Boundaries of Difference in the Vinland Sagas

E.A. Williamsen Indiana University


osTTWENTiETH-CENTURY study ofthe Vinland sagas, lendinga saga and Eiriks sa£fa rauda, has been historical and archaeological in nature; scholars have been very concerned with the veracity ofthe narratives the sagas relate. Paleographers have compared the manuscripts—and even their content—to determine which ofthe two is older. Most scholars now seem to accept Jon Johannesson's assertion that Grxnlendinga saga is the older of the two dating from c. I2OO.' Historians have delved into chronicles to study more dryly factual accounts ofthe saga characters' doings to determine the historical probability of these characters' undertaking the voyages related in the sagas.^ Ever since Gustav Storm's 1887 assertion that Vinland must have been in Nova Scotia, archaeologists have reconstruaed ships, retraced voyage routes, and tried somewhat obsessively to determine where Vinland actually is and what actual Native American tribes the Norsemen encountered. The proposed locations range from Maryland to Labrador and all points in between, and the natives are associated with either the Micmac or the Boethuk depending in part on the scholar's idea ofthe location in question.^

1. Helgi I>orlaksson provides a succina overview ofthe dating debate with his own reasons for agreeing with J6hannesson in his "The Vinland Sagas in a Gantemporary Light." 2. Notably, Erik Wahlgren's "Fact and Fancy in the Vinland Sagas" attempts to verify the probable factuality ofthe main episodes ofthe sagas. 3. Mats G. Larsson recendy examined the saga details in an exhaustive comparison with the known facts about the shape ofthe Nova Scotia coastline, native inhabitants, climate and vegetation c. 1000. He concludes that the sagas probably cannot help us determine whether the L'Anse aux Meadows site is a settlement referred to in the sagas. Birgitta Linderoth Wallace suggests the L'Anse aux Meadows site "marks the northern entrance to Vinland and is the gateway to the riches of Vinland" (231).



In the shadow ofthe overwhelming concern with determining what parts ofthe sagas are factual and what partsfictional,scholars have given surprisingly little attention to these texts as literary rather than historical artifacts. These sagas are ripe for such interpretation and offer the reader interesting characters and high adventure. The narrative of exploration of the unknown and encounters with unfamiliar peoples are perhaps among the most striking features of these sagas. The heroes boldly enter the new lands they discover, expecting a paradise that lures them because of its difference from what they know. These differences and the route are the main foci of the two sagas, but the route ultimately does not lead to paradise. The Norsemen's often violent interactions with Native Americans mar their explorations and attempts to settle; the travelers react to the natives' racial Otherness by constructing boundaries, both physical and mental, to keep the natives away. The boimdaries of difference constructed by the Norsemen finally push them away from this land of plenty. The Vinland sagas are narratives of travel and exploration in which the charaaers take leave ofa familiar land to investigate a new one. According to Casey Blanton's genre study Travel Writing: The Selfand the World, travel writing's main purpose in narrating such events throughout the history ofthe genre has been to introduce the other to the narrative's readers (xi). However, he states, early travel accounts, such as those of the Middle Ages, are so tightly bound by their objects of devotion or economics that they obscure the narrator's thoughts about his experiences and fail properly to introduce otherness to the reader (3). Not until the Renaissance, he claims, does a personal voice emerge in travel literature to allow the important interplay between observer and observed that characterizes the mature form ofthe genre (9). Meanwhile, Stephen Greenblatt argues that the real difference between a medieval text like the fourteenth-century Mandeville's Travels and those of Renaissance and Enlightenment explorers is that Mandeville's text is not interested in personal ownership ofthe lands described, although he would not mind their "possession" by a Christian empire (27-8). While Greenblatt's assessment of the diflference between medieval and later travel narratives is problematic, his interpretation of Mandeville is made possible by the interplay between observer and observed, which Blanton finds important to the genre, even if the traveler's voice does not use quite the same formulas as a nineteenth-century traveler might employ. The medieval text becomes interpretable because ofthe specific feature that

