All Saga interpretations [in square brackets] are of the 1965 Penguin Books “The Vinland Sagas – The Norse Discovery of America”, translation by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. – Please be sure to click on the links to see the supporting landscape and landmark photos.
NOTE: These Eirik’s Saga interpretations continue from previous posts deciphering the Greenlander Sagas of Bjarni Herjolfsson, Leif the Lucky and Thorvald Eiriksson. All bearings, landmarks and settlement sites are based on the prime assumption that Bjarni and his crew (lost in fog) sailed from Norway southwest past Newfoundland, then west into Cabot Strait, sighting first the east coast of Cape Breton Island on their left. Eirik’s Saga: Karlsefni goes to Vinland
They [Karlsefni and his expedition of 160 settlers] sailed first up to the Western Settlement [along Greenland’s southwest coast], and then to the Bjarn Isles [west across the Davis Strait to Baffin Island and its hundreds of coastal islands, hen south to Resolution Island].
From there they sailed before a northerly wind [south along the east coast of Labrador] and after two days at sea [two major open water crossings: the Hudson Strait and the Strait of Belle Isle] they sighted land [Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula] and rowed ashore in boats to explore it [setting up a camp at L’Anse aux meadows]. They found there many slabs of stone [as they explored Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula’s Long Range Mountains and west coast south to Gros Morne mountain] so huge that two men could stretch out on them sole to sole [the ‘North Summit’ and ‘South Summit’ mountain tops at the northern Long Range Mountains are well rounded with age and quite flat, and together resemble the sole of a shoe].
There were numerous [different species of] foxes there [Newfoundland has many]. They [Leif Eiriksson and his crew] gave this country a name and called it “Helluland” [‘slab-land’ or ‘slate-land’ or ‘land of flat stones’: referring to the distinctive rounded and flat shapes of Newfoundland’s Gros Morne and Long Range Mountains]. From there they sailed for two days [south across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Anticosti Island, and south towards Prince Edward Island] before a northerly wind and sighted land ahead [P.E.I.]; this was a heavily-wooded country abounding with animals. There was an island to the southeast [Cape Breton Island] where they found bears [good fishing grounds], and so named it Bjarn Isle; they named the wooded mainland Markland [the Labrador/Quebec/New Brunswick mainland].
After two days [crossing northwest across the Strait of Northumberland (between Cape Breton Island and P.E.I.) and Chaleur Bay (between New Brunswick and Quebec)] they sighted land again and held in towards it; it was a promontory they were approaching [the Gaspe Peninsula]. They tacked along the coast [the Gulf of St. Lawrence’s north coast], with the land on the starboard [following the shoreline on their ships’ right side, they sailed ‘up’ the St. Lawrence River]. It was open and harbourless, with long beaches and extensive sands. They called the stretch of coast ‘Furdustrands’ because it took so long to sail past it [500 kilometres of sandy beaches stretch along the north coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence between Blanc Sablon and Sept Iles, Quebec].
Then the coastline became indented with bays [today’s Baie Trinite, Baie Comeau and La Malbaie, Quebec] and they steered into one of them [crossed the river southwest toward Rimouski, Quebec]. They went ashore in boats and found a ship’s keel on the headland [Ile Saint-Barnabe], and so they called the place [Thorvald Eiriksson’s] ‘Kjalarness’ [today’s Parc National du Bic, Quebec]. When the ships had past Furdustrands [and the St. Lawrence River begins to narrow at Rimouski] the two Scots (Haki & Hekja) were put ashore [one on the north shore, one on the south] and told to run southwards to explore the country’s resources, and to return within three days [cross three large bodies of water].
