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The Vinland Sagas

Ice; Vinland; PCSaga of Icelanders

This book is included in The Icelanders Cometh crowdfunding campaign run by the Jolabokaflod Book Campaign to raise money for UK libraries to spend on titles translated into English by Icelandic authors to mark World Book Night and UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day in 2016.

Synopsis

The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga contain the first ever descriptions of North America, a bountiful land of grapes and vines, discovered by Vikings five centuries before Christopher Columbus.

Written down in the early thirteenth century, they recount the Icelandic settlement of Greenland by Eirik the Red, the chance discovery by seafaring adventurers of a mysterious new land, and Eirik’s son Leif the Lucky’s perilous voyages to explore it. Wrecked by storms, stricken by disease and plagued by navigational mishaps, some survived the North Atlantic to pass down this compelling tale of the first Europeans to talk with, trade with, and war with the Native Americans.

The name Vinland meaning ‘Wineland’, is attributed to the discovery of grapevines upon the arrival of Leif Eiriksson in North America. The Vinland Sagas represent the most complete information we have about the Norse exploration of the Americas although, due to Iceland’s oral tradition, they cannot be deemed completely historically accurate and include contradictory details.

However, historians commonly believe these sources contain substantial evidence of Viking exploration of North America through the descriptions of topography, natural resources and native culture. In comparing the events of both books, a realistic timeline can be created.

The veracity of the Sagas was supported by the discovery and excavation of a Viking Era settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. Research done in the early 1960s by Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, identified an old Norse settlement located at what is now the L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site of Canada.