The Full Wiki

Vinland: Wikis

  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vinland was the name given to an area of North America by the Norsemen, about the year 1000 CE.

There is a consensus among scholars that the Vikings did reach North America, approximately five centuries prior to the voyages of Christopher Columbus.[1] In 1960 archaeological evidence of the only known Norse settlement[2] in North America (outside of Greenland) was found at L'Anse aux Meadows on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, in what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Although this proved conclusively the Vikings' pre-Columbian discovery of North America, whether this exact site is the Vinland of the Norse accounts is still a subject of debate.

Leiv Eiriksson
Discovery of America
Christian Krogh (1893)

Contents

Etymology

The name Vinland has been interpreted in two ways: traditionally as Vínland ("wine-land") and more recently as Vinland (meadow- or pasture-land).

Wine-land

The earliest etymology of "Vinland" is found in Adam of Bremen's 11th Century Latin Descriptio insularum Aquilonis ("Description of the Northern Islands"): "Moreover, he has also reported one island discovered by many in that ocean, which is called Winland, for the reason that grapevines grow there by themselves, producing the best wine." (Praeterea unam adhuc insulam recitavit a multis in eo repertam occeano, quae dicitur Winland, eo quod ibi vites sponte nascantur, vinum optimum ferentes). The implication is that the first element is Old Norse vín (Latin vinum), "wine".

This explanation is essentially repeated in the 13th-century Grœnlendinga saga, which provides a circumstantial account of the discovery of Vinland, and its being named from the grapes (vínber) found there.

Pasture-land

Another interpretation of the name Vinland, quite popular in the late 20th century, is that the first element is not vín (with a slightly lengthened vowel sound) but vin (with a short sound, like "tin"), an Old Norse word with the meaning 'meadow, pasture'. (Proto-Norse winju.) Vin is a common name on old farms from Norse times in Norway, and present-day use of the word are Bjørgvin, the Norse (and Icelandic) name of Bergen, Norway, and Granvin, where -vin translates into 'pasture' in both. A poetic Norse name of the Danish island of Sjælland (Zealand) was Viney 'pasture island'. A cognate name also existed in Old English (Anglo-Saxon), in the name of the village Woolland in Dorset, England: this was written "Winlande" in the 1086 Domesday Book, and it is interpreted as 'meadow land' or 'pasture land'. However, linguistics scholars demonstrated that, even as suffix, this peculiar usage of vin had ceased long before the colonization of Iceland and Greenland [3][4].

The sagas

The main sources of information about the Norse voyages to Vinland are two Icelandic sagas, The Saga of Eric the Red and the Saga of the Greenlanders. These stories were preserved by oral tradition until they were written down some 250 years after the events they describe. The existence of two versions of the story shows some of the challenges of using traditional sources for history, because they share a large number of story elements, but use them in different ways. For example, both sagas feature a mariner called Bjarni, who is driven off course on a voyage to Greenland, and whose authority is subsequently called into question; in "Greenlanders" he is Bjarni Herjolfsson, who discovers the American mainland as a result of his mishap, but in "Eric" he is Bjarni Grimolfsson, who is driven into an area infested with shipworms on the way home from Vinland, with the result that his ship sinks. A brief summary of the plots of the two sagas shows many more examples.

Saga of the Greenlanders

In "Greenlanders" Bjarni Herjolfsson accidentally discovers the new land when travelling from Norway to visit his father in the second year of Eric the Red's Greenland colony (about 986 CE). When he does manage to reach Greenland, making land at Herjolfsness, site of his father's farm, he remains there for the rest of his father's life, and does not return to Norway until about 1000 CE. There, he tells his overlord (the Earl, also named Eric) about the new land and is criticised for his long delay in reporting. On his return to Greenland he tells the story and inspires Leif Ericsson to organise an expedition, which retraces in reverse the route Bjarni had followed, past a land of flat stones (Helluland), and a land of forests (Markland). After sailing another two days across open sea, the expedition finds a headland with an island just offshore; nearby is a pool accessible to ships at high tide, in an area where the sea is shallow with sandbanks. Here the explorers land and establish a base which can plausibly be matched to L'Anse Aux Meadows, except that the winter is described as mild, not freezing. One day, an old family servant, Tyrkir, goes missing, and is found mumbling to himself; he eventually explains that he has found grapes. In spring, Leif returns to Greenland with a shipload of timber towing a boatload of grapes. On the way home, he spots another ship aground on rocks, rescues the crew and later salvages the cargo. A second expedition, one ship of about 40 men, led by Leif's brother Thorvald, sets out in the autumn after Leif's return, and stays over three winters at the new base (Leifsbutha, meaning Leif's temporary shelters), exploring the west coast of the new land in the first summer, and the east coast in the second, running aground and losing the ship's keel on a headland they christen Keel Point (Kjalarnes). Further south, at a point where Thorvald would like to establish a settlement, the Greenlanders encounter some of the local inhabitants (Skrælings) and kill them, following which they are attacked by a large force in hide boats, and Thorvald dies from an arrow-wound. After the exploration party returns to base, the Greenlanders decide to return home the following spring.

