The Norse Discovery of America, by A.M Reeves, N.L. Beamish and R.B. Anderson, , at sacred-texts.com
NEXT in importance and interest to the Saga of Erik the Red, is that of Thorfinn, with the significant surname of Karlsefne, i. e., destined to become a great man. This distinguished individual was a wealthy and powerful Icelandic merchant, descended from an illustrious line of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Irish, and Scottish ancestors, some of whom were kings, or of royal blood. The narrative of his exploits is taken from two ancient Icelandic MSS. not previously known to the literati, and one of which, there is every reason to believe, is a genuine autograph of the celebrated Hank Erlendson, who was Lagman or Chief Governor of Iceland in 1295, and one of the compilers of the Landnamabok; he was also a descendant of Karlsefne in the ninth generation. This very remarkable Saga forms part of the Arnæ-Magæan collection, and besides short notices of the discoveries of the earlier voyagers, which are more fully described in the Saga of Erik the Red, gives detailed accounts of voyages to and discoveries in America, carried on by Karlsefne and his companions for a period of three years, commencing in 1007. Some discrepancies and misnomers appear in those parts of the narrative, which treat of the personages and events recorded in the preceding Saga, but they are only such as to preclude all suspicion of confederacy or fraud on the part of the writers, as all the main facts are substantially the same in both; and the circumstance
of the Saga of Erik having been written in Greenland, while that of Karlsefne was written in Iceland, is sufficient to account for these variations. The same circumstance, also, renders the former the best authority in all matters of detail connected with Greenland, while the other must be considered more correct respecting occurrences relating to Iceland. These differences are pointed out in the notes, and where any minor points of interesting detail connected with the voyage of Karlsefne appear in the Saga of Erik the Red, while they are absent in Karlsefne's saga, they have been supplied from that of Erik, the interpolation being pointed out.
Torfæus imagined that the Saga of Thorfirm Karlsefne was lost, and the only knowledge he had of its contents was derived from some corrupt extracts contained in the collection of materials for the history of ancient Greenland, left by the Icelandic yeoman Bjorn Jonson, of Skardso.
GENEALOGY OP THORFINN KARLSEFNI, HIS VOYAGE TO GREENLAND, AND MARRIAGE WITH GUDRID, THE WIDOW OF THORSTEIN ERIKSON.
(Translation from the Manuscript.)
THORD hight 1 a man who lived at Hofda in Hofda strand; he married Fridgerda, daughter of Thorer Hyma and Fridgerda daughter of Kjarval, king of the Irish. Thord was the son of Bjarni Byrdusmjor, son of Thorvald Ryg, son of Asleik, son of Bjarni Jarnsid, son of Ragnar Lodbrok. They had a son called Snorri; he married Thorhild Rjupa, daughter of Thord Gellar; their son was Thord Hesthofdi. Thorfinn Karlsefni hight Thord's son; Thorfinn's mother hight Thorum. Thorfirm took to trading voyages, and was thought an able seaman and merchant. One summer Karlsefni fitted out his ship, and purposed a voyage to Greenland. Snorri Thorbrandson, of Alptefjord, went with him, and there were forty men in the ship. There was a man hight Bjarne Grimolfson, of Breidafjord; another hight Thorhall Gamalason, an Eastfjordish man; they fitted out their ship the same summer for Greenland; there were also forty men in the ship. Karlsefni and the others put to sea with these two ships, so soon as they were ready. Nothing is told about how long they were at sea, but it is to be related that both these ships came to Eriksfjord in the autumn. Erik rode to the ship together with several of
the inhabitants, and they began to deal in a friendly manner. Both the ship's captains begged Erik (Leif) to take as much of the goods as he wished; but Erik (Leif) on his side, showed them hospitality, and bade the crews of these two ships home, for the winter, to his own house at Brattahlid. This the merchants accepted, and thanked him. Then were their goods removed to Brattahlid; there was no want of large out-houses to keep the goods in, neither plenty of every thing that was required, wherefore they were well satisfied in the winter. But towards Yule Erik (Leif) began to be silent, and was less cheerful than he used to be. One time turned Karlsefni towards Erik (Leif) and said: "Hast thou any sorrow, Erik, my friend? people think to see that thou art less cheerful than thou wert wont to be; thou hast entertained us with the greatest splendour, and we are bound to return it to thee with such services as we can command; say now, what troubles thee?" Erik (Leif) answered: "Ye are friendly and thankful, and I have no fear as concerns out intercourse, that ye will feel the want of attention; but, on the other hand, I fear that when ye come elsewhere it will be said that ye have never passed a worse Yule than that which now approaches, when Erik the Red entertained ye at Brattahlid, in Greenland." "It shall not be so, Yeoman!" 1 said Karlsefne; "we have in our ship, both malt and corn; take as much as thou desirest thereof, and make ready a feast as grand as thou wilt!" This Erik (Leif) accepted, and now preparation was made for the feast of Yule, and this'
feast was so grand that people thought they had hardly ever seen the like pomp in a poor land. And after Yule Karlsefni disclosed to Erik (Leif) that he wished to marry Gudrid, for it seemed to him, as if he must have the power in this matter. Erik answered favourably, and said that she must follow her fate, and that he had heard nothing but good of him; and it ended so that Thorfinn married Thurid 1 (Gudrid), and then was the feast extended; and their marriage was celebrated; and this happened at Brattahlid, in the winter.
