Grœnlendinga saga (listen (help·info)) (spelled Grænlendinga saga in modern Icelandic and translated into English as the Saga of the Greenlanders) is one of the sagas of Icelanders. Along with Saga of Erik the Red, it is one of the two main literary sources of information for the Norse exploration of North America. It relates the colonization of Greenland by Erik the Red and his followers. It then describes several expeditions further west led by Erik's children and Þorfinnr "Karlsefni" Þórðarson.
The saga is preserved in the late 14th Century Flateyjarbók manuscript and is believed to have been first written sometime in the 13th Century regarding events between around 970 to 1030. Parts of the saga are fanciful, but much is believed to be based on historical truth.
Erik the Red (Old Norse: Eiríkr rauði) immigrated from Norway to Iceland with his father, Þorvaldr Ásvaldsson, to avoid murder charges. Erik married Thjodhild (ON: Þjóðhildr) in Iceland. He again is involved in a dispute and is proclaimed an outlaw. He resolves to find the land spotted by Gunnbjorn (ON: Gunnbjörn) while lost during a western voyage.
Erik departed Iceland near Snæfellsjökull and arrived at the glacial coast of Greenland (ON: Grœnland) where he then sailed south searching for habitable areas. After two years of exploring, he returned to Iceland and told of his discoveries and giving Greenland it name as a way to attract settlers.
Over-wintering in Iceland, Erik set sail again intending to colonize Greenland. His expedition has 30 ships but only 14 reach their destination. Erik founded a colony at Brattahlid (ON: Brattahlíð) in the south-west of the island where he became a respected leader. Erik and Thjodhild had three sons Leif (ON: Leifr), Thorvald (ON: Þorvaldr) and Thorstein (ON: Þorsteinn) and a daughter Freydis (ON: Freydís).
A man named Bjarni Herjolfsson (ON: Bjarni Herjólfsson) has the custom of spending alternate winters in Norway and in Iceland with his father. When he arrives one summer in Iceland he finds that his father has emigrated to Greenland. He resolves to follow him there though he realizes that it is a dangerous proposition since neither he nor any of his crew has been in Greenland waters.
After sailing for three days from Iceland, Bjarni receives unfavorable weather, north winds and fog and loses his bearing. After several days of bad weather the sun shines again and Bjarni reaches a wooded land. Realizing that it isn't Greenland, Bjarni decides not to go ashore and sets sail away. Bjarni finds two more lands but neither of them matches the descriptions he had heard of Greenland so he does not go ashore despite the curiosity of his sailors. Eventually the ship does reach Greenland and Bjarni settles in Herjolfsnes.
The description of Bjarni's voyage is unique to Grœnlendinga saga. Bjarni is not mentioned at all in Eiríks saga rauða which gives Leif the credit for the discoveries.
Leif Eriksson becomes interested in Bjarni's discoveries and buys a ship from him. He hires a crew of 35 people and asks Erik to lead an expedition to the west. Erik is reluctant and says he is too old but is eventually persuaded. As he rides to the ship, his horse stumbles and Erik falls to the ground and hurts his foot. Considering this an ill omen, he says: "It is not ordained that I should discover more countries than that which we now inhabit." Leif, instead, leads the expedition.
Setting sail from Brattahlid, Leif and his crew find the same lands Bjarni had discovered earlier but in the reverse order. First they come upon an icy land. They step ashore and find it to be of little interest. Leif names the country Helluland meaning Stone-slab land. They sail further and find a forested land with white shores. Leif names it Markland meaning Wood land and again sets sail.
Now Leif sails for two days with a north-easterly wind and comes upon a new land which appears very inviting. They decide to stay there for the winter.
The nature of the country was, as they thought, so good that cattle would not require house feeding in winter, for there came no frost in winter, and little did the grass wither there. Day and night were more equal than in Greenland or Iceland.
— Beamish (1864), p.64
As Leif and his crew explore the land, they discover grapes. There has been much speculation on the grapes of Vinland. It seems unlikely that the Norsemen travelled far enough south to find wild grapes in large quantities. On the other hand, even Adam of Bremen, writing in the 11th century, speaks of grapes in Vinland so that if the grape idea is a fantasy it is a very early one. The Norsemen were probably unfamiliar with grapes — at one point the saga speaks of "chopping vines" — and it is possible that they mistook another type of fruit, perhaps gooseberry, for grapes. (ON: vínber; meaning wine-berries) and Leif names the country Vinland (ON: Vínland meaning Wine land). In the spring the expedition sets sail back to Greenland with a ship loaded with wood and grapes. In the voyage home they come upon and rescue a group of ship-wrecked Norsemen. After this Leif is called Leif the Lucky (ON: Leifr heppni).
