Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Eirik the Red's Saga



JANUARY 12TH, 1880,




1. How Vifil, Gudrid's grandfather, came to Iceland.

2. Of Eirik the Red, and his discovery of Greenland.

3. Gudrid's parentage, and the emigration of her father, Thorbjorn,
and his family to Greenland.

4. Eirik's family, and his son Leif's discovery of Vinland.

5. Gudrid marries Thorstein, son of Eirik the Red. [Sickness and
death of Thorstein.]

6. Gudrid marries Karlsefni.

7. Karlsefni's expedition to Vinland. The first winter is passed at

8. Fate of Thorhall the Sportsman.

9. The second winter is passed at Hop.

10. Dealings with the Skroelingar.

11. Fight with the Skroelingar.

12. Return to Straumsfjordr.

13. The slaying of Thorvald by a One-footer. The colonists return
to Greenland after passing the third winter at Straumsfjordr.

14. Heroic magnanimity and fate of Bjarni.

15. Gudrid's descendants.

[Olaf, who was called Olaf the White, was styled a warrior king. He
was the son of King Ingjald, the son of Helgi, the son of Olaf, the
son of Gudred, the son of Halfdan Whiteleg, king of the Uplands (in
Norway). He led a harrying expedition of sea-rovers into the west, and
conquered Dublin, in Ireland, and Dublinshire, over which he made
himself king. He married Aud the Deep-minded, daughter of Ketil
Flatnose, son of Bjorn the Ungartered, a noble man from Norway. Their
son was named Thorstein the Red. Olaf fell in battle in Ireland, and
then Aud and Thorstein went into the Sudreyjar (the Hebrides). There
Thorstein married Thorid, daughter of Eyvind the Easterling, sister of
Helgi the Lean; and they had many children. Thorstein became a warrior
king, and formed an alliance with Earl Sigurd the Great, son of
Eystein the Rattler. They conquered Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and
Moray, and more than half Scotland. Over these Thorstein was king
until the Scots plotted against him, and he fell there in battle. Aud
was in Caithness when she heard of Thorstein's death. Then she caused
a merchant-ship to be secretly built in the wood, and when she was
ready, directed her course out into the Orkneys. There she gave in
marriage Thorstein the Red's daughter, Gro, who became mother of
Grelad, whom Earl Thorfinn, the Skullcleaver, married. Afterwards Aud
set out to seek Iceland, having twenty free men in her ship. Aud came
to Iceland, and passed the first winter in Bjarnarhofn (Bjornshaven)
with her brother Bjorn. Afterwards she occupied all the Dale country
between the Dogurdara (day-meal river) and the Skraumuhlaupsa (river
of the giantess's leap), and dwelt at Hvamm. She had prayer meetings
at Krossholar (Crosshills), where she caused crosses to be erected,
for she was baptised and deeply devoted to the faith. There came with
her to Iceland many men worthy of honour, who had been taken captive
in sea-roving expeditions to the west, and who were called bondmen.
One of these was named Vifil; he was a man of high family, and had
been taken captive beyond the western main, and was also called a
bondman before Aud set him free. And when Aud granted dwellings to her
ship's company, Vifil asked why she gave no abode to him like unto the
others. Aud replied, "That it was of no moment to him, for," she said,
"he would be esteemed in whatever place he was, as one worthy of
honour." She gave him Vifilsdalr (Vifilsdale), and he dwelt there and
married. His sons were Thorbjorn and Thorgeir, promising men, and they
grew up in their father's house.

2. There was a man named Thorvald, the son of Asvald, the son of Ulf,
the son of Yxna-Thoris. His son was named Eirik. Father and son
removed from Jadar (in Norway) to Iceland, because of manslaughters,
and occupied land in Hornstrandir, and dwelt at Drangar. There
Thorvald died, and Eirik then married Thjodhild, daughter of Jorund,
the son of Atli, and of Thorbjorg the Ship-breasted, whom afterwards
Thorbjorn, of the Haukadalr (Hawkdale) family, married; he it was who
dwelt at Eiriksstadr after Eirik removed from the north. It is near
Vatzhorn. Then did Eirik's thralls cause a landslip on the estate of
Valthjof, at Valthjofsstadr. Eyjolf the Foul, his kinsman, slew the
thralls beside Skeidsbrekkur (slopes of the race-course), above
Vatzhorn. In return Eirik slew Eyjolf the Foul; he slew also Hrafn the
Dueller, at Leikskalar (playbooths). Gerstein, and Odd of Jorfi,
kinsman of Eyjolf, were found willing to follow up his death by a
legal prosecution; and then was Eirik banished from Haukadalr. He
occupied then Brokey and Eyxney, and dwelt at Tradir, in Sudrey, the
first winter. At this time did he lend to Thorgest pillars for
seat-stocks, Afterwards Eirik removed into Eyxney, and dwelt at
Eiriksstadr. He then claimed his pillars, and got them not. Then went
Eirik and fetched the pillars from Breidabolstadr, and Thorgest went
after him. They fought at a short distance from the hay-yard at
Drangar, and there fell two sons of Thorgest, and some other men.
After that they both kept a large body of men together. Styr gave
assistance to Eirik, as also did Eyjolf, of Sviney, Thorbjorn
Vifilsson, and the sons of Thorbrand, of Alptafjordr (Swanfirth). But
the sons of Thord Gellir, as also Thorgeir, of Hitardalr (Hotdale),
Aslak, of Langadalr (Longdale), and Illugi, his son, gave assistance
to Thorgest. Eirik and his people were outlawed at Thorsnes Thing. He
prepared a ship in Eiriksvagr (creek), and Eyjolf concealed him in
Dimunarvagr while Thorgest and his people sought him among the
islands. Eirik said to his people that he purposed to seek for the
land which Gunnbjorn, the son of Ulf the Crow, saw when he was driven
westwards over the ocean, and discovered Gunnbjarnarsker (Gunnbjorn's
rock or skerry). He promised that he would return to visit his friends
if he found the land. Thorbjorn, and Eyjolf, and Styr accompanied
Eirik beyond the islands. They separated in the most friendly manner,
Eirik saying that he would be of the like assistance to them, if he
should be able so to be, and they should happen to need him. Then he
sailed oceanwards under Snoefellsjokull (snow mountain glacier), and
arrived at the glacier called Blaserkr (Blue-shirt); thence he
journeyed south to see if there were any inhabitants of the country.
He passed the first winter at Eiriksey, near the middle, of the
Vestribygd (western settlement). The following spring he proceeded to
Eiriksfjordr, and fixed his abode there. During the summer he
proceeded into the unpeopled districts in the west, and was there a
long time, giving names to the places far and wide. The second winter
he passed in Eiriksholmar (isles), off Hvarfsgnupr (peak of
disappearance, Cape Farewell); and the third summer he went altogether
northwards, to Snoefell and into Hrafnsfjordr (Ravensfirth);
considering then that he had come to the head of Eiriksfjordr, he
turned back, and passed the third winter in Eiriksey, before the mouth
of Eiriksfjordr. Now, afterwards, during the summer, he proceeded to
Iceland, and came to Breidafjordr (Broadfirth). This winter he was
with Ingolf, at Holmlatr (Island-litter). During the spring, Thorgest
and he fought, and Eirik met with defeat. After that they were
reconciled. In the summer Eirik went to live in the land which he had
discovered, and which he called Greenland, "Because," said he, "men
will desire much the more to go there if the land has a good name."]

