THE SAGA OF THE GREENLANDERS

The text below is adapted from Arthur Middleton Reeves’ English translation, published in The Finding of Wineland the Good: The History of the Icelandic Discovery of America (London, 1890). We have modernised some of the pronoun and verb forms (e.g., ‘do you’ rather than ‘dost thou’), and made light revisions better to reflect the saga’s style in the original Old Norse. Please do not cite this text. The original translation is available on archive.org.

The Saga of the Greenlanders

Chapter 1

A brief history of Eric the Red

There was a man named Thorvald, a son of Osvald, Ulfs son, Eyxna-Thori’s son. Thorvald and Eric the Red, his son, left Jaeren on account of manslaughter, and went to Iceland. At that time Iceland was extensively colonised. They first lived at Drangar on Horn-strands, and there Thorvald died. Eric then married Thorhild, the daughter of Jorund and Thorbiorg Ship-chest, who was then married to Thorbiorn of the Haukadal family. Eric then removed from the north, and made his home at Ericsstadir by Vatnshorn. Eric and Thorhild’s son was called Leif. After the killing of Eyiulf the Foul, and Duelling-Hrafn, Eric was banished from Haukadal, and went westward to Breidafjord, settling in Oxney at Ericsstadir. He loaned his bedstead-boards to Thorgest, and could not get these again when he demanded them. This gave rise to broils and battles between himself and Thorgest, as the Saga of Eric the Red relates. Eric was backed in the dispute by Styr Thorgrimsson, Eyiulf of Sviney, the sons of Brand of Alftafjord and Thorbiorn Vifilsson, while the Thorgesters were upheld by the sons of Thord the Yeller and Thorgeir of Hitardal. Eric was declared an outlaw at the assembly at Thorsnes.

He thereupon equipped his ship for a voyage, in Ericsvag, and when he was ready to sail, Styr and the others accompanied him out beyond the islands. Eric told them that it was his purpose to go in search of that country which Gunnbiorn, son of Ulf the Crow, had seen, when he was driven westward across the main at the time when he discovered Gunnbiorn-skerries; he added that he would return to his friends if he should succeed in finding this country. Eric sailed out from Snaefellsjokull glacier and found the land. He gave the name of Midiokul to his landfall; this is now called Blacksark. From there he proceeded southward along the coast, in search of habitable land. He passed the first winter at Ericsey, near the middle of the Eastern-settlement, and the following spring he went to Ericsfjord, where he selected a dwelling-place. In the summer he visited the western uninhabited country, and assigned names to many of the localities. The second winter he remained at Holmar by Hrafnsgnipa and the third summer he sailed northward to Snaefell, and all the way into Hrafnsfjord; then he said he had reached the head of Ericsfjord. He then returned and passed the third winter in Ericsey at the mouth of Ericsfjord. 

The next summer he sailed to Iceland, landing in Breidafjord. He called the country that he had discovered Greenland, because, he said, people would be attracted there if the country had

a good name. Eric spent the winter in Iceland, and the following summer set out to colonise the country. He settled at Brattahlid in Ericsfjord, and learned men say that in this same summer in which Eric set out to settle Greenland, thirty-five ships sailed out of Breidafjord and Borgarfjord; fourteen of these arrived there safely, some were driven back and some were lost. This was fifteen years before Christianity was legally adopted in Iceland. During the same summer Bishop Frederick and Thorvald Kodransson went abroad [from Iceland]. Of those men, who accompanied Eric to Greenland, the following took land there: Heriulf, Heriulfsfjord, he dwelt at Heriulfsness; Ketil, Ketilsfjord; Hrafn, Hrafnsfjord; Solvi, Solvadal; Helgi Thorbrandsson, Altafjord; Thorbiorn Gleamer, Siglufjord; Einar, Einarsfjord; Hafgrim, Hafgrimsfjord and Vatnahverfi; Arnlaug, Arnlaugsfjord; while some went to the Western-settlement.

