A new interpretation of “The Vinland Sagas – The Norse Discovery of America” – Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, Penguin Books – 1965 translation.  Please be sure to click on the links to see supporting landmark and landscape photos.

BRATTAHLID, GREENLAND – 1001 AD // Leif went aboard the ship with his crew of thirty-five.  Among them was a Southerner [ German ] called Tyrkir.

They made the ship ready and put out to sea.  The first landfall they made was the country that Bjarni had sighted last [ Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula ].  They sailed right up to the shore [ Pine’s Cove (ish) ] and cast anchor, then lowered a boat and landed.  There was no grass to be seen, and the hinterland was covered with great glaciers [ Long Range Mountains ], and between glaciers and shore [ North Summit and South Summit and Newfoundland’s west coastline ] the land was like one great slab of rock [ Gros Morne Mountain ].  It seemed to them a worthless country [ telling settlers Newfoundland’s west coast is not good for farming ].

Leif Explores Vinland - Map 2.1

Then Leif said, ‘Now we have done better than Bjarni where this country [ Helluland = Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island ] is concerned – we at least set foot on it [ Bjarni just sailing by it ]. I shall give this country a name and call it ‘Helluland’ [ ‘Slabland’ (footnote a) – named after Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula and Cape Breton Island ].

They returned to their ship and put out to sea, and sighted a second land [ the Quebec / Labrador coast ]. Once again they sailed right up to it and cast anchor, lowered a boat and went ashore. This country was flat and wooded, with white sandy beaches‘Blanc Sablon’, Labrador ].  Wherever they went; the land sloped gently to the sea [ Gulf of St. Lawrence ].

Leif said. ‘This country shall be named after its natural resources [ forestry ];  it shall be called ‘Markland’ [ ‘Forestland’ = Province/mainland of Quebec (footnote b) ].

They hurried back to their ship as quickly as possible and sailed away to sea [ Gulf of St. Lawrence ] in a north-east wind [ south west direction ] for two days until they sighted land again [ Cape Breton Island ].  They sailed towards it and came to an island which lay to the north of it [ Prince Edward Island ].

They went ashore and looked about them. The weather was fine. There was dew on the grass, and the first thing they did was to get some of it [ beautiful P.E.I. red soil ] into their hands and put it to their lips, and to them it seemed the sweetest thing they had ever tasted [ very fertile soil ]. Then they went back to their ship and the headland jutting out to the north [ The Gaspe Peninsula ].

They steered a western course round the headland [ The Gaspe Peninsula ]. There were extensive shallows there [ Gulf & St. Lawrence River ] and at low tide [ October / November ] their ship was left high and dry, with the sea [ Gulf of St. Lawrence ] almost out of site. But they were so impatient to land that they could not bear to wait for the rising tide to float the ship [ the river rising from the spring thaw ]; they ran ashore to a place [ Tadoussac, Quebec ] where a river [ Saguenay River ] flowed out of a lake [ Lac St. Jean, Quebec ].

Leif Explores Vinland - Map 2.2

As soon as the tide had re-floated the ship [ when spring came and the river rose ] they took a boat and rowed out to it and brought it up the river into the lakeup The Saquenay River into Lac St. Jean ], where they anchored it. They carried their hammocks ashore and put up booths ( footnote 1). Then they decided to winter there [ from Spring 1002 to Spring 1003 ], and built some large [ permanent ] houses.

There was no lack of salmon in the river or the lake, bigger salmon (footnote 2) than they had ever seen. The country seemed  [ in the Spring and Summer of 1003 ] to them so kind that no winter fodder would be needed for livestock: there was never any frost all winter [ the globe experienced a 4 degree warming trend around 1000-1004 ] and the grass never withered at allalong the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River Valley ].

In this country [ Quebec ], night and day were of more even length than in either Greenland or Iceland: on the shortest day of the year, the sun was already up by 9 am [ 6 am ], and did not set until after 3 pm [ 6 pm ] [ = December 21st, the winter solstice ].

When they had finished building their houses, Leif said to his companions, ‘Now I want to divide our company into two parties and have the country [ of Quebec ] explored; half of the company are to remain here at the houses [ at Lac St. Jean ] while the other half go exploring [ up The St. Lawrence, Mille Iles and des Prairies Rivers ] – but they must not go so far that they cannot return the same evening [ each settlement up the river was set one day’s walk apart ], and they are not to become separated [ all settlements will be established on the starboard side of the boat, and no large bodies of water will be crossed ].

They carried out these instructions for a time [ during the Spring, Summer and Fall of 1003, 1004, 1005? ]. Leif himself took turns going out [ up the St. Lawrence River (and the Ottawa River?) ] with the exploring party and staying behind at the base [ camp, at Lac St. Jean ].

March 20, 2013


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a . Literally ‘Slab-land’

b . Literally ‘Forrest-land’

1 . Booths were stone-and-turf enclosures which could be temporarily roofed with awnings for occupation.

2 . On the east coast of North America continent, salmon are not usually found any further south than the [ nearby ] Hudson River.

3 . This statement indicates that the location of Vinland must have been been south of latitude fifty and north of latitude forty [ the 49th parrallel ] – anywhere between the Gulf of St. Lawrence [ North of Laval and Terrebonne ] and New Jersey.

The Vinland Sagas © Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, 1965

Lavalhallalujah © Wiedman Communications, 2013