and nineteenth-century studies. Meanwhile. Some early modern scholars like Stephen Greenblatt are beginning to follow suit. Frakes's "Vikings. others to writers and critics of fiaional realism or historiography. Even an encyclopedic compiler like "Sir John Mandeville" depicts such interplay through his fictional eyewitness accounts that allow the reader to see how a "selT' or the perception of the "same" might be affected by cross-cultural encounters in the particular climate ofthe Middle Ages. Although the Vinland sagas largely lack the personal voice important to Campbell in defining the genre. few scholars have applied themselves to its study. Some of these demands are familiar to the 'participant-observers' of ethnography. Mary B. only a handful of scholars have focused their attentions on travel narratives." in which Frakes identifies some ofthe ways in which the sagas's representation of North America draws upon Latin tradition.* Despite all the possibilities offered by medieval travel literature. whether about the foreign culture or about its own. All of them are important to the analysis of travel writing" (6). though they focus almost exclusively on material relating to the discovery and exploration of the New World. Although a medieval travel narrative might indeed be bound by a religious or economic agenda. Campbell observes that the genre of travel narrative "is a genre that confronts. the manipulation of rhetorical figures for ends other than ornament.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 453 Blanton asserts does not exist in travel texts before the eighteenth century. The sagas most definitely fulfill Campbell's first genre feature. when the popularity ofthe Grand Tour was at its height and literary travel journals abounded. and not many among this small group have achieved studies of any length. the descriptive narrative that translates observation into fact (or something very like faa). particularly eighteenth. the text nonetheless presents otherness to the reader. and the Discourse of Eurocentrism. For an interesting analysis of rhetorical figures in the sagas. the 4. The "self" ofthe travel narrative is removed from its familiar context and placed into strange or even dangerous situations that may call for a rethinking of assumptions. the deployment of personal voice in the service of transmitting information (or the creation of devotional texts). travel scholarship is burgeoning in other periods ofstudy. but often such scholars' focus on particularly modern or postmodern aspects of travel has led them to overlook pre-Enlightenment travel literature. . Vinland. there is no doubt that the characters ofthe sagas have personalities. at their extreme limit. see Jerold C. representational tasks proper to a number of literary kinds: the translation of experience into narrative and description. of observation into the verbal construction of fact. In medieval studies. Scholars like Mary Lxjuise Pratt and Caren Kaplan have made interesting connections between travel writing and imperialism. ofthe strange into the visible. as we can see through their reactions to the events that befall them in the new lands.

lines of boundary. According to Syed Manzurul Islam. Bjarni Herjolfsson discovers the North American continent accidentally on his way to Greenland when he is blown off course and disoriented by 5. the traveler cannot arrive at his destination. show the range of the literature of travel. which is their goal. in the very process of their movement. In the study of travel literature. Scott Westrem's Discovering New Worlds: Essays on Medieval Exploration and Imagination. however. If there exist no physical bovindaries to be crossed. In Grwnlendinga saga and Eiriks sa^a rat^a. construct additional boundaries to separate the new lands from familiar Greenland. Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles's Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages. "the presumed departure and arrival. As Islam puts it. however. in that the destination described is not perceived as identical to the homeland—if it were.' Although the Vinland sagas lack the first-person. "before a narrative of difference can begin. constructed boundary of difference that divides the spaces identified as home and non-home (Islam. the narrative in its simplest form relates the events arising from traveling through space. or it may be an imaginary. The texts. In order to leave one place and enter another. then boundaries must be constructed. reflective narrative that defines the genre in the eighteenth century and beyond. This border may be a physical boundary. whose crossing enables the very possibility of representing otherness" ("Marco Polo" 2). it would not be a destination. Ethics 61). and enacts 'the between' that divides and joins spatial locations" {Ethics 5). for without crossing boundaries. All travel narratives are inherendy narratives of difference. the text must establish points of departure.454 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES collections of essays to which they have contributed. as they cover material from maps to itineraries to romances to histories. . In Grxnlendinga saga. paradoxically stages the threshold to be crossed. the North Adantic Ocean functions as a conspicuous physical boundary separating the Greenland explorers from the North American continent. such as a mountain range or an ocean.. the traveler must cross some sort of border that delineates the home space from the destination. as Blanton finds so important. See Mary B. Campbell's JJie Witness and the Other World: Exotic European Travel Writing 400-1600:. the sagas are representations of travel that. do indeed introduce the other to the reader through their descriptions of both the new lands themselves and ofthe inhabitants of these lands.

Bjarni can perhaps be forgiven for getting lost since "engi var hefir komit 1 Groenlandshaf' (246) [none of us have come to Greenland's sea]. are notorious for step-by-step instructions delineating the path: as Paul Zumthor observes. Non-fiction travel narratives.. but the loss of direction each experiences separates him from the known and opens up the unfamiliar. Translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. subsequent storms do not bring would-be explorers any closer to the new lands. er hann vissi aflr enga van til" (211) [Leifr set out to sea was tossed around for a long time and hit on lands where he did not know there were any]. In each saga. . It is a question. hvert at J)eir foru. in Granlendin^a saga. Similarly. however. and they did not know where they were going for many days]. Bjarni's discovery ofthe North American coast is described in terms of landmarks and distances. and those who already belong exhort others to follow the szmepath. Jonathan Wooding has compared the fog Bjarni experiences to mystical clouds that often befuddle adventurers in Irish voyage stories (HI). he would have reached Greenland none the wiser. and both discover hitherto unknown lands.. The disorienting storm. ok lagdi a norrcenur ok ^okur. especially pilgrimage guides. If each had been able to keep to his course through familiar waters. The surest way to reach the lands discovered by Bjarni or Leifr seems to be to get good directions. 6.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 455 fog: "En ^a tok af byrina.* In Eirtks sa^a rauda. Bjarni advises them to sail close to the shore so that they can see if the land looks like Greenland: Ok svAgera. appears to work only once in this fashion. important only by virtue ofthe holy places that mark the route" (810). peir ok sd pat brdtt. ok vissu jjeir eigi. Leifr Eiriksson experiences a similar disorientation on his way from Norway to Greenland: "Lstr Leifr 1 haf ok er lengi liti ok hitti a l9nd J3au. in fact. neither can help the weather. ok skipti ^at mprgum doegrum" (246) [and dien the wind died down and they were beset by storm and fog. of a path. ok letu landit d bakborda ok letu skaut horfa d land. When the crew first sights land after the period of disorientation. "every Christian is called to join . I>orsteinn Eiriksson attempts a journey to the west and finds himself blown back to Greenland. but Leifr is more familiar with the route to Greenland. ok smdr hiedir d landinu. at landit var djjgldu ok skdgi vaxit. The text of both sagas is taken from the Islenzk fomrit edition. Still. It seems just as logical to read Bjarni's and Leifr's dual disorientation on the seas as the boundary each must initially cross in order to reach the unknown lands of North America.