Chapter 2

Leif the Lucky baptised

When sixteen winters had lapsed from the time when Eric the Red went to colonise Greenland, Leif, Eric’s son, sailed from Greenland to Norway. He arrived in Trondheim in the autumn, when King Olaf Tryggvason had come from the north out of Halogaland. Leif sailed to Nidaros and set out at once to visit the king. King Olaf expounded the faith to him, as he did to other heathen men who came to visit him. It proved easy for the king to persuade Leif and he was accordingly baptised together with all of his shipmates. Leif remained throughout the winter with the king, and he received excellent hospitality.

Chapter 3

Bjarni goes in quest of Greenland

Heriulf was a son of Bard Heriulfsson. He was a kinsman of Ingolf, the first colonist [of Iceland]. Ingolf gave land to Heriulf between Vag and Reykianess, and at first, he farmed at Drepstokk. Heriulf ‘s wife’s name was Thorgerd, and their son, whose name was Biarni, was a most promising man. He longed to travel while he was still young, and he prospered both in property and public esteem. It was his custom to pass his winters alternately abroad and with his father. Biarni soon became the owner of a trading-ship, and during the last winter that he spent in Norway, [his father] Heriulf decided to accompany Eric on his voyage to Greenland, and made his preparations to give up his farm. Upon the ship with Heriulf was a Christian man from the Hebrides, it was he who composed the Sea-Rollers’ Song, which contains this verse:

Mine adventure to the Meek One,

Monk-tester, I commit now;

He, who heaven’s halls governs,

Hold the hawk’s-seat ever over me.

Heriolf settled at Heriolfsnes and was a most distinguished man. Eric the Red dwelt at Brattahlid, where he was held in the highest esteem, and all men deferred to him. These were Eric’s children: Leif, Thorvald, and Thorstein, and a daughter whose name was Freydis; she was wedded to a man named Thorvard, and they dwelt at Gardar, where the episcopal seat is now. She was a very haughty woman, while Thorvard was a man of weak character, and Freydis had been wedded to him chiefly because of his wealth. At that time the people of Greenland were heathen.

Biarni arrived with his ship at Eyrar [in Iceland] in the summer of the same year, in the spring of which his father had sailed away. Biarni was much surprised when he heard this news and would not discharge his cargo. His shipmates asked him what he intended to do, and he replied that it was his purpose to keep to his custom, and spend the winter with his father, ‘and I will take the ship to Greenland if you will join me.’ They all replied that they would abide by his decision. Then said Biarni, ‘Our voyage must be regarded as foolhardy, seeing that no one of us has ever been in the Greenland Sea.’ Nevertheless they put out to sea when they were prepared for the voyage and sailed for three days until the land was hidden by the water. Then the fair wind died out, and north winds arose, and fogs, and they knew not where they were drifting, and this lasted for many days. Then they saw the sun again, and were able to get their bearings; they hoisted sail, and sailed that day through until they saw land. They discussed among themselves what land it could be, and Biarni said that he did not believe that it could be Greenland. They asked whether he wished to sail to this land or not. He said, ‘My advice is that we sail close to the land.’ They did so, and soon saw that the land was level, and covered with woods, and that it had small hills. They left the land portside, and let the sheet turn toward the land.

They sailed for two days before they saw another land. They asked whether Biarni thought this was Greenland yet. He replied that he did not think this any more like Greenland than the former, ‘because in Greenland there are said to be many large glaciers.’ They soon approached this land, and saw that it was flat and wooded. The fair wind failed them then, and the crew took counsel together, and concluded that it would be wise to land there, but Biarni would not agree to this. They alleged that they were in need of both wood and water. ‘You have no lack of either of these,’ says Biarni, but he was somewhat resented for this. He asked them to hoist sail, which they did, turning the prow from the land. They sailed out upon the high seas with southwesterly gales for three days when they saw the third land; this land was high and mountainous, with glaciers upon it. They asked Biarni then whether he would land there, and he replied that he did not wish to do so because this land does not appear to me to offer any attractions.’ This time they did not lower their sail but held their course off the land and saw that it was an island. They left this land behind and held out to sea with the same fair wind. The wind grew and Biarni directed them to lower the sail, and not to go at a faster speed than what their ship and rigging could withstand. They sailed now for four days, at which point they saw the fourth land. Again they asked Biarni whether he thought this could be Greenland or not. Biarni answers, ‘This is the most like Greenland according to that which has been reported to me about it, and here we will steer to the land.’ They directed their course there and landed in the evening along a headland, upon which there was a boat. There, upon this headland, Heriulf, Biarni’s father, lived, and the point took its name from him and was afterwards called Heriulfs-point. Biarni now went to his father, gave up his voyaging, and remained with his father while Heriulf lived, and continued to live there after his father.