Thorstein, Leif's brother, marries Gudrid, widow of the captain rescued by Leif, then leads a third exedition to bring home Thorvald's body, but is driven off course and spends the whole summer wandering the Atlantic. Spending the winter as a guest at a farm on Greenland with Gudrid, Thorstein dies of sickness, reviving just long enough to make a prophecy about her future as a Christian. The next winter, Gudrid marries a visiting Icelander named Thorfinn Karlsefni, who agrees to undertake a major expedition to Vinland, taking livestock. On arrival, they soon find a beached whale, which sustains them until spring. In the summer, they are visited by some of the local inhabitants, who are scared by the Greenlanders' bull, but happy to trade goods for milk and other products. In autumn, Gudrid gives birth to a son, Snorri. Shortly after this, one of the local people tries to take a weapon, and is killed; the explorers are then attacked in force, but manage to survive with only minor casualties by retreating to a well-chosen defensive position a short distance from their base. One of the local people picks up an iron axe, tries it, and throws it away. The explorers return to Greenland in summer with a cargo of grapes and hides. Shortly afterwards, a ship captained by two Icelanders arrives in Greenland, and Freydis, daughter of Eric the Red, persuades them to join her in an expedition to Vinland. They sail that autumn, but disagreements during the winter lead to the killing, at Freydis' order, of all the Icelanders, including five women, as they lie sleeping. In spring the Greenlanders return home with a good cargo, but Leif finds the truth about the Icelanders. That is the last Vinland expedition recorded in the saga.

Saga of Eric the Red

In the "Eric" version of the story, Leif Ericsson accidentally discovers the new land when travelling from Norway back to Greenland after a visit to his overlord (King Olaf Trygvesson) who commissions him to spread Christianity in the colony. Returning to Greenland with samples of grapes, wheat and timber, he rescues the survivors from a wrecked ship, and gains a reputation for good luck; his religious mission is a swift success. The next spring, Thorstein, Leif's brother, leads an expedition to the new land, but is driven off course and spends the whole summer wandering the Atlantic. On his return, he meets and marries Gudrid, one of the survivors from a ship which has made land at Herjolfsness after a difficult voyage from Iceland. Spending the winter as a guest at a farm on Greenland with Gudrid, Thorstein dies of sickness, reviving just long enough to make a prophecy about her future as a Christian. The next winter, Gudrid marries a visiting Icelander named Thorfinn Karlsefni, who, with his business partner Snorri Thorbrandsson, agrees to undertake a major expedition to the new land, taking livestock. Also contributing ships for this expedition are another pair of visiting Icelanders, Bjarni Grimolfsson and Thorhall Gamlason, and Leif's brother and sister Thorvald and Freydis, with her husband Thorvard. Sailing past landscapes of flat stones (Helluland) and forests (Markland) they round a cape where they see the keel of a boat (Kjalarnes) then continue past some extraordinary, long beaches (Furthustrandir) before landing and sending out two runners to explore inland. After three days, the pair return with samples of grapes and wheat. After sailing a little further, the expedition lands at an inlet next to an area of strong currents (Straumsfjord), with an island just offshore (Straumsey)- a location which can plausibly be matched to L'Anse Aux Meadows- and makes camp. The winter months are harsh, and food is short. One day, an old family servant, Thorhall the Hunter (who has not become Christian), goes missing, and is found mumbling to himself; shortly afterwards, a beached whale is found, which Thorhall claims has been provided in answer to his praise of the pagan gods. The explorers find that eating it makes them ill, so they pray to the Christian god, and shortly afterwards the weather improves.