when dagr is used to express the amount of time in a day. halda med landinufram ok sd. Now they sailed for four days. hvdrtBjami iHtlaSipat enn Greenland... In nautical contexts. Sigldu nu fggur dwgr. Greenland..456 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES Sidcm stglapeir tvau Aocgr." They approached the land quickly and saw that it was aflatand wooded land. and they did so and turned the stern towards the land and sailed seawards with a southwesterly wind for three days and saw the third land. peir spyrjapd.) This. they asked then. ok svd vargqrt. mountainous. He said it did not seem more like Greenland than thefirst—"becausethere are said to be many large glaciers in Greenland.'' and also the orientation ofthe ship to the coast.. and they kept the land on their port side and sailed along the shore. efBjami vildi at landi Idtapar." PeirnAlgudusk hrdttpetta land ok sdpat vera slett land ok vidi vaxit. One dcegr was equal to twenty-four vikur or 144 nautical miles. Hann kvazk eigi heldr £tlapetta Greenland en it fyrra. if Bjarni would stop at this land. The text here describes each land—wooded. A vikur was the distance that could be covered in two hours of rowing. See Roald Morcken. nautical distance was measured in terms ofthe distance that could be rowed in a given duration of time.—"pvi at mer Uzkpetta land dgagnv£nligt. Then they saw the fourth land.. According to the Rim. It is no wonder that Leifr Eiriksson is able to 7.finally. they set the stern along the land and sailed out to sea on the same wind." Nti Iggdupeir eigi segl sitt. but sailed against the shore and saw that it was an island.. settu enn stafn vid pvi landi ok heldu i haf inn sama byr. "Old Norse Nautical Distance Tables in the Mediterranean Sea" and Thorsteinn Vilhjalmsson. the term dosgr seems to be used exclusively to indicate sailing distance. an island—the distance between the lands in dtegr of sailing. en hann kvazk eigipat vilja. They asked Bjarni if he thought it was Greenland. dirpeirsA land..—"pn atjgklar eru mjgk miklir sagdir a Granlandi. ok settu framstafh frd landi ok sigla i haf utsynnings byrprjii docgr ok sdpd land itpridja..." .. and that land was high and mountainous with a glacier on it. and twelve vikur equaled one degree of latitude or longitude. This description of Bjarni's experiences along the unfamiliar coast provides fairly useful directions for travel.. at pat var eyland. a thirteenth-cenmry Scandinavian navigational manual. "Time and Travel in Old Norse Society. Pd sd peir land itforda.—"because this land seems unprofitable to me.. en pat land var hdtt okfglldtt okjgkull d. but he said that he would not. (246-7) (And so they did and saw at once that the land was not mountainous and grown with forests and had small hills in the land. Then they sailed for two days before they saw another land.." Now they did not lower the sail. annat. Hann badpd vinda se^l. He bade them to hoist the sail.

he apparently has grown friendly enough with Leifr that the former explorer presents him with the two Scots. til Leifsbiifla" (254) [nothing is told of their journey until they came to Vinland. to Leifr's booths]. "ok fundu J>a J)at land fyrst. Leifr simply chances upon land (and a shipwreck). and found a forested land with many animals in it. en landitMarkland. Haki and Hekja. There were many foxes there. From there they sailed two days to the south. and Leifr's guidance has directed his brother unerringly to the booths Leifr constructed in the new land. ok brd til landsudrs dr sudri. ok fundu land skdgvaxit ok mgrg dyr d. Pd sdpeir land ok skutu bdti ok kgnnudu landit. but only after "umraQ" [consultation] with his brother. It is not surprising. Ey Id par undan i landsudr. The narrative about Karlsefni provides many more details about the nature ofthe journey: Peir sigldu til Vestri-byggdar ok paban til Bjameyjar. In Eiriks saga rauda. fyrr en {)eir koma til Vinlands.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 457 retrace Bjarni's route backwards. Then they saw land and launched the boat and explored the land and found there large flat slabs and many twelve ells wide. par drdpu peir einn bjgm ok kglludu par sipan Bjamey. I>orvaldr Eiriksson makes the third voyage in this saga. and goes home to Brattahh'3 (211-2). Perhaps in spending the winter with Eirikr the Red. er Jjeir Bjarni fimdu si3ast" (249) [and found that land first which Bjarni and his men found last]. ok margar tolfdlna vtdar. for "er engi frasQgn um fer3 J)eira. there they killed a bear and called it then Bjamey [Bear Island] and the land Markland [Forest land]. this guidance seems to consist of good directions. has less trouble. he may have gotten directions when asking Leifr for the use of his booths (261). that his brother I>orsteinn is unable to find this new place. then. Peir gdfu par nafh ok kglludu Helluland. FjgWi var par melrakka. on the other hand. An island lay there to the south of the land. running so far off course that he winds up closer to Ireland than to America (213).) . They gave the land a name and called it Helluland (Stone-slab land). (222) (They sailed to the western settlement and thence to Bjamey. and he may have gotten detailed directions as well (222-3). I>orfinnr Karlsefni also arrives in Vinland without mishap. Padan sigldu peir tvau dagr isudr. Karlsefni has garnered directions to the western lands. From there they sailed two days and set off to the south-east from the south. The voyage is apparently uneventful enough that no stories need be told. fundu par hellur storar. Padan sigldu peir tvau dcegr. Karlsefni. the description of Leifr's discovery provides no details like those in the narrative about Bjarni.

