A Brief History of the Greenlanders


From The Finding of Wineland the Good (1890)
by Arthur Middleton Reeves
Chapter 3: The Wineland History of the Flatey Book
by Anonymous, translated by Arthur Middleton Reeves


Next to this is now to be told how Biarni Heriulfsson came out from Greenland on a visit to Earl Eric, by whom he was well received. Biarni gave an account of his travels [upon the occasion] when he saw the lands, and the people thought that he had been lacking enterprise[54], since he had no report to give concerning these countries, and the fact brought him reproach. Biarni was appointed one of the Earl’s men, and went out to Greenland the following summer. There was now much talk about voyages of discovery. Leif, the son of Eric the Red, of Brattahlid, visited Biarni Heriulfsson and bought a ship of him, and collected a crew, until they formed altogether a company of thirty-five men[55]. Leif invited his father, Eric, to become the leader of the expedition, but Eric declined, saying that he was then stricken in years, and adding that he was less able to endure the exposure of sea-life than he had been. Leif replied that he would nevertheless be the one who would be most apt to bring good luck[56], and Eric yielded to Leif’s solicitation, and rode from home when they were ready to sail. When he was but a short distance from the ship, the horse which Eric was riding stumbled, and he was thrown from his back and wounded his foot, whereupon he exclaimed, ‘It is not designed for me to discover more lands than the one in which we are now living, nor can we now continue longer together.’ Eric returned home to Brattahlid, and Leif pursued his way to the ship with his companions, thirty-five men; one of the company was a German[57] named Tyrker. They put the ship in order, and when they were ready, they sailed out to sea, and found first the land which Biarni and his ship-mates[58] found last. They sailed up to the land and cast anchor, and launched a boat and went ashore, and saw no grass there; great ice mountains lay inland back from the sea[59], and it was as a [table-land of] flat rock all the way from the sea to the ice mountains, and the country seemed to them to be entirely devoid of good qualities. Then said Leif, ‘It has not come to pass with us in regard to this land as with Biarni, that we have not gone upon it. To this country I will now give a name, and call it Helluland[60].’ They returned to the ship, put out to sea, and found a second land. They sailed again to the land, and came to anchor, and launched the boat, and went ashore. This was a level wooded land, and there were broad stretches of white sand, where they went, and the land was level by the sea[61]. Then said Leif, ‘This land shall have a name after its nature, and we will call it Markland[62].’ They returned to the ship forthwith, and sailed away upon the main with north-east winds, and were out two ‘dœgr’ before they sighted land. They sailed toward this land, and came to an island which lay to the northward off the land. There they went ashore and looked about them, the weather being fine, and they observed that there was dew upon the grass, and it so happened that they touched the dew with their hands, and touched their hands to their mouths, and it seemed to them that they had never before tasted anything so sweet as this. They went aboard their ship again and sailed into a certain sound, which lay between the island and a cape, which jutted out from the land on the north, and they stood in westering past the cape. At ebb-tide there were broad reaches of shallow water there, and they ran their ship aground there, and it was a long distance from the ship to the ocean[63]; yet were they so anxious to go ashore that they could not wait until the tide should rise under their ship, but hastened to the land, where a certain river flows out from a lake. As soon as the tide rose beneath their ship, however, they took the boat and rowed to the ship, which they conveyed up the river, and so into the lake, where they cast anchor and carried their hammocks ashore from the ship, and built themselves booths there. They afterwards determined to establish themselves there for the winter, and they accordingly built a large house. There was no lack of salmon there either in the river or in the lake, and larger salmon than they had ever seen before. The country thereabouts seemed to be possessed of such good qualities that cattle would need no fodder there during the winters. There was no frost there in the winters[64], and the grass withered but little. The days and nights there were of more nearly equal length than in Greenland or Iceland. On the shortest day of winter the sun was up between ‘eyktarstad’ and ‘dagmalastad (66)[65].’ When they had completed their house Leif said to his companions, ‘I propose now to divide our company into two groups, and to set about an exploration of the country; one half of our party shall remain at home at the house, while the other half shall investigate the land, and they must not go beyond a point from which they can return home the same evening, and are not to separate [from each other].’ Thus they did for a time; Leif himself, by turns, joined the exploring party or remained behind at the house. Leif was a large and powerful man, and of a most imposing bearing, a man of sagacity, and a very just man in all things.


Leif the Lucky finds[66] Men upon a Skerry at Sea.