Leif's voyage is discussed extensively in Brattahlid. Thorvald, Leif's brother, thinks that Vinland was not explored enough. Leif offers him his ship for a new voyage there and he accepts. Setting sail with a crew of 30, Thorvald arrives in Vinland where Leif had previously made camp. They stay there for the winter and survive by fishing.
In the spring Thorvald goes exploring and sails to the west. They find no signs of human habitation except for one corn-shed. They return to their camp for the winter. The next summer Thorvald explores to the east and north of their camp. At one point the explorers disembark in a pleasant forested area.
The natives, called Skraelings (ON: Skrælingar) by the Norsemen, return with a larger force and attack Thorvald and his men. The Skraelings fire missiles at them for a while and then retreat. Thorvald receives a fatal wound and is buried in Vinland. His crew returns to Greenland.
Thorstein Eriksson resolves to go to Vinland for the body of his brother. The same ship is prepared yet again and Thorstein sets sail with a crew of 25 and his wife Gudrid (ON: Guðríðr). The expedition never reaches Vinland and after sailing the whole summer, the ship ends up back at the coast of Greenland. During the winter, Thorstein falls ill and dies but speaks out of his dead body and tells the fortune of his wife Gudrid. He predicts that Gudrid will marry an Icelander and have a long line of "promising, bright and fine, sweet and well-scented" descendants. Thorstein also predicts that she will leave Greenland for Norway and from there she will set out for Iceland. She will, however, live so long that she outlives her husband. Once her husband passes, Thorstein foresaw, she would travel abroad once again, going south on a pilgrimage and then return to her farm in Iceland. When she returns, a church will be built. From the time it is built until she dies, she will remain there and take holy orders.
A ship arrives in Greenland from Norway commanded by Thorfinn Karlsefni (ON: Þorfinnr karlsefni), a man of means. He stays with Leif Erikkson for the winter and falls in love with Gudrid. They marry later that same winter. Karlsefni is encouraged by his wife and other people to lead an expedition to Vinland. He agrees to go and hires a crew of 60 men and 5 women. The expedition arrives in Leif's and Thorvald's old camp and stays there for the winter in good conditions.
The next summer a group of Skraelings come visiting, carrying skins for trade. The Skraelings want weapons in return but Karlsefni forbids his men to trade weapons. Instead he offers the Skraelings dairy products and the trade is successful.
Near the beginning of their second winter the Skraelings come again to trade. This time one of Karlsefni's men kills a Skraeling as he reaches for Norse weapons. The Skraelings run off. Karlsefni fears the natives will return, hostile and in larger numbers. He forms a plan for the coming battle. The Skraelings do come again and the Norsemen manage to fight them off. Karlsefni stays there for the remainder of the winter and returns to Greenland next spring. During their stay in Vinland, Karlsefni and Gudrid had the son Snorri.
Freydis, daughter of Erik, proposed a voyage with the brothers Helgi and Finnbogi to travel to Vinland together and share the profits fifty-fifty. After the brothers agreed to the proposal, Freydis turned to her brother Leif because she wished to have the housing he built in Vinland. Leif said she may borrow them, but she could not have them for herself.
The agreement between Freydis and Helgi and Finnbogi was that each could have no more than 30 men on board and then women as well. This agreement was made to ensure that neither side had an unfair advantage against the other, but Freydis quickly double crossed her partners and brought along 5 extra men.
Upon arrival at Vinland, the brothers arrived slightly earlier and unloaded their belongings into Leif's house. When Freydis realized what they had done she immediately made them remove their things and so the brothers built their own longhouse. After a winter of small disputes, Freydis arose early one morning to go speak with the brothers. Finnbogi was the only one awake and he stepped out to hear what Freydis had to say.
Finnbogi explained his dislike for the ill feelings between their two parties and hoped to clear the air with Freydis. She agreed and offered a trade. The brothers wanted to stay in Vinland, but Freydis was ready to go back home; she suggested they trade ships since the brothers had a much larger one than she did and it would be of better use bringing back her people and her half of the profits. Finnbogi agreed to this and the two parted.
Once Freydis returned home, her cold, wet feet awoke her husband, Thorvard. He asks where she has been and she spins a tale much different from the actual events that took place. She says she offered to buy the brother's ship but they became angry and struck her. Freydis then continued to manipulate her husband till he agreed to avenge her. If he hadn't she threatened divorce.