3. Thorgeir Vifilsson married, and took to wife Arnora, daughter of
Einar, from Laugarbrekka (the slope of the hot spring), the son of
Sigmund, the eon of Ketil-Thistil, who had occupied Thistilsfjordr.
The second daughter of Einar was named Hallveig. Thorbjorn Vifilsson
took her to wife, and received with her the land of Laugarbrekka, at
Hellisvollr (the cave-hill). To that spot Thorbjorn removed his abode,
and became great and worshipful. He was the temple-priest, and had a
magnificent estate. Thorbjorn's daughter was Gudrid, the fairest of
women, and of peerless nobility in all her conduct. There was a man
named Orm, who dwelt at Arnarstapi (eagle-rock), and he had a wife who
was named Halldis. He was a well-to-do franklin, a great friend of
Thorbjorn, and Gudrid lived at his house as his foster-child for a
long time. There was a man named Thorgeir, who dwelt at Thorgeirsfjall
(fell). He was mighty rich in cattle, and had been made a freedman. He
had a son, whose name was Einar, a handsome man, well mannered, and a
great dandy. Einar, at this time, was a travelling merchant, sailing
from land to land with great success; and he always passed his winter
either in Iceland or in Norway. Now after this, I have to tell how
that one autumn, when Einar was in Iceland, he proceeded with his
wares along Snoefellsnes, with the object of selling; he came to
Arnarstapi; Orm invited him to stay there, and Einar accepted his
invitation, because there was friendship between him and Orm's people,
and his wares were earned into a certain outhouse. There he unpacked
his merchandise, showed it to Orm and the housemen, and bade Orm take
therefrom such things as he would. Orm accepted the offer, and
pronounced Einar to be a goodly gallant traveller, and a great
favourite of fortune. When now they were busy with the wares, a woman
passed before the door of the outhouse; and Einar inquired of Orm who
that fair woman might be, passing before the door. "I have not seen
her here before," said he. "That is Gudrid, my foster-child," said
Orm, "daughter of Thorbjorn the franklin, from Laugarbrekka." "She
must be a good match," said Einar; "surely she has not been without
suitors who have made proposals for her, has she?" Orm answered,
"Proposals have certainly been made, friend, but this treasure is not
to be had for the picking up; it is found that she will be particular
in her choice, as well as also her father." "Well, in spite of that,"
quoth Einar, "she is the woman whom I have it in my mind to propose
for, and I wish that in this suit of mine you approach her father on
my part, and apply yourself to plead diligently[A] for me, for which
I shall pay you in return a perfect friendship. The franklin,
Thorbjorn, may reflect that our families would be suitably joined in
the bonds of affinity; for he is a man in a position of great honour,
and owns a fine abode, but his personal property, I am told, is
greatly on the decrease; neither I nor my father lack lands or
personal property; and if this alliance should be brought about, the
greatest assistance would accrue to Thorbjorn." Then answered Orm, "Of
a surety I consider myself to be thy friend, and yet am I not willing
to bring forward this suit, for Thorbjorn is of a proud mind, and
withal a very ambitious man." Einar replied that he desired no other
thing than that his offer of marriage should be made known. Orm then
consented to undertake his suit, and Einar journeyed south again until
he came home. A while after, Thorbjorn had a harvest-feast, as he was
bound to have because of his great rank. There were present Orm, from
Arnarstapi, and many other friends of Thorbjorn. Orm entered into
conversation with Thorbjorn, and told him how that Einar had lately
been to see him from Thorgeirsfjall, and was become a promising man.
He now began the wooing on behalf of Einar, and said that an alliance
between the families would be very suitable on account of certain
interests. "There may arise to thee, franklin," he said, "great
assistance in thy means from this alliance." But Thorbjorn answered,
"I did not expect the like proposal from thee, that I should give my
daughter in marriage to the son of a thrall. And so thou perceivest
that my substance is decreasing; well, then, my daughter shall not go
home with thee, since thou considerest her worthy of so poor a match."
Then went Orm home again, and each of the other guests to his own
household, and Gudrid remained with her father, and stayed at home
that winter.

[Footnote A: The word "alendu" is a difficulty. Perhaps we ought to
read "allidnu," or "allidinu."]