It was discovered[67] one evening that one of their company was missing, and this proved to be Tyrker, the German. Leif was sorely troubled by this, for Tyrker had lived with Leif and his father[68] for a long time, and had been very devoted to Leif, when he was a child. Leif severely reprimanded his companions, and prepared to go in search of him, taking twelve men with him. They had proceeded but a short distance from the house, when they were met by Tyrker, whom they received most cordially. Leif observed at once that his foster-father was in lively spirits. Tyrker had a prominent forehead, restless eyes, small features[69], was diminutive in stature, and rather a sorry-looking individual withal, but was, nevertheless, a most capable handicraftsman. Leif addressed him, and asked: ‘Wherefore art thou so belated, foster-father mine, and astray from the others?’ In the beginning Tyrker spoke for some time in German, rolling his eyes, and grinning, and they could not understand him; but after a time he addressed them in the Northern tongue: ‘I did not go much further [than you], and yet[70] I have something of novelty to relate. I have found vines and grapes.’ ‘Is this indeed true, foster-father?’ said Leif. ‘Of a certainty it is true,’ quoth he, ‘for I was born where there is no lack of either grapes or vines.’ They slept the night through, and on the morrow Leif said to his shipmates: ‘We will now divide our labours[71], and each day will either gather grapes or cut vines and fell trees, so as to obtain a cargo of these for my ship.’ They acted upon this advice, and it is said, that their after-boat was filled with grapes. A cargo sufficient for the ship was cut, and when the spring came, they made their ship ready, and sailed away; and from its products Leif gave the land a name, and called it Wineland. They sailed out to sea, and had fair winds until they sighted Greenland, and the fells below the glaciers; then one of the men spoke up, and said, ‘Why do you steer the ship so much into the wind?’ Leif answers: ‘I have my mind upon my steering, but on other matters as well. Do ye not see anything out of the common[72]?’ They replied, that they saw nothing strange[73]. ‘I do not know,’ says Leif, ‘whether it is a ship or a skerry that I see.’ Now they saw it, and said, that it must be a skerry; but he was so much keener of sight than they, that he was able to discern men upon the skerry. ‘I think it best to tack,’ says Leif, ‘so that we may draw near to them, that we may be able to render them assistance, if they should stand in need of it; and if they should not be peaceably disposed, we shall still have better command of the situation than they[74].’ They approached the skerry, and lowering their sail, cast anchor, and launched a second small boat, which they had brought with them. Tyrker inquired who was the leader of the party. He replied that his name of Thori, and that he was a Norseman; ‘but what is thy name?’ Leif gave his name. ‘Art thou a son of Eric the Red of Brattahlid?’ says he. Leif responded that he was. ‘It is now my wish,’ says Leif, ‘to take you all into my ship, and likewise so much of your possessions as the ship will hold.’ This offer was accepted, and [with their ship] thus laden, they held away to Ericsfirth, and sailed until they arrived at Brattahlid. Having discharged the cargo, Leif invited Thori, with his wife, Gudrid, and three others, to make their home with him, and procured quarters for the other members of the crew, both for his own and Thori’s men. Leif rescued fifteen persons from the skerry. He was afterward called Leif the Lucky. Leif had now goodly store both of property and honour. There was serious illness that winter in Thori’s party, and Thori and a great number of his people died. Eric the Red also died that winter. There was now much talk about Leif’s Wineland journey, and his brother, Thorvald, held that the country had not been sufficiently explored. Thereupon Leif said to Thorvald: ‘If it by they will, brother, thou mayest go to Wineland with my ship, but I wish the ship first to fetch the wood, which Thori had upon the skerry.’ And so it was done.


Thorvald goes to Wineland[75].