Chapter 4

Here begins the brief history of the Greenlanders

Next to this is now to be told how Biarni Heriulfsson sailed from Greenland on a visit to Earl Eric, who received him well. Biarni gave an account of his travels [upon the occasion] when he saw the lands, and people thought that he had been lacking in enterprise, since he had no report to give concerning these countries, and he was disparaged somewhat for this. 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 assembled a crew until they formed a company of thirty-five men. Leif invited his father, Eric, to become the leader of the expedition, but Eric declined, saying that he was getting old, 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 likely to bring good luck, and Eric yielded to Leif’s urgings and rode from home when they were ready to sail. When he was but a short distance from the ship, Eric’s horse stumbled, and he was thrown from his back and wounded his foot. At this he exclaimed, “It is not my destiny 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 went his way to the ship with his companions, thirty-five men; one of the company was a German named Tyrker.

They put the ship in order and when they were ready, they sailed out to sea and first found the land which Biarni and his ship-mates found last. They sailed up to the land and cast anchor, and launched a boat and went ashore, and saw no grass there; great glaciers lay inland back from the sea, and it was as as if the land were stone slabs all the way from the sea to the ice glaciers, and the country seemed to them to be entirely devoid of good qualities. Then said Leif, ‘It is not the same with us as Bjarni regarding this land, that we have not gone upon it. To this country I will now give a name, and call it Helluland’. 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. Then said Leif, ‘This land shall have a name after its nature, and we will call it Markland.’ They returned to the ship and sailed away upon the main with north-east winds, and were out two days before they sighted land. They sailed toward this land, and came to an island which lay to the north of 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 headed west past the cape. When the tide went out, there were broad reaches of shallow water there, and they stranded their ship there, and it was a long distance from the ship to the ocean; yet were they so anxious to go ashore that they could not wait until the tide should rise under their ship but hurried 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. Next, they decided to establish themselves there for the winter and 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 seemed to be possessed of such good qualities that cattle would need no fodder during the winters. There was no frost there in the winters, and the grass withered very 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 mid-morning and mid-afternoon. When they had completed their house, Leif said to his companions, ‘ I propose now to divide our company into two groups, and to go explore the country; one half of our party will remain at home at the house, while the other half will 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 strong man, and of a most impressive appearance, a man of wisdom and a moderate man in all things.

Chapter 5

Leif the Lucky finds eight men upon a skerry at sea

It was discovered one evening that one of their company, Tyrker, the German, was missing. Leif was troubled by this, because Tyrker had lived with Leif and his father 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 only proceeded a short distance from the house,when they were met by Tyrker, and he was welcomed with great joy. Leif observed at once that his foster-father was in lively spirits. Tyrker had a prominent forehead, restless eyes, small features, was short in stature, and a frail-looking man, but he was a most skilled craftsman. Leif asked him: ‘Why are you so late, foster-father, and separated from the others?’ At first, 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 Norse: ‘I did not go much further [than you] but I have news to relate. I have found vines and grapes.’ ‘Is this true, foster-father?’ said Leif. ‘I’m certain,’ he said, ‘because I was born where there is no lack of either grapes or vines.’ They slept through the night and the next day, Leif said to his shipmates: ‘We will now divide our labours, and each day we’ll either gather grapes or cut vines and fell trees, in order to obtain a cargo of these for my ship.’ They acted upon this advice, and it is said that the boat they dragged behind the ship 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 Vinland.