Now, in the spring, Thorbjorn made a feast to his friends, and a
goodly banquet was prepared. There came many guests, and the banquet
was of the best. Now, at the banquet, Thorbjorn called for a hearing,
and thus spake:--"Here have I dwelt a long time. I have experienced
the goodwill of men and their affection towards me, and I consider
that our dealings with one another have been mutually agreeable. But
now do my money matters begin to bring me uneasiness, although to this
time my condition has not been reckoned contemptible. I wish,
therefore, to break up my household before I lose my honour; to remove
from the country before I disgrace my family. So now I purpose to look
after the promises of Eirik the Red, my friend, which he made when we
separated at Breidafjordr. I purpose to depart for Greenland in the
summer, if events proceed as I could wish." These tidings about this
design appeared to the guests to be important, for Thorbjorn had long
been beloved by his friends. They felt that he would only have made so
public a declaration that it might be held of no avail to attempt to
dissuade him from his purpose. Thorbjorn distributed gifts among the
guests, and then the feast was brought to an end, and they departed to
their own homesteads. Thorbjorn sold his lands, and bought a ship
which had been laid up on shore at the mouth of the Hraunhofn (harbour
of the lava field). Thirty men ventured on the expedition with him.
There was Orm, from Arnarstapi, and his wife, and those friends of
Thorbjorn who did not wish to be separated from him. Then they
launched the ship, and set sail with a favourable wind. But when they
came out into the open sea the favourable wind ceased, and they
experienced great gales, and made but an ill-sped voyage throughout
the summer. In addition to that trouble, there came fever upon the
expedition, and Orm died, and Halldis, his wife, and half the
company. Then the sea waxed rougher, and they endured much toil and
misery in many ways, and only reached Herjolfsnes, in Greenland, at
the very beginning of winter. There dwelt at Herjolfsnes the man who
was called Thorkell. He was a useful man and most worthy franklin. He
received Thorbjorn and all his ship's company for the winter,
assisting them in right noble fashion. This pleased Thorbjorn well and
his companions in the voyage.

At that time there was a great dearth in Greenland; those who had been
out on fishing expeditions had caught little, and some had not
returned. There was in the settlement the woman whose name was
Thorbjorg. She was a prophetess (spae-queen), and was called
Litilvolva (little sybil). She had had nine sisters, and they were all
spae-queens, and she was the only one now living. It was a custom of
Thorbjorg, in the winter time, to make a circuit, and people invited
her to their houses, especially those who had any curiosity about the
season, or desired to know their fate; and inasmuch as Thorkell was
chief franklin thereabouts, he considered that it concerned him to
know when the scarcity which overhung the settlement should cease. He
invited, therefore, the spae-queen to his house, and prepared for her
a hearty welcome, as was the custom whereever a reception was accorded
a woman of this kind. A high seat was prepared for her, and a cushion
laid thereon in which were poultry-feathers. Now, when she came in the
evening, accompanied by the man who had been sent to meet her, she was
dressed in such wise that she had a blue mantle over her, with strings
for the neck, and it was inlaid with gems quite down to the skirt. On
her neck she had glass beads. On her head she had a black hood of
lambskin, lined with ermine. A staff she had in her hand, with a knob
thereon; it was ornamented with brass, and inlaid with gems round
about the knob. Around her she wore a girdle of soft hair, and therein
was a large skin-bag, in which she kept the talismans needful to her
in her wisdom. She wore hairy calf-skin shoes on her feet, with long
and strong-looking thongs to them, and great knobs of latten at the
ends. On her hands she had gloves of ermine-skin, and they were white
and hairy within. Now, when she entered, all men thought it their
bounden duty to offer her becoming greetings, and these she received
according as the men were agreeable to her. The franklin Thorkell took
the wise-woman by the hand, and led her to the seat prepared for her.
He requested her to cast her eyes over his herd, his household, and
his homestead. She remained silent altogether. During the evening the
tables were set; and now I must tell you what food was made ready for
the spae-queen. There was prepared for her porridge of kid's milk, and
hearts of all kinds of living creatures there found were cooked for
her. She had a brazen spoon, and a knife with a handle of walrus-tusk,
which was mounted with two rings of brass, and the point of it was
broken off. When the tables were removed, the franklin Thorkell
advanced to Thorbjorg and asked her how she liked his homestead, or
the appearance of the men; or how soon she would ascertain that which
he had asked, and which the men desired to know. She replied that she
would not give answer before the morning, after she had slept there
for the night. And when the (next) day was far spent, the preparations
were made for her which she required for the exercise of her
enchantments. She begged them to bring to her those women who were
acquainted with the lore needed for the exercise of the enchantments,
and which is known by the name of Weird-songs, but no such women came
forward. Then was search made throughout the homestead if any woman
were so learned. Then answered Gudrid, "I am not skilled in deep
learning, nor am I a wise-woman, although Halldis, my foster-mother,
taught me, in Iceland, the lore which she called Weird-songs." "Then
art thou wise in good season," answered Thorbjorg; but Gudrid replied,
"That lore and the ceremony are of such a kind, that I purpose to be
of no assistance therein, because I am a Christian woman." Then
answered Thorbjorg, "Thou mightest perchance afford thy help to the
men in this company, and yet be none the worse woman than thou wast
before; but to Thorkell give I charge to provide here the things that
are needful." Thorkell thereupon urged Gudrid to consent, and she
yielded to his wishes. The women formed a ring round about, and
Thorbjorg ascended the scaffold and the seat prepared for her
enchantments. Then sang Gudrid the weird-song in so beautiful and
excellent a manner, that to no one there did it seem that he had ever
before heard the song in voice so beautiful as now. The spae-queen
thanked her for the song. "Many spirits," said she, "have been present
under its charm, and were pleased to listen to the song, who before
would turn away from us, and grant us no such homage. And now are many
things clear to me which before were hidden both from me and others.
And I am able this to say, that the dearth will last no longer--the
season improving as spring advances. The epidemic of fever which has
long oppressed us will disappear quicker than we could have hoped. And
thee, Gudrid, will I recompense straightway, for that aid of thine
which has stood us in good stead; because thy destiny is now clear to
me, and foreseen. Thou shalt make a match here in Greenland, a most
honourable one, though it will not be a long-lived one for thee,
because thy way lies out to Iceland; and there, shall arise from thee
a line of descendants both numerous and goodly, and over the branches
of thy family shall shine a bright ray. And so fare thee now well and
happily, my daughter." Afterwards the men went to the wise-woman, and
each enquired after what he was most curious to know. She was also
liberal of her replies, and what she said proved true. After this came
one from another homestead after her, and she then went there.
Thorbjorn was invited, because he did not wish to remain at home while
such heathen worship was performing. The weather soon improved when
once spring began, as Thorbjorg had said, Thorbjorn made ready his
ship, and went on until he came to Brattahlid (the steep slope). Eirik
received him with the utmost cordiality, saying he had done well to
come there. Thorbjorn and his family were with him during the winter.
And in the following spring Eirik gave to Thorbjorn land at Stokknes,
and handsome farm buildings were there built for him, and he dwelt
there afterwards.