A. D. 1007.
BEGINNING OF THE VINLAND VOYAGE.
IN Brattahlid began people to talk much about that Vinland the Good should be explored, and it was said that a voyage thither would be particularly profitable by reason of the fertility of the land; and it went so far that Karlsefni and Snorri made ready their ship to explore the land in the spring. With them went also the before-named men hight Bjarni and Thorhall, with their ship. There was a man hight Thorvard; he married Freydis, a natural daughter of Erik the Red; he went
also with them, and Thorvald the son of Erik, 1 and Thorhall who was called the hunter; he had long been with Erik, and served him as huntsman in summer and steward in winter; he was a large man, and strong, black and like a giant, silent and foul-mouthed in his speech, and always egged on Erik to the worst; he was a bad Christian; he was well acquainted with uninhabited parts, he was in the ship with Thorvard and Thorvald. They had the ship which Thorbjorn had brought out [from Iceland]. They had in all 160 men, 2 when they sailed to the western settlement, and from thence to Bjanney. Then sailed they two days to the south; then saw they land, and put off boats, and explored the land, and found there great flat stones, many of which were 12 ells broad; foxes were there. They gave the land a name, and called it Helluland. 3 Then sailed they two days, and turned from the south to the southeast, and found a land covered with wood, and many wild beasts upon it; an island lay there out from the land to the south-east; there killed they a bear, and called the place afterwards Bear Island, but the land Markland. Thence sailed they far to the southward along the land, and came to a ness; the land lay upon the right; there
were long and sandy strands. They rowed to land, and found there upon the ness the keel of a ship, and called the place Kjalarness, and the strands they called Furdustrands for it was long to sail by them. Then became the land indented with coves; they ran the ship into a cove. King Olaf Tryggvason had given Leif two Scotch people, a man hight Haki, and a woman hight Hekja; they were swifter than beasts. These people were in the ship with Karlsefni; but when they had sailed past Furdustrands, then set they the Scots on shore, and bade them run to the southward of the land, and explore its qualities, and come back again within three days. They had a sort of clothing which they called kjafal, which was so made that a hat was on the top, and it was open at the sides, and no arms to it; fastened together between the legs, with buttons and clasps, but in other places it was open. They staid away the appointed time, but when they came back, the one had in the hand a bunch of grapes, and the other a new sown ear of wheat; 1 these went on board the ship, and after that sailed they farther. They sailed into a frith; there lay an island before it, round which there were strong currents, therefore called they it Stream island. There were so many eider ducks on the island that one could scarcely walk in consequence of the eggs. They called the place Stream-frith. They took their cargo from the ship, and prepared to remain there. They had with them all sorts of cattle. The country there was very beautiful. They
undertook nothing but to explore the land. They were there for the winter without having provided food beforehand. In the summer the fishing declined, and they were badly off for provisions; then disappeared Thorhall the huntsman. They had previously made prayers to God for food, but it did not come so quick as they thought their necessities required. They searched after Thorhall for three days, and found him on the top of a rock; there he lay, and looked up in the sky, and gaped both with nose and mouth, and murmured something; they asked him why he had gone there; he said it was no business of theirs; they bade him come home with them, and he did so. Soon after, came there a whale, and they went thither, and cut it up, and no one knew, what sort of whale it was; and when the cooked dressed it then ate they, and all became ill in consequence. Then said Thorhall: "The red bearded was more helpful than your Christ; this have I got now for my verses that I sung of Thor, my protector; seldom has he deserted me." But when they came to know this, they cast the whole whale into the sea, and resigned their case to God. Then the weather improved, and it was possible to row out fishing, and they were not then in want of provisions, for wild beasts were caught on the land, and fish in the sea, and eggs collected on the island.