Now Thorvald, with the advice of his brother, Leif, prepared to make this voyage with thirty men. They put their ship in order, and sailed out to sea; and there is no account of their voyage before their arrival at Leif’s-booths in Wineland. They laid up their ship there, and remained there quietly during the winter, supplying themselves with food by fishing. In the spring, however, Thorvald said that they should put their ship in order, and that a few men should take the after-boat, and proceed along the western coast, and explore [the region] thereabouts during the summer. They found it a fair, well-wooded country; it was but a short distance from the woods to the sea, and [there were] white sands, as well as great numbers of islands and shallows. They found neither dwelling of man nor lair of beast; but in one of the westerly islands, they found wooden buildings for the shelter of grain (67). They found no other trace of human handiwork, and they turned back, and arrived at Leifs-booths in the autumn. The following summer Thorvald set out toward the east with the ship[76], and along the northern coast. They were met by a high wind off a certain promontory, and were driven ashore there, and damaged the keel of their ship, and were compelled to remain there for a long time and repair the injury to their vessel. Then said Thorvald to his companions: ‘I propose that we raise the keel upon this cape, and call it Keelness[77],’ and so they did. Then they sailed away, to the eastward off the land, and into the mouth of the adjoining firth, and to a headland, which projected into the sea there, and which was entirely covered with woods. They found an anchorage for their ship, and put out the gangway to the land, and Thorvald and all of his companions went ashore. ‘It is a fair region here,’ said he, ‘and here I should like to make my home.’ They then returned to the ship, and discovered on the sands, in beyond the headland, three mounds; they went up to these, and saw that they were three skin-canoes, with three men under each. They, thereupon divided their party, and succeeded in seizing all of the men but one, who escaped with his canoe. They killed the eight men, and then ascended the headland again, and looked about them, and discovered within the firth certain hillocks, which they concluded must be habitations. They were then so overpowered with sleep[78] that they could not keep awake, and all fell into a [heavy] slumber, from which they were awakened by the sound of a cry uttered above them[79]; and the words of the cry were these: ‘Awake, Thorvald, thou and all they company, if thou wouldst save thy life; and board thy ship with all thy men, and sail with all speed from the land!’ A countless number of skin-canoes then advanced toward them from the inner part of the firth, whereupon Thorvald exclaimed: ‘We must put out the war-boards (68), on both sides of the ship, and defend ourselves to the best of our ability, but offer little attack.’ This they did, and the Skrellings, after they had shot at them for a time, fled precipitately, each as best he could. Thorvald then inquired of his men, whether any of them had been wounded, and they informed him that no one of them had received a wound. ‘I have been wounded in my arm-pit[80],’ says he; ‘an arrow flew in between the gunwale and the shield, below my arm. Here is the shaft, and it will bring me to my end[81]!’ I counsel you now to retrace your way with the utmost speed. But me ye shall convey to that headland which seemed to me to offer so pleasant a dwelling-place; thus it may be fulfilled, that the truth spring to my lips, when I expressed the wish to abide there for a time[82]. Ye shall bury me there, and place a cross at my head, and another at my feet, and call it Crossness[83] for ever after.’ At that time Christianity had obtained in Greenland; Eric the Red died, however, before [the introduction of] Christianity.


Thorvald died, and when they had carried out his injunctions, they took their departure, and rejoined their companions, and they told each other of the experiences which had befallen them[84]. They remained there during the winter, and gathered grapes and wood with which to freight the ship. In the following spring they returned to Greenland, and arrived with their ship in Ericsfirth, where they were able to recount great tidings to Leif.


Thorstein Ericsson Dies[85] in the Western Settlement.


In the meantime it had come to pass in Greenland, that Thorstein of Ericsfirth had married, and taken to wife Gudrid, Thorbiorn’s daughter, [she] who had been the spouse of Thori Eastman (69), as has been already related. Now Thorstein Ericsson, being minded to make the voyage[86] to Wineland after the body of his brother, Thorvald, equipped the same ship, and selected a crew of twenty-five men[87] of good size and strength[88], and taking with him his wife, Gudrid, when all was in readiness, they sailed out into the open ocean, and out of sight of land. They were driven hither and thither over the sea all that summer, and lost all reckoning[89], and at the end of the first week of winter they made the land at Lysufirth in Greenland, in the Western-settlement. Thorstein set out in search of quarters for his crew, and succeeded in procuring homes for all of his shipmates; but he and his wife were unprovided for, and remained together upon the ship for two or more days[90]. At this time Christianity was still in its infancy in Greenland. It befell, early one morning, that men came to their tent, and the leader inquired who the people were within the tent. Thorstein replies: ‘We are twain,’ says he; ‘but who is it who asks?’ ‘My name is Thorstein, and I am known as Thorstein the Swarthy[91], and my errand hither is to offer you two, husband and wife, a home with me.’ Thorstein replied, that he would consult with his wife, and she bidding him decide, he accepted the invitation. ‘I will come after you on the morrow with a sumpter-horse, for I am not lacking in means wherewith to provide for you both, although it will be lonely living with me, since there are but two of us, my wife and myself, for I, forsooth, am a very hard man to get on with[92]; moreover, my faith is not the same as yours[93], albeit methinks that is the better to which you hold.’ He returned for them on the morrow, with the beast, and they took up their home with Thorstein the Swarthy, and were well treated by him. Gudrid was a woman of fine presence, and a clever woman, and very happy in adapting herself to strangers.