4. Eirik had a wife who was named Thjodhild, and two sons; the one was
named Thorstein, and the other Leif. These sons of Eirik were both
promising men. Thorstein was then at home with his father; and there
was at that time no man in Greenland who was thought so highly of as
he. Leif had sailed to Norway, and was there with King Olaf
Tryggvason. Now, when Leif sailed from Greenland during the summer, he
and his men were driven out of their course to the Sudreyjar. They
were slow in getting a favourable wind from this place, and they
stayed there a long time during the summer ... reaching Norway about
harvest-tide. He joined the body-guard of King Olaf Tryggvason, and
the king formed an excellent opinion of him, and it appeared to him
that Leif was a well-bred man. Once upon a time the king entered into
conversation with Leif, and asked him, "Dost thou purpose sailing to
Greenland in summer?" Leif answered, "I should wish so to do, if it
is your will." The king replied, "I think it may well be so; thou
shalt go my errand, and preach Christianity in Greenland." Leif said
that he was willing to undertake it, but that, for himself, he
considered that message a difficult one to proclaim in Greenland. But
the king said that he knew no man who was better fitted for the work
than he. "And thou shalt carry," said he, "good luck with thee in it."
"That can only be," said Leif, "if I carry yours with me." Leif set
sail as soon as he was ready. He was tossed about a long time out at
sea, and lighted upon lands of which before he had no expectation.
There were fields of wild wheat, and the vine-tree in full growth.
There were also the trees which were called maples; and they gathered
of all this certain tokens; some trunks so large that they were used
in house-building. Leif came upon men who had been shipwrecked, and
took them home with him, and gave them sustenance during the winter.
Thus did he show his great munificence and his graciousness when he
brought Christianity to the land, and saved the shipwrecked crew. He
was called Leif the Lucky. Leif reached land in Eiriksfjordr, and
proceeded home to Brattahlid. The people received him gladly. He soon
after preached Christianity and catholic truth throughout the land,
making known to the people the message of King Olaf Tryggvason; and
declaring how many renowned deeds and what great glory accompanied
this faith. Eirik took coldly to the proposal to forsake his religion,
but his wife, Thjodhild, promptly yielded, and caused a church to be
built not very near the houses. The building was called Thjodhild's
Church; in that spot she offered her prayers, and so did those men who
received Christ, and they were many. After she accepted the faith,
Thjodhild would have no intercourse with Eirik, and this was a great
trial to his temper.

After this there was much talk about making ready to go to the land
which Leif had discovered. Thorstein, Eirik's son, was chief mover in
this, a worthy man, wise and much liked. Eirik was also asked to go,
and they believed that his luck and foresight would be of the highest
use. He was [for a long time against it, but did not say nay], when
his friends exhorted him to go. They made ready the ship which
Thorbjorn had brought there, and there were twenty men who undertook
to start in her. They had little property, but chiefly weapons and
food. On the morning when Eirik left home he took a little box, which
had in it gold and silver; he hid the money, and then went forth on
his journey. He had proceeded, however, but a little way, when he fell
from his horse, and broke his ribs and injured his shoulder, and cried
out, "Aiai!" At this accident he sent word to his wife that she should
take away the money that he had hidden, declaring his misfortune to be
a penalty paid on account of having hid the money. Afterwards they
sailed away out of Eiriksfjordr with gladness, as their plan seemed to
promise success. They were driven about for a long time on the open
sea, and came not into the track which they desired. They came in
sight of Iceland, and also met with birds from the coast of Ireland.
Then was their ship tossed to and fro on the sea. They returned about
harvest-tide, worn out by toil and much exhausted, and reached
Eiriksfjordr at the beginning of winter. Then spake Eirik, "You were
in better spirits in the summer, when you went forth out of the firth,
than you are in now, and yet for all that there is much to be thankful
for." Thorstein replied, "It is a chieftain's duty now to look after
some arrangement for these men who are without shelter, and to find
them food." Eirik answered, "That is an ever-true saying, 'You know
not until you have got your answer.' I will now take thy counsel about
this." All those who had no other abodes were to go with the father
and the son. Then came they to land, and went forth home.