In the account of these transactions, given in the Saga of Erik the Red, it is stated that a son was born to Gudrid during this autumn (1007); which statement is corroborated in a subsequent part of the present narrative The child was called Snorre, and from this first of European
blood born in America, the celebrated sculptor Thorvaldson, as well as many other eminent Scandinavians, is lineally descended.
So is said, that Thorhall would go to the northward along Furdustrands, to explore Vinland, but Karlsefni would go southwards along the coast. Thorhall got ready, out under the island, and there were no more together than nine men; but all the others went with Karlsefni. Now when Thorhall bore water to his ship, and drank, then sung he this song:--
People told me when I came
Hither, all would be so fine;
The good Vinland, known to fame,
Rich in fruits, and choicest wine;
Now the water pail they send;
To the fountain I must bend,
Nor from out this land divine
Have I quaffed one drop of wine.
And when they were ready, and hoisted sail, then chaunted Thorhall:--
Let our trusty band
Haste to Fatherland;
Let our vessel brave,
Plough the angry wave,
While those few who love
Vinland, here may rove,
Or, with idle toil,
Feted whales may boil,
Here on Furdustrans
Far from fatherland.
After that sailed they northwards past Furdustrands, and Kjalarness, and would cruise to the westward; then came against them a strong west wind, and they were driven away to Ireland, and were there beaten, and made slaves, according to what the merchants have said.
Now is to be told about Karlsefni, that he went to the southward along the coast, and Snorri and Bjarne, with their people. They sailed a long time, and until they came to a river which ran out from the land and through a lake, out into the sea. It was very shallow, and one could not enter the river without high water. Karlsefni sailed, with his people, into the mouth, and they called the place Hop. They found there upon the land self-sown fields of wheat, there where the ground was low, but vines there where it rose somewhat. Every stream there was full of fish. They made holes there where the land commenced, and the waters rose highest; and when the tide fell there were secured fish in the holes. There were a great number of all kinds of wild beasts in the woods. They remained there a half month, and amused themselves, and did not perceive anything [new]; they had their cattle with them. And one morning early, when they looked around, saw they a great many canoes, and poles were swung upon them, and it sounded like the wind in a straw stack, and the swinging was with the sun. Then said Karlsefni: "What may this denote?" Snorri Thorbrandson answered him: "It may be that this is a sign of peace, so let us take a white shield and hold it towards them;" and so they did. Upon this the others rowed towards them, and looked with
wonder upon those that they met, and went up upon the land. These people were black, and ill favoured, and had coarse hair on the head; they had large eyes and broad cheeks. They remained there for a time, and gazed upon those that they met, and rowed, afterwards, away to the southward, round the ness.
Karlsefni and his people had made their dwellings above the lake, and some of the houses were near the water, others more distant. Now were they there for the winter; there came no snow, and all their cattle fed themselves on the grass. But when spring approached, saw they one morning early that a number of canoes rowed from the south round the ness; so many, as if the sea was sowen with coal; poles were also swung on each boat. Karlsefni and his people then raised up the shield, and when they came together, they began to barter; and these people would rather have red cloth [than anything else]; for this they had to offer skins and real furs. They would also purchase swords and spears, but this Karlsefni and Snorri forbade. For an entire fur skin the Skrellings took a piece of red cloth, a span long, and bound it round their heads. Thus went on their traffic for a time; then the cloth began to fall short among Karlsefni and his people, and they cut it asunder into small pieces, which were not wider than the breadth of a finger, and still the Skrellings gave just as much for that as before, and more.
The Saga of Erik the Red, in giving an account of this transaction, adds that Karlsefni, on the cloth being expended, hit upon the expedient of making the women take
out milk porridge to the Skrellings, who, as soon as they saw this new article of commerce would buy the porridge and nothing else. "Thus," says the Saga, "the traffic of the Skrellings was wound up by their bearing away their purchases in their stomachs, but Karlsefni and his companions retained their goods and skins."