They sailed out to sea and had fair winds until they sighted Greenland, and the mountains below the glaciers, then one of the men spoke up, and said, ‘Why do you steer the ship so much into the wind?’ Leif answered: ‘I have my mind upon my steering, but on other matters as well. Do you not see anything out of the common?’ They replied that they saw nothing strange. ‘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 make out men upon the skerry. ‘I think it best to tack,’ says Leif, ‘so that we may reach them, that we may be able to help them, if they need of it; and if they are not peaceful, we will still have better command of the situation than they do.’ 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 was Thorir, and that he was a Norseman; ‘but what is your name?’ Leif gave his name. ‘Are you 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 as much of your possessions as the ship will hold.’ This offer was accepted, and having loaded the ship, they set off to Ericsfjord and sailed until they arrived at Brattahlid. After discharging the cargo, Leif invited Thorir, 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 a large supply of both 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 Vinland journey, and his brother, Thorvald, maintained that the country had not been sufficiently explored. Thereupon Leif said to Thorvald: ‘Brother, if you want, you may go to Vinland with my ship, but I want the ship first to get the wood which Thori had upon the skerry.’ And so it was done.

Chapter 6

Thorvald goes to Vinland

Now Thorvald consulted his brother Leif and then prepared to make this voyage with thirty men. They prepared their ship and sailed out to sea; and there is no account of their voyage before their arrival at Leif’s camp in Vinland. They laid up their ship and remained there peacefully 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] surrounding them 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 animals; but in one of the westerly islands they found a wooden building for the shelter of grain. They found no other trace of human hands, and they turned back, and arrived at Leif’s camp in the autumn.

The following summer, Thorvald sailed out toward the east 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 had to remain there for a long time to 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 Keel-point,’ and so they did. Then they sailed away to the east off the land and into the mouth of the adjoining fjord, and to a headland which projected into the sea there, and which was entirely covered with woods. They dropped anchor and put out the gangway to the land, and Thorvald and all of his companions went ashore. ‘It is a fair region here,’ he said, ‘and here I should like to make my home.’ They then returned to the ship, and discovered three mounds on the sands in beyond the headland; they went up to these and saw that they were three hide-canoes, with three men under each one. Subsequently, they divided their party and succeeded in seizing all of the men except one, who escaped with his canoe. They killed the eight men and then ascended the headland again, and looked around them, and discovered within the fjord certain hills, which they concluded must be habitations. They were then so overpowered with tiredness that they could not keep awake, and all fell into a [heavy] sleep, from which they were awakened by the sound of a cry uttered above them; and the words of the cry were these: ‘Awake, Thorvald, you and all your company, if you want to save your life; and board your ship with all your men, and sail from the land as fast as you can.’ A great number of canoes then advanced toward them from the inner part of the fjord, whereupon Thorvald exclaimed: ‘We must set up breastworks on both sides of the ship and defend ourselves as best we can, but fight back as little as possible.’ They did this, and after the Skrellings had shot at them for a time, they fled quickly, each as best he could. Thorvald then asked his men whether any of them had been wounded, and they informed him that none of them had received a wound. ‘I have been wounded in my arm-pit,’ he says; ‘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. I advise you now to go back as fast as you can. But me you will convey to that headland which seemed to me to offer so pleasant a dwelling-place; in that way what I said can become true, when I expressed the wish to stay there for a while. Bury me there and place a cross at my head and another at my feet, and call it Cross-point for ever after.’

At that time Christianity had been accepted 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. They remained there during the winter and gathered grapes and wood with which to freight the ship. The following spring, they returned to Greenland, and arrived with their ship in Ericsfjord, where they were able to recount great tidings to Leif.