5. Now, after this, I have to tell you how Thorstein, Eirik's son,
began wooing Gudrid, Thorbjorn's daughter. To his proposals a
favourable answer was given, both by the maid herself, and also by her
father. The marriage was also arranged, so that Thorstein went to take
possession of his bride, and the bridal feast was held at Brattahlid
in the autumn. The banquet went off well, and was numerously attended.
Thorstein owned a homestead in the Vestribygd on the estate known as
Lysufjordr (shining firth). The man who was called Thorstein owned the
other half of the homestead. His wife was called Sigrid. Thorstein
went, during the autumn, to Lysufjordr, to his namesake, both he and
Gudrid. Their reception was a welcome one. They were there during the
winter. When little of the winter was past, the event happened there
that fever broke out on their estate. The overseer of the work was
named Garth. He was an unpopular man. He took the fever first and
died. Afterwards, and with but little intermission, one took the fever
after another and died. Then Thorstein, Eirik's son, fell ill, and
also Sigrid, the wife of his namesake Thorstein. [And one evening
Sigrid left the house, and rested awhile opposite the outer door; and
Gudrid accompanied her; and they looked back towards the outer door,
and Sigrid screamed out aloud. Gudrid said, "We have come forth
unwarily, and thou canst in no wise withstand the cold; let us even go
home as quickly as possible." "It is not safe as matters are,"
answered Sigrid. "There is all that crowd of dead people before the
door; Thorstein, thy husband, also, and myself, I recognise among
them, and it is a grief thus to behold." And when this passed away,
she said, "Let us now go, Gudrid; I see the crowd no longer."
Thorstein, Eirik's son, had also disappeared from her sight; he had
seemed to have a whip in his hand, and to wish to smite the ghostly
troop. Afterwards they went in, and before morning came she was dead,
and a coffin was prepared for the body. Now, the same day, the men
purposed to go out fishing, and Thorstein led them to the landing
places, and in the early morning he went to see what they had caught.
Then Thorstein, Eirik's son, sent word to his namesake to come to him,
saying that matters at home were hardly quiet; that the housewife was
endeavouring to rise to her feet and to get under the clothes beside
him. And when he was come in she had risen upon the edge of the bed.
Then took he her by the hands and laid a pole-axe upon her breast.
Thorstein, Eirik's son, died near nightfall. Thorstein, the franklin,
begged Gudrid to lie down and sleep, saying that he would watch over
the body during the night. So she did, and when a little of the night
was past, Thorstein, Eirik's son, sat up and spake, saying he wished
Gudrid to be called to him, and that he wished to speak with her. "God
wills," he said, "that this hour be given to me for my own, and the
further completion of my plan." Thorstein, the franklin, went to find
Gudrid, and waked her; begged her to cross herself, and to ask God for
help, and told her what Thorstein, Eirik's son, had spoken with him;
"and he wishes," said he, "to meet with thee. Thou art obliged to
consider what plan thou wilt adopt, because I can in this issue advise
thee in nowise." She answered, "It may be that this, this wonderful
thing, has regard to certain matters, which are afterwards to be had
in memory; and I hope that God's keeping will test upon me, and I
will, with God's grace, undertake the risk and go to him, and know
what he will say, for I shall not be able to escape if harm must
happen to me. I am far from wishing that he should go elsewhere; I
suspect, moreover, that the matter will be a pressing one." Then went
Gudrid and saw Thorstein. He appeared to her as if shedding tears. He
spake in her ear, in a low voice, certain words which she alone might
know; but this he said so that all heard, "That those men would be
blessed who held the true faith, and that all salvation and mercy
accompanied it; and that many, nevertheless, held it lightly." "It
is," said he, "no good custom which has prevailed here in Greenland
since Christianity came, to bury men in unconsecrated ground with few
religious rites over them. I wish for myself, and for those other men
who have died, to be taken to the church; but for Garth, I wish him to
be burned on a funeral pile as soon as may be, for he is the cause of
all those ghosts which have been among us this winter." He spake to
Gudrid also about her own state, saying that her destiny would be a
great one, and begged her to beware of marrying Greenland men. He
begged her also to pay over their property to the Church and some to
the poor; and then he sank down for the second time.] It had been a
custom in Greenland, after Christianity was brought there, to bury men
in unconsecrated ground on the farms where they died. An upright stake
was placed over a body, and when the priests came afterwards to the
place, then was the stake pulled out, consecrated water poured
therein, and a funeral service held, though it might be long after the
burial. The bodies were removed to the church in Eiriksfjordr, and
funeral services held by the priests. After that died Thorbjorn. The
whole property then went to Gudrid. Eirik received her into his
household, and looked well after her stores.

6. There was a man named Thorfinn Karlsefni, son of Thord Horsehead,
who dwelt in the north (of Iceland), at Reynines in Skagafjordr, as it
is now called. Karlsefni was a man of good family, and very rich. His
mother's name was Thorun. He engaged in trading journeys, and seemed a
goodly, bold, and gallant traveller. One summer Karlsefni prepared his
ship, intending to go to Greenland. Snorri, Thorbrand's son, from
Alptafjordr, resolved to travel with him, and there were thirty men in
the company. There was a man named Bjarni, Grimolf's son, a man of
Breidafjordr (Broadfirth); another called Thorhall, son of Gamli, a
man from the east of Iceland. They prepared their ship the very same
summer as Karlsefni, with intent also to go to Greenland. They had in
the ship forty men. The two ships launched out into the open sea as
soon as they were ready. It is not recorded how long a voyage they
had. But, after this, I have to tell you that both these ships came to
Eiriksfjordr about autumn. Eirik rode down to the ships with other men
of the land, and a market-fair was promptly instituted. The captains
invited Gudrid to take such of the merchandise as she wished, and
Eirik displayed on his part much magnificence in return, inasmuch as
he invited both these ships' companies home with him to pass the
winter in Brattahlid. The merchants accepted the invitation, and went
home with Eirik. Afterwards their merchandise was removed to
Brattahlid, where a good and large outhouse was not lacking in which
to store the goods. The merchants were well pleased to stay with Eirik
during the winter. When now Yule was drawing nigh, Eirik began to look
more gloomy than he was wont to be. Presently Karlsefni entered into
conversation with him, and said, "Art thou in trouble, Eirik? it
appears to me that thou art somewhat more taciturn than thou hast
been; still thou helpest us with much liberality, and we are bound to
reward thee according as we have means thereto. Say now what causes
thy cheerlessness." Eirik answered, "You receive hospitality well, and
like worthy men. Now, I have no mind that our intercourse together
should be expensive to you; but so it is, that it will seem to me an
ill thing if it is heard that you never spent a worse Yule than this,
just now beginning, when Eirik the Red entertained you at Brattahlid,
in Greenland." Karlsefni answered, "It must not come to such a pass;
we have in our ships malt, meal, and corn, and you have right and
title to take therefrom whatever you wish, and to make your
entertainment such as consorts with your munificence." And Eirik
accepted the offer. Then was preparation made for the Yule-feast, and
so magnificent was it that the men thought they had scarcely ever seen
so grand a feast. And after Yule, Karlsefni broached to Eirik the
subject of a marriage with Gudrid, which he thought might be under
Eirik's control, and the woman appeared to him to be both beautiful
and of excellent understanding. Eirik answered and said, that for his
part he would willingly undertake his suit, and said, moreover, that
she was worthy of a good match. It is also likely, he thought, that
she will be following out her destiny, should she be given to him;
and, moreover, the report which comes to me of him is good. The
proposals were now laid before her, and she allowed the marriage with
her to be arranged which Eirik wished to promote. However, I will not
now speak at length how this marriage took place; the Yule festival
was prolonged and made into a marriage-feast. Great joy was there in
Brattahlid during the winter. Much playing at backgammon and telling
of stories went on, and many things were done that ministered to the
comfort of the household.

