Thorhall the Hunter in "Eirik the Red’s Saga"

Chapter 8


[...] Thorhall who was called the Huntsman. For years he had accompanied Eirik on hunting trips in the summers, and was entrusted with many tasks. Thorhall was a large man, dark and coarse-featured; he was getting on in years and difficult to handle. He was a silent man, who was not generally given to conversation, devious and yet insulting in his speech, and who usually did his best to make trouble. He had paid scant heed to the faith since it had come to Greenland. Thorhall was not popular with most people but he had long been in Eirik's confidence. He was among those on the ship with Thorvald and Thorvard, as he had a wide knowledge of the uninhabited regions.


[…]After this they entreated God to send them something to eat, but the response was not as quick in coming as their need was urgent. Thorhall disappeared and men went to look for him. They searched for three days, and on the fourth Karlsefni and Bjarni found him at the edge of a cliff. He was staring skywards, with his mouth, nostrils and eyes wide open, scratching and pinching himself and mumbling something.

They asked what he was doing there, and he replied that it made no difference. He said they need not look so surprised and said for most of his


life he had got along without their advice. They told him to come back with them and he did so.

Shortly afterwards they found a beached whale and flocked to the site to carve it up, although they failed to recognize what type it was. Karlsefni had a wide knowledge of whales, but even he did not recognize it. The cooks boiled the meat and they ate it, but it made everyone ill.

Thorhall then came up and spoke: 'Didn't Old Redbeard prove to be more help than your Christ? This was my payment for the poem I composed about Thor, my guardian, who's seldom disappointed me.'

Once they heard this no one wanted to eat the whale meat, they cast it off a cliff and threw themselves on God's mercy. The weather improved so they could go fishing, and from then on they had supplies in plenty.


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Chapter 9


They then began to discuss and plan the continuation of their journey. Thorhall wanted to head north, past Furdustrandir and around Kjalarnes to seek Vinland. [...] Thorhall then made his ship ready close to the island, with no more than nine men to accompany him. After that, they set out, and Karlsefni followed them as far as the island. [...]One day as Thorhall was carrying water aboard his ship he drank of it and spoke this verse:

With promises of fine drinks
the war-trees wheedled
spurring me to journey
to these scanty shores.
War-oak of the helmet god,
I now wield but a bucket,
no sweet wine do I sup
stooping at the spring.

war-trees: warriors
war-oak: warrior
helmet god: Odin


Before hoisting the sail Thorhall spoke this verse:


We'll return to where
our countrymen await us,
head our sand-heaven's horse
to scout the ship's wide plains.
Let the wielders of sword storms
laud the land, unwearied,
settle Wonder Beaches
and serve up their whale.

sand-heaven: sea
its horse: ship
ship's... plains: seas
wielders of sword storms: warriors

They then separated and Thorhall and his crew sailed north past Furdustrandir and Kjalarnes, and from there attempted to sail to the west of it. But they ran into storms and were driven ashore in Ireland, where they were beaten and enslaved. There Thorhall died.

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Thorhall the Hunter in] 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: 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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