who consult more experienced explorers. Not just the method of travel. and distances in dagr of sailing. I>orsteimi simply wishes to go. Ethics 55). they know that they are leaving familiarity behind and entering a new and different place. This method of traveling does not pay off because I>orsteinn's ship spends the summer tossing on the seas until it luckily reaches the Western Settlement of Greenland. by reaching each of these points. torsteinn Eiriksson fails to reach the new lands in both sagas. his story sparks "mikil umroeSa um landaleitan" (248) [much discussion about land discovery]. providing names and the reasoning behind them. t>egar |)au em buin. When Bjarni arrives in Greenland with his tale of discovery in Granlendinga saga. the verb leita (to search) is most often used to launch departures for Vinland in this saga (Barnes. though. These route markers help subsequent travelers construct the boundary between Greenland and the new lands. this interest in new lands seems to be purely curiosity. and out of sight of land].458 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES The narrative continues in this fashion. It is perhaps Leifr's lack of directions that in this text renders Vinland a seemingly unattainable goal. Karlsefni's route could conceivably be retraced as Bjarni's was. those who follow Bjarni's route in Granlendinga saga can be reasonably certain that they will arrive in the lands he found. especially since his brother has apparently failed to record any navigational aids for posterity (212-3). Granlendinga saga gives no indication that I>orsteinn receives or attempts to get directions from Bjarni or Leifr. his focus . Since such route markers are not known. compass direaions. 221). "ok sigla l haf. significantly. A commercial traveler might take the same track as a pilgrim but they would be traveling along different routes" (Islam. ok or landsyn" (257) [and sail out to sea. not far from where the party began the abortive journey (257). but the object of a traveler's quest also defines that traveler and the way the destination is perceived: "They do not all travel the same route: there are as many routes as there are travelers. Certainly. apparentiy due to lack of direction. as soon as they were prepared. but both Porsteinn and Karlsefni have plans merely to leita for Leifr's lands (212. A traveler needs checkpoints along his journey in order to know that he is traveling in the right direction. only two voyages are attempted after Leifr's lucky accident. I>orsteinn has no better luck in Einhsaga rauda. unlike other travelers in this saga. When Leifr retraces Bjarni's route. "Reinventing" 20). in Eiriks saga rauda it is never certain whether the boundaries have been crossed. and travelers after Leifr can merely look for what they have been told is out there.

Helgia ok Finnbo^a.* These "images of plenitude" reflect a motivation toward exploitation ofthe lands' resources (Wooding 98). both of which seem to be features of the land Leifr explores. and thus whether the name refers to vines or to meadows. Most ofthe Vinland voyages related in these sagas are nothing if not transient. (264) (Now talk began anew about a Vinland voyage. Par er nu til at taka.) The trip has been profitable to all the others who have attempted it. "her er fagrt. ok beiddipd. though agreeing to split the profits with these two brothers. ok hafa helminggaia allra vid hana. There is. pvi at suferdpykkir btedi^dd til jjdr ok virdin^ar. peira er parfengisk. vera goeSalaust" (249) [seemed to them to be unprofitable]: it is useless. atpeirfwri til Vtnlands mc&farkostsinn.. Markland is designated as such for its rich forests (250). Helluland. "most explorations [by medieval North Europeans] did not lead to settlement. "syndisk J>eim . It must now be told that Freydis Eiriksdottir made a trip from her home in Gardar and went to meet with the brothers Helgi and Finnbogi and proposed to them that they all should go to Vinland with the brothers' ship and share with her half of all the goods which they might take there. Similarly. however. Geraldine Barnes sees ^orvaldr's setting 8. ... as witnessed by the loads of wood and grapes brought back by Leifr and I>orvaldr's men (253. as Wooding notes... The final voyage described in this saga is also motivated by profit. Nu teksk umrada at nyju um Vinlandsferd.. much argument on the length of the "i" in Vinland. 257).BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 459 seems to be profit. ok her vilda ek boe minn reisa" (255) [it is fair here. Now their sister is ready to cash in. and here I will set up my farm]. and she is willing to take great risks to achieve that wealth.. Some ofthe voyagers in the sagas. This profit motive is typical. because this journey seemed good for both wealth and honor. do seem at least somewhat interested in settling.. The desire for short-term extractive use of paradisaical lands explains the transient character of the Vinland settlements" (98).. and Vinland for its grapes (253). In Grankndinga saga. with its rocks and glaciers. I>orvaldr Eiriksson and his crew explore the land until they reach a forested cape of which I>orvaldr says. This ongoing discussion will be addressed at greater length later in this paper.. but to short-term exploitation. Freydis is portrayed as "not a colonist but a seeker after wealth on a wild frontier" (Wahlgren 59). atFreydis Eirtksdottir£er6i ferd sina heiman or Ggrdum ok for tilfundar vidpd bradr. of course.