The ships cast anchor there [at Kjalarness/Rimouski] and waited, and after three days the Scots came running down to the shore; one of them was carrying some grapes and one of them some wild wheat [signifying fertile soils]. They told Karlsefni that they thought they had found good land [along the southeast slopes of the St. Lawrence, and on the northwest slopes surrounding Lac St. Jean];
[NOTE: Scottish guides were used too by the first explorers of New France (French Canada) to help navigate and map the new world. Eastern Canada, Quebec and Ontario landscapes – and related settling challenges – are most similar to those of Scotland]. They were then taken on board and the expedition sailed [up the St. Lawrence River] until they reached a fjord [the eastern mouth of Riviere des mille iles, between Laval and Terrebonne, Quebec]. They steered their ships into it. At its mouth lay an island around which there flowed very strong currents [the island of Laval, Quebec] and so they named it Straum Island. There were so many birds on it that one could scarcely set foot between their eggs [eastern Laval is on a major migratory bird path, and wild grapes grow there in abundance to feed the migrating birds in the fall].
They steered into the fjord [centring their settlement on Ile des moulins, in Terrebonne, Quebec], which they named Straumfjord; here they unloaded their ships [the river’s water level drops to about six inches deep in the summer] and settled down [stranded for the winter]. They had brought with them livestock of all kinds and they looked around for natural produce [the surrounding waterfronts are dominated by fertile soil, prairie grasses and grapevines].
There were mountains there [Mount Royal and Bromont visible to the southeast, plus the Laurentiens visible to the northwest, and the Gatineau range northwest up the Ottawa River] and the country was beautiful to look at [Thorvald Eiriksson wished to build his house nearby at ‘Krossaness’], and they paid no attention to anything [the surrounding Iroquois first nations people] except exploring it. There was tall grass everywhere [they explored south up the Riviere des ‘prairies’ to Lake of Two Mountains, Quebec]. They stayed there that winter, which turned out to be a very severe one [normal extreme winter weather in Laval/Terrebonne, Quebec]; they had made no provisions for it during the summer [the summers are in contrast hot and muggy in Laval/Terrebonne], and now they ran short of food and the hunting failed [the winter snow there is very, very deep].
They moved out to the island [east across the Riviere des mille iles to Thorvald’s ‘Krossaness’ at St. Francois, Laval] in the hope of finding game [birds/dried grapes], or stranded whales [the Lac St. Jean settlers also searched for food at the mouth of the Saguenay River], but there was little food to be found there, but the livestock throve [on the dried prairie grasses beneath the windblown snow at the eastern tip of the island of Laval]. A little later [northeast up the St. Lawrence, at the mouth of The Saguenay River] a whale washed up and they rushed to cut it up. No one recognized what kind of whale it was [a white Beluga], not even Karlsefni, who was an expert on whales [but had not yet visited any Beluga Arctic waters before The Saguenay]. The cooks boiled the meat, but when it was eaten it made them all ill [the settlers mistakenly shunned aboriginal nutrition and survival techniques].
In the spring they went back to Straumfjord [Terrebonne, Quebec] and gathered supplies [furs], game on the mainland [timber at Lac St Jean], eggs on the Island [grapes at St. Francois, Laval], and fish from the sea [fishing the Gulf of St. Lawrence from Prince Edward Island and the Grand Banks from Cape Breton Island].
Then they [Thorhall’s expedition] put out to sea [headed north out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence], and Karlsefni accompanied them as far as the island [he sailed on to L’Anse aux meadows, Newfoundland]. With that they parted company [and Thorhall headed south through the Cabot Strait out into The Atlantic.] Thorhall and his crew sailed northward [from Terrebonne and Laval] past Furdustrands [along the northwest coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence] and Kjalarness [Rimouski on the south shore of the Gulf], and tried to beat westward from there [head southwest down the Atlantic coast past Nova Scotia to New England]. They ran into fierce headwinds [the northeast Gulf Stream] and were driven right across to Ireland. There they [the Irish] were brutally beaten and enslaved; and there Thorhall [retired and] died.
Karlsefni sailed south along the coast [from L’Anse aux meadows down Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula’s east coastline], accompanied by Snorri and Bjarni and the rest of the expedition [Freydis]. They sailed for a long time [south past Jackson’s Arm and Sop’s Arm] and eventually came to a river [Newfoundland’s ‘Saltwater Brook‘] that flowed down into a lake [‘Saltwater Pond‘].