Early in the winter Thorstein Ericsson’s party was visited by sickness, and many of his companions died. He caused coffins to be made for the bodies of the dead, and had them conveyed to the ship, and bestowed there; ‘for it is my purpose to have all the bodies taken to Ericsfirth in the summer.’ It was not long before illness appeared in Thorstein’s home, and his wife, whose name of Grimhild, was first taken sick. She was a very vigorous woman, and as strong as a man, but the sickness mastered her; and soon thereafter Thorstein Ericsson was seized with the illness, and they both lay ill at the same time; and Grimhild, Thorstein the Swarthy’s wife, died, and when she was dead Thorstein went out of the room to procure a deal, upon which to lay the corpse. Thereupon Gudrid spoke. ‘Do not be absent long, Thorstein mine!’ says she. He replied, that so it should be. Thorstein Ericsson then exclaimed: ‘Our house-wife is acting now in a marvellous fashion, for she is raising herself up on her elbow, and stretching out her feet from the side of the bed, and groping after her shoes.’ At that moment Thorstein, the master of the house, entered, and Grimhild laid herself down, wherewithal every timber in the room creaked. Thorstein now fashioned a coffin for Grimhild’s body, and bore it away, and cared for it. He was a big man, and strong, but it called for all [his strength], to enable him to remove the corpse from the house. The illness grew upon Thorstein Ericsson, and he died, whereat his wife, Gudrid, was sorely grieved. They were all in the room at the time, and Gudrid was seated upon a chair before the bench, upon which her husband, Thorstein, was lying. Thorstein, the master of the house[94], then taking Gudrid in this arms, [carried her] from the chair, and seated himself, with her, upon another bench, over against her husband’s body, and exerted himself in divers ways to console her, and endeavoured to reassure her, and promised her that he would accompany her to Ericsfirth with the body of her husband, Thorstein, and those of his companions: ‘I will likewise summon other persons hither,’ says he, ‘to attend upon thee, and entertain thee.’ She thanked him. Then Thorstein Ericsson sat up, and exclaimed: ‘Where is Gudrid?’ Thrice he repeated the question, but Gudrid made no response. She then asked Thorstein, the master, ‘Shall I give answer to his question, or not?’ Thorstein, the master, bade her make no reply, and he then crossed the floor, and seated himself upon the chair, with Gudrid in his lap, and spoke, saying: ‘What dost thou wish, namesake?’ After a little while, Thorstein replies: ‘I desire to tell Gudrid of the fate which is in store for her[95], to the end that she may be better reconciled to my death, for I am indeed come to a goodly resting-place[96]. This I have to tell thee, Gudrid, that thou art to marry an Icelander, and that ye are to have a long wedded life together, and a numerous and noble progeny, illustrious, and famous, of good odour and sweet virtues. Ye shall go from Greenland to Norway, and thence to Iceland, where ye shall build your home. There ye shall dwell together for a long time, but thou shalt outlive him, and shalt then go abroad and to the South[97], and shalt return to Iceland again, to they home, and there a church shall then be raised, and thou shalt abide there and take the veil, and there thou shalt die.’ When he had thus spoken, Thorstein sank back again, and his body was laid out for burial, and borne to the ship. Thorstein, the master, faithfully performed all his promises to Gudrid. He sold his lands and live-stock in the spring, and accompanied Gudrid to the ship, with all his possessions. He put the ship in order, procured a crew, and then sailed to Ericsfirth. The bodies of the dead were now buried at the church, and Gudrid then went home to Leif at Brattahlid, while Thorstein the Swarthy made a home for himself on Ericsfirth, and remained there as long as he lived, and was looked upon as a very superior man.


Of the Wineland Voyages of Thorfinn and his Companions.