It happened that a bull, which Karlsefni had, ran out from the wood and roared aloud; this frightened the Skrellings, and they rushed to their canoes, and rowed away to the southward, round the coast; after that they were not seen for three entire weeks. But at the end of that time a great number of Skrellings boats' were seen coming from the south like a rushing torrent; all the poles were turned from the sun, and they all howled very loud. Then took Karlsefni's people a red shield, and held it towards them. The Skrellings jumped out of their ships, and after this went they against each other and fought. There was a sharp shower of weapons, for the Skrellings had slings. Karlsefni's people saw that they raised up on a pole an enormous large ball, something like a sheep's paunch, and of a blue colour; this swung they from the pole over Karlsefni's men, upon the ground, and it made a frightful crash as it fell down. This caused great alarm to Karlsefni and all his people, so that they thought of nothing but running away, and they fell back along the river, for it appeared to them that the Skrellings pressed upon them from all sides; and they did not stop until they came to some rocks, where they made a stout resistance. Freydis came out and saw that Karlsefni's people fell back, and she cried
out: "Why do ye run, stout men as ye are, before these miserable wretches, whom I thought ye would knock down like cattle? and if I had weapons, methinks I could fight better than any of ye." They gave no heed to her words. Freydis would go with them, but she was slower, because she was pregnant; however she followed after them into the wood. The Skrellings pursued her; she found a dead man before her; it was Thorbrand Snorrason, and there stood a flat stone stuck in his head; the sword lay naked by his side; this took she up, and prepared to defend herself. Then came the Skrellings towards her; she drew out her breasts from under her clothes, and dashed them against the naked sword; by this the Skrellings became frightened, and ran off to their ships, and rowed away. Karlsefni and his people then came up, and praised her courage. Two men fell on Karlsefni's side, but a number of the Skrellings. Karlsefni's band was overmatched, and they now drew home to their dwellings, and bound their wounds; and they thought over what crowd that could have been, which had pressed upon them from the land side, and it now appeared to them that it could scarcely have been real people from the ships, but that these must have been optical illusions. The Skrellings found also a dead man, and an axe lay by him; one of them took up the axe, and cut wood with it, and now one after another did the same, and thought it was an excellent thing, and bit well; after that one took it, and cut at a stone, so that the axe broke, and then thought they it was of no use, because it would not cut stone, and they threw it away.
Karlsefni and his people now thought they saw that although the land had many good qualities, still would they be always exposed there to the fear of hostilities from the earlier inhabitants. They proposed, therefore, to depart, and return to their own country. They sailed northwards along the coast, and found five Skrellings clothed in skins, sleeping near the sea. They had with them vessels containing animal marrow mixed with blood. Karlsefni's people thought they understood that these men had been banished from the land; they killed them. After that came they to a ness, and many wild beasts were there, and the ness was covered all over with dung, from the beasts which had lain there during the night. Now came they back to Straumfjord, and there was abundance of everything that they wanted to have. It is some mens say, that Bjarne and Gudrid remained behind, and 100 men with them, and did not go further; but that Karlsefni and Snorri went southwards, and 40 men with them, and were not longer in Hope than barely two months, and, the same summer, came back. Karlsefne went then with one ship to seek after Thorhall the hunter, but the rest remained behind, and they sailed northwards past Kjalarness, and thence westwards, and the land was upon their larboard hand; there were wild woods over all, as far as they could see, and scarcely any open places. And when they had long sailed, a river fell out of the land from east to west; they put in to the mouth of the river, and lay by its southern bank.
It happened one morning that Karlsefni and his people saw, opposite an open place in the wood, a speck which glistened in their sight, and they shouted out towards it, and it was a uniped, which thereupon hurried down to the bank of the river where they lay. Thorvald Erikson stood at the helm, and the uniped shot an arrow into his bowels. Thorvald drew out the arrow, and said: "It has killed me!--to a fruitful land have we come, but hardly shall we enjoy any benefit from it." Thorvald soon after died of this wound. Upon this the uniped ran away to. the northward; Karlsefni and his people went after him, and saw him now and then, and the last time they saw him, he ran out into a bay.
They drew off then, and to the northward, and thought they saw the country of the unipeds, they would not expose their people any longer. They looked upon the mountain range that was at Hope; and that which they now found, as all one, and it also appeared to be equal length from Straumfjord to both places. The third winter were they in Straumfjord. They now became much divided by party feeling, and the women were the cause of it, for those who, were unmarried would injure those that were married, and hence arose great disturbance. There was born the first autumn, Snorri, Karlsefni's son, and he was three years old when they went away. When they sailed from Vinland they had a south wind, and came then to Markland, and found there five Skrælings, and one was bearded; two were females, and two
boys; they took the boys, but the others escaped, and the Skrellings sank down in the ground. These two boys took they with them; they taught them the language, and they were baptized. They called their mother Vathelldi and their father Uvæge. They said that two kings ruled over the Skrellings, and that one of them was hight Avalldania, but the other Valldidida. They said that no houses were there; people lay in caves or in holes. They said there was a land on the other side, just opposite their country, where people lived who wore white clothes, and carried poles before them, and to these were fastened flags, and they shouted loud; and people think that this was White-man's-Land, or Great Ireland.