There were extensive sand bars outside the river mouth [‘Saltwater Cove‘], and ships could only enter it at high tide. Karlsefni and his men sailed into the estuary [they settled south at Hampden, Newfoundland] and named the place ‘Hop’ (‘Tidal Lake’)[aka ‘Saltwater Pond’]. Here they found wild wheat growing in fields on all the low ground [the stretch of fertile farmable soil stretching south from White Bay to Deer Lake – see soil map] and grape vines on all the higher ground [The Rock’s widely available wild berries]. Every stream was teaming with fish. They dug trenches [out in Browns Cove] at the high-tide mark, and when the tide went out there was halibut trapped in the trenches [Today, US nautical maps warn pleasure boaters of treacherous ‘ancient stone mortar’ hiding beneath the surface of the waters of Browns Cove].
In the woods [Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula] there was a great number of animals of all kinds [the island was ripe with timber and fish to harvest]. They [Karlsefni and his men] stayed there a fortnight, enjoying themselves [exploring and setting up operations for Freydis] and noticing nothing untoward [no one had yet encountered the Beothuk people to the east]. But early one morning as they looked around [explored northeast around Baie Verte Peninsula and southeast along Notre Dame Bay] they caught sight of nine skin boats [nine islands and peninsulas]: the men in them [Beothuk] were waving sticks [canoe paddles] which made a noise like flails [when the paddles hit the water], and the motion was sunwise [Karlsefni and his men were exploring east/southeast towards the morning sun].
‘What can this signify?’, Karlsefni said. ‘It could be a token of peace,’ said Snorri. ‘Let us take a white shield [of peace] and go meet them with it.’ They did so. The newcomers [Karlsefni and his men] rowed towards them and stared with amazement as they came ashore. They [the Beothuk people] were small and evil-looking, and their hair was coarse; they had large eyes and broad cheekbones.
They [Karlsefni and his men] stayed there for a while, marvelling, then rowed [their ships] away south round the headland [northwest/south to Hampden (Hop) in White Bay]. Karlsefni and his men had built their settlement [plural, the first four sites of his new world settlement expedition] on a slope by the lakeside [Markland: Leif’s Houses on Lac St. Jean]; some of the houses were close to the lake [Kjalarness: nearby at Rimouski and Du Bic, Quebec], and others were far away [Straumfjord in Terrebonne, Quebec; and Freydis’ Hop at Hampden, Newfoundland].
Then [back at Straumfjord] early one morning in spring [when the waters of the Riviere des mille iles southward are highest], they saw a great hoard of skin boats approaching from the south round the headland [Oka on Lake of Two Mountains]. So dense that it looked as if the estuary [the convergence of the Milles Iles, Ottawa, des Prairies and St. Lawrence rivers] were strewn with charcoal [black hair]; and sticks [canoe paddles] were being waved from every boat [a sign of peace]. Karlsefni’s men raised their shields [in peace] and the two parties began to trade. What the natives wanted most to buy was red cloth [cut from Viking ship sails]. In exchange for the red cloth they traded grey pelts. The natives took a span (nine inches) of cloth and tied the cloth round their heads. The trading went on like this for a while [as the Karlsefni expedition continued up the Ottawa River] until the cloth began to run short [it was not as readily available up the river, as travel was done in boats not ships]; then Karlsefni and his men cut it up into pieces (strips) that were no more than a finger’s breadth wide; but the Skraelings paid just as much or even more for it [cherishingly designing it into their chiefs’ ceremonial dress for centuries].
After that there was no sign of the natives for three whole weeks [Karlsefni explored all the way up the Ottawa River to its end (source) at Lake Timiskaming, Quebec. But then [halfway up the river] Karlsefni’s men saw a huge number of boats coming from the south [where the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers converge], pouring in like a torrent [referring to both the Ottawa River’s ‘Chaudiere (tea kettle) Falls‘ and the Rideau River’s ‘Rideau (curtain) Falls‘]. This time all the sticks were being waved anti-clockwise [The Iroquois nations were meeting at Hull/Gatineau, Quebec for ‘war games’ of lacrosse] and all the Skraelings were howling loudly [lacrosse players yell and howl while engaged in the sport]. When they clashed [one Iroquois nation played against another] there was a fierce battle and a hail of missiles [lacrosse balls] came flying over [the playing field], for the Skraelings were using catapults [lacrosse sticks].