That same summer a ship came from Norway to Greenland. The skipper’s name was Thorfinn Karlsefni[98]; he was a son of Thord Horsehead[99], and a grandson of Snorri, the son of Thord of Höfdi. Thorfinn Karlsefni, who was a very wealthy man, passed the winter at Brattahlid with Leif Ericsson. He very soon set his heart upon Gudrid, and sought her hand in marriage; she referred him to Leif for her answer, and was subsequently betrothed to him, and their marriage was celebrated that same winter. A renewed discussion arose concerning a Wineland voyage, and the folk urged Karlsefni to make the venture, Gudrid joining with the others[100]. He determined to undertake the voyage, and assembled a company of sixty men and five women, and entered into an agreement with his shipmates that they should each share equally in all the spoils of the enterprise[101]. They took with them all kinds of cattle, as it was their intention to settle the country, if they could. Karlsefni asked Leif for the house in Wineland, and he replied, that he would lend it but not give it. They sailed out to sea with the ship, and arrived safe and sound at Leifs-booths, and carried their hammocks ashore there. They were soon provided with an abundant and goodly supply of food, for a whale of good size and quality was driven ashore there, and they secured it, and flensed it, and had then no lack of provisions. The cattle were turned out upon the land<ref>’gekk þar á land upp:’ lit. went up on the land there.</ref>, and the males soon became very restless and vicious; they had brought a bull with them. Karlsefni caused trees to be felled, and to be hewed into timbers, wherewith to load his ship, and the wood was placed upon a cliff to dry. They gathered somewhat of all of the valuable products of the land, grapes, and all kinds of game and fish, and other good things. In the summer succeeding the first winter, Skrellings were discovered[102]. A great troop of men came forth from out the woods. The cattle were hard by, and the bull began to bellow and roar with a great noise, whereat the Skrellings were frightened, and ran away, with their packs wherein were grey furs, sables, and all kinds of peltries. They fled towards Karlsefni’s dwelling, and sought to effect an entrance into the house, but Karlsefni caused the doors to be defended [against them]. Neither [people] could understand the other’s language. The Skrellings put down their bundles then, and loosed them, and offered their wares [for barter], and were especially anxious to exchange these for weapons, but Karlsefni forbade his men to sell their weapons, and taking counsel with himself, he bade the women carry out milk[103] to the Skrellings, which they no sooner saw, than they wanted to buy it, and nothing else. Now the outcome of the Skrellings’ trading was, that they carried their wares away in their stomachs, while they left their packs and peltries behind with Karlsefni and his companions, and having accomplished this [exchange] they went away. Now it is to be told, that Karlsefni caused a strong wooden palisade to be constructed and set up around the house. It was at this time that Gudrid, Karlsefni’s wife, gave birth to a male child, and the boy was called Snorri. In the early part of the second winter the Skrellings came to them again, and these were now much more numerous than before, and brought with them the same wares as at first. Then said Karlsefni to the women: ‘Do ye carry out now the same food, which proved so profitable before, and nought else.’ When they saw this they cast their packs in over the palisade. Gudrid was sitting within, in the doorway, beside the cradle of her infant son, Snorri, when a shadow fell upon the door, and a woman in a black namkirtle (70) entered. She was short in stature, and wore a fillet about her head; her hair was of a light chestnut colour, and she was pale of hue, and so big-eyed, that never before had eyes so large been seen in a human skull. She went up to where Gudrid was seated, and said: ‘What is thy name?’ ‘My name is Gudrid; but what is they name?’ ‘My name is Gudrid,’ says she. The housewife, Gudrid, motioned her with her hand to a seat beside her; but it so happened, that, at that very instant Gudrid heard a great crash, whereupon the woman vanished, and at the same moment one of the Skrellings, who had tried to seize their weapons[104], was killed by one of Karlsefni’s followers. At this the Skrellings fled precipitately, leaving their garments and wares behind them; and not a soul, save Gudrid alone, beheld this woman. ‘Now we must needs take counsel together,’ says Karlsefni, ‘for that I believe they will visit us a third time, in great numbers[105], and attack us. Let us now adopt this plan: ten of our number shall go out upon the cape, and show themselves there, while the remainder of our company shall go into the woods and hew a clearing for our cattle, when the troop approaches from the forest. We will also take our bull, and let him go in advance of us.’ The lie of the land was such that the proposed meeting-place had the lake upon the one side, and the forest upon the other. Karlsefni’s advice was now carried into execution. The Skrellings advanced to the spot which Karlsefni had selected for the encounter, and a battle was fought there, in which great numbers of the band of the Skrellings were slain. There was one man among the Skrellings, of large size and fine bearing, whom Karlsefni concluded must be their chief. One of the Skrellings picked up an axe, and having looked at it for a time, he brandished it about one of his companions, and hewed at him, and on the instant the man fell dead. Thereupon the big man seized the axe, and after examining it for a moment, he hurled it as far as he could, out into the sea; then they fled helter-skelter into the woods, and thus their intercourse came to an end. Karlsefni and his party[106] remained there throughout the winter, but in the spring Karlsefni announces, that he is not minded to remain there longer, but will return to Greenland. They now made ready for the voyage, and carried away with them much booty in vines and grapes[107], and peltries. They sailed out upon the high seas, and brought their ship safely to Ericsfirth, where they remained during the winter.


Freydis causes[108] the Brothers to be put to Death.