When spring comes, Thorhall Gamlason, the Icelander, wants to sail north round Kjalarnes to seek Vinland, while Thorfinn Karlsefni prefers to sail southward down the east coast. Thorhall only takes nine men, and his vessel is swept out into the ocean by contrary winds; he and his crew never return. Thorfinn and Snorri, with Freydis (plus possibly Bjarni) sail down the east coast with 40 men or more, and establish a camp by a pool accessible to ships at high tide (Hop), in an area where the sea is shallow with sandbanks, and the land abounds with grapes and wheat. The teller of this saga is uncertain whether the explorers remain here over the next winter (said to be very mild), or only for a few weeks of summer. One morning they see nine hide boats; the local people (Skraelings) examine the Norse ships and depart in peace. Later a much larger flotilla of boats arrives, and trade commences (Karlsefni forbids the sale of weapons). One day, the local traders are frightened by the sudden arrival of the Greenlanders' bull, and they stay away for three weeks. They then attack in force, but the explorers manage to survive with only minor casualties by retreating inland to a defensive position a short distance from their camp. Pregnancy slows Freydis down, so she picks up the sword of a fallen companion and brandishes it against her bare breast, scaring the attackers into withdrawal. One of the local people picks up an iron axe, tries it, and throws it away. The explorers subsequently abandon the southern camp and sail back to Straumsfjord, killing five natives they encounter on the way, lying asleep in hide sacks.

Karlsefni, with Thorvald Erikcsson and others, then sails round Kjalarnes and south down the western side of the land, hoping to find Thorhall. After sailing for a long time, while moored on the south side of a west-flowing river they are shot at by a one-legged man, and Thorvald dies from an arrow-wound. The explorers return to Straumsfjord, but disagreements during the following winter lead to the abandonment of the venture. On the way home, the ship of Bjarni the Icelander is swept into the Sea of Worms (Madkasjo) by contrary winds. The marine worms destroy the hull and only those who escape in the ship's worm-proofed boat survive. That is the last Vinland expedition recorded in the saga.[5]

Medieval geographers

The oldest surviving written record of Vinland is that by Adam of Bremen, a German (Saxon) geographer and historian, in his book Descriptio insularum Aquilonis of approximately 1075 (quoted above). To write it he visited the Danish king Svend Estridson, who had knowledge of the northern lands, and told him of the "islands" discovered by Norse sailors far out in the Atlantic, of which Vinland was the most remote. Unfortunately, Adam became confused between Helluland and Halagland, the northernmost part of Norway where the "midnight sun" is visible. He also spelled Vinland in Latin the same as Wendland, the German province which adjoins Denmark.[6]

In the early 14th century, a geography encyclopedia called Geographica Universalis was compiled at Malmesbury Abbey in England, which was in turn used as a source for one of the most widely-circulated medieval English educational works, Polychronicon by Ralph Higden, a few years later. Both these works, with Adam of Bremen as a possible source, were confused about the location of what they called Wintland- the Malmesbury monk had it on the ocean, but east of Norway, while Higden put it west of Denmark but failed to explain the distance. Copies of Polychronicon commonly included a world map, on which Wintland was marked in the Atlantic Ocean near Iceland, but again much closer to the Scandinavian mainland than in reality. The name was explained in both texts as referring to the savage inhabitants' ability to tie the wind up in knotted cords, which they sold to sailors who could then undo a knot whenever they needed a good wind. Neither mentioned grapes, and the Malmesbury work specifically states that little grows there but grass and trees, which, interestingly, reflects the saga descriptions of the area round the main Norse expedition base.[7]

Medieval Icelandic geographical concepts

More geographically correct were Icelandic texts from about the same time, which presented a clear picture of the northern countries as experienced by Norse explorers: north of Iceland a vast, barren plain (which we now know to be the Polar ice-cap) extended from Biarmeland (northern Russia) east of the White Sea, to Greenland, then further west and south were, in succession, Helluland, Markland and Vinland. The Icelanders had no knowledge of how far south Vinland extended, and they speculated that it might reach as far as Africa.[8]

The "Historia Norwegiae" (History of Norway) compiled around 1200 does not refer directly to Vinland, and tries to reconcile information from Greenland with mainland European sources; in this text Greenland's territory extends so that it is "almost touching the African islands, where the waters of ocean flood in".[9]

Later Norse voyages

Icelandic chronicles record another attempt to visit Vinland from Greenland, over a century after the saga voyages. In 1121, Icelandic bishop Eric Gnupsson, who had been based on Greenland since 1112, "went to seek Vinland". Nothing more is reported of him, and three years later another bishop, Arnald, was sent to Greenland. No written records, other than inscribed stones, have survived in Greenland itself, so the next reference to a voyage also comes from Icelandic chronicles. In 1347, a ship arrived in Iceland, after being blown off course on its way home from Markland to Greenland with a load of timber. The implication is that the Greenlanders had continued to use Markland as a source of timber over several centuries.[10]

Modern geographers and the location of Vinland

The 16th-Century Skálholt map of Norse America

16th century Icelanders realised that the "New World" which European geographers were calling "America" was the land described in their Vinland Sagas. The Skálholt Map, drawn in 1570 or 1590 but surviving only through later copies, shows Promontorium Winlandiae ("promontory/cape/foreland of Vinland") as a narrow cape with its northern tip at the same latitude as southern Ireland. (The scales of degrees in the map margins are inaccurate.) This effective identification of northern Newfoundland with the northern tip of Vinland was taken up by later Scandinavian scholars such as bishop Hans Resen.

