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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

Eiríks saga rauða

SS 476 Discussion

8 February 2005

  • Background
    • The texts
    • The places
    • The people
  • Things to look for
  • Recap of the saga
  • Questions for group discussion
background the texts
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
background the places
Background: The places
  • Iceland
  • Greenland
    • Eastern Settlement, Eiriksfjord
    • Western Settlement
  • Helluland
  • Markland
  • Vinland
background places in greenland
Background: Places in Greenland

Present-day Eiriksfjord (Eastern Settlement)

background getting from place to place
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
background the people
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
things to look for
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
recap of the saga 1 of 14
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
recap of the saga 2 of 14
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
recap of the saga 3 of 14
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
recap of the saga 4 of 14
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
recap of the saga 5 of 14
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”
recap of the saga 6 of 14
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
recap of the saga 7 of 14
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
recap of the saga 8 of 14
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
recap of the saga 9 of 14
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
recap of the saga 10 of 14
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
recap of the saga 11 of 14
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
recap of the saga 12 of 14
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
recap of the saga 13 of 14
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
recap of the saga 14 of 14
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
questions for group discussion
Questions for group discussion
  • Why do we still find this story interesting?
questions for group discussion25
Questions for group discussion
  • Who is the hero of this saga?
    • Eirik?
    • Leif?
    • Thorfinn?
    • Gudrid?
questions for group discussion26
Questions for group discussion
  • Does this saga fit the structure described in lecture?
    • Introduction
    • Conflict
    • Climax
    • Revenge
    • Reconciliation
    • Aftermath
questions for group discussion27
Questions for group discussion
  • What can we say about the role that women play in this saga?
    • Aud
    • Freydis
      • Compare to Greenlanders saga
    • Gudrid
questions for group discussion28
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!
  • 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.