Chapter 7

Thorstein Ericsson dies in the Western Settlement

In the meantime it had come to pass in Greenland that Thorstein of Ericsfjord had married Gudrid, Thorbiorn’s daughter, [she] who had been the wife of Thori Eastman, as has been already related. Now Thorstein Ericsson, intending to make the voyage to Vinland after the body of his brother, Thorvald, equipped the same ship, and selected a crew of twenty-five men of good size and strength, and taking with him his wife, Gudrid. When everything was ready, they sailed out into the open ocean, and out of sight of land. They were driven here and there over the sea all that summer, and lost all reckoning, and at the end of the first week of winter they made land at Lysufjord 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. At this time Christianity was still in its infancy in Greenland. It happened early one morning that men came to their tent, and the leader inquired who the people were within the tent. Thorstein replies: ‘We are two,’ says he; ‘but who is it who asks?’ ‘My name is Thorstein, and I am known as Thorstein the Black, and my errand here is to offer you two, husband and wife, a home with me.’ Thorstein replied that he would consult with his wife, and when she told him to decide, he accepted the invitation.’ I will come after you next morning with a packhorse, for I am not lacking in means to provide for you both. It will be lonely living with me since there are only two of us, my wife and myself, becaue I am a very hard man to get on with; moreover, my faith is not the same as yours, but I think yours is the better one.’ He returned for them the next day with the horse and they took up their home with Thorstein the Black, 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 had coffins made for the bodies of the dead and had them conveyed to the ship, and bestowed there; ‘for it is my plan to have all the bodies taken to Ericsfjord in the summer.’ It was not long before illness appeared in Thorstein’s home and his wife, whose name was Grimhild, was first taken sick. She was a very vigorous woman, and 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 Black’s wife, died, and when she was dead Thorstein went out of the room to procure a plank upon which to lay the corpse. Then Gudrid spoke. ‘Do not stay away for long, my Thorstein’ says she. He replied that it should be so. Thorstein Ericsson then exclaimed: ‘Our lady of the house is acting now in a strange way: 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 and at that, every timber in the room creaked. Thorstein now fashioned a coffin for Grimhild’s body and carried it away, and arranged the body. He was a big man and strong, but he needed all [his strength] before he could remove the corpse from the house.

Thorstein Ericsson’s health worsened and he died. 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 on which her husband, Thorstein, was lying. Thorstein, the master of the house, then took Gudrid in his arms, [carried her] from the chair, and seated himself, with her, upon another bench, over against her husband’s body, and tried very hard to console and reassure her, and promised her that he would accompany her to Ericsfjord with the body of her husband, Thorstein, and those of his companions: ‘I will also ask servants to come here,’ says he, ‘to attend you and entertain you.’ She thanked him. Then Thorstein Ericsson sat up, and exclaimed: ‘Where is Gudrid?’ Three times he repeated the question but Gudrid made no response. She then asked Thorstein, the master, ‘Shall I answer his question, or not?’ Thorstein, the master, asked her to make no reply, and he then crossed the floor and seated himself upon the chair, with Gudrid in his lap, and spoke, saying: ‘What do you wish, namesake?’ After a little while, Thorstein replies:’I desire to tell Gudrid of the fate which is in store for her so she may be better reconciled to my death, for I have indeed arrived at a wonderful resting-place. I tell you, Gudrid, that you will marry an Icelander, and will have a long life together, and many and noble descendants, illustrious, and famous, sweetly smelling and virtuous. You shall go from Greenland to Norway, and from there to Iceland, where you shall build your home. There you shall dwell together for a long time, but you shall outlive him, and will then go abroad and to the South, and shall return to Iceland again, to your home, and there a church shall then be raised, and you shall live there and take the veil, and there you shall die.’ When he had thus spoken, Thorstein sank back again, and his body was laid out for burial, and carried 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 Ericsfjord. The bodies of the dead were now buried at the church, and Gudrid then went home to Leif at Brattahlid, while Thorstein the Black made a home for himself on Ericsfjord and remained there as long as he lived, and was considered a very superior man.

Chapter 8

Of the Vinland voyages of Thorfinn and his companions

That same summer a ship came from Norway to Greenland. The skipper’s name was Thorfinn Karlsefni; he was a son of Thord Horsehead, and a grandson of Snorri, the son of Thord of Hofdi. 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 Vinland voyage, and people urged Karlsefni to make the venture, both Gudrid and others. He determined to undertake the voyage and assembled a company of sixty men and five women. He entered into an agreement with his shipmates that they should each share equally in all the spoils of the enterprise. They took with them all kinds of cattle as it was their intention to settle the land

if they could. Karlsefni asked Leif for the house in Vinland, and he replied that he would lend it but not give it. They sailed out to sea with the ship, arrived safe and sound at Leif’s booths, and carried their hammocks ashore there. They soon acquired an abundant and good supply of food, for a large and excellent whale was beached there, and they went to it and cut it, and then they had no lack of provisions. The cattle were turned out upon the land, and the males soon became very restless and vicious. They had brought a bull with them. Karlsefni had trees felled and hewed into timbers for his ship and the wood was placed upon a cliff to dry. They enjoyed the land’s bounties, both grapes and all kinds of game and fish and other good things. 

