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Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Norse Exploration of North America :D


sorry fam. lol. 

Ok, first and foremost I would like to apologize to all my followers for not posting anything decent for like 9000 years. I thought I'd dedic8 this post to a particular event in history which got me interested in the Vikings. I'm really into the history of the people whom the Norsemen called the "skraelings" AKA the indigenous people of the Americas. But when I started researching the Beothuk people who are native to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, I came across information about the Norse explorer Leif Ericson's 'Vinland voyages'. 

First, lets talk a bit about the Beothuk people. As I said before, they were the native people of Newfoundland. While some indigenous first nations of Canada managed to retain their languages and cultures despite colonialism, the Beothuk are all gone. No one alive today can claim Beothuk ancestry. However, a little bit of their language survives. A woman named Shanawdithit, who is considered by historians to have been the last Beothuk, learned some English and was able to write Beothuk words using the Roman alphabet. Thanks to her, and the efforts of a few others of the last Beothuks such as Shawnadithit's aunt Demasduit, we now know some words of the Beothuk language. The word 'Beothuk' itself in their language means 'the people'. Shawnadithit died in 1829 of tuberculosis. 
A portrait of Shawnadithit

FUN FACT: Some European settlers called the Beothuk people the "Red Ochre People" because they covered themselves in red ochre :D . 

Historically, the Beothuk nation never really numbered many, just a little over a thousand according to some estimates. They were a seminomadic hunter-gatherer group. There were many subdivisions of the Beothuk based on extended family. These subgroups lived away from each other during the winter. During the summer they would join each other in coastal meeting places to arrange marriages and discuss important things like who the next leader should be. The Beothuk were the first native people of Canada to come into contact with the Europeans. The Europeans began to settle on the coastal regions, exactly where the summer meeting places once were. As their settlement expanded westward, they began to see the local Beothuk as threats to the settlements. Beothuks were hunted down viciously. The ones who weren't murdered died of tuberculosis or other diseases brought over from Europe. These were introduced by English settlers during the early 1700s. 

Of course, the 1700s were NOT when the settlement of the Americas, or even Canada began. Settlement of Canada was attempted by French explorer Jacques Cartier in the 1500s. It was extremely unsuccessful thanks to the fact that Cartier was so STUPID in the way he dealt with the indigenous Iroquois people. 

Anyway, Cartier's expeditions were quite hilarious failures but talking about them in detail would be for another post. Europeans never really became successful in starting Canada's settlement until another French guy, Samuel De Champlain, came along in 1604. Anyway, the point is, Jacques Cartier is credited for being the first European in Canada. 

The title of "first European in the Americas as a whole" is given to Christopher Columbus who was discovered lost at see by native Taino people of the Caribbean in 1492. 


Because the first European in Canada was 


and the first European in the Americas was 


another fun fact is that


wasn't an evil scary genocidal horrible person the way columbus and cartier were.

Or at least, my favourite European explorer is innocent until proven guilty. 

But Columbus was known for selling 9 year old girls into sex slavery. Even the Europeans of the time admitted he was a genocidal maniac. The only person who liked him was queen Isabella of Spain. 

And Cartier was just stupid. When his men were dying of scurvy the Iroquois taught them a cure and in return their chief was kidnapped. No monarch in France liked him because he brought back 'gold' and 'diamonds' from the New World which actually turned out to be pyrite and quartz. That's where the expression 'Canadian Gold' comes from to describe something worthless. 

He ended France's interest in settling Canada for almost a century. 

I'm sure Eric the Red's son was better than that. 

Anyway, the remainder of this post shall be dedicated to talking about the exciting Norse exploration of North America, which occurred 500 YEARS BEFORE COLUMBUS ASDFHJKL;;!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

And if any of you still believe that this is pseudo-historical nonsense, well, please go to L'anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and see that there are indeed Viking settlements there. The Norse called that little hamlet of houses "leifsbudir" after Leif of course! 
You can book a room in Valhalla lodge and stalk all the skraelingsandvikingsthings there. 
You can even watch some cheesy white people dressed as Vikings do cool sword fighting reenactments while you're there. I haven't had the pleasure of going to northern Newfoundland myself. However, I have personally met one of the reenactment groups who perform there. THEY WERE COOL. I WISH I COULD FIND THE PICTURES I TOOK WITH THEM BUT I CAN'T UGH. 