Although it is generally agreed, based on the saga descriptions, that Helluland includes Baffin Island, and Markland represents at least the southern part of the modern Labrador, there has been considerable controversy over the location of the actual Norse landings and settlement. Comparison of the sagas, as summarised above, shows that they give similar descriptions and names to different places. One of the few reasonably consistent pieces of information is that exploration voyages from the main base sailed down both the east and west coasts of the land; this was one of the factors which helped archaeologists locate the site at L'Anse Aux Meadows, at the tip of Newfoundland's long northern peninsula.

Other clues appear to place the main settlement further south- the mention of a mild winter, and the reports in both sagas of grapes being found nearby. A very specific indication in the Greenlanders' Saga of the latitude of the base has also been subject to misinterpretation. This passage states that in the shortest days of midwinter, the sun was still above the horizon at "dagmal" and "eykt", two specific times in the Norse day. Carl Christian Rafn, in the first detailed study of the Norse exploration of the New World, "Antiquitates Americanae" (1837), interpreted these times as equivalent to 7.30am and 4.30pm, which would put the base a long way south of Newfoundland. However, an Icelandic law text gives a very specific explanation of "eykt", with reference to Norse navigation techniques. The eight major divisions of the compass were subdivided into three hours each, to make a total of 24, and "eykt" was the end of the second hour of the south-west division, which in modern terms would be 3.30pm. "Dagmal", the "day-meal" which is specifically distinguished from the earlier "rismal" (breakfast), would thus be about 8.30am.[11] The sun is indeed just above the horizon at these times on the shortest days of the year in northern Newfoundland- but not much further north.

Viking colonisation site at L'Anse-aux-Meadows, Newfoundland
L'Anse-aux-Meadows

Clues at L'Anse Aux Meadows

Newfoundland marine insurance agent and historian William A. Munn (1864-1939), after studying literary sources in Europe, suggested in his 1914 book "Wineland Voyages: Location of Helluland, Markland & Vinland" that the Vinland explorers "went ashore at Lancey [sic] Meadows, as it is called today". In 1960 a Viking settlement was discovered by Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad at that exact spot, L'Anse aux Meadows in northern Newfoundland, and excavated during the 1960s and 1970s. It is most likely this was the main settlement of the sagas, a "gateway" for the Norse Greenlanders to the rich lands further south. Many wooden objects were found at L'Anse Aux Meadows, and radiocarbon dating confirms the site's occupation as being confined to a short period around 1000 CE. In addition, a number of small pieces of jasper, known to have been used in the Norse world as fire-strikers, were found in and around the different buildings. When these were analyzed and compared with samples from jasper sources around the north Atlantic area, it was found that two buildings contained only Icelandic jasper pieces, while another contained some from Greenland; also a single piece from the east coast of Newfoundland was found. These finds appear to confirm the saga claim that some of the Vinland exploration ships came from Iceland, and that they ventured down the east coast of the new land.[12]

Based on such interpretations, and archaeological evidence, it is now generally accepted that L'Anse Aux Meadows was the main base of the Norse explorers, but the southernmost limit of the Norse exploration remains a subject of intense speculation. Samuel Eliot Morison (1971) suggested the southern part of Newfoundland, Erik Wahlgren (1986) Miramichi Bay in New Brunswick, and Icelandic climate specialist Pall Bergthorsson (1997) proposed New York City.[13] The insistence in all the main historical sources that grapes were found in Vinland suggests that the explorers ventured at least to the south side of the St. Lawrence estuary, as Jacques Cartier did 500 years later, finding both wild vines and nut trees.[14] Three butternuts were a further important find at L'Anse Aux Meadows: another species which grows only as far north as the St. Lawrence.[15]

It has been speculated that the reference to grapes near the main settlement is to another of the abundant berries in Newfoundland, including gooseberries or blueberries, which are both abundant near L'Anse-aux-Meadows (51°N) and are both suitable for winemaking. Blueberries look very much like small Black Corinth grapes, although they grow on bushes very unlike grape vines. It is also possible that grapes did in fact grow in Newfoundland (46°40′ - 51°35′N) in the past. The first recorded grapes were grown 2002, when a successful vineyard was established in Gambo, Newfoundland, 48°50'N.[16] The time period of the Vinland settlement corresponds with the Medieval Warm Period (from about the 10th to about the 14th Century). Water temperatures in the northern hemisphere during this time were up to 1°C warmer, allowing the planting of vineyards as far north as the coastal zones of the Baltic Sea (ca. 56°N) and southern England (ca. 51°N). There are vineyards at 54°N in Lancashire and Yorkshire, northern England.

