Bjarni Herjólfsson: Wanted to See Daddy More than North America

Posted by Ms Elly on

Bjarni Herjólfsson: Wanted to See Daddy More than North America

What is the first Viking name that will pop up in your head when it comes to the most famous Viking explorer? The most likely answer would be "Leif Eriksson" the first to discover North America half a millennium of years before Columbus discovery according to Vinland Saga. However, there was a Viking explorer that we seldom talk about. Bjarni Herjólfsson was his name. Bjarni could have taken over the "first" honor away. But Bjarni chose to come home and enjoy his time with his parents instead. 

Who was Bjarni Herjólfsson?

Bjarni Herjolfsson lived in the 10th century. His family was among the first ones to live in Iceland. 

Bárdi Herjólfsson was among the first Norse settlers in Iceland. His son was Herjólfr Bárdarson. And Bjarni Herjolfsson was the son of Herjolfr. It seemed this family lived in the same period with Leif Eriksson's family. 

According to the Saga of the Greenlanders, Bjarni was a skilled seafarer when he was young. With his intelligence and seafaring skills, Bjarni quickly became a merchant and he started to hire a crew and set sail. Being a merchant brought Bjarni both fame and wealth. 

Bjarni loved his parents so much. Whenever he didn't set sail, especially during the winter, he would spend his winter break around his parents in Iceland. 

On a summer, when Bjarni was busy sailing, his father Herjólfr decided to settle in a new land. Bjarni's parents joined the crew of Erik the Red to settle down in a newly-found land, Greenland. 

Arriving in Iceland, Bjarni found his house was completely abandoned. He found out that his parents settled down in a new land and he became upset. Bjarni refused to unload the ship and intended in his mind that he would sail and find his parents.

The crew didn't understand what their leader was up to. When they asked him, he said he wanted to continue their family tradition and he wanted to be with his parents. The crew agreed to join him.

"No, my parents are more important"

After a few days at sea, the crew was lost. This was the first time that Bjarni's crew sailed west. The guide they got came from the Icelanders that had made a trip to this new land. With the fog and mist surrounding, the crew lost their sight and quickly lost all directions. 

Norsemen sailing Bjarni Herjólfsson refused to explore new land only to come back home and have dinner with his parents as soon as possible

 Bjarni Herjólfsson refused to explore new land only to come back home and have dinner with his parents as soon as possible

When the weather improved, they luckily spotted land. But this land was not similar to what those Icelanders told them. And it didn't look like any land that they knew. 

The coastline was full of trees and low hills. No great mountains. No glaciers. This didn't match the description of Greenland. And this exotic land didn't interest Bjarni who was wishing to see his parents. He wanted the ship back to the sea and travelled around to find his parents.

Two more days passed and they spotted land again. The land was flat and full of forest. But surely neither glacier nor great rocks appeared in the sight. Although the crew suggested to go ashore and find some food, Bjarni ordered not to stop and carried on sailing. He really wanted to see his parents now.

After a few days backing to the ocean, the crew spotted an unknown land. There were glaciers, high rocks, and mountains. But maybe the instinct of an experienced seafarer told Bjarni that "No, this isn't what I am finding". And his crew moved away from this unknown land. 

And again, they travelled back to the ocean to find Bjarni's family. Then they saw land again. The crew, who thought this land would not capture the interest of their captain, indifferently asked Bjarni what they were supposed to do. "Land ahoy" answered Bjarni. 

Because this land looked similar to what they heard about Greenland, Bjarni decided to stop his journey. Bjarni found his parents in this land and united with them. He also gave up his life at sea and spent all time with his parents in Greenland. 

The scholars now believe that the lands that Bjarni spotted were the Canadian shore. The first, full of woods and low hills, could be Newfoundland. The second, flat and wooded, could be Labrador. And the third could be Baffin Island.

Although Bjarni gave up his seafaring life, he wrote down three times he spotted exotic land in the books and told people in Greenland about his journey. But no one really cared about his stories. When Bjarni's father died, he sailed again, back to Norway and Iceland. It was believed that during this time that Leif Eriksson befriended with Bjarni and heard about the story of the new lands. 

Then Bjarni sold his ship to Leif who was eager to set sail. Leif Eriksson's crew at that time included 35 men. And Leif the Lucky became the first Norseman to set foot in North America while Bjarni fell into oblivion when he sold his ship.

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