There was now much talk anew, about a Wineland-voyage, for this was reckoned both a profitable and an honourable enterprise. The same summer that Karlsefni arrived from Wineland, a ship from Norway arrived in Greenland. This ship was commanded by two brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, who passed the winter in Greenland. They were descended from an Icelandic family of the East-firths[109]. It is now to be added, that Freydis, Eric’s daughter, set out from her home at Gardar, and waited upon the brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi, and invited them to sail with their vessel to Wineland, and to share with her equally all of the good things which they might succeed in obtaining there. To this they agreed, and she departed thence to visit her brother, Leif, and ask him to give her the house which he had caused to be erected in Wineland, but he made her the same answer [as that which he had given Karlsefni], saying, that he would lend the house, but not give it. It was stipulated between Karlsefni and Freydis, that each should have on ship-board thirty able-bodied men[110], besides the women; but Freydis immediately violated this compact, by concealing five men more [than this number], and this the brothers did not discover before they arrived in Wineland. They now put out to sea, having agreed beforehand, that they would sail in company, if possible, and although they were not far apart from each other, the brothers arrived somewhat in advance, and carried their belongings up to Leif’s house. Now when Freydis arrived, her ship was discharged, and the baggage carried up to the house, whereupon Freydis exclaimed: ‘Why did you carry your baggage in here?’ ‘Since we believed,’ said they, ‘that all promises[111] made to us would be kept.’ ‘It was to me that Leif loaned the house,’ says she, ‘and not to you.’ Whereupon Helgi exclaimed: ‘We brothers cannot hope to rival thee in wrong-dealing.’ They thereupon carried their baggage forth, and built a hut, above the sea, on the bank of the lake, and put all in order about it; while Freydis caused wood to be felled, with which to load her ship. The winter now set in, and the brothers suggested, that they should amuse themselves by playing games. This they did for a time, until the folk began to disagree[112], when dissensions arose between them, and the games came to an end, and the visits between the houses ceased; and thus it continued far into the winter. One morning early, Freydis arose from her bed, and dressed herself, but did not put on her shoes and stockings. A heavy dew had fallen[113], and she took her husband’s cloak, and wrapped it about her, and then walked to the brothers’ house, and up to the door, which had been only partly closed[114] by one of the men, who had gone out a short time before. She pushed the door open, and stood, silently, in the doorway for a time. Finnbogi, who was lying on the innermost side of the room, was awake, and said: ‘What dost thou wish here, Freydis?’ She answers: ‘I wish thee to rise, and go out with me, for I would speak with thee.’ He did so, and they walked to a tree, which lay close by the wall of the house, and seated themselves upon it. ‘How art thou pleased here?’ says she. He answers: ‘I am well pleased with the fruitfulness of the land, but I am ill-content with the breach which has come between us, for, methinks, there has been no cause for it.’ ‘It is even as thou sayest,’ says she, ‘and so it seems to me; but my errand to thee is, that I wish to exchange ships with you brothers, for that ye have a larger ship than I, and I wish to depart from here.’ ‘To this I must accede,’ says he, ‘if it is thy pleasure.’ Therewith they parted, and she returned home, and Finnbogi to his bed. She climbed up into bed, and awakened Thorvard with her cold feet, and he asked her why she was so cold and wet. She answered, with great passion: ‘I have been to the brothers,’ says she, ‘to try to buy their ship, for I wished to have a larger vessel, but they received my overtures so ill, that they struck me, and handled me very roughly; what time thou, poor wretch, wilt neither avenge my shame nor they own, and I find, perforce, that I am no longer in Greenland, moreover I shall part from thee unless thou wreakest vengeance for this.’ And now he could stand her taunts no longer, and ordered the men to rise at once, and take their weapons and this they did, and they then proceeded directly to the house of the brothers, and entered it, while the folk were asleep[115], and seized and bound them, and led each one out, when he was bound; and as they came out, Freydis caused each one to be slain. In this wise all of the men were put to death, and only the women were left, and these no one would kill. At this Freydis exclaimed: ‘Hand me an axe!’ This was done, and she fell upon the five women, and left them dead. They returned home, after this dreadful deed, and it was very evident that Freydis was well content with her work. She addressed her companions, saying: ‘If it be ordained for us, to come again to Greenland, I shall contrive the death of any man who shall speak of these events. We must give it out, that we left them living here, when we came away.’ Early in the spring, they equipped the ship, which had belonged to the brothers, and freighted it with all of the products of the land, which they could obtain, and which the ship would carry. Then they put out to sea, and, after a prosperous voyage, arrived with their ship in Ericsfirth early in the summer. Karlsefni was there, with his ship all ready to sail, and was awaiting a fair wind; and people say, that a ship richer laden, than that which he commanded, never left Greenland.