Other Norse finds in America

Numerous artifacts attributable to the Norse Greenlanders have been found in Canada, particularly on Baffin Island and in northern Labrador. A late-11th Century Norwegian penny, with a hole for stringing on a necklace, has also been found in Maine. Other possibly Norse artifacts in the area south of the St. Lawrence include a growing number of stones inscribed with runic letters, such as the Kensington Runestone. The real age and origin of these stones is debated, and so far none has been firmly dated, or associated with clear evidence of a medieval Norse presence.[17]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Jones, Gwyn (1986). The Norse Atlantic Saga: Being the Norse Voyages of Discovery and Settlement to Iceland, Greenland, and North America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-1928-5160-8.
  2. ^ Ingstad, Helge; Ingstad, Anne Stine (2001). The Viking Discovery of America: The Excavation of a Norse Settlement in L'Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland. Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4716-2.
  3. ^ Kirsten A. Seaver, "Maps, Myths and Men. The story of the Vinland Map", Stanford University Press, p. 41.
  4. ^ Einar Haugen, "Was Vinland in Newfoundland?", originally published in Proceedings of the Eighth Viking Congress, Arhus. 24-31 August 1977, Odense University Press, 1981.
  5. ^ based on translations by Keneva Kunz, with table of story element comparisons, in "The Sagas of Icelanders", London, Allen Lane (2000) ISBN 0713993561
  6. ^ Adam of Bremen, Descriptio insularum Aquilonis chapters 37-38 (in Latin)
  7. ^ Michael Livingston "More Vinland maps and texts", Journal of Medieval History Vol. 30 no. 1, (March 2004) pp25-44. doi:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2003.12.001
  8. ^ translations in: B.F. de Costa, Pre-Columbian Discovery of America by the Northmen, Albany NY, Munsell, 1890
  9. ^ Historia Norwegiae
  10. ^ chronicle entries translated in A.M. Reeves et al. The Norse Discovery of America (1906) via saacred-texts.com
  11. ^ R. Cleasby & G. Vigfusson An Icelandic-English Dictionary (1874) via the Germanic Lexicon Project
  12. ^ Where is Vinland: L'Anse Aux Meadows at canadianmysteries.ca
  13. ^ Gisli Sigurdsson, "The Quest for Vinland in Saga Scholarship", in William Fitzhugh & Elizabeth Ward (Eds.) Vikings: the North Atlantic Saga, Washington DC, Smithsonian Institution (2000) ISBN 1560989955
  14. ^ Cartier, Jacques (Reedited in 1863). Voyage de J. Cartier au Canada. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12356. 
  15. ^ COSEWIC report on Juglans cinerea (butternut) in Canada
  16. ^ Gambo vineyard website
  17. ^ William W. Fitzhugh & Elizabeth I. Ward (Eds), "Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga," Washington DC, Smithsonian Books (2000) ISBN 1560989955

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VINLAND (Old Norse, Vinland, i.e. Vineland or Wineland), some region on the eastern coast of North America, visited and named by the Norsemen in the beginning of the 11th century. The word first appeared in print in Adam of Bremen's Descriptio Insularum Aquilonis, an appendix to his Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum, published by Lindenbrog in 1595. In pursuit of historical study, Adam visited the Danish court during the reign of the well-informed monarch Svend Estridsson (1047-1076), and writes that the king "spoke of an island (or country) in that ocean discovered by many, which is called Vinland, because of the wild grapes [vites] that grow there, out of which a very good wine can be made. Moreover, that grain unsown grows there abundantly [fruges ibi non seminatas abundare] ' is not a fabulous fancy, but is based on trustworthy accounts of the Danes." This passage offers important corroboration of the Icelandic accounts of the Vinland voyages, and is, furthermore, interesting "as the only undoubted reference to Vinland in a medieval book written beyond the limits of the Scandinavian world" (Fiske). Adam's information concerning Vinland did not, however, impress his medieval readers, as he placed the new land somewhere in the Arctic regions: "All those regions which are beyond are filled with insupportable ice and boundless gloom." These words show the futility of ascribing to Adam's account Columbus's knowledge of lands in the West, as many overzealous advocates of the Norse discoveries have done. The importance of the information, meagre as it is, lies in the fact that Adam received from the lips of kinsmen of the explorers (as the Danes in a sense were) certain characteristic facts (the finding of grapes and unsown grain) that support the general reliability of the Icelandic sagas which tell of the Vinland voyages (in which these same facts are prominent), but which were not put into writing by the Norsemen until later - just how much later it is not possible to determine. The fact that the Icelandic sagas concerning Vinland are not contemporaneous written records has caused them to be viewed by many with suspicion; hence such a significant allusion as that by Adam of Bremen is not to be overlooked. To the student of the Norse sources, Adam's reference is not so important, as the internal evidence of the sagas is such as to give easy credence to them as records of exploration in regions previously unknown to civilization. The contact with savages would alone prove that.