In the summer following the first winter, Skrellings were discovered. A great troop of men came out of the woods. The cattle were hard by, and the bull began to bellow and roar with a great noise, which made the Skrellings frightened, and they ran away carrying their packs, which contained furs, sables and all kinds of pelts. They fled towards Karlsefni’s dwelling and tried to enter the house but Karlsefni had the doors defended. Neither [people] could understand the other’s language. Next, the Skrellings put down their bundles and loosed them, and offered their wares [for barter], and they were especially interested in exchanging these for weapons but Karlsefni forbade his men to sell their weapons. And he decided on the following course, that he asked the women to carry out milk to the Skrellings, and they no sooner saw it 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 pelts behind with Karlsefni and his companions, and after this, they went away. Now it is to be told that Karlsefni had a strong wooden palisade 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 they were now much more numerous than before and brought with them the same items as at first. Then said Karlsefni to the women: ‘Now carry out the food that proved so profitable before but nothing else.’ When they saw this they cast their packs in over the palisade. Gudrid was sitting inside, in the doorway, beside the cradle of her infant son, Snorri, when a shadow fell upon the door, and a woman in a black garment entered. She was short in stature, and wore a shawl over her head; her hair was light red-brown. She was pale and her eyes were so large that never before had eyes of that size been seen in a human head. She went up to where Gudrid was seated, and said: ‘What is your name?’ My name is Gudrid; but what is your name?’ ‘My name is Gudrid,’ says she. The mistress of the house, 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, upon which the woman vanished, and at that same moment one of the Skrellings, who had tried to seize their weapons, was killed by one of Karlsefni’s followers. At this the Skrellings quickly fled, leaving their garments and trade goods behind them; and no one except Gudrid had seen this woman. ‘Now we must confer,’ says Karlsefni, ‘because I believe they will visit us a third time in great numbers and attack us. Let’s adopt this plan: ten of us shall go out on the cape and let themselves be seen there, while the rest of us will go into the woods and hew a clearing for our cattle for when the troop approaches from the forest. We will also take our bull and let him go at the head of our group into battle.’

The lie of the land was so at the proposed meeting-place that the lake was on the one side and the forest upon the other. Karlsefni’s plan was now carried out. 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, tall and impressive, whom Karlsefni concluded must be their chief. One of the Skrellings picked up an axe and looked at it for a time, and he brandished it toward one of his companions and hit him, and instantly the man dropped dead. Then 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 into the woods as quickly as they could go, and that was the end of their dealings. Karlsefni and his party remained there throughout the winter, but in the spring Karlsefni announces that he does not want to remain there longer and will return to Greenland. They now made ready for the voyage and carried away with them many goods, vines and grapes and pelts. They sailed out upon the high seas and brought their ship safely to Ericsfjord, where they remained during the winter.

Chapter 9

Freydis has the brothers put to death

There was now much talk again about a Vinland voyage, for this enterprise was considered profitable both for money and esteem. The same summer that Karlsefni arrived from Vinland, 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-fjords. It now happened 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 Vinland, and to share with her equally all of the good things which they might succeed in obtaining there. To this they agreed, and she left from there to visit her brother, Leif, and ask him to give her the house which he had had built in Vinland. but he gave her the same answer [as that which he had given Karlsefni], saying that he would lend the house but not give it. It was agreed between Karlsefni and Freydis that each should have on ship-board thirty able-bodied men, besides the women; but Freydis immediately violated this agreement by concealing five men more [than this number], and the brothers did not discover this before they arrived in Vinland.