==CONCERNING FREYDIS.== Freydis now went to her home, since it had remained unharmed during her absence. She bestowed liberal gifts upon all of her companions, for she was anxious to screen her guilt. She now established herself at her home; but her companions were not all so close-mouthed, concerning their misdeeds and wickedness, that rumours did not get abroad at last. These finally reached her brother, Leif, and he thought it a most shameful story. He thereupon took three of the men, who had been of Freydis’ party, and forced them all at the same time to a confession of the affair, and their stories entirely agreed. ‘I have no heart,’ says Leif, ‘to punish my sister, Freydis, as she deserves, but this I predict of them, that there is little prosperity in store for their offspring.’ Hence it came to pass, that no one from that time forward thought them worthy of aught but evil. It now remains to take up the story from the time when Karlsefni made his ship ready, and sailed out to sea. He had a successful voyage[116], and arrived in Norway safe and sound. He remained there during the winter, and sold his wares, and both he and his wife were received with great favour by the most distinguished men of Norway. The following spring he put his ship in order for the voyage to Iceland; and when all his preparations had been made, and his ship was lying at the wharf, awaiting favourable winds, there came to him a Southerner[117], a native of Bremen in the Saxonland, who wished to buy his ‘house-neat[118].’ ‘I do not wish to sell it,’ said he. ‘I will give thee half a “mörk” in gold for it’ (71), says the Southerner. This Karlsefni thought a good offer, and accordingly closed the bargain. The Southerner went his way, with the ‘house-neat,’ and Karlsefni knew not what wood it was, but it was ‘mösur[119],’ come from Wineland.

Karlsefni sailed away, and arrived with his ship in the north of Iceland, in Skagafirth. His vessel was beached there during the winter, and in the spring he bought Glaumbœiar-land (59), and made his home there, and dwelt there as long as he lived, and was a man of the greatest prominence. From him and his wife, Gudrid, a numerous and goodly lineage is descended. After Karlsefni’s death, Gudrid, together with her son, Snorri, who was born in Wineland, took charge of the farmstead; and when Snorri was married, Gudrid went abroad, and made a pilgrimage to the South[120], after which she returned again to the home of her son, Snorri, who had caused a church to be built at Glaumbœr. Gudrid then took the veil and became an anchorite, and lived there the rest of her days. Snorri had a son, named Thorgeir, who was the father of Ingveld, the mother of Bishop Brand. Hallfrid was the name of the daughter of Snorri, Karlsefni’s son; she was the mother of Runolf, Bishop Thorlak’s father. Biorn was the name of [another] son of Karlsefni and Gudrid; he was the father of Thorunn, the mother of Bishop Biorn. Many men are descended from Karlsefni, and he has been blessed with a numerous and famous posterity; and of all men Karlsefni has given the most exact accounts of all these voyages, of which something has now been recounted.