During the middle ages the Scandinavians were the first to revive geographical science and to practise pelagic navigation. For six centuries previous to about 800, European interest in practical geographical expansion was at a standstill. During 6th and 7th centuries, Irish anchorites, in their "passion fc_ solitude," found their way to the Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands, Faroes and Iceland, but they were not interested in colonization or geographical knowledge. The discovery of new lands in the West by the Norsemen came in the course of the great Scandinavian exodus of the 9th, 10th and firth centuries - the Viking Age - when Norsemen, Swedes and Danes swarmed over all Europe, conquering kingdoms and founding colonies. The main stream of Norsemen took a westerly course, striking Great Britain, Ireland and the Western Isles, and ultimately reached Iceland (in 874), Greenland (in 985) and Vinland (in r ood). This western migration was due mainly to political dissatisfaction in Norway, doubtless augmented by a restless spirit of adventure. The chiefs and their followers that settled Iceland were "picked men," the flower of the land, and sought a new home from other motives than want or gain. They sought political freedom. In Iceland they lived active, not to say tumultuous, lives, and left fine literary records of their doings and achievements. The Icelandic colony was an interesting forerunner of the American republic, having a prosperous population living under a republican government, and maintaining an independent national spirit for nearly four centuries.

Geographically Iceland belongs to America, and its colonization meant, sooner or later, the finding of other lands to the West. A century later Greenland was peopled from Iceland, and a colony existed for over four hundred years, when it was snuffed out, doubtless by hostile Eskimos. Icelandic records,. among them the Vinland sagas, also a Norwegian work of the 13th century, called Speculum regale (The King's Mirror), and some papal letters, give interesting glimpses of the life of this colony. It was from the young Greenland colony that an attempt was made to establish a new outpost in Vinland, but plans for permanent settlement were given up on account of the hostility of the natives, with whom the settlers felt powerless to grapple. Gunpowder had not yet been invented.

Icelandic literature consists mainly of the so-called "sagas," or prose narratives, and is rich in historical lore. In the case of the Vinland sagas, however, there are two independent narratives of the same events, which clash in the record of details. Modern investigators have been interested in establishing the superiority of one over the other of the two narratives. One of them is the "Saga of Eric the Red" as found in the collection known as Hauk's Book, so called because the manuscript was made by Hauk Erlendsson, an Icelander who spent much of his life in Norway. It was copied, in part by Hauk himself, between the years 1305 and 1334, the date of his death, and probably during the period 1310-20. It is No. 544 of the ArneMagnaean collection in Copenhagen. Another manuscript that tells the same story, with only verbal variations, is found in No. 557 of the same collection. This manuscript was made later than Hauk's, probably in the early part of the 15th century, but it is not a copy of Hauk's. Both were made independently from earlier manuscripts. The story as found in these two manuscripts has been pronounced by competent critics, especially Professor Gustav Storm of the university of Christiania, as the best and the most trustworthy record.

The other saga, which by chance came to be looked upon as the chief repository of facts concerning the Vinland voyages, is found in a large Icelandic work known as the Flatey Book, as it was once owned by a man who lived on Flat Island (Flatey), on the north-western coast of Iceland. This collection of sagas, completed in about 1380, is "the most extensive and most perfect of Icelandic manuscripts," and was sent to Denmark in 1662 as a gift to the king. It was evidently the general excellence of this collection that gave the version of the Vinland story that it contained precedence, in the works of early investigators, over the Vinland story of Hank's Book. (Reeves's Finding of Wineland contains fine photographs of all the vellum pages that give the various Vinland narratives.) According to Flatey Book saga, Biarni Heriulfsson, on a voyage from Iceland to Greenland in the early days of the Greenland colony, was driven out of his course and sighted new lands to the south-west. He did not go ashore (which seems strange), but sailed northward to Greenland. Fifteen years later, according to this account, Leif Ericsson set out from Greenland in search of the lands that Biarni had seen, found them and named them - Helluland (Flat-stone-land), Markland (Forestland) and Vinland. After his return to Greenland, several successive expeditions visited the new lands, none of which (strangely enough) experienced any difficulty in finding Leif's hut in the distant Vinland.

