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Eiríks saga rauða. SS 476 Discussion 8 February 2005. Agenda. Background The texts The places The people Things to look for Recap of the saga Questions for group discussion. Background: The texts. Two Vinland Sagas Eiríks saga rauða Grœnlendiga Saga Timeframe Action: c. 970 – 1030

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Eir ks saga rau a l.jpg

Eiríks saga rauða

SS 476 Discussion

8 February 2005


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Agenda

  • Background

    • The texts

    • The places

    • The people

  • Things to look for

  • Recap of the saga

  • Questions for group discussion


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Background: The texts

  • Two Vinland Sagas

    • Eiríks saga rauða

    • Grœnlendiga Saga

  • Timeframe

    • Action: c. 970 – 1030

    • Writing: c. 1220 – 1280

  • Some overlap, some divergence between the two texts

  • Historical roots are quite noticeable in these two sagas

  • We will focus only on The Saga of Eirik the Red


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Background: The places

  • Iceland

  • Greenland

    • Eastern Settlement, Eiriksfjord

    • Western Settlement

  • Helluland

  • Markland

  • Vinland


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Background: Regional map


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Background: Places in Greenland

Present-day Eiriksfjord (Eastern Settlement)


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Background: Getting from place to place

  • “From Stad in Norway it is 7 doegr sailing to Horn, on Iceland’s east coast; but from Snaefelsnes, in Iceland, it takes 4 doegr to sail to Kvarv in Greenland. From Herdla [nr. Bergen] in Norway one is to sail directly westward to reach Kvarv in Greenland…[sail] south of Iceland, but only so far away that one can see the birds and whales common in Icelandic waters…” -Hauksbok c. 1334


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Background: The people

  • Note: The Viking era robe and axe at right were found in Greenland

  • Eirik and his sons: Leif, Thorstein, Thorvald

  • Thorfinn Karlsefni and Gudrid Thorbjornardottir and their son Snorri

  • Others to watch for: Aud, Freydis, Thorhall the Huntsman, Bjarni Grimolfsson


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Things to look for

  • Six sections of a typical saga

    • Introduction, Conflict, Climax, Revenge, Reconciliation, Aftermath

  • Honor

  • Role and portrayal of women

  • Conflict between old, new religions


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Recap of the saga (1 of 14)

  • Section 1

    • Gudrid’s ancestry traced back to Vifil, a slave of Aud the Deep-minded and King Olaf the White of Dublin

    • Olaf dies, Aud takes charge, moves self and son, Thorstein, to Hebrides

    • Thorstein dies, Aud takes charge again, moves to Iceland, claims land, builds a church

    • Aud sets Vifil free


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Recap of the saga (2 of 14)

  • Section 2

    • Eirik the Red and father flee from Norway to Iceland because of “some killings.”

    • Eirik gets involved in more killings and is outlawed

      • Full outlawry: Banished for life, property forfeit, can be killed without redress, etc…

      • Lesser outlawry: Banished for three years, property not forfeit, “enclosure”, can return later and continue a normal life


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Recap of the saga (3 of 14)

  • Section 2 ctd…

    • Eirik explores Greenland, claims land and settles there

    • Eirik returns after sentence is up and recruits people to move to Greenland

  • Section 3

    • Thorbjorn moves to Greenland – daughter Gudrid comes along


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Recap of the saga (4 of 14)

  • Section 3 ctd…

    • Great famine in Greenland

    • Gudrid compelled to help seeress Thorbjorg in pagan rite against her will

    • Thorbjorg prophesies end of famine, Gudrid’s marriage to Thorstein, Gudrid’s future in Iceland, success of Gudrid’s offspring


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Recap of the saga (5 of 14)

  • Section 4

    • Leif sails to Norway to stay with King Olaf

      • Blown off course to Hebrides

      • Father’s child with Thorgunna

    • King Olaf charges Leif with Christianization of Greenland

    • Leif sails back to Greenland

      • Blown off course to unknown lands, brings back samples of wild rice, grapes, timber, maple, etc…

      • Rescues shipwrecked men, earns moniker “The Lucky”


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Recap of the saga (6 of 14)

  • Section 4 ctd…

    • Leif preaches Christianity in Greenland

      • Eirik does not accept Christianity

      • Eirik’s wife, Thjodhild, converts, builds church (ruins discovered in 1960’s), moves out

    • Greenlanders decide to find lands Leif described

      • Eirik to come along, hides chest of gold, silver

      • Eirik falls off horse, tells wife where chest is


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Recap of the saga (7 of 14)