Don't read small text. 

Ok so Vikings are the coolest European people ever and omg I love writing fanfictions about them. 

Perhaps I should start calling them the Norsemen instead of Vikings, as Norsemen is what they called themselves. It means "North men" obviously. Viking was a word of the time meaning raider or explorer. It was their occupation not ethnicity. 

The Settlement of Iceland- about 870 AD 

The Norse culture originated in the southern Danish peninsula in the 790s. From this time until the Norman conquest of England in 1066, northern Europe was in the period of time known as the Viking age. 

Iceland was settled by the Norsemen in about 870 AD. However, Gaelic monks and other christianitywhiteIrishorsomething people had settled the island and established monasteries a bit before that. There weren't any indigenous people on the island, so Icelanders are not guilty of committing mass genocide or anything like that. I mean sure, some Greenlandic Inuit may have visited the island before Europeans, but they never stayed and such an event was never recorded. I think it would be very stupid to say that Iceland does not rigthfully belong to Europeans. NORSEMEN ARE COOLER THAN IRISH MONKS THOUGH. ITS GOOD THAT THE MONKS LEFT ALONG WITH THEIR FANCY SHMANCY BELLS AND CROSIERS WHEN THE NORSEMEN CAME. LOL YEAH YOU'D BETTER LEAVE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE REKT LIKE LINDISFARNE WHERE THE FIRST RECORDED VIKING RAID HAPPENED AND MONKS LIKE YOU WERE KILLED. 

"Protect us, O Lord, from the wrath of the Northmen" ~ a random monk from Lindisfarne before a kewl Viking killed him
The Norse really needed more farmland so they eventually discovered Iceland, the land of Ice and Fire. Once it was settled they wanted even more land. 


Greenland was settled by Erik the Red, also known as Erik Thorvaldsson, which means his dad's name was Thorvald. That's how these patriarchal Norse last names work. And you guessed it, Erik the Red was the father of Leif Eriksson or Ericson or Aerikson or however you want to spell it there are like 5 ways to spell that last name. His daughter's last name was Eriksdottir. 


"Even though popular history credits Erik as the first person
to discover Greenland, the Icelandic sagas suggest that 

earlier Norsemen discovered and tried to settle it before him. 

Tradition credits Gunnbjörn Ulfsson (also known as 

Gunnbjörn Ulf-Krakuson) with the first sighting of the land-

mass. Nearly a century before Erik, strong winds had driven 

Gunnbjörn towards a land he called "Gunnbjarnarsker" 

("Gunnbjörn's skerries"). But the accidental nature of 

Gunnbjörn's discovery has led to his neglect in the history of

Greenland. After Gunnbjörn, Snaebjörn Galti had also visited 

Greenland. According to records from the time, Galti headed

 the first Norse attempt to colonize Greenland, which ended 

in disaster. Erik the Red was the first permanent European 

settler." ~ stolen from Wikipedia....Shame on me. 

Oh I see. It's like how Samuel De Champlain stole Jacques Cartier's title as the Father of New France. Cool cool. 

Erik the Red, called that because of his epic red beard and hair, settled Greenland. The Norsemen called it Grønland. BUT WE MUST CALL IT KALAALIT NUNAAT BECAUSE IT RIGHTFULLY BELONGS TO THE INUIT. 

Oh well, if the indigneous people take back their land I imagine that place will be a territorial dispute. Perhaps they can share Greenland to play skraelings vs. vikings with each other for eternity. That would be cute. 

Erik the Red went to Greenland after he was convicted of manslaughter and banished from Norway. Greenlanders considered him a hero and stuff. Cool. 

He slept around a lot according to sagas and soon had a son named Leif Erikson or Leif the Lucky, mein favourite *o* !!!! He also had an illegim8 daughter named Freydis Eriksdottir. Freydis sounds liked my own name, Freya, doesn't it? Freya was a Norse goddess of love and beauty. Like me, she had two pet cats and admired the heroic dead, ruling the afterlife of Valhalla for fallen warriors. Her name translates to "noblewoman" or "queen". But before any Scandinavian people accuse me of sacrilege by taking on a goddess' name, I have to say that my parents had no idea that Freya was a Norse goddess before they named me. According to them, the name means 'beloved' in Persian. 