According to the Vinland saga in Hank's Book, Leif Ericsson, whose father, Eric the Red, had discovered and colonized Greenland, set out on a voyage, in 999, to visit Norway, the native land of his father. He visited the famous King Olaf Tryggvason, who reigned from 995 to 1000, and was bending his energies toward Christianizing Norway and Iceland. He immediately saw in Leif a likely aid in the conversion of the Greenlanders. Leif was converted and consented to become the king's emissary to Greenland, and the next year (1000) started on his return voyage. The saga says that he was "tossed about" on this long voyage, and came upon an unknown country, where he found "selfsown wheatfields, and vines," and also some trees called "mosur," of which he took specimens. Upon his arrival in Greenland, Leif presented the message of King Olaf, and seems to have attempted no further expeditions. But his visits to the new lands aroused much interest, and his brother Thorstein made an unsuccessful attempt to find them. Later, in 1003, an Icelander, Thorfinn Karlsefni, who was visiting the Greenland colony, and who had married Gudrid, the widow of Leif's brother Thorstein, set out with four vessels and 160 followers to found a colony in the new lands. Here they remained three years, during which time a son, Snorri, was born to Thorfinn and Gudrid. This expedition, too, found "grapes and self-sown wheat," though seemingly not in any great abundance. Concerning the southern.. most region of Vinland, the saga says: "They found self-sown wheatfields in the lowlands, but vines everywhere on higher places.. .. There were great numbers of wild animals in the woods." Then the saga relates that one morning a large number of men in skin canoes came paddling toward them and landed, staring curiously at them: "They were swarthy men and ill-looking, and the hair of their heads was ugly; they had large eyes and broad cheeks." Later the saga says: "No snow came there, and all of their live stock lived by grazing, and thrived." The natives appeared again the next spring, and a clash occurred. Fearing continued trouble with them, Karlsefni resolved to return to Greenland. This he did a year later, and spent the winter of 1006-7 there, whereupon he settled in Iceland. From him and Gudrid a number of prominent ecclesiastics claimed descent, and also Hauk Erlendsson. The Vinland story was doubtless a cherished family possession, and was put into writing, when writing sagas, instead of telling them, came into fashion. And here it is important to remember that before the age of writing in Iceland there was a saga-telling age, a most remarkable period of intellectual activity, by the aid of which the deeds and events of the seething life of the heroic age was carried over into the age of writing. "Among the medieval literatures of Europe, that of Iceland is unrivalled in the profusion of detail with which the facts of ordinary life are recorded, and the clearness with which the individual characters of numberless real persons stand out from the historic background" (Origines Islandicae). Icelandic literary history says that Ari the Learned (born in 1067) was "the first man in this land who wrote in the Norse tongue history relating to times anciei and modern." Among his works is the Book of Settlements, " a work of thorough and painstaking research unequalled in medieval literature" (Fiske). His work The Book of Icelanders is unfortunately lost, but an abridgment of it, Libellus Islandorum, made by Ari himself, contains a significant reference to Vinland. It tells that the colonists in Greenland found "both broken cayaks (canoes) and stone implements, whereby it may be seen that the same kind of folk had been there as they which inhabited Vinland, and whom the men of Greenland (i.e. the explorers) called the skreelings' (i.e. inferior people)." From this allusion one cannot but think that so keen and alert a writer as Ari had given some attention to Vinland in the lost work. But of this there is no other proof. We are left to affirm, on account of definite references in various sagas and annals to Leif Ericsson and the discovery of Vinland, that the saga as preserved in Hank's Book (and also in No. 557) rested on a strong viva voce tradition that was early put into writing by a competent hand. Dr Finnur Jonsson of Copenhagen says: "The classic form of the saga and its vivid and excellent tradition surely carry it back to about 1200." This conservative opinion does not preclude the possibility, or even probability, that written accounts of the Vinland voyages existed before this date. Vigfusson, in speaking of the sagas in general, says: "We believe that when once the first saga was written down, the others were in quick succession committed to parchment; some still keeping their form through a succession of copies, other changed.. .. That which was not written down quickly, in due time, was lost and forgotten for ever." The fact that there are discrepancies between the two versions as they appear in the Hank's Book and in the Flatey Book does not justify the overthrow of both as historical evidence. The general truth of the tradition is strengthened by the fact that it has come down from two independent sources. One of them must be the better, however, and this it is the province of competent scholars to determine. The best modern scholarship gives the precedence to the Hank's Book narrative, as it harmonizes better with well-established facts of Scandinavian history, and is besides a more plausible account. In accordance with this decision, Biarni Heriulf son's adventure should be eliminated, the priority of discovery given to Leif Ericsson, and the honour of being the first European colonists on the American continent awarded to Thorfinn Karlsefni and his followers. This was evidently the only real attempt at colonization, despite the numerous contentions to the contrary. Under date of 1121 the Icelandic annals say: "Bishop Eric of Greenland went in search of Vinland." Nothing further is recorded. The fact that his successor as bishop was appointed in 1123 would seem to indicate that the Greenlanders had information that Eric had perished.