the travelers "h9f9u me3 ser alls konar fenaS" (224) [they had with them all kinds of livestock]. The description of his exploration is introduced with the statement that. I>orvaldr asks that his men bury him where he wanted his farm to be (256). es komk hingat. I>orfinnr Karlsefni expresses an interest in settlement.46o SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES up the damaged keel of his ship in this area as "enacting a variation on such rituals of settlement as the claiming of land where the high-seat pillars are washed ashore. This figure is according to the footnote in the fslenzkfbmrit edition of Eirtks saga rauda (222). In this saga he takes with him a much larger group than any other mentioned in either saga—"^ora tigu manna ok hundraQ" (222) [forty men and a'hundred']. when he is mortally wounded by the skrdingar whom he finds on what is now "his" land. "{)eir hpfSu me3 ser alls konar fenaS. Karlsefni is again the one expedition leader who expresses an interest in settling the new lands. Viking 13). Again. ^vi at |)eir £etlu3u at byggja landit. The word hundra normaily means one hundred twenty. Frustrated by a hard winter and a rotten whale. . The land-taking ritual is again to be modified with the crosses he asks to be erected on his grave (Barnes. I>6rhallr the Huntsman is disappointed in what he sees in the new lands. Karlsefni's group stays in Vinland for three years. and at least one child is born there (Karlsefni and Gudridr's son Snorri) before the expedition decides to return to Greenland. because they intended to settle the land if they could do it].' As in Granlendinga saga. which seems to be one hundred sixty in all." such as that na. In Eiriks saga rauda. mer samir Iddfyr lydum lasta. In the same saga. they spend three winters in the new land before they depart for home. drykk inn bazta. Bilds hattar verdr byttu 9. apparently because they lack the scope for profit he expected. though without enacting any rituals to claim his land. the same is not true of all his companions. Although Karlsefni himself shows interest in settling. although the men are not averse to profit. which they move about the area with them as they look for an ideal location: "Fe sitt hpfQu Jieir med ser" (227) [they had their livestock with them]. Similarly. I>6rhallr recites a bitter verse to the land: Hafa kvgdu mik meidar malmpings. ef J)eir msetti |)at" (261) [they had with them all kinds of livestock.mted'm Landndmabdk (Viking II).

Instead of wine." said Bjarni.)'" After hearing tales of the grapes and self-sown wheat found by Leifr (211). In Eiriks saga rauda. he finds himself drinking water. Admittedly. but Bjarni would not. heldr's svdt krypk at keldu. however. I now wield but a bucket. but he took for this some reproach from his crew]. but the Norsemen never seem to follow them back to the grapes' vines. Neither the reader nor Leifr's successors ever lay eyes directly upon it" (Viking 25). komat vin dgrgn mina. 10. I>6rhallr understandably expects to find such things in this land himself and probably to be able to turn a profit on them.' segir Bjarni. War-oak ofthe helmet god. In Granlendinga saga.BOUNDARIES OF D I F F E R E N C E Beidi-Tyr at reida. At engu eru J)er J)vi obirgir. Haki and Hekja do return from their three-day sprint with a handful of grapes. is that which provided Leifr with his souvenirs. rather simply sailing away down the coast (223). at {)eim J)6tti Jiat rad. at taka {)at land. (225) 461 (With promises of fine drinks the war-trees wheedled. I>6rhallr is perhaps justifiably grumpy because this land does not live up to expectations. "You are not unprovided with these. No sweet wine do I sup stooping at the spring. The translation of this skaldic verse is Keneva Kunz's (668). I>eir |)6ttusk bsSi ^urfa vi5 ok vatn. even the rather distant descriptions Bjarni gives ofthe wooded lands he sees are enough to spark interest at home. en Bjarni vill ^at eigi. . Barnes suggests that in Eiriks saga rauda 'Finland is not so much 'lost' as never decisively found. spurring me to journey to these scanty shores. and not actual grapes (227). They claimed to need both wood and water. It can be argued that Hop. en {)6 fekk hann af {5V n9kkut amaeli af hasetum smum" (246-7) [Then the crew suggested 1 that it seemed advisable to take that land. the plenteous land which Karlsefni discovers after parting from I>6rhallr. His crew wants to go ashore onto the wooded land right away: "Pa roeddu hasetar fiat. the same souvenirs that make I>6rhallr so unhappy are also concrete proof that Leifr has discovered a land very different from Greenland and Iceland. but even it has only "vinvidr" [vines].

