|Norwegian Vikings in Greenland|
The Icelandic Viking Erik the Red was the first Norse settler in Greenland. He
had acquired his nickname because of his red hair and beard, perhaps also
because of his bad temper. The Saga of Erik the Red recounts that about 960,
Erik's father had to flee Norway because of "some killings", and the
family settled in a Norse colony on the coast of Iceland.
Like father, like son: the Icelanders exiled Erik for several murders around the year 982. According to The Saga of Eric the Red, his neighbor Thorgest borrowed a few wooden bench-boards and when they did not come back to Erik, he sought an explanation. When Thorgest refused to return them, Erik stole them back. In the following chase, he killed Thorgest's two sons. A second crime laid at Erik's door occurred when Erik insisted upon revenge for the deaths of his slaves who had "accidentally started a landslide" on Valthjof's farm. Valthjof murderously punished the slaves for this misfortune.
Erik, his wife Thjodhild, and their followers established a new life in Brattahlid, at the bottom of Eriksfiord (named after him), well protected from the arctic storms, and with small spots of arable land allowing for a small sheep station. Erik's wife adopted Christian faith, and let build a small church (or rather chapel), probably the first church in the New World, of which the ruins still remain. This church is shown on the below sheet in the bottom row (right). Erik himself did not profess Christianity, but according to legend his wife converted him on his deathbed.
Later in History Brattahlíð hosted the first Greenlandic "thing" (parliament), based on the Icelandic Althing at Thingvellir. Its exact location remains unknown.
Brattahlíð still has some of the very best farmland in Greenland, owing to its location at the inner end of Eriksfjord, which protects it from the cold foggy weather and arctic waters of the outer coast.
Sources and links:
Microsoft Encarta 2002.
National Geographic Denmark Special Issue No. 1, 2001 (in Danish).
|Copyrighted © 14th January 2007. All Rights Reserved
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