The only important phase of the Vinland voyages that has not been definitely settled is the identifications of the regions visited by Leif and Thorfinn. The Danish antiquarian Rafn, in his monumental Antiquitates Ainericanae, published in 1837, and much discussed in America at that time, held for Rhode Island as Leif's landfall and the locality of Thorfinn's colony. Professor E. N. Horsford, in a number of monographs (unfortunately of no historical or scientific value), fixed upon the vicinity of Boston, where now stand a Leif Ericsson statue and Horsford's Norumbega Tower as testimonials to the Norse explorers. But in 1887 Professor Storm announced his conviction that the lands visited by the Norsemen in the early part of the 11th century were Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. And a careful reading of the Hauk's Book narrative seems to show that the numerous details of the saga fit Nova Scotia remarkably well, and much better than any other part of the continent. This view has in recent years been quite generally accepted by American scholars. But in 1910 Professor M. L. Fernald, a botanist of Harvard University, published a paper in Rhodora, vol. 12, No. 134, in which he contends that it is most probable that the "vinber" of the sagas were not "grapes," but "wineberries," also known as the mountain or rock cranberries. The "self-sown wheat" of the sagas he identifies as strand wheat, instead of Indian corn, or wild rice, and the mdsur trees as the canoe birch. He thinks the natives were Eskimos, ins ad of American Indians, as stoutly maintained by John Fiske. Professor Fernald concludes his paper by saying that: "The mass of evidence which the writer has in hand, and which will soon be ready for publication, makes it clear that, if we read the sagas in the light of what we know of the abundant occurrence north of the St Lawrence of the vinber' (Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea or possibly Ribes triste, R. prostratum, or R. lacustre), ` hveiti ' (Ely y nus arenarius), and ` mdsur' (Betula alba, i.e. B. papyrifera of many botanists), the discrepancies in geography, ethnology and zoology, which have been so troublesome in the past, will disappear; other features, usually considered obscure, will become luminous; and the older and less distorted sagas, at least in their main incidents, will become vivid records of actual geographic exploration." It is possible that Professor Fernald may show conclusively that Leif's landfall was north of the St Lawrence. That the "vinber" were mountain cranberries would explain the fact, mentioned in the Flatey Book saga, that Leif filled his afterboat with "vinber" in the spring, which is possible with the cranberries, as they are most palatable after having lain under the snow for the winter. But Thorfinn Karlsefni found no abundance of "vinber," in fact one of his followers composed some verses to express his disappointment on this score. "Vines" were found only in the southernmost regions visited by Karlsefni. It is to be noted that the word "vines" is more prominent in the Hauk's Book narrative than the word "vinber." At present it does not seem likely that Professor Fernald's argument will seriously affect Professor Storm's contention that Thorfinn's colony was in Nova Scotia. At any rate, the incontrovertible facts of the Vinland voyages are that Leif and Thorfinn were historical characters, that they visited, in the early part of the 11th century, some part of the American continent south-west of Greenland, that they found natives whose hostility prevented the founding of a permanent settlement, and that the sagas telling of these things are, on the whole, trustworthy descriptions of actual experience.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - The bibliography of this subject is large, but adequate documents, accounts and discussions may be found in the following modern works: Gustav Storm, Studies on the Vineland Voyages (Copenhagen, 1889); Arthur M. Reeves, The Finding of Wineland, the Good (London, 1890 and 1895); John Fiske, The Discovery of America, vol. i. (Boston, 1892); Juul Dieserud, "Norse Discoveries in America," in Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, vol. xxxiii. (New York, 1901);1901); Gudbrandr Vigfusson and F. Yorke Powell, Origines Islandicae (Oxford, 1905) and Julius E. Olson and others, The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503 (New York, 1906), the first volume of Original Narratives of Early American History. (J. E. 0.)


<< Vinita

Paul Vinogradoff >>


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Wikipedia-logo.png
Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia

Proper noun

Singular
Vinland

Plural
-

Vinland

  1. The name given by the Icelandic Norseman Leifur Eiríksson to the portion of North America in modern-day Newfoundland, Canada when he arrived there circa 1000 AD.







Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message