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Eirik the Red's Saga

12. [Karlsefni and his company] were now of opinion that though the land might be choice and good, there would be always war and terror overhanging them, from those who dwelt there before them. They made ready, therefore, to move away, with intent to go to their own land. They sailed forth northwards, and found five Skrœlingar in jackets of skin, sleeping [near the sea], and they had with them a chest, and in it was marrow of animals mixed with blood; and they considered that these must have been outlawed. They slew them. Afterwards they came to a headland and a multitude of wild animals; and this headland appeared as if it might be a cake of cow-dung, because the animals passed the winter there. Now they came to Straumsfjordr, where also they had abundance of all kinds. It is said by some that Bjarni and Freydis remained there, and a hundred men with them, and went not further away. But Karlsefni and Snorri journeyed southwards, and forty men with them, and after staying no longer than scarcely two months at Hop, had come back the same summer. Karlsefni set out with a single ship to seek Thorhall, but the (rest of the) company remained behind. He and his people went northwards off Kjalarnes, and were then borne onwards towards the west, and the land lay on their larboard-side, and was nothing but wilderness. And when they had proceeded for a long time, there was a river which came down from the land, flowing from the east towards the west. They directed their course within the river's mouth, and lay opposite the southern bank.

13. One morning Karlsefni's people beheld as it were a glittering speak above the open space in front of them, and they shouted at it. It stirred itself, and it was a being of the race of men that have only one foot, and he came down quickly to where they lay. Thorvald, son of Eirik the Red, sat at the tiller, and the One-footer shot him with an arrow in the lower abdomen. He drew out the arrow. Then said Thorvald, “Good land have we reached, and fat is it about the paunch.” Then the One-footer leapt away again northwards. They chased after him, and saw him occasionally, but it seemed as if he would escape them. He disappeared at a certain creek. Then they turned back, and one man spake this ditty:—

“Our men chased (all true it is) a One-footer down to the shore; but the wonderful man strove hard in the race....[D] Hearken, Karlsefni.”

Then they journeyed away back again northwards, and saw, as they thought, the land of the One-footers. They wished, however, no longer to risk their company. They conjectured the mountains to be all one range; those, that is, which were at Hop, and those which they now discovered; almost answering to one another; and it was the same distance to them on both sides from Straumsfjordr. They journeyed back, and were in Straumsfjordr the third winter. Then fell the men greatly into backsliding. They who were wifeless pressed their claims at the hands of those who were married. Snorri, Karlsefni's son, was born the first autumn, and he was three winters old when they began their journey home. Now, when they sailed from Vinland, they had a southern wind, and reached Markland, and found five Skrœlingar; one was a bearded man, two were women, two children. Karlsefni's people caught the children, but the others escaped and sunk down into the earth. And they took the children with them, and taught them their speech, and they were baptized. The children called their mother Vœtilldi, and their father Uvœgi. They said that kings ruled over the land of the Skrœlingar, one of whom was called Avalldamon, and the other Valldidida. They said also that there were no houses, and the people lived in caves or holes. They said, moreover, that there was a land on the other side over against their land, and the people there were dressed in white garments, uttered loud cries, bare long poles, and wore fringes. This was supposed to be Hvitramannaland (whiteman's land). Then came they to Greenland, and remained with Eirik the Red during the winter.

[D] in this lacuna occur the words “af stopi,” which Dr. Vigfusson translates, in his notes, “over the stubbles.”

14. Bjarni, Grimolf's son, and his men were carried into the Irish Ocean, and came into a part where the sea was infested by ship-worms. They did not find it out before the ship was eaten through under them; then they debated what plan they should follow. They had a ship's boat which was smeared with tar made of seal-fat. It is said that the ship-worm will not bore into the wood which has been smeared with the seal-tar. The counsel and advice of most of the men was to ship into the boat as many men as it would hold. Now, when that was tried, the boat held not more than half the men. Then Bjarni advised that it should be decided by the casting of lots, and not by the rank of the men, which of them should go into the boat; and inasmuch as every man there wished to go into the boat, though it could not hold all of them; therefore, they accepted the plan to cast lots who should leave the ship for the boat. And the lot so fell that Bjarni, and nearly half the men with him, were chosen for the boat. So then those left the ship and went into the boat who had been chosen by lot so to do. And when the men were come into the boat, a young man, an Icelander, who had been a fellow-traveller of Bjarni, said, “Dost thou intend, Bjarni, to separate thyself here from me.” “It must needs be so now,” Bjarni answered. He replied, “Because, in such case, thou didst not so promise me when I set out from Iceland with thee from the homestead of my father.” Bjarni answered, “I do not, however, see here any other plan; but what plan dost thou suggest?” He replied, “I propose this plan, that we two make a change in our places, and thou come here and I will go there.” Bjarni answered, “So shall it be; and this I see, that thou labourest willingly for life, and that it seems to thee a grievous thing to face death.” Then they changed places. The man went into the boat, and Bjarni back into the ship; and it is said that Bjarni perished there in the Worm-sea, and they who were with him in the ship; but the boat and those who were in it went on their journey until they reached land, and told this story afterwards.

15. The next summer Karlsefni set out for Iceland, and Snorri with him, and went home to his house in Reynines. His mother considered that he had made a shabby match, and she was not at home the first winter. But when she found that Gudrid was a lady without peer, she went home, and their intercourse was happy. The daughter of Snorri, Karlsefni's son, was Hallfrid, mother of Bishop Thorlak, the son of Runolf. (Hallfrid and Runolf) had a son, whose name was Thorbjorn; his daughter was Thorun, mother of Bishop Bjarn. Thorgeir was the name of a son of Snorri, Karlsefni's son; he was father of Yngvild, the mother of the first Bishop Brand. And here ends this story.

(This translation is made from the version of the Saga printed in Dr. Gudbrand Vigfusson's Icelandic Prose Reader. The passages in square brackets are taken from the Hauks-bok version given in Antiquitates Americanæ. It may be mentioned here that Carl Christian Rafn and the other Danish scholars who edited this elaborate work have concluded that Kjalarnes is the modern Cape Cod, Straumsfjordr is Buzzard's Bay, Straumsey is Martha's Vineyard, and Hop is on the shores of Mount Haup Bay, into which the river Taunton flows.

English readers of Icelandic owe a large debt to Dr. Vigfusson for his labours in the cause of Icelandic literature. The great Dictionary, the Sturlunga Saga, and the Prose Reader, together make an undying claim on our gratitude; and yet they only show how very much more is still to be done. May we hope that Dr. Vigfusson will not cease from his labours until he has put forth a large instalment of the series which he has sketched in the able introduction to the Sturlunga, p. ccix.; and that the Delegates of the Clarendon Press will continue generously to appreciate his eager, scholarly, and laborious enthusiasm.)


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