Vinland Sagas: Viking Sagas of North American Colonization

Posted by Ms Elly on

Vinland Sagas: Viking Sagas of North American Colonization

The question is that whether the Viking glory in the Vinland Sagas is historically true?

The Vinland Sagas consist of two texts telling the stories how the Vikings found and settled down in their newly-discovered land. The medieval scholars wrote down the sagas in the 13th century, around 1220-1280 - roughly 3 centuries after the time of the action. The stories revolved around the discovery and settlement in Iceland, Greenland, and North America. 

One thing is that it is hard to tell whether the sagas reflect the historical events or not. Because after all, sagas are not necessarily factual and some of them might have been an artwork of literal fabrication. Some of them were even written for a political purpose. 

The sagas might have been used to highlight the heroic events and omit the less heroic ones. For example, the sagas said that the colony in Greenland ended due to consecutive wars and pirates. But archaeologists found out evidence that the colonists had been through starvation and harsh weather in Greenland leading to the high death toll. But this detail was omitted from the sagas. 

Erik the Red

Three generations from a family were credited for finding new land. Thorvald Arvaldson as the Norse explorer of Iceland, Thorvald's son Erik the Red as the Norse explorer Greenland, and Erik's Leif Erikson as the Norse explorer of North America

For a long period of time, scholars didn't believe much or even dismissed the Vinland sagas. They mentioned it nothing much but fabrications. Much as they say, no one can deny that there is archaeological evidence of Viking occupations in Greenland, Iceland, and North American regions. 

Some discrepancies found

The Vinland sagas have two literal texts. Many of them survived by the oral traditions. The final written texts are actually the results of centuries of oral traditions. 

The Greenlanders' Saga and Eirik the Red's Saga both tell the different and somewhat conflicting roles of Leif and the merchant Thorfinn Karlsefni. In the Greenlanders' Saga, Leif was credited for discovering Vinland while he was the chieftain of Greenland. Thorfinn, on the other hand, had a very minor role. 

But in Eirik the Red's Saga, Leif was just a man who was lucky enough to accidentally find out Vinland. The true explorer was Thorfinn. 

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