This terrified Karlsefni and his men so much that their only thought was to flee [Karlsefni concluded that despite the Vikings’ own savagery, the Iroquois people were more violent, even in sport, and unbeatable at war], and they retreated further up the river. They did not halt until they reached some cliffs [on the south side of the Chaudiere Falls], where they prepared to make a resolute stand [at the site today of Canada’s cliff top Supreme Court and nearby Parliament ‘Hill’]. Freydis came out [turned west] and saw the retreat [the Terrebonne/Laval and Ottawa River expeditions cancelled]. She shouted [visited Karlsefni from Newfoundland], ‘Why do you flee from such pitiful wretches [at Hampden, Newfoundland the Beothuk were not as big a threat as the Iroquois in Quebec], brave men like you? If I had weapons [more investment, more mining resources], I am sure I could fight better than any of you [succeed and create a sustainable settlement at Hop]. The men paid no attention to what she was saying [did not immediately join her at Hop].
In front of her [east across White Bay, the Baie Verte Peninsula] lay a dead man, Thorbrand Snorrasson, with a flintstone buried in his head, and his sword beside him [Thorbrand’s Notre Dame Bay flint expedition had failed]. She snatched up the sword [his mining tools and resources] and prepared to defend herself [her honour as the leader of the Hop settlement].
When the Skraelings [Iroquois] came rushing towards her [looking west toward Newfoundland’s west coast, the St. Lawrence River flowing eastward from Kjalarness toward her] she pulled one of her breasts out of her bodice [explored and discovered the coastal ‘Tablelands’ mountain range] and slapped it with the sword [found precious metals, easily accessible because of the ‘Tablelands‘ naturally dramatic ripped-open landscape, which exposes the ‘mantle’ – pushed up from tens of kilometres below the earth’s surface].
The Skraelings were terrified at the sight of this [The Tablelands] and fled back to their boats and hastened away [First Nations people spiritually respect any significant opening in the earth’s surface, and often, like the Vikings, feared the gods living within rocks and crevices]. Karlsefni and his men came over to her and praised her courage [her success at mining]. Two of their men had been killed [the Vinland and Kjalarness expeditions were cancelled], and four of the Skraelings [expeditions were succeeding in Lac St. Jean (Markland), Hampden (Hop), the Baffin Island east coast (Bjarn Isles) and Cape Breton Island (Bjarn Isle)] even though Karlsefni and his men had been fighting against heavy odds.
The Skraelings found the other dead Norseman [the Iroquois nation stretches north up the St. Lawrence River to Rimouski, Quebec (Kjalarness)], with his axe lying beside him [the settlers had already left Du Bic]. One of them [Karlsefni] hacked at a rock with the axe, and the axe broke; and thinking it was worthless now [like Leif thought Helluland ‘worthless’], they threw it away [cancelled the Kjalarness expedition, and (photo) left behind a ‘broken axe’-like mooring stone in the Du Bic / Kjalarness harbour]. Karlsefni and his men had realized by now that although the land was excellent they could never live there [Laval/Terrebonne (Vinland) or Du Bic/Rimouski (Kjalarness)] in safety or freedom from fear, because of the native inhabitants. So they made ready to leave the place [shut down Ottawa River explorations, and Vinland and Kjalarness farming settlements] and return home [to logging at Leif’s Houses at Lac St. Jean (Markland)].
They sailed off [from Ottawa] north along the coast [down the Ottawa River to the Riviere des prairies]. They came upon five Skraelings clad in skins [five sandy islands at the northern tip of Laval, asleep [where the Planetary Grid crossed the island of Laval – where ‘a voice’ shouted at Thorvald Eiriksson’s people to “wake up!”]; beside them were containers full of deer-marrow mixed with blood [Iroquois travellers also cached dried corn with the marrow, wrapped in bark]. Karlsefni reckoned that these five must be outlaws, and killed them [at the same east Laval site where Thorvald Eiriksson was killed, and temporarily buried at ‘Krossaness’].