7. During this time much talk took place in Brattahlid about making
ready to go to Vinland the Good, and it was asserted that they would
there find good choice lands. The discourse came to such conclusion
that Karlsefni and Snorri prepared their ship, with the intention of
seeking Vinland during the summer. Bjarni and Thorhall ventured on the
same expedition, with their ship and the retinue which had accompanied
them. [There was a man named Thorvard; he married Freydis, natural
daughter of Eirik the Red; he set out with them likewise, as also
Thorvald, a son of Eirik.] There was a man named Thorvald; he was a
son-in-law[B] of Eirik the Red. Thorhall was called the Sportsman; he
had for a long time been Eirik's companion in hunting and fishing
expeditions during the summers, and many things had been committed to
his keeping. Thorhall was a big man, dark, and of gaunt appearance;
rather advanced in years, overbearing in temper, of melancholy mood,
silent at all times, underhand in his dealings, and withal given to
abuse, and always inclined towards the worst. He had kept himself
aloof from the true faith when it came to Greenland. He was but little
encompassed with the love of friends, but yet Eirik had long held
conversation with him. He went in the ship with Thorvald and his man,
because he was widely acquainted with the unpeopled districts. They
had the ship which Thorbjorn had brought to Greenland, and they
ventured on the expedition with Karlsefni and the others; and most of
them in this ship were Greenlanders. There were one hundred and sixty
men in their ships. They sailed away from land; then to the Vestribygd
and to Bjarneyjar (the Bear Islands). Thence they sailed away from
Bjarneyjar with northerly winds. They were out at sea two half-days.
Then they came to land, and rowed along it in boats, and explored it,
and found there flat stones, many and so great that two men might well
lie on them stretched on their backs with heel to heel. Polar-foxes
were there in abundance. This land they gave name to, and called it
Helluland (stone-land). Then they sailed with northerly winds two
half-days, and there was then land before them, and on it a great
forest and many wild beasts. An island lay in the south-east off the
land, and they found bears thereon, and called the island Bjarney
(Bear Island); but the mainland, where the forest was, they called
Markland (forest-land). Then, when two half-days were passed, they saw
land, and sailed under it. There was a cape to which they came. They
cruised along the land, leaving it on the starboard side. There was a
harbourless coast-land, and long sandy strands. They went to the land
in boats, and found the keel of a ship, and called the place
Kjalar-nes (Keelness). They gave also name to the strands, calling
them Furdustrandir (wonder-shore), because it was tedious to sail by
them. Then the coast became indented with creeks, and they directed
their ships along the creeks. Now, before this, when Leif was with
King Olaf Tryggvason, and the king had requested him to preach
Christianity in Greenland, he gave him two Scotch people, the man
called Haki, and the woman called Hækja. The king requested Leif to
have recourse to these people if ever he should want fleetness,
because they were swifter than wild beasts. Eirik and Leif had got
these people to go with Karlsefni. Now, when they had sailed by
Furdustrandir, they put the Scotch people on land, and requested them
to run into the southern regions, seek for choice land, and come back
after three half-days[C] were passed. They were dressed in such wise
that they had on the garment which they called _biafal_. It was made
with a hood at the top, open at the sides, without sleeves, and was
fastened between the legs. A button and a loop held it together there;
and elsewhere they were without clothing. Then did they cast anchors
from the ships, and lay there to wait for them. And when three days
were expired the Scotch people leapt down from the land, and one of
them had in his hand a bunch of grapes, and the other an ear of wild

[Footnote B: Later on in the Saga he is called a son of Eirik. The
text would appear to be somewhat corrupt here, as the passage in
square brackets from Hauks-bok seems to show.]

[Footnote C: The word "doegr," both here and above, is translated
"half-day," though it may possibly mean a period of twenty-four
hours. It is to be noticed, however, that these Scotch people return
after three "dagar," which can only mean periods of twenty-four

They said to Karlsefni that they considered they had found good and
choice land. Then they received them into their ship, and proceeded on
their journey to where the shore was cut into by a firth. They
directed the ships within the firth. There was an island lying out in
front of the firth, and there were great currents around the island,
which they called Straums-ey (Stream-island). There were so many birds
on it that scarcely was it possible to put one's feet down for the
eggs. They continued their course up the firth, which they called
Straumsfjordr, and carried their cargo ashore from the ships, and
there they prepared to stay. They had with them cattle of all kinds,
and for themselves they sought out the produce of the land thereabout.
There were mountains, and the place was fair to look upon. They gave
no heed to anything except to explore the land, and they found large
pastures. They remained there during the winter, which happened to be
a hard one, with no work doing; and they were badly off for food, and
the fishing failed. Then they went out to the island, hoping that
something might be got there from fishing or from what was drifted
ashore. In that spot there was little, however, to be got for food,
but their cattle found good sustenance. After that they called upon
God, praying that He would send them some little store of meat, but
their prayer was not so soon granted as they were eager that it should
be. Thorhall disappeared from sight, and they went to seek him, and
sought for three half-days continuously. On the fourth half-day
Karlsefni and Bjarni found him on the peak of a crag. He lay with his
face to the sky, with both eyes and mouth and nostrils wide open,
clawing and pinching himself, and reciting something. They asked why
he had come there. He replied that it was of no importance; begged
them not to wonder thereat; as for himself, he had lived so long, they
needed not to take any account of him. They begged him to go home with
them, and he did so. A little while after a whale was driven ashore,
and the men crowded round it, and cut it up, and still they knew not
what kind of whale it was. Even Karlsefni recognised it not, though he
had great knowledge of whales. It was cooked by the cook-boys, and
they ate thereof; though bad effects came upon all from it afterwards.
Then began Thorhall, and said, "Has it not been that the Redbeard has
proved a better friend than your Christ? this was my gift for the
poetry which I composed about Thor, my patron; seldom has he failed
me." Now, when the men knew that, none of them would eat of it, and
they threw it down from the rocks, and turned with their supplications
to God's mercy. Then was granted to them opportunity of fishing, and
after that there was no lack of food that spring. They went back again
from the island, within Straumsfjordr, and obtained food from both
sides; from hunting on the mainland, and from gathering eggs and from
fishing on the side of the sea.

8. When summer was at hand they discussed about their journey, and
made an arrangement. Thorhall the Sportsman wished to proceed
northwards along Furdustrandir, and off Kjalarnes, and so seek
Vinland; but Karlsefni desired to proceed southwards along the land
and away from the east, because the land appeared to him the better
the further south he went, and he thought it also more advisable to
explore in both directions. Then did Thorhall make ready for his
journey out by the islands, and there volunteered for the expedition
with him not more than nine men; but with Karlsefni there went the
remainder of the company. And one day, when Thorhall was carrying
water to his ship, he drank, and recited this verse:--

"The clashers of weapons did say when I came here that I should have
the best of drink (though it becomes me not to complain before the
common people). Eager God of the war-helmet! I am made to raise the
bucket; wine has not moistened my beard, rather do I kneel at the

Afterwards they put to sea, and Karlsefni accompanied them by the
island. Before they hoisted sail Thorhall recited a verse:--

"Go we back where our countrymen are. Let us make the skilled hawk of
the sand-heaven explore the broad ship-courses; while the dauntless
rousers of the sword-storm, who praise the land, and cook whale, dwell
on Furdustrandir."