Thorvard took his men and began tying up all the men from the other camp in a sneak attack while they were still sleeping. Freydis had each man killed on the spot if they belonged to Finnbogi and Helgi's crew. Soon only the 5 women were left alive, but no man would dare kill them. In response Freydis says, "Hand me an axe." She made quick work of slaying the women and she became very pleased with how well her morning had gone. She told all involved that anyone who speaks a word of the events would be killed. The plan was to say that the brothers chose to stay behind in Vinland while Freydis returned to Greenland.
Once back home, Freydis returned to the farm and was sure that her crew was well rewarded for the trip to Vinland in order to keep them quiet about her dastardly deeds. Eventually though, Leif caught wind of what had happened and he was furious. He predicted, "that their descendants will not get on well in this world."
Karlsefni made a good profit of his journeys west. He later settled in Iceland with his wife and son and their descendants included some of the earliest Icelandic bishops. The saga ends with what seems to be an attempt to establish its credibility:
Avalanche Press is an American company that publishes board wargames and has published some role-playing game supplements. They have produced The Great War at Sea and Panzer Grenadier series, as well as Red Parachutes, one of their earliest games and a detailed study of the Soviet crossing of the Dnepr River in 1943.Birka female Viking warrior
The Birka female Viking warrior was a woman buried with the accoutrements of an elite professional Viking warrior in a 10th century chamber-grave in Birka, Sweden. Thought to be a male warrior since the grave's excavation in 1889, the remains have been proved to be female by both osteological analysis and a DNA study in 2017. The study concludes the artifacts buried with the woman are evidence she was a high-ranking professional warrior. That conclusion has been disputed as premature by archaeologists and historians who say the artifacts are not evidence that women were warriors in patriarchal Viking culture. This controversy has contributed to the debate about the gender roles performed by women in Viking society.Helluland
Helluland is the name given to one of the three lands, the others being Vinland and Markland, seen by Bjarni Herjólfsson, encountered by Leif Erikson and further explored by Þorfinnr "Karlsefni" Þórðarson around AD 1000 on the North Atlantic coast of North America. As some writers refer to all land beyond Greenland as Vinland, Helluland is sometimes considered a part of Vinland.History of Iceland
The recorded history of Iceland began with the settlement by Viking explorers and their slaves from the east, particularly Norway and the British Isles, in the late ninth century. Iceland was still uninhabited long after the rest of Western Europe had been settled. Recorded settlement has conventionally been dated back to 874, although archaeological evidence indicates Gaelic monks from Ireland, known as papar according to sagas, had settled Iceland before that date.
The land was settled quickly, mainly by Norwegians who may have been fleeing conflict or seeking new land to farm. By 930, the chieftains had established a form of governance, the Althing, making it one of the world's oldest parliaments. Towards the end of the tenth century, Christianity came to Iceland through the influence of the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvason. During this time, Iceland remained independent, a period known as the Old Commonwealth, and Icelandic historians began to document the nation's history in books referred to as sagas of Icelanders. In the early thirteenth century, the internal conflict known as the age of the Sturlungs weakened Iceland, which eventually became subjugated to Norway through the Old Covenant (1262–1264), effectively ending the commonwealth. Norway, in turn, was united with Sweden (1319) and then Denmark (1376). Eventually all of the Nordic states were united in one alliance, the Kalmar Union (1397–1523), but on its dissolution, Iceland fell under Danish rule. The subsequent strict Danish–Icelandic Trade Monopoly in the 17th and 18th centuries was detrimental to the economy. Iceland's resultant poverty was aggravated by severe natural disasters like the Móðuharðindin or "Mist Hardships". During this time, the population declined.
Iceland remained part of Denmark, but in keeping with the rise of nationalism around Europe in the nineteenth century, an independence movement emerged. The Althing, which had been suspended in 1799, was restored in 1844, and Iceland gained sovereignty after World War I, on 1 December 1918. However, Iceland shared the Danish Monarchy until World War II. Although Iceland was neutral in the Second World War, the United Kingdom invaded and peacefully occupied it in 1940 to forestall a Nazi occupation, after Denmark was overrun by the German Wehrmacht. Because of the island's strategic position in the North Atlantic, the allies occupied the island until the end of the war, the United States taking over occupation duties from the British in 1941. In 1944, Iceland severed its remaining ties with Denmark (then still under Nazi occupation) and declared itself a fully independent nation. Following the Second World War, Iceland was a founding member of both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Its economy grew rapidly largely through fishing, although this was marred by disputes with other nations.