u. The sight of such richly wooded lands must have been irresistible to the two groups of Icelanders who criticize Bjarni's lack of curiosity.. perhaps.. ok fekk harm af Jjvi npkkut amseli" (248) [Men thought he had been uncurious since he had nothing to say of those lands. These new lands are vasdy different from the Icelanders' own homeland. however. "The *Vtnland Hypothesis: A Reply to the Historians.. plentiful streams. In addition to trees. it seems appropriate to discuss the nature ofthe ongoing linguistic argument about the meaning of "vin-" in the word "Vi'nland. Wahlgren discusses this debate on pages 44-53 of his article. when the voyages would have taken place (44). Erik Wahlgren suggests that Leifr names lands as his father does by singling out the best features ofthe lands in order to attract potential settlers (32). LeiPs Vinland in [Grcenlendinga saga] ." . If a short "i. except that it does not even have any grass and so can only be named after its stones. and a long period of daylight in the wintertime (251): "With its honey-sweet dew. Vfnland is named is a similar fashion. Helluland is not so different from Greenland. in fact a "Meadow-land. er harm hafSi ekki at segja af J)eim l9ndum. Leifr also finds sweet dew on the grasses."" The discussion is moot here. and he took some reproach for this]. Leifr Eiriksson emphasizes the Otherness ofthe new lands by giving them names descriptive of their natural features." the land of plenty is. meadows. Later in Granlendinga saga. in Bjarni's understated phrase. Certainly lands covered in forests. frost-free winter. an abundance offish in the lakes and rivers. as spectacular as grapevines to the prospective ex-Icelander. meadows. In the context of land naming. scholars have been trading opinions on the length ofthe "i" in this word. and barely withered grass.462 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES Bjarni's lack of adventure is similarly criticized when he reports his find to Earl Eirikr: "I>6tti mgnnum harm verit hafa oforvititin. The muddled debate continues.. "J)at myndi eigi Greenland" (246) [that could not be Greenland]. warm weather. since he argues that the simplex vin was archaic well before AD 1000. Leifr names the land for a distinctive feature that would seem attractive to potential settlers. either way. and an updated summary ofthe arguments can be found in Alan Crozier." while the long "i" would indicate a "Wine-land" or "Vine-land." For some sixty years. though he seems fairly certain that the "i" is long. choice land . and vines. Markland "var slett ok skogi vaxit" [was flat and forested] and can thus be named attractively"afkostum" [according to its good qualities] (250). though meadows are not. and vines would sound most attractive to dwellers ofthe far north.

Leifr expresses more curiosity than Bjarni and goes ashore on at least one ofthe strange shores he discovers: "Varu J)ar hveitiakrar sjalfsanir ok vinvidr vaxinn. both from grapes and from all kinds of hunting and other good things]. At Hop. In Grcenlendinga saga this Otherness is embodied in Tyrkir. en pcxx skil3u eigi. Perhaps the biggest difference the Vinland voyagers discover in North America is the native peoples. there is no snow at all. hvat er hann sag3i" (252) [spoke a long time in German. "Vinland" 84-5). Neither the self-sown wheat. it is Karlsefni who names the lands. nor the huge maple tree is usual in Greenland botany. nor the grapevine. but he follows the same pattern as Leifr in Grcenlendingasaga in naming the lands for the resources they offer. I>ar varu {)au tre. of course. The adventurer takes samples ofthe native flora away with him as tangible evidence ofthe bounty of this new land. When Tyrkir discovers grapes in the new land. The land provides for its visitors. and even the skittish natives are obliging enough to bring some rich furs to the Norsemen. he "taladi pi fyrst lengi a pfzhx ok skaut marga vega augunum ok gretti sik. bsQi af vinberjum ok alls konar vei3um ok gcecSum" (261) [They had all good things from the land's bounty which was there. the land of plenty he discovers.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 463 contains echoes of descriptions of the Earthly Paradise in a number of classical and medieval sources" (Barnes. and in the winter. ok hpfSu peir af {)essu 9IIU ngkkur merki. In Eirtks saga rauda. at 1 hus vani l9g3" (211) [There were self-sown wheatfields and vines growing. the Norsemen bring marked Otherness with tliem into the new lands. the natives are just as astonished as the Norsemen at their first meeting (227). so he apparendy names the place after the "tidal pool" trenches he and his men dig to catch halibut (227). In each saga. sum tre sva mikil. Leifr's southern-born foster-father. This area has the traditional wheat and grapevines as well as an abundance of fish and deer. some trees were so great that they could make a whole house]. and his eyes darted in all directions and . and the providential stranding ofa reasonably fresh whale on the beach seems to emphasize the paradisaical state ofthe land: "I>eir h9f9u 9II goedi af landkostum. Nothing covild be more different from Greenland and Iceland. and they took from all of these some samples. Karlsefni discovers the bounty ofthe land on his own voyage later in the saga. There were those trees that are called maples. he does not seem to be able to decide what natural feature should be emphasized. In Einh saga rauda. er m9surr heita. In this saga. [jeim er par varu.