Then they headed to a headland on which there were numerous deer [grapes grew wildly on the vine]; the headland [east St. Francois, Laval or ‘Krossaness’] looked like a huge cake of dung [marshland “muck” at the low water line], for the animals used to spend the winters there [the surrounding land was covered in prairie grass and grapevines, foraged by animals in winter]. Soon afterwards [after turning west up the Riviere des mille iles] Karlsefni and his men arrived at Straumfjord [Ile des moulins, Terrebonne, Quebec], where they found plenty of everything [and began to pack up and leave for Leif’s Houses in Markland/Lac St. Jean].
[In search of a northwest passage around the new world] Karlsefni set out with one ship in search of Thorhall the Hunter [who had gone south along the Atlantic coast], while the rest of the company stayed behind [at Markland (Lac St. Jean) and Hop (Hampden, Newfoundland)]. [From Lac St. Jean] He sailed north past Kjalarness [across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, through the Strait of Belle Isle] and then bore west, with the land on port beam [land on the left, he headed up the coast of Labrador].
It was a region of wild and desolate woodland [the Quebec and Labrador mainland is Markland]; And when they had travelled a long way [northwest around the Ungava Peninsula then south into Hudson Bay] they came to a river which flowed from east to west into the sea [the Nastapoka River, Quebec is the river that flows [over Twin Falls] most due east to west into Hudson Bay]. They steered into the river mouth and lay by its southern bank [settling the area, exploring and mining precious metals].
[To get to Karlsefni’s new Nastapoka River settlement] They set sail before a southerly wind [north from Hop] and reached Markland [followed Labrador’s east coast north], where they [turned west into Hudson Strait and] came upon five Skraelings [five bays and coves] – a bearded man [the shape of Ungava Bay], two women [Diana Bay and Deception Bay], and two children [south into Hudson Bay past Kettlestone Bay and Mosquito Bay]. Karlsefni and his men captured the two boys [settled at Nastapoka River and explored and mined precious metals in the region: Norse artifacts of copper (3) and iron (1) have been found on both Hudson Bay east and west coasts, and the north coast of the Hudson Strait].
One morning Karlsefni and his men saw something glittering on the far side of the clearing [they began to explore the Arctic, and map Baffin Island], and they shouted at it [travelled to it]. It moved [the island was inhabited], and it proved to be a Uniped [an Inuit person, in a kayak (one leg)]; it [Baffin Island] came bounding down towards [northern Quebec] where the ship lay [at the mouth of the Nastapoka River on Hudson Bay’s east coast].
The Uniped ran off to the north [Baffin Island curves northwest]. Karlsefni and his men gave chase [exploring first the familiar east coast of Baffin Island], catching occasional glimpses of it as it fled [passing Frobisher Bay and Cumberland Sound]. Then [after mapping the north coast] it disappeared into a creek [Baffin Island’s northwest Admiralty Inlet] and the pursuers turned back [south via the Gulf of Boothia].
Then [on another exploring expedition] they sailed away north [explored up the west coast of Hudson Bay] and thought they could see Uniped land [Nunavut to the northwest]; but they decided not to risk the lives of the crew any further [the Skalholt Map’s west Arctic shoreline (deciphering below) ends at the northern Melville Peninsula].
They [Karlsefni and his men] reckoned that the mountains they could see there [at the mouth of the Nastapoka River on the east coast of Hudson Bay] roughly corresponded with those at Hop [Newfoundland’s Long Range Mountains] and were part of the same range, and they estimated that both regions were equidistant from Straumfjord [Ile des moulins, Terrebonne to the mouth of the Nastapoka River, Quebec equals 1265 kms; Terrebonne to Hampden, Newfoundland (Hop) equals 1325 kms – a difference of 60 kilometres or 37 miles].
They [the kidnapped boys] said that there was a country across from their own land [Nunavut and Canada’s Northwest Territories] where [Inuit] people went around in white clothing and uttered loud cries [yelling at their dogs pulling dog sleds] and carried poles with patches of cloth attached [the whips the Inuit crack above the heads of their sled dogs to keep them in line]. QUESTIONS:
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The Vinland Sagas © Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson, 1965
Lavalhallalujah © Wiedman Communications, 2013