Following rapid financial growth, the 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis occurred. Iceland continues to remain outside the European Union.
Because of its remoteness, Iceland has been spared the ravages of European wars but has been affected by other external events, such as the Black Death and the Protestant Reformation imposed by Denmark. Iceland's history has also been marked by a number of natural disasters.
Iceland is a relatively young country in the geological sense, being formed about 20 million years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but it is still growing from fresh volcanic eruptions. The oldest stone specimens found in Iceland date back to ca. 16 million years ago.Leifsbudir
Leifsbudir (Old Norse: Leifsbuðir) was a settlement, mentioned in the Greenland Saga, founded by Leif Eriksson in 1000 or 1001 in Vinland.
Later, 160 Greenlanders, including 16 women, established themselves there under the leadership of Norseman Thorfinn Karlsefni, the first European to come into contact with the local Skrælings, or American Indians. Karlsefni's son, Snorri Thorfinnsson, is believed to have been the first child of European descent to be born in North America outside of Greenland. However the settlement was a temporary one, and the settlers were forced to abandon Leifsbudir due to a lack of trade with natives and return to Greenland.Leifsbudir is believed by some scholars (both historians and archaeologists) to have been located at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.Norse colonization of North America
The Norse colonization of North America began in the late 10th century AD when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. Remains of Norse buildings were found at L’Anse aux Meadows near the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1960. This discovery aided the reignition of archaeological exploration for the Norse in the North Atlantic.The Norse settlements in the North American island of Greenland lasted for almost 500 years. L’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Norse site on the North American mainland, was small and did not last as long. While voyages, for example to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.Saga of Erik the Red
Eiríks saga rauða (listen ) or the Saga of Erik the Red is a saga, thought to have been composed before 1265, on the Norse exploration of North-America.
Despite the name, the saga mainly chronicles the life and expedition of Thorfinn Karlsefni and his wife Gudrid, characters also seen in the Greenland saga. The saga also details the events that led to Erik the Red's banishment to Greenland and Leif Ericson's preaching of Christianity as well as his discovery of Vinland after his longship was blown off course. By geographical details, this place is thought to be present-day Newfoundland, and was probably the first European discovery of the American mainland, some five centuries before Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Antilles.
The saga is preserved in two manuscripts in somewhat different versions; Hauksbók (14th century) and Skálholtsbók (15th century). Modern philologists believe the Skálholtsbók version to be truer to the original. The original saga is thought to have been written in the 13th century.Sagas of Icelanders
Not to be confused with The saga of Icelanders (Íslendinga saga) which is based on historical events from the 13th century.
The Sagas of Icelanders (Icelandic: Íslendingasögur), also known as family sagas, are prose narratives mostly based on historical events that mostly took place in Iceland in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, during the so-called Saga Age. They are the best-known specimens of Icelandic literature.
They are focused on history, especially genealogical and family history. They reflect the struggle and conflict that arose within the societies of the early generations of Icelandic settlers.Eventually many of these Icelandic sagas were recorded, mostly in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The 'authors', or rather recorders of these sagas are unknown. One saga, Egils saga, is believed by some scholars to have been written by Snorri Sturluson, a descendant of the saga's hero, but this remains uncertain. The standard modern edition of Icelandic sagas is known as Íslenzk fornrit.Shield-maiden
A shield-maiden (Old Norse: skjaldmær), in Scandinavian folklore and mythology was a female warrior. They are often mentioned in sagas such as Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks and in Gesta Danorum. Shield-maidens also appear in stories of other Germanic peoples: Goths, Cimbri, and Marcomanni. The mythical valkyries may have been based on the shield-maidens.Straumfjörð
Straumfjörð (Icelandic), or Straumfjǫrð (Old Norse) sometimes anglicised to Straumsfjordr, Straumfjordr, Straumsfjord or Straumfjord, is according to the Sagas of Icelanders a fjord in Vinland where Thorfinn Karlsefni set up a temporary settlement. It is described in the Saga of Erik the Red, but not in the Greenland saga. Its name translates to "Current-fjord", "Stream-fjord" or "Tide-fjord".
Two somewhat different versions of the travels of Karlsefni appear in the sagas; they are found in the Hauksbók and the Flateyjarbók. They tell that Straumsey (Current-isle) lies at the mouth of Straumfjörð; this is an island with an extreme density of birds.