They now put out to sea, having agreed in advance that they would sail in company, if possible, and although they were not far apart from each other, the brothers arrived somewhat before the other ship and carried their belongings up to Leif’s house. Now when Freydis arrived, her ship was unloaded and the provisions were carried up to the house. Then Freydis exclaimed: ‘Why did you carry your baggage in here?’ ‘Because we believed,’ they said, ‘that all promises made to us would be kept.’ ‘Leif lent the house to me,’ she says, ‘and not to you.’ Helgi exclaimed: ‘We brothers cannot hope to rival you in wrong-dealing.’ They now carried their baggage out and built a hut near the sea, on the bank of the lake, and put everything in order; while Freydis had trees felled to load her ship. The winter now set in and the brothers suggested that they should amuse themselves by playing games. They did that for a time until people began to disagree. Squabbles 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 rose from her bed and dressed herself, but did not put on her shoes. A heavy dew had fallen 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 by one of the men, who had gone out shortly 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 do you want here, Freydis?’ She answers: ‘I want you to rise and go out with me, because I want to speak with you.’ He did so, and they walked to a tree that lay close by the wall of the house and seated themselves upon it. ‘How do you like it here?’ she says. He answers: ‘I am very pleased with the fruitfulness of the land but I am ill-content with the breach between us because there has been no cause for it.’ ‘It is as you say,’ she says, ‘and so it seems to me; but my errand to you is that I wish to exchange ships with you brothers, as you have a larger ship than I do, and I want to depart from here.’ ‘To this I will agree,’ says he, ‘if it is your wish.’ With that 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 emotion: ‘I have been to the brothers,’ she says, ‘to try to buy their ship as I wished to have a larger vessel, but they received my offers so badly that they struck me, and handled me very roughly; but you, you wretch, will neither avenge my dishonour nor your own, and I will be able to tell that I am no longer in Greenland and I shall part from you unless you exact vengeance for this.’ And at this point, he could stand her taunts no longer and ordered the men to rise at once and take their weapons, and this they did. Then they went directly to the house of the brothers and entered it while the people were asleep, and seized and bound them, and led each one out, when he was bound; and as they came out, Freydis had each one killed. In this way all of the men were put to death and only the women were left, and no one would kill them. Then Freydis exclaimed: ‘Hand me an axe!’ This was done, and she went towards the five women and slay them. They returned to their house after this wicked deed and it was apparent that Freydis was well content with her work. She addressed her companions, saying: ‘If it is ordained for us to come to Greenland, I shall kill any man who speaks of these events. We will say that they were alive when we left.’

Early in the spring, they equipped the ship that had belonged to the brothers and freighted it with all the products of the land that they could obtain, and which the ship would carry. Then they put out to sea, and after a prosperous voyage, arrived in Ericsfjord 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 better outfitted than his never left Greenland.

Chapter 10

Concerning Freydis

Freydis now went to her home since it had remained unscathed during her absence. She gave generous gifts to all her companions because she was anxious to conceal her crimes. She now established herself at her home. However, her companions were not all so tight-lipped concerning their misdeeds and wickedness that rumours did not begin to circulate eventually. These finally reached her brother, Leif, and he thought it a most shameful story. He took three of the men who had been in Freydis’s crew and forced them all at the same time to a confession of the affair, and their stories entirely agreed. ‘I have interest,’ says Leif, ‘to punish my sister, Freydis, as she deserves but I predict that there is little prosperity in store for their descendants.’ Hence it came to pass that no one from that time forward thought them worthy of anything 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 and arrived in Norway safe and sound. He remained there during the winter and sold his stock, 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, a native of Bremen in the Saxonland, who wished to buy his carved prow decoration. ‘ I do not wish to sell it,’ said he. ‘I will give you half a mark in gold for it’, says the Southerner. This Karlsefni thought a good offer, and accordingly closed the bargain. The Southerner went his way, with the prow decoration and Karlsefni knew not what wood it was, but it was maple which had been brought from Vinland. Karlsefni sailed away and arrived with his ship in the north of Iceland, in Skagafjord. His vessel was drawn ashore there during the winter, and in the spring he bought land at Glaumbaer 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 illustrious lineage is descended. 

After Karlsefni’s death, Gudrid took over the running of the farm with her son, Snorri, who was born in Vinland; and when Snorri was married, Gudrid went abroad and made a pilgrimage to the South, after which she returned again to the home of her son, Snorri, who had a church built at Glaumbaer. Gudrid then took the veil and became an anchorite, and lived there for 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 many descendants; and of all men, Karlsefni has given the most exact accounts of all these voyages, of which something has now been recounted.