marking his difference. The physical difference between the ethnic groups becomes outlandish in this saga when I>orvaldr Eiriksson is killed not merely by a native as in Granlendinga saga. they were big-eyed and broad in the cheeks].' kva3 hann. cotning from the south. like Tyrkir." said he. The skrdingar who populate the new lands are even more Other than Tyrkir. This pair is described in animalistic terms: "J)au varu dynim skjotari" (223) [they were swifter than deer]. Granlendinga saga offers little in the way of physical description ofthe natives. but by a imiped: . We also receive an ethnographic description of their odd attire. Magoun suggest that he is tnerely excited at seeing plants like those in his homeland (549-50). "pvi at ek var |3ar foeddr. er hvarki skorti vi'nviQ ne vinber"' (252) ["It is certain. in Eiriks saga rauda the two Scots Haki and Hekja are sent along with Karlsefni. Perhaps these European Others are simply better able to cross the boundaries that enable them to find the bounty of this land. sem hann myndi vera h9f9ingi J)eira" (263) [one man among the people of the skrdingar was tall and attractive. Tyrkir. and they could not understand what he said]. "because I was born where there is no lack of vines or grapes"]. {)eir varu mjpk eygdir ok breidir 1 kinnum" (227) [They were dark men and ugly and had bad hair on their heads. This pair. discovers the grapes and self-sown wheat when Karlsefni turns them loose on the land. While Tyrkir may have been invented in order to verify the existence of such plants (Wahlgren 53). Eiriks saga rauda offers much more description of the natives' appearance: "I>eir varu svartir menn ok illiligir ok hpfSu illt har a hpfSi. The very term used by the Norsemen to designate these people is pejorative in indicating the "wretched" Otherness ofthe natives' way of life. Although sotne critics have concluded that Tyrkir's strange behavior is an indication of drunkenness. brings odd mannerisms and incomprehensible speech to the episode. and Hekja. The tall.464 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES he frowtied. which must be very different from the Norsemen's. fair Norsemen instinctively find these people to be "illiligir" [ugly] in their difference. Similarly. ok {)6tti Karlsefni. it is not clear what special knowledge the two Scots might have about grapes. but his ethnic difference also allows him to verify what he has seen: "'At vfsu er pzt satt. if so much attention is paid to it. we have only Karlsefni's brief evaluation that "einn ma3r var mikill ok vjenn f Ii3i Skrslinga. In contrast. Haki. Madelaine Brown and Francis P. and it seemed to Karlsefni that he must be their leader] suggesting that most ofthe natives are not tall and handsome.

fyrirofan rjoBitfiekk ngkkum. disappearing before the Norsemen can catch up to him. The natives' difference is highlighted through aspeas other than appearance. Then the uniped leapt away to the south. ok cep8u peir a pat. Pat hrarSisk. and it was a uniped. and they shouted at it. would give her a one-legged appearance. as well. Though Eirtks saga rauda does not specifically mention the spoken language ofthe natives. sem glitradi vid peim. William Sayers sees this uniped as a native on snow-shoes.) This one-footed person.^^ Whatever this creature may actually be. ok skaut einfaetingr gr ismdparma honum. When the natives first approach Karlsefni and his men. ok var pat einfatingr ok skauzk ofan a pann drbakkann.. it hurried down to the bank ofthe river where they (and their ship) lay. much is made ofthe semiotics ofthe communications attempted between the natives and the Norsemen. which extended southward to Africa. Paul Schach opines that "the introduction ofa bellicose uniped into Erik's Saga suggests that its author was acquainted with the belief that Greenland was a peninsula of Vinland.. the home ofthe unipeds" (42-3).. the narrative emphasizes that "hvarigir skildu annars mal" (262) [neither understood the others' speech].. though. since the two groups are able to begin trading shortly after this statement is made. Perhaps this creature is meant to resemble the unipeds mentioned in John of Piano Carpini's thirteenth-century//trton«Afo«^o/an(»» and other such texts. mortally injures I>orvaldr and then speeds away. erpeir Karlsefni sd. On a perhaps less fantastical note.BOUNDARIES OF D I F F E R E N C E 465 Pat var einn morgin. Porvaldr Eiriksson rauba sat vid styri. communication takes place through the waving of poles (on the natives' part) and shields (on the Norse part): 12. It moved. When the Norsemen under Karlsefni first encounter the skrdingar in GrcEnlendinga saga.. its marvelous appearance and violent contact with the Norsemen emphasize the Otherness ofthe land's inhabitants. but this is unlikely since it seems to be summer at the time. who are able to leap on their single feet more quickly than two-legged men can run. It is not clear whether this uniped is running or leaping away from the scene ofthe crime. from a distance. glimpsed only fleetingly. . (231-2) (It was one morning. torvaldr the son of Eirikr the Red sat at the helm. sem peir Idgu vid. dose-fitting garment that. This does not seem to be much ofa problem. and the uniped shot him in the gut with an arrow. when Karlsefni and his men saw above the clearing something that glittered. Pd hleypr einfatingr d braut ok sudr aptr. Howlett has deduced that this uniped might in faa be a female Inuit clad in a traditional long.