The whereabouts of Straumfjörð has been, and is, subject to intense speculation.Tanfield Valley
Tanfield Valley, also referred to as Nanook, is an archaeological site located on the southernmost projection of Baffin Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut. It is possible that the site was known to Pre-Columbian Norse explorers from Greenland and Iceland. It may be in the region of Helluland, spoken of in the Icelandic sagas (Greenland Saga and Saga of Erik the Red).The Helluland Archaeology Project is a research initiative that was set up at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, now the Canadian Museum of History, to investigate the possibility of an extended Norse presence on Baffin Island with trading with the indigenous Dorset people. It is now on hiatus following Patricia Sutherland's ouster from the museum in 2012. Excavations led by Sutherland at Tanfield Valley found possible evidence of medieval Norse textiles, metallurgy and other items of European-related technologies. Wooden artifacts from Dorset sites include specimens which bear a close resemblance to Norse artifacts from Greenland. Pelts from Eurasian rats have also been discovered.In 2018, Michele Hayeur Smith of Brown University, who specializes in the study of ancient textiles, wrote that she does not think the ancient Arctic people, the Dorset and Thule, needed to be taught how to spin yarn "It's a pretty intuitive thing to do." In 1992, Elizabeth Wayland Barber wrote that a piece of three-ply yarn that dates to the Paleolithic era, that ended about 10,000 BP, was found at the Lascaux caves in France. This yarn consisted of three s-twist strands that were z-plied, much like the way yarn is made now. The eight sod buildings and artifacts found in the 1960s at L'Anse aux Meadows, located on the northern tip of Newfoundland, remains the only confirmed Norse site in North America outside of those found in Greenland.
Moreau Maxwell (1918-1998), professor and curator of Anthropology at Michigan State University, had previously researched the site in his study of the prehistory of Baffin island, the findings of which were summarized in his publication Prehistory of the Eastern Arctic (1985).Thorvald Eiriksson
Thorvald Eiriksson (Old Norse: Þōrvaldr Eirikssonr; Icelandic: Þorvaldur Eiríksson) was the son of Erik the Red and brother of Leif Erikson.
The only Medieval Period source material available regarding Thorvald Eiriksson are the two Vinland sagas; the Greenland Saga and the Saga of Erik the Red. Although differing in various detail, according to both sagas Thorvald was part of an expedition for the exploration of Vinland and became the first European to die in North America.The Greenland Saga describes a voyage made by Bjarni Herjolfsson, and the subsequent voyages of Leif Eriksson, his brother Thorvald Eiriksson, his sister Freydís Eiríksdóttir, and the Icelandic merchant Thorfinn Karsefni. The Saga describes hostilities with skraelings, the Norse term for the native peoples they met in the lands visited south and west of Greenland which they called Vinland and Markland. The Saga of Erik the Red tells the story as a single expedition led by Thorfinn Karsefni. The voyage of Thorvald Eriksson is told here as part of the Karlsefni expedition.Vinland
Vinland, Vineland or Winland (Old Norse: Vínland) is the area of coastal North America explored by Norse Vikings, where Leif Erikson first landed in ca. 1000, approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot. Vinland was the name given to North America as far as it was explored by the Norse, presumably including both Newfoundland and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as far as northeastern New Brunswick (where the eponymous grapevines are found).
In 1960, archaeological evidence of the only known Norse site in North America (outside Greenland) was found at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland. Before the discovery of archaeological evidence, Vinland was known only from Old Norse sagas and medieval historiography. The 1960 discovery proved the pre-Columbian Norse exploration of mainland North America. L'Anse aux Meadows may correspond to the camp Straumfjörð mentioned in the Saga of Erik the Red.Vinland the Good
Vinland the Good is a description of Vinland which appears in the two sagas, Greenlanders' Saga and Saga of Erik the Red. The term has been used as the title of two works of fiction by British authors.
Vinland the Good was used as the title of a film script by British author Nevil Shute telling the historical story of the discovery of America by Leif Ericson. The book was originally published in 1946 in England by Heinemann and in America by Morrow, and re-published in America in 1998 by The Paper Tiger (ISBN 1-8894-39-11-8). In his preface to the script, Shute says “I put a very little of [the story] into a novel which was published in 1939” – this was An Old Captivity, actually first published in 1940.Vinland the Good is also the title of a juvenile historical novel by Henry Treece, and illustrated by William Stobbs. It is an account of Viking Era explorations, based mainly on the Greenland saga. Leif Ericson is the main character, but several of his relatives are also important characters.