Just to clarify, I'm calling certain shady internet people I've met "almost nazis". Not Scandinavian people in general, those are cool. 

So I suppose you can guess where the history goes from here. Leif Ericson was the first white person to see the Americas minus Greenland right? wrong. 

The first white person to see the Americas was the Icelander Bjarni Herjolfsson in 986 A.D. He saw the distant New World when his ship was blown off course. He saw three different new lands through the icy mist. The Norse saw to it that they were named "Helluland", "Markland" and "Vinland" which are believed to have been Baffin island, Labrador, and Newfoundland respectively. 

Bjarni's tails inspired Leif to sail westward to these cool new islands. He bought Bjarni's own ship and set sail, seeking VINLAND. 

What is Vinland? 

In simple terms, it was the name the Norse gave to northern Newfoundland. But other historians debate that the Norse explorers went southward and eventually discovered a different land which was better and called it Vinland. I think this debate is stupid as there is no evidence for it. Vinland is certainly a lot more than just a name for a measly Norse settlement. It was an idea of paradise from Norse mythology. The 'vin' in Vinland has been translated to mean either "wine" or "meadow/pasture". The latter translation makes a lot more sense to me, as the Norse were always looking for more good farmland. There wasn't much in northern Europe. It only makes sense for an ideal Norse mythological paradise to contain endless farmland. Do you think Leif the Lucky was really lucky when he found that barren, rocky tip of an island teeming with skraelings? Was it really something that deserved to be call Vinland. 

This Norse idea of Vinland reminds me of the Spanish concept of "El Dorado", a beautiful awesome made-up place full of gooooooolllllllllllddddd. The Aztec and Incan empire were nicknamed El Dorado. But no one ever found enough gold in one place to be satisfied enough to permanently call it El Dorado. 

"We Spaniards have a disease of the heart that can 

only be cured by gold." ~ Hernan Cortes, conqueror 

of the Aztec empire 

Cortes is only second to Columbus on the list-of-historical-figures-I-would-have-murdered-for-fun. 

The topper of the list of modern people is Donald Trump. 

Additionally Vinland was also the name Freydis Eiriksdottir/Ericsdottir/Eriksdottir/thisnamehasalotofspellingsdottir gave to her ship on the second Norse expedition to the Americas where Freydis lead a crew of Greenlanders and Icelanders. Leif didn't come. 


So yes, Leif the Lucky sailed to the Americas and built Leifsbudir there. COOL. 

The sagas claim his men were lumberjacks for a time. They also traded with the skraelings aka the Red Ochre people. But don't worry, the Norse didn't bring diseases. They were considered clean and well groomed by other Europeans. That is why white women always fell for those vain Vikings. Would you rather have the North-man who you can go on raids to burn down christian monasteries with or the weakling stupid catholiclatin scum who never bathes? The Vikings were also way less sexist than Christians and there were just as many female raiders as male ones. The Norse also had pretty hair and were the first Europeans to use combs. 
Exceptionally well preserved Viking combs from a site in Russia. Many Vikings settled in and assimilated into Russian culture.

Some Norse combs also have really pretty designs carved on their handles. 

So they traded with the natives but never actually settled there. But perhaps they had the intention of doing so. Why else would they have established Leifsbudir? 

Why the Vikings left their settlement in Newfoundland: Two possible reasons why

1: Conflict with the natives

There have been accounts that say that the Vikings treated the indigenous people well. They didn't pillage, rape, or kill them. They merely traded. However, there have been also accounts that say that the Vikings did exactly the opposite of that and were as brutal, savage, and genocidal as any other European explorers were. The Beothuk and other indigenous people of the area may have fought and expelled the Vikings. Some people suggest that the Vikings tried giving the natives cow's milk. Because most Native Americans are genetically lactose intolerant, or so this account claims, the indigenous people started having whatever problems lactose intolerant people have when you give them creamy, thick, raw, stinky milk from the plump udders of Norwegian cows. They were colonist cows though so alternately they might have been undernourished tiny cows who can't really produce good quality milk. The indigenous people thought they were being posioned, and so launched an attack on the weird pale blue-eyed aliens who had given them the elixir. In my opinion, if conflict with the natives was the reason why the Vikings abandoned Leifsbudir, it probably didn't involve lactose intolerance. It was probably just a war started after the Norse might have done something really Cartier-level idiotic. The good part is that if the Vikings were genocidal and evil, at least they were deported. Who wants to speak Old Norse and have their country capital be Leifsbudir, which may have one day become a sprawling metropolis of over 100,000 people instead of a handful of rugged Norsemen, who knows? 

