Eiriks Saga

Eiriks Saga - THE VINLAND SAGAS The Norse Discovery of...

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Unformatted text preview: THE VINLAND SAGAS The Norse Discovery of America GR/ENLENDINGA SAGA AND EIRIK’S SAGA TRANSLATBD WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MAGNUS MAGNUSSON AND HERMANN PALSSON PENGUIN BOOKS / 4&5“ ElRIK'S SAGA proposal on Einar’s behalf, and said that the match would be a very suitable one for a number of reasons: ‘It could be a great asset to you, Thorbjorn, because of the money involved,’ he said. Thorbjom replied, ‘I never expected to hear such a suggestion from you — that I should marry my daughter to the son of a slave! My lack of money must be very obvious to you! And since you thought her worthy of such a meagre match, she shall not go back with you to your home.’ Orm and all the other guests went home; but Gudrid re- mained behind and stayed with her father that winter. In the spring Thorbjorn again held a lavish feast for his friends; there were many people present, and the feast went very well. During it Thorbjom asked for a hearing, and said, ‘I have spent a long life here; I have enjoyed the favour and friendship of others, and I can say that we have always got on well together. ‘But now I find myself in financial difficulties. This home of mine has hitherto never been considered a humble one, and I would now rather abandon my farm than forfeit my dignity, rather leave the country than disgrace my kinsmen. I have decided to take up the offer that my friend Eirik the Red made to me when we took leave of one another in Breidafjord; I intend to go to Greenland this summer, if I can have my way.’ This decision came as a shock to everyone, for Thorbjorn had always been well liked. But they. realized that since he had announced it like this there would be no point in trying to dissuade him. After that, Thorbjorn gave gifts to his guests; the feast was over, and everyone'went back home. Thorbjorn sold up his lands and bought a ship which was lying in Hraunhafnar Estuary. Thirty people decided to go with him to Greenland; among them were Orm of Arnarstapi and his wife, and others of Thorbjorn’s friends who did not want to part from him. ‘They set sail and had good weather to start with, but When they reached open sea the favourable wind failed them; they ran into severe storms and could make little headway all sum- 80 GUDRID IS TOLD HER FUTURE mer. Then disease broke out on board and half the crew, in- cluding Orm and his wife Halldis, died. The seas worsened, and they suffered terribly from exposure and other hardships. Fin— ally they made land at Herjolfsness, right at the beginning of wmter. The farmer at Herjolfsness was a capable and worthy man called Thorkel.1 He invited 'Ihorbjorn and all his crew to stay for the whole winter, and treated them with great hospitality. Thorbjorn and all his crew liked it there. 4- . Gudrid is told her future At that time there was severe famine in Greenland. Those who had gone out on hunting expeditions had had little success. and some had never come back. There was a woman in the settlement who was called Thor- bjorg; she was a prophetess, and was knOWn as the Little Sybil. She had had nine sisters,z but she was the only one left alive. It was her custom in winter to attend feasts; she was always invited, in particular, by those who were most curious about their own fortunes or the season’s prospects. Since Thorkel of Herjolfsness was the chief farmer in the district, it was thought to be his responsibility to find out when the current hardships would come to an end. Thorkel invited the prophetess to his house and prepared a good reception for her, as was the custom when such women were being received. A high-seat was made ready for her with a cushion on it, which had to be stuffed with hens’ feathers. She arrived in the evening with the man who had been sent to escort her. She was dressed like this: she wore a blue mantle fastened with straps and adorned with stones all the way down I. According to Landndmabék the farmer at Herjolfsness at this time was Herjolf Bardarson. Greenlendinga Saga (Chapter 2) describes Herjolf's emigration from Iceland to Greenland, and says that his son Bjarni farmed at Herjolfsness afterwards. 2. H adds: and they had all been prophetesses. 81 EiRiK’s SAGA . to the hem. She had a necklace of glass beads. On her head she wore a black lambskin hood lined with white cat’s-fur. She carried a staff with a brass-bound knob studded with stones. She wore a belt made of touchwood, from which hung a large pouch, and in this she kept the charms she needed for her witchcraft. On her feet were hairy calfskin shoes with long thick laces which had large tin buttons on the ends. She wore catskin gloves, with the white fur inside. When she entered the room everyone felt obliged to proffer respectful greetings, to which she responded according to her opinion of each person. Thorkel took her by the hand and led her to the seat which had been prepared for her. He asked her to cast her eyes over his home and household and herds; she had little to say about anything. Later that evening the tables were set up; and this is what the prophetess had for her meal: she was given a gruel made from goat’s milk, and a main dish of hearts from the various kinds of animals that were available there. She used a brass spoon, and a knife with a walrus—tusk handle bound with two rings of copper; the blade had a broken point. When the tables had been removed, Thorkel went over to Thorbjorg and asked her how she liked his home and people’s behaviour there, and how soon she would know the answer to his question which everyone wanted to learn. She replied that she would not give any answer until the following morning, when she had slept there overnight first. Late next day she was supplied with the preparations she required for performing the witchcraft. She asked for the assist- ance of women who knew the spells needed for performing the witchcraft, known as Warlock-songs; but there were no such women available. So inquiries were then made amongst all the people on the farm, to see if anyone knew the songs. Then Gudrid said, ‘I am neither a sorceress nor a witch, but when I was in Iceland my foster-mother Halldis taught me spells which she called Warlock-songs.’ Thorbjorg said, ‘Then your knowledge is timely.’ ‘This is the sort of knowledge and ceremony that i want nothing to do with,’ said Gudrid, ‘for I am a Christian.’ 82 GUDRID IS TOLD HER FUTURE ‘It may well be,’ said Thorbjorg, ‘that you could be of help to others over this, and not be any the worse a woman for that. But I shall leave it to Thorkel to provide whatever is required.’ So Thorkel now brought pressure on Gudrid, and she con- sented to do as he wished. The women formed a circle round the ritual platform on which Thorbjorg seated herself. Then Gudrid sang the songs so well and beautifully that those present were sure they had never heard lovelier singing. The prophetess thanked her for the song. ‘Many spirits are now present,’ she said, ‘which were charmed to hear the singing, and which previously had tried to shun us and would grant us no obedience. And now many things stand revealed to me which before were hidden both from me and from others. ‘I can now say that this famine will not last much longer, and that conditions will improve with the spring; and the epi- demic which has persisted for so long will abate sooner than expected. ‘ ‘And as for you, Gudrid, I shall reward you at once for the help you have given us, for I can see your whole destiny with great clarity now. You will make a most distinguished marriage here in Greenland, but it will not last for long, for your paths all lead to iceland; there you will start a great and eminent family line, and over your progeny there shall shine a bright light. And now farewell, my daughter.’ Then everyone went over to the prophetess, each asking her whatever he was most curious to know. She answered them readily, and there were few things that did not turn out as she prophesied. After this a messenger arrived for her from a neighbouring farm and she went there with him. Then Thorbjorn was sent for: he had refused to remain in the house while such pagan practices were being performed. The weather quickly improved as spring approached, just as Thorbjorg had foretold. Thorbjom made his ship ready and sailed off to Brattahlid, where Eirik the Red welcomed him with 83 EIRIK’S SAGA open arms and said that it was good to have him there. Thor- bjorn and his family stayed with Eirik the following winter. Next spring Eirik gave Thorbjorn land at Stokkaness; Thor- bjorn built a good house there, and lived there from then on. 5 Leif discovers Vinland Eirik was married to a woman called Thjodhild, and had two sons,1 Thorstein and Leif; they were both promising young men. Thorstein stayed at home with his father, and no one in Greenland at that time was considered so promising. Leif had sailed to Norway, where he stayed with King Olaf Tryggvason. But when he had set sail from Greenland in the summer, his ship was driven off course to the Hebrides. He and his men stayed most of the summer there while they were waiting for favourable winds. Leif fell in love there with a woman called Thorgunna; she was of noble birth, and Leif came to realize that she was a woman of unusual knowledge. When he was about to depart, Thorgunna asked if she could go with him. Leif asked if her kinsmen approved of that; she said she did not care. Leif said he did not think it advisable for him to abduct so well-born a woman in a foreign country -— ‘for there are so few of us.’ ‘I am not sure that you will prefer the alternative,’ said Thorgunna. ‘I shall take that risk,’ replied Leif. -‘Then I must tell you,’ said Thorgunna, ‘that I am with child, and that you are responsible for the baby I am expecting. I have a premonition that I shall give birth to a son when the time comes; and even though you refuse to let it concern you, I intend to bring the boy up and send him to you in Greenland as soon as he can travel with others. I have the feeling that you will not enjoy having a son by me any more than our 1. H adds: by her. Cf. Chapters 8 and 12, where a third son, Thorvald, is mentioned: he was perhaps illegitimate, like Freydis (Chapter 8, p. 93, note 5); 84 LEIF DISCOVERS VINLAND parting now warrants; and I intend to come to Greenland myself in the end.’ Leif gave her a gold ring and a Greenland mantle of home- spun cloth and a belt of walrus ivory. The boy, who was named Thorgils, later arrived in Greenland, and Leif acknowledged him as his son; according to some people this Thorgils came to Iceland the summer before the Frodriver Marvels.l Thorgils then went to Greenland, and there seemed to be something uncanny about him all his life. Leif and his men sailed from the Hebrides and reached Nor- way in the autumn. He joined the court of King Olaf Tryggva— son, who bestowed great honour on him and thought him a very accomplished man. On one occasion the king had a talk with Leif and said, ‘Are you intending to sail to Greenland this summer?’ ‘Yes,’ replied Leif, ‘if you approve.’ ‘I think it would be a good idea,’ said the king. ‘You are to go there with a mission from me, to preach Christianity in Greenland.’ Leif said that it was for the king to command, but added that in his opinion this mission would be difficult to accomplish in Greenland. The king replied that he could think of no one better fitted for it than him - ‘and your good luck will see you through.’ ‘That will only be,’ replied Leif, ‘if I have the benefit of yours too.’ Leif set sail when he was ready; he ran into prolonged difficulties at sea, and finally came upon lands whose existence I. These supernatural events, which took place in moo—t, are most dramatically described in Eyrbyggia Saga, Chapters 50—5. A ‘Hebridean woman called Thorgunna’, skilled in magic, came to the farm at Frodriver, in Snaefellsness; and after her death there was a grim series of hauntings, apparitions, omens, and tragic deaths, before the evil was exorcized. This reference in Eirik's Saga is incompatible with the Eyrbyggja Saga account. Leif’s alleged mission to Greenland would have taken place in 1000, if it is to be reconciled with other Icelandic sources; but the Thorgunna of Eyrbyggia Saga was said to be in her fifties when she came to Frodriver in that year. 85 ...
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This note was uploaded on 05/11/2010 for the course SCAN 3202 taught by Professor Sands,trac during the Spring '08 term at Colorado.

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Eiriks Saga - THE VINLAND SAGAS The Norse Discovery of...

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