Cast of Characters

[ Statue of Leif Eriksson in Reykjavik ]

Statue of Leif Eriksson in Reykjavik, Peter van der Krogt, http://leiferiksson.vanderkrogt.net/index.html

In this section you will make the acquaintance of fifteen Norse characters who participated in the Vinland voyages: thirteen men and two women. They are the only ones for whom we have names. The names are given in their English form, with the Old Norse forms in parentheses. The rest of the characters were anonymous labour crews of 20 to 60 men and a few female domestic servants, each crew hired for a specific voyage. You will also meet two, Erik the Red and his wife Thjodhild, who play an important role but do not take part in the voyages. Everything that is known about each person comes from the sagas and will be quoted in full here. Although it cannot be proven that any of these people actually existed, reference to some in more than one saga is an indication that they probably did. You will also be introduced to some of the archaeological sites associated with these individuals.

There are other players in the Vinland voyages: the people already living in Vinland and other areas visited by the Norse. These are the Aboriginal peoples of eastern North America. Through archaeology and other sources we have a rather good idea of who they were, although, with four exceptions, we have no idea of their individual names. The Norse referred to all of them as SkrŠlings, a term also applied at times to the Saami in northern Scandinavia. The meaning of the word has been lost, but chances are that it was not flattering. All the Norse knew was that SkrŠlings were physically and culturally different from themselves, and as is often the case in such situations, the Norse considered themselves superior.

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