2: Conflict among themselves (this is what I think most likely happened) 
In all honesty, I feel like the Vikings didn't leave North America because of the natives, but because of conflict among themselves. This seems more plausible to me because since when did European nations even get along among themselves? Throughout their history it had always been Germanics vs. Latins or Spaniards vs. British vs. French or something weird like Austria vs. Prussia. The Scandinavians were no exceptions. Denmark has fought Norway many times, and even though my examples are post Viking age there was still a lot of hatred between the Greendlanders and Icelanders during the time period we were discussing. There is a theory which suggests that during the last Norse expedition to the Americas, lead by Leif Ericson's half-sister Freydis Ericsdottir, she took with her a crew of Greenlanders, Icelanders, and one Norwegian aboard her ship the 'Vinland' as well as another tinier ship. After restlessly dwelling in Leifsbudir, they all went mad, surrounded by endless skraeling-filled forest. Arguments broke out between the Icelandic and Greenlandic crew. Freydis herself was an ill-tempered Greenlander. A battle started in which both sides may have massacred each other. Whoever survived left Vinland forever. This would explain why only one ship returned back from the voyage. Originally there were supposed to be two, the Vinland and a smaller one.  

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1) Leif Ericson wasn't an awesome Norse pagan like other Vikings were. By this time, Christianity was spreading in the Norse world like the plague. He converted on one of his trips to Iceland. I guess some of those damn Irish monks were still there, eh? Imagine him tearing off his mjolnir pendant for an ugly cross....
Well, at least he didn't have the misogynistic and stupid views of other Christians. He treated his half-sister very well, entrusting the Vinland ship to her for a voyage he didn't even participate in. Some pagans who convert still stay secretly pagan.

2) It's hard to say whether he was violent and genocidal or not. The sagas are difficult, contradictory, even. Did he merely trade with the Beothuk, or try to exterminate them? We may never know.

3) The Vikings had shown their greed for land by taking over Greenland. Maybe they wanted to do the same with Newfoundland?

4) If the intention of the Vikings was to take over Newfoundland, then the only thing that made them unsuccessful was the lack of biological warfare. Lets say innocent until proven guilty though.

5) Leif was the son of a man who was banished for manslaughter. Maybe that proves that he carries violent genes or something?

6) The Norse term "skraeling" which they called the indigenous could be taken as highly offensive. Apparently, it means weakling. 

If you have gone over the 6 points above and consider the Norse innocent, then you probably have a new found obsession with the Vikings now. If you read about any culture enough you WILL become obsessed with it. It's inevitable. 

I have some suggestions of historical fiction  that Viking nerds will love: 

1) The Blackwell Pages series by Kelly Armstrong and Melissa Marr, an excellent Norse mythology series which reminds me of Percy Jackson except Norse instead of Greco-Roman. 

2) Sword Song by Rosemary Sutcliffe, a story about a boy named Bjarni banished from Norway for manslaughter (how similar to the Fate of Erik the Red!) who becomes a mercenary. There is also a female part-skraeling character known as the Lady Aude the Deep Minded. 

3) Eiriksdottir by Joan Clark, very accurate for a fiction book, it details the last Norse expedition to Newfoundland. The main character is Freydis Eirksdottir. 

4) The Dream Carvers- also by Joan Clark. Is a sequel of some sorts to Eiriksdottir, but can also be enjoyed as a standalone. I read it two years after Eiriksdottir, so it felt like a standalone as I didn't remember the plot of the first book that well. This contains the most skraeling-ness as it is about a Norse boy who is adopted into the Beothuk tribe. 

Have a gr8 day!

and remember, Scandinavian folk music is very good: 




"In Greenland a woman can own as much land as she can lead a cow around in one day," Joan Clark, The Dream Carvers. 

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