Aboriginal Peoples Encountered in Markland “The Saga of the Greenlanders”

Chapter 4

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The second summer Thorvald explored the country to the east on the large ship, going north around the land. [...]

[…] They then left [Kjalarnes] to sail to the east of the country and entered the mouths of the next fjords until they reached a cape stretching out seawards. It was covered with forest. After they secured their ship in a sheltered cove and put out gangways to the land, Thorvald and all his companions went ashore.

He then spoke: 'This is an attractive spot, and here I would like to build my farm.' As they headed back to the ship they saw three hillocks on the beach inland from the cape. Upon coming closer they saw they were three hide-covered boats, with three men under each of them. They divided their forces and managed to capture all of them except one, who escaped with his boat. They killed the other eight and went back to the cape. On surveying the area they saw a number of hillocks further up the fjord, and assumed them to be settlements.

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Following this they were stricken by sleep, so that they could no longer keep their eyes open, and all of them fell asleep. Then a voice was heard calling, and they all woke up. 'Wake up, Thorvald, and all your companions,' the voice warned, 'if you wish to save your lives. Get to the ship with all your men and leave this land as quickly as you can.'

A vast number of hide-covered boats came down the fjord, heading

towards them.

Thorvald then spoke: 'We will set up breastworks along the sides of the ship and defend ourselves as well as possible, but fight back as little as we can.'

They did as he said, and after the natives had shot at them for a while,

they fled as rapidly as they could.

Thorvald then asked his men if they had been wounded, and they replied that they were unhurt.

'I have been wounded under my arm,' he said. 'An arrow flew between the edge of the ship and the shield into my armpit. Here is the arrow, and this wound will cause my death. [...]

Thorvald then died, [...]

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Aboriginal Peoples Encountered in Markland] The Saga of the Greenlanders" in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, (New York, London, Victoria (Australia), Toronto, Auckland: The Penguin Group, 2000), 636-652. Notes: Translations first published in "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders," volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd., Iceland, 1997

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