundsson, in his unpublished treatise on ancient Icelandic dress: "Different writers are not agreed upon the meaning of 'námkrytill;'" Sveinbjörn Egilsson interprets it as signifying a kirtle made from some kind of material called "nám." In this definition he is followed by Keyser. The Icelandic painter, Sigurdr Gudmundsson has, on the other hand, regarded the word as allied to the expression: "Fitting close to the leg, narrow,"
and concludes that "námkyrtill" should be translated, "narrow kirtle."
(71) A "Mark" was equal to eight "aurar;" an "eyrir" [plur. "aurar"] of silver was equal to 144 skillings. An "eyrir" would, therefore, have been equal to three crowns [kroner], modern Danish coinage, since sixteen skillings are equal to one-third of a crown [33 ⅓ ore], and a half "mark" of silver would accordingly have been equal to twelve crowns, Danish coinage. As the relative value of gold and silver at the time described is not clearly established, it is not possible to determine accurately the value of the half "mark" of gold. It was, doubtless, greater at that time, proportionately, than the value here assigned, while the purchasing power of both precious metals was very much greater then than now.
(72) At the time of the "settlement" of Iceland the homestead of the more prominent "settler" became the nucleus of a little community. The head of this little community, who was the acknowledged leader in matters spiritual and temporal, was called the "godi." With the introduction of Christianity the "godi" lost his religious character though he still retained his place of importance in the Commonwealth.