Then they left, and sailed northwards along Furdustrandir and
Kjalarnes, and attempted there to sail against a wind from the west. A
gale came upon them, however, and drove them onwards against Ireland,
and there were they severely treated, enthralled, and beaten. Then
Thorhall lost his life.

9. Karlsefni proceeded southwards along the land, with Snorri and
Bjarni and the rest of the company. They journeyed a long while, and
until they arrived at a river, which came down from the land and fell
into a lake, and so on to the sea. There were large islands off the
mouth of the river, and they could not come into the river except at
high flood-tide. Karlsefni and his people sailed to the mouth of the
river, and called the land Hop. There they found fields of wild wheat
wherever there were low grounds; and the vine in all places were there
was rough rising ground. Every rivulet there was full of fish. They
made holes where the land and water joined and where the tide went
highest; and when it ebbed they found halibut in the holes. There was
great plenty of wild animals of every form in the wood. They were
there half a month, amusing themselves, and not becoming aware of
anything. Their cattle they had with them. And early one morning, as
they looked around, they beheld nine canoes made of hides, and
snout-like staves were being brandished from the boats, and they made
a noise like flails, and twisted round in the direction of the sun's
motion. Then Karlsefni said, "What will this betoken?" Snorri answered
him, "It may be that it is a token of peace; let us take a white
shield and go to meet them." And so they did. Then did they in the
canoes row forwards, and showed surprise at them, and came to land.
They were short men, ill-looking, with their hair in disorderly
fashion on their heads; they were large-eyed, and had broad cheeks.
And they stayed there awhile in astonishment. Afterwards they rowed
away to the south, off the headland.

10. They had built their settlements up above the lake. And some of
the dwellings were well within the land, but some were near the lake.
Now they remained there that winter. They had no snow whatever, and
all their cattle went out to graze without keepers. Now when spring
began, they beheld one morning early, that a fleet of hide-canoes was
rowing from the south off the headland; so many were they as if the
sea were strewn with pieces of charcoal, and there was also the
brandishing of staves as before from each boat. Then they held shields
up, and a market was formed between them; and this people in their
purchases preferred red cloth; in exchange they had furs to give, and
skins quite grey. They wished also to buy swords and lances, but
Karlsefni and Snorri forbad it. They offered for the cloth dark hides,
and took in exchange a span long of cloth, and bound it round their
heads; and so matters went on for a while. But when the stock of cloth
began to grow small, then they split it asunder, so that it was not
more than a finger's breadth. The Skroelingar (Esquimaux) gave for it
still quite as much, or more than before.

11. Now it came to pass that a bull, which belonged to Karlsefni's
people, rushed out of the wood and bellowed loudly at the same time.
The Skroelingar, frightened thereat, rushed away to their canoes, and
rowed south along the coast. There was then nothing seen of them for
three weeks together. When that time was gone by, there was seen
approaching from the south a great crowd of Skroelingar boats, coming
down upon them like a stream, the staves this time being all
brandished in the direction opposite to the sun's motion, and the
Skroelingar were all howling loudly. Then took they and bare red
shields to meet them. They encountered one another and fought, and
there was a great shower of missiles. The Skroelingar had also
war-slings, or catapults. Then Karlsefni and Snorri see that the
Skroelingar are bringing up poles, with a very large ball attached to
each, to be compared in size to a sheep's stomach, dark in colour; and
these flew over Karlsefni's company towards the land, and when they
came down they struck the ground with a hideous noise. This produced
great terror in Karlsefni and his company, so that their only impulse
was to retreat up the country along the river, because it seemed as if
crowds of Skroelingar were driving at them from all sides. And they
stopped not until they came to certain crags. There they offered them
stern resistance. Freydis came out and saw how they were retreating.
She called out, "Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout
men that ye are, when, as seems to me likely, you might slaughter them
like so many cattle? Let me but have a weapon, I think I could fight
better than any of you." They gave no heed to what she said. Freydis
endeavoured to accompany them, still she soon lagged behind, because
she was not well; she went after them into the wood, and the
Skroelingar directed their pursuit after her. She came upon a dead man;
Thorbrand, Snorri's son, with a flat stone fixed in his head; his
sword lay beside him, so she took it up and prepared to defend herself
therewith. Then came the Skroelingar upon her. She let down her sark
and struck her breast with the naked sword. At this they were
frightened, rushed off to their boats, and fled away. Karlsefni and
the rest came up to her and praised her zeal. Two of Karlsefni's men
fell, and four of the Skroelingar, notwithstanding they had overpowered
them by superior numbers. After that, they proceeded to their booths,
and began to reflect about the crowd of men which attacked them upon
the land; it appeared to them now that the one troop will have been
that which came in the boats, and the other troop will have been a
delusion of sight. The Skroelingar also found a dead man, and his axe
lay beside him. One of them struck a stone with it, and broke the axe.
It seemed to them good for nothing, as it did not withstand the stone,
and they threw it down.

12. [Karlsefni and his company] were now of opinion that though the
land might be choice and good, there would be always war and terror
overhanging them, from those who dwelt there before them. They made
ready, therefore, to move away, with intent to go to their own land.
They sailed forth northwards, and found five Skroelingar in jackets of
skin, sleeping [near the sea], and they had with them a chest, and in
it was marrow of animals mixed with blood; and they considered that
these must have been outlawed. They slew them. Afterwards they came to
a headland and a multitude of wild animals; and this headland appeared
as if it might be a cake of cow-dung, because the animals passed the
winter there. Now they came to Straumsfjordr, where also they had
abundance of all kinds. It is said by some that Bjarni and Freydis
remained there, and a hundred men with them, and went not further
away. But Karlsefni and Snorri journeyed southwards, and forty men
with them, and after staying no longer than scarcely two months at
Hop, had come back the same summer. Karlsefni set out with a single
ship to seek Thorhall, but the (rest of the) company remained behind.
He and his people went northwards off Kjalarnes, and were then borne
onwards towards the west, and the land lay on their larboard-side, and
was nothing but wilderness. And when they had proceeded for a long
time, there was a river which came down from the land, flowing from
the east towards the west. They directed their course within the
river's mouth, and lay opposite the southern bank.