  1. [Flatey Book, column 281.]
  2. ‘úforvitinn:’ lit. incurious.
  3. See note I, p. 61.
  4. ‘hann enn mundi mestri heill stýra af þeim frændum: ‘ lit. he would, nevertheless, win the greatest luck of them, the kinsmen.
  5. ‘Suðrmaðr:’ lit. a Southern man; a German was so called as contradistinguished from Norðmaðr, a Northman.
  6. ‘þeir Bjarni:’ lit. they Biarni.
  7. ‘allt hit efra:’ lit. all the upper part, i.e. away from the shore.
  8. Helluland, the land of flat stone; from hella, a flat stone.
  9. ósæbrattr: lit. un-sea-steep, i.e. not steep toward the sea.
  10. Markland, Forest-land, from mǫrk, a forest.
  11. ‘var þá langt til sjóvar at sjá frá skipinu: lit. it was far to see from the ship to the sea.
  12. ‘þar kvámu engi frost á vetrum,’ no frost came there in the winters.
  13. ‘sól hafði þar eyktarstað ok dagmálastað um skamdegi:’ lit. the sun had there ‘eyktarstad’ and ‘dagmalastad’ on the short-day.
  14. Lit. found.
  15. ‘bar þat til tíðinda:’ lit. it came to tidings.
  16. ‘með þeim feðgum:’ lit. with them, the father and son.
  17. ‘smáskitligr í andliti:’ lit. very small in face.
  18. If the word in the MS. be ‘þit’ and not ‘þó’ [cf. Icelandic text, page 147, line 59], the words ‘and yet’ should be italicised as supplied, and the words now italicised in the translation should then stand unbracketed.
  19. ‘hafa tvennar sýslur fram:’ lit. carry on two occupations.
  20. ‘eðr havt sjái þér til tíðinda:’ lit. but what do you see of tidings.
  21. ‘er tíðindum sætti,’ which amounted to tidings.
  22. ‘þá eigum vér allan kost undir oss, en þeir ekki undir sér:’ lit. we shall have all the choice under us [in our control], but they not under themselves.
  23. Lit. Thorvald went to Wineland.
  24. ‘kaupskipit:’ lit. merchant-ship.
  25. Kjalarnes.
  26. ‘sló á þá hǫfga svá miklum, at,’ they were stricken so heavy a sleep, that—
  27. ‘Þá kom kall yfir þá:’ lit. then there came a call over them.
  28. ‘undir hendi:’ lit. under the arm.
  29. ‘mun mik þetta til bana leiða: ‘ lit. this must lead me to my bane [death]; i.e. this will be the death of me.
  30. ‘at ek muni þar búa á um stund:’ lit. that I should dwell up there for a time.
  31. Krossanes.
  32. ‘sǫgðu hvárir ǫðrum slík tíðindi sem vissu:’ lit. they told each other such tidings as they knew.
  33. ‘andaðisk:’ lit. died.
  34. ‘fýstisk…at fara:’ lit. hankered to go.
  35. ‘hálfan þriðja tǫg,’ half of the third ten; cf. note I, p. 61.
  36. ‘valdi hann lið at afli ok vexti:’ lit. selected a company for their strength and size.
  37. ‘vissu eigi hvar þau fóru:’ lit. they did not know where they went.
  38. ‘tvau nǫkkurar nætr:’ lit. some two nights.
  39. svartr.
  40. ‘er einþykkr mjǫk:’ am very obstinate.
  41. i.e. he was not a Christian.
  42. ‘Þorsteinn bóndi:’ the word bóndi signifies a man who is the owner and manager of a home.
  43. ‘segja Guðríði forlǫg sín:’ tell Gudrid her fate.
  44. ‘hvíldar-staðr:’ lit. place of rest, i.e. paradise; cf. Fritzner, Ordbog, s.v.
  45. ‘ganga suðr,’ go to the South; an expression employed here, doubtless, as in many other places in Icelandic sagas, to signify a pilgrimage to Rome.
  46. Karls-efni: a person who has about him the promise of becoming a capable man.
  47. hesthǫfði.
  48. ‘bæði Guðríðr ok aðrir menn:’ lit. both Gudrid and others.
  49. ‘er þeir fengi til gœða:’ lit. which they might get of good things.
  50. ‘þá urðu þeir varir við Skrælingja:’ lit. they became aware of Skrellings.
  51. ‘búnyt:’ milk, or an article of food prepared from milk; cf. Frtizner, Ordbog, s.v.
  52. ‘þvíat hann hafði viljat taka vápn þeria:’ lit. because he had wished to take their weapons.
  53. ‘með úfriði ok fjǫlmenni:’ lit. with un-peace [war] and a multitude of men.
  54. ‘Þeir Karlsefni,’ they Karlsefni.
  55. ‘vínviði ok berjum:’ lit. ‘wine-wood’ and berries. Vines called in Icelandic ‘wine-wood,’ and grapes ‘wine-berries.’ The relation between the words of the sentence would indicate that the ‘berries’ here named are ‘wine-berries’ or grapes.
  56. ‘lét drepa:’ lit. caused to be put to death.
  57. ‘íslenzkir at kyni, ok ór Austfjǫrðum:’ lit. of Icelandic descent and from the East-firths.
  58. ‘vígir menn:’ lit. men capable of bearing arms.
  59. ‘ákveðin orð:’ lit. fixed words. i.e. explicit agreements.
  60. ‘menn bárusk verra í milli:’ lit. men introduced a worse condition among them.
  61. ‘veðri var svá farit, at dǫgg var fallin mikil:’ the weather was of such a character that a heavy dew had fallen.
  62. ‘lokit hurð aptr á miðjan klofa:’ lit. closed the door behind to the middle of the groove.
  63. ‘at þeim sofǫndum:’ lit. to them sleeping.
  64. ‘Honum fórsk vel:’ lit. it went well with him.
  65. Suðrmaðr: a Southerner, i.e. a German; cf. note I, p. 65.
  66. húsa-snotra. Cf. note 6.
  67. Or ‘mausur,’ as in the MS.; cf. note 36.
  68. Cf. note I, p 72.



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