Aboriginal Peoples Encountered in Markland “Eirik the Red’s Saga”

Chapter 12

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One morning [Karlsefni's men saw something shiny above a clearing[ in the trees, and they called out. It moved and proved to be a one-legged creature which darted down to where the ship lay tied. Thorvald, Eirik the Red's son, was at the helm, and the one-legged man shot an arrow into his intestine. Thorvald drew the arrow out and spoke: 'Fat paunch that was. We've found a land of fine resources, though we'll hardly enjoy much of them.' Thorvald died from the wound shortly after. The one-legged man then ran off back north. They pursued him and caught glimpses of him now and again. He then fled into a cove and they turned back. […]


They had southerly winds and reached Markland, where they met five natives. One was bearded, two were women and two of them children. Karlsefni and his men caught the boys but the others escaped and disappeared into the earth. They took the boys with them and taught them their language and had them baptized. They called their mother Vethild and their father Ovaegi. They said that kings ruled the land of the natives; one of them was called Avaldamon and the other Valdidida. No houses were there, they said, but people slept in caves or holes. They spoke of another land, across from their own. There people dressed in white clothing, shouted loudly and bore poles and waved banners [often translated as ‘banners’ but the literal meaning is ‘strips’, ‘rags’, or ‘flaps’ of an undefined material which could be skin or cloth or anything pliable]. This people assumed to be the land of white men.

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Aboriginal Peoples Encountered in Markland] Eirik the Red’s Saga" 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), 653-674. 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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