13. One morning Karlsefni's people beheld as it were a glittering
speak above the open space in front of them, and they shouted at it.
It stirred itself, and it was a being of the race of men that have
only one foot, and he came down quickly to where they lay. Thorvald,
son of Eirik the Red, sat at the tiller, and the One-footer shot him
with an arrow in the lower abdomen. He drew out the arrow. Then said
Thorvald, "Good land have we reached, and fat is it about the paunch."
Then the One-footer leapt away again northwards. They chased after
him, and saw him occasionally, but it seemed as if he would escape
them. He disappeared at a certain creek. Then they turned back, and
one man spake this ditty:--

"Our men chased (all true it is) a One-footer down to the shore; but
the wonderful man strove hard in the race....[D] Hearken, Karlsefni."

Then they journeyed away back again northwards, and saw, as they
thought, the land of the One-footers. They wished, however, no longer
to risk their company. They conjectured the mountains to be all one
range; those, that is, which were at Hop, and those which they now
discovered; almost answering to one another; and it was the same
distance to them on both sides from Straumsfjordr. They journeyed
back, and were in Straumsfjordr the third winter. Then fell the men
greatly into backsliding. They who were wifeless pressed their claims
at the hands of those who were married. Snorri, Karlsefni's son, was
born the first autumn, and he was three winters old when they began
their journey home. Now, when they sailed from Vinland, they had a
southern wind, and reached Markland, and found five Skroelingar; one
was a bearded man, two were women, two children. Karlsefni's people
caught the children, but the others escaped and sunk down into the
earth. And they took the children with them, and taught them their
speech, and they were baptized. The children called their mother
Voetilldi, and their father Uvoegi. They said that kings ruled over the
land of the Skroelingar, one of whom was called Avalldamon, and the
other Valldidida. They said also that there were no houses, and the
people lived in caves or holes. They said, moreover, that there was a
land on the other side over against their land, and the people there
were dressed in white garments, uttered loud cries, bare long poles,
and wore fringes. This was supposed to be Hvitramannaland (whiteman's
land). Then came they to Greenland, and remained with Eirik the Red
during the winter.

[Footnote D: in this _lacuna_ occur the words "af stopi," which Dr.
Vigfusson translates, in his notes, "over the stubbles."]

14. Bjarni, Grimolf's son, and his men were carried into the Irish
Ocean, and came into a part where the sea was infested by ship-worms.
They did not find it out before the ship was eaten through under them;
then they debated what plan they should follow. They had a ship's boat
which was smeared with tar made of seal-fat. It is said that the
ship-worm will not bore into the wood which has been smeared with the
seal-tar. The counsel and advice of most of the men was to ship into
the boat as many men as it would hold. Now, when that was tried, the
boat held not more than half the men. Then Bjarni advised that it
should be decided by the casting of lots, and not by the rank of the
men, which of them should go into the boat; and inasmuch as every man
there wished to go into the boat, though it could not hold all of
them; therefore, they accepted the plan to cast lots who should leave
the ship for the boat. And the lot so fell that Bjarni, and nearly
half the men with him, were chosen for the boat. So then those left
the ship and went into the boat who had been chosen by lot so to do.
And when the men were come into the boat, a young man, an Icelander,
who had been a fellow-traveller of Bjarni, said, "Dost thou intend,
Bjarni, to separate thyself here from me." "It must needs be so now,"
Bjarni answered. He replied, "Because, in such case, thou didst not so
promise me when I set out from Iceland with thee from the homestead of
my father." Bjarni answered, "I do not, however, see here any other
plan; but what plan dost thou suggest?" He replied, "I propose this
plan, that we two make a change in our places, and thou come here and
I will go there." Bjarni answered, "So shall it be; and this I see,
that thou labourest willingly for life, and that it seems to thee a
grievous thing to face death." Then they changed places. The man went
into the boat, and Bjarni back into the ship; and it is said that
Bjarni perished there in the Worm-sea, and they who were with him in
the ship; but the boat and those who were in it went on their journey
until they reached land, and told this story afterwards.

15. The next summer Karlsefni set out for Iceland, and Snorri with
him, and went home to his house in Reynines. His mother considered
that he had made a shabby match, and she was not at home the first
winter. But when she found that Gudrid was a lady without peer, she
went home, and their intercourse was happy. The daughter of Snorri,
Karlsefni's son, was Hallfrid, mother of Bishop Thorlak, the son of
Runolf. (Hallfrid and Runolf) had a son, whose name was Thorbjorn; his
daughter was Thorun, mother of Bishop Bjarn. Thorgeir was the name of
a son of Snorri, Karlsefni's son; he was father of Yngvild, the mother
of the first Bishop Brand. And here ends this story.

(This translation is made from the version of the Saga printed in Dr.
Gudbrand Vigfusson's _Icelandic Prose Reader_. The passages in square
brackets are taken from the Hauks-bok version given in _Antiquitates
Americanæ_. It may be mentioned here that Carl Christian Rafn and the
other Danish scholars who edited this elaborate work have concluded
that Kjalarnes is the modern Cape Cod, Straumsfjordr is Buzzard's Bay,
Straumsey is Martha's Vineyard, and Hop is on the shores of Mount Haup
Bay, into which the river Taunton flows.

English readers of Icelandic owe a large debt to Dr. Vigfusson for his
labours in the cause of Icelandic literature. The great _Dictionary_,
the _Sturlunga Saga_, and the _Prose Reader_, together make an undying
claim on our gratitude; and yet they only show how very much more is
still to be done. May we hope that Dr. Vigfusson will not cease from
his labours until he has put forth a large instalment of the series
which he has sketched in the able introduction to the _Sturlunga_, p.
ccix.; and that the Delegates of the Clarendon Press will continue
generously to appreciate his eager, scholarly, and laborious