  • Section 4 ctd…

    • Voyage is storm-tossed all summer, they see Iceland, birds from Ireland, return to Greenland

    • Thorstein marries Gudrid

    • Thorstein dies, comes back from dead, tells Gudrid to be a good Christian, change burial practices, give money to poor, not marry a Greenlander, dies again


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Recap of the saga (8 of 14)

  • Section 4 ctd…

    • Thorbjorn (Gudrid’s father) dies, Gudrid inherits his property

    • Gudrid taken in, protected by Eirik

  • Section 5

    • Thorfinn comes to Greenland, stays with Eirik

    • Thorfinn finances Eirik’s Christmas festivities

    • Throfinn marries Gudrid, they winter with Eirik


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Recap of the saga (9 of 14)

  • Section 5 ctd…

    • Large voyage, led by Throfinn, to seek out Vinland - 160 people, including:

      • Thorhall – described as a “bad Christian”

      • Eirik the Red’s (illegitimate?) daughter Freydis

    • Sail to Western Settlement, then to Bear Isles, then two days to Helluland

    • Sail two days to heavily forested Markland and Bjarney


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Recap of the saga (10 of 14)

  • Section 5 ctd…

    • Sail south along land to Kjalarnes, Furdustrands

    • Send two (possibly fictional) Scots on 3 day running trek – they return with wild grain and grapes

    • Unload at Straumsfjord to make winter camp

    • Bad food situation, pray, but no answer, Thorhall disappears


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Recap of the saga (11 of 14)

  • Section 5 ctd…

    • Thorhall found chanting mysteriously

    • Beached whale turns up, Thorhall credits Thor, disparages Christ

    • Crew disposes of whale and weather improves

    • Thorhall and nine others decide to “search for Vinland” on own, blown off course to Ireland, where they die as slaves


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Recap of the saga (12 of 14)

  • Section 6

    • Thorfinn and crew sail to Hop

    • Skrælings come for the first time

    • Thorfinn and crew winter in Hop

    • Skrælings return in spring to trade furs for cloth – Thorfinn forbids trading weapons

    • Thorfinn’s bull gets loose, Skrælings frightened, flee, disappear for three weeks


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Recap of the saga (13 of 14)

  • Section 6 ctd…

    • Skrælings return for vengeance, Vikings flee

    • Pregnant Freydis picks up sword and slaps it to breast, Skrælings flee

    • Throfinn and company decide to go back to Straumsfjord

    • On quest to find Thorhall, Uniped kills Thorvald, who, while dying, makes a joke about the size of his belly


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Recap of the saga (14 of 14)

  • Section 6 ctd…

    • They decide to sail back to Greenland – first mention of 3 year old Snorri

    • One ship, captained by Bjarni Grimolfsson, goes off course, starts sinking

      • Draw lots for the lifeboat

      • Bjarni honorably trades places with crewman, mocks his desire to live

      • Lifeboat washes up in Dublin, rest drown

    • Thorfinn and Gudrid settle in Iceland, three bishops among descendants, prophecy fulfilled


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Questions for group discussion

  • Why do we still find this story interesting?


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Questions for group discussion

  • Who is the hero of this saga?

    • Eirik?

    • Leif?

    • Thorfinn?

    • Gudrid?


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Questions for group discussion

  • Does this saga fit the structure described in lecture?

    • Introduction

    • Conflict

    • Climax

    • Revenge

    • Reconciliation

    • Aftermath


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Questions for group discussion

  • What can we say about the role that women play in this saga?

    • Aud

    • Freydis

      • Compare to Greenlanders saga

    • Gudrid


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Questions for group discussion

  • How is religion treated in this saga?

    • Does our answer about the structure of the text change if we consider the two combatants are Christianity and Paganism?

      • Gudrid’s lineage followed by Eirik’s lineage

      • Thorbjorg’s prophecy

      • Thorstein’s prophecy

      • Thorhall and the whale

      • Gudrid’s progeny – pagan prophecy fulfilled with three bishops!


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Bibliography

  • Images from the web:

    • Eiriksfjord, map of Greenland: http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/greenland/

    • Regional map: http://www.mnh.si.edu/vikings/voyage/subset/markland/environment.html

    • Garments from Greenland: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/norse.html

  • Texts:

    • Thorsson, Örnólfur. 2000. Sagas of Icelanders. London: Penguin.

    • Tornöe, J. Kr. 1965. Norsemen Before Columbus. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.


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