Bjarne Grimolfson was driven with his ship into the Irish ocean, and they came into a worm-sea, and straightway began the ship to sink under them. They had a boat which was smeared with seal oil, for the sea-worms do not attack that; they went into the boat, and then saw that it could not hold them all; then said Bjarne: "Since the boat cannot give room to more than the half of our men, it is my counsel that lots should be drawn, for those to go in the boat, for it shall not be according to rank." This thought they all so high-minded an offer that no one would speak against it; they then did so that lots were drawn, and it fell upon Bjarne to go, in the boat, and the half of the men with him, for the boat had not room for more. But when they had gotten into the boat, then said an Icelandic man, who was in the ship, and had come with Bjarne from Iceland: "Dost thou intend, Bjarne, to separate from me here?" Bjarne answered:
[paragraph continues] "So it turns, out." Then said the other: "Very different was thy promise to, my father, when I went with thee from Iceland, than thus to abandon me, for thou said'st that we should both share the same fate." Bjarne replied: "It shall not be thus; go thou down into, the boat, and I will go up into the ship, since I see that thou art so desirous to live." Then went Bjarne up into the ship, but this man down into the boat, and after that continued they their voyage, until they came to Dublin in Ireland, and told there these things; but it is most people's belief that Bjarne and his companions were lost in the worm-sea, for nothing was heard of them since that time.
The next summer went Karlsefni to Iceland, and Gudrid with him, and he went home to Reynisness. His mother thought that he had made a bad match, and therefore was Gudrid not at home the first winter. But when she observed that Gudrid was a distinguished woman, went she home, and they agreed very well together. The daughter of Snorri Karlsefnesson was Hallfrid, mother to Bishop Thorlak Runolfson. They had a son who Thorbjorn hight, his daughter hight Thorunn, mother to Bishop Bjorn. Thorgeir hight the son of Snorri Karlsefnesson, father to Yngvild, mother of Bishop Brand the first. A daughter of Snorri Karlsefnesson was also Steinum, who, married Einar, son of Grundarketil, son of Thorvald Krok, the son of Thorer, of Espihol; their son was Thorstein Ranglatr; he was
father to Gudrun, who married Jorund of Keldum; their daughter was Halla, mother to Flose, father of Valgerde, mother of Herr Erlend Sterka, father of Herr Hauk the Lagman. Another daughter of Flose was Thordis, mother of Fru Ingigerd the rich; her daughter was Fru Hallbera, Abbess of Stad at Reinisness. Many other great men in Iceland are descended from Karlsefni and Thurid, who are not here mentioned. God be with us! Amen!
216:1 The word "hight" means name so that the sentence may be read: "A man named Thord, who lived at Hofda," etc.
217:1 Bondi, a householder.
218:1 The daughter of Thorbjorn is sometimes called Thurid and sometimes Gudrid, in this narrative; and the Editor thinks it probable that she was called by the former name during childhood, but that, afterwards, for religious reasons, the pagan name (derived from the God Thor) was laid aside, and that of Gudrid adopted in its place.
219:1 Here is again evidently some confusion of names, as Thorvald Erikson's death has been previously related in the Saga of Erik the Red, and Karlsefni was now married to his widow Gudrid; it seems probable that some other Thorvald accompanied Karlsefne on this voyage.
219:2 Literally "40 men and a hundred" [40 manna oh hundrad] but the great or long hundred must be understood, consisting of 12 decades, or 120. Antiq. Amer. p. 137, note b. Thus Tegner, describing the drinking hall of Frithiof: Not five hundred men (though ten twelves you count to the hundred), could fill that wide hall, when they gathered to banquet at Yule.
219:3 The whole of the northern coast of America, west of Greenland, was called by the ancient Icelandic geographers Helluland it Mikla, or Great Helluland; and the island of Newfoundland simply Helluland, or Litla Helluland.
220:1 Hveitiax nysaid. This was, no doubt, the maize or Indian corn,--the "fruges non seminatas" of Adam of Bremen,--which, as well as beans, pumpkins, and squashes, were found growing in the State of Massachusetts, when first visited by the whites.