ok lykrpar nu peira vidskiptum. their message changes accordingly: the natives now wave their poles against the movement of the sun. In the battle that follows.' And they did so. This episode is repeated later in the saga. an axe is lost or abandoned by the Norse with disastrous (but somewhat comical) results: Nu hafdi einn peira Skrdinga tekit upp 0xi eina ok leit d um stund ok reiddi atfelaga sinum ok hfd til bans. (263-4) . en sidanfiyja peir d skdginn. but it is obvious that the natives are fascinated with the unfamiliar metal implements. I>eir Karlsefni brugSu J)a skjpldum upp. and the Norsemen signify aggression with red shields (228).and the poles were waved in the direction of the sun's movement. The signs involved in these interchanges are significantly those of peace and war (Sayers.) The sunwise swishing ofthe natives' poles is taken as a sign of peace. Pd tok sd inn mikli madr vid exinni ok leit d um stund ok varp henni sidan d sjdinn. and we should take a white shield and bear it against them. "Psychological Warfare" 237)." Ok svdgerdu peir. they began to trade]. ok var veift solarsinnis. When the natives are angered by the explorers' inconvenient bull. Karlsefni and his men lifted up shields. "Karlsefni bannaQi J^eim at selja vapnin" [Karlsefni forbade them to sell weapons]. sem lengst mdtti hann. erpeir lituSusk um. ok var veift trjdm d skipunum. Pd mslti Karlsefni: 'Hvat mun petta hafa at teikna?' Snorri Porbrandsson svaradi honum: "Vera kann. when they looked around. ok let pvi likast sem ihdlmpiist. ok tgkum skjgld hvitan ok berum at mdti. and later a native is killed by the Norse "J)vi at hann hafSi viljat taka vapn |)eira" [because he had wanted to take their weapons] (262-3). and this made a noise like aflail. In Granlendinga saga. toku J)eir kaupstefnu sfn a milli" (228) [then poles were again waved from each ship. In both sagas the Norsemen reftise to trade weapons with the skrdingar. and when they met. atpetta se'fridarmark. This sort of exchange. svd hverr semfara mdtti.466 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES Ok einn morgin snimma. sdpeir mikinnffglda hiidkeipa. and the Norsemen use white shields to signal their own peaceftil intentions. seems to be enough to allow the two groups to carry on trade for some time. perhaps accompanied by pantomime. they saw a great multitude of skin canoes and poles being waved from them. (227) (And one morning early. sdfellpegar daudr. when the natives return with the intention of trading: "Var J)a ok veift af hverju skipi trjanum. Then Karlsefni said: 'What could this betoken?' Snorri l?orbrandsson answered him: 'It could be that this is a sign of peace. ok er jjeir ftindusk.

demonstrating their ignorance about the properties of metal. ok pdtti peim veragersimi ok bita vel. then they fled into the forest. as far as he could. "Ok J)egar er {)eir sa biinyt. this one instigated by the bull rather than by a murder. Then one took it and hewed at a stone so that the axe broke. Peir Skrdingar fundu ok mann daudan. The repetition of this axe theme in both sagas seems to be an important way of defining the Other in comparison with the war-like Norsemen. In Grcenlendingasaga the natives are frightened away from their first visit to Karlsefni's camp. Clearly. skrdingar) (228).) The natives are so tuifamiliar with the axe that one of them accidentally kills his companion. in which Karlsefni again bans the trading of weapons with the natives and instead distracts them with red cloth (perhaps significantly the color the Norse will use to signal their aggression against ^e. Nu var su kaupfpr Skrxlinga. and swung it at his fellow and cut into him. and they threw it down. at . and the leader wastefully reacts by hurling the axe into the sea. In the course ofthe inevitable battle. the natives are not foolish enough to kill one another through their simplicity. which appears at least once in each saga. since it did not withstand the stone. ok pd pdtti peim engu nyt. pi vildu J)eir kaupa J)at. and then one aft:er another tried it. er eigi stdzkgrjdtit. and an axe lay nearby. Then the big man [presumed to be the leader] took the axe and looked at it for a while and then threw it into the sea. en ekki annat. and it resotmded very loudly]. he fell dead at once. One of them took up the axe and hewed against a tree. Einn peira tok upp 0xina ok hoggr med tre ok pd hverr at gdrum. who wield weapons skillfully before the age often. but they do manage to break the axe on a stone. svd at brotnadi exin.) This time. ok Id ex ihjd. the natives have another adventure with an unfamiliar axe. The ignorance ofthe natives is also repeatedly demonstrated in their fear ofthe Norsemen's bull. A version of this incident is repeated in Eiriks saga rauba. "en graSungr tok at belja ok gjalla akafliga hatt" (261) [when the btill took to bellowing. ok kgstudu nidr (230) (The skrdingar also found a dead man. Sidan tdk einn ok hjd i stein. these natives are not weapon-sawy. it seemed to be a treasure and to bite well. and there ended their dealings. and then they thought it was not useful.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 467 (Now one ofthe skrdingar had taken up an axe and looked at it for a time.. Their unfamiliarity with European livestock is emphasized by their willingness to spend their trade goods on milk products. whoever could go.

at Skrdingarfmrdu upp d stgng kngttstundar mikinn. rumiing from loud noises and pregnant women.. Such was the trading ofthe skrdingar that they carried their acquisitions away in their bellies]. "Ver skultmi ok taka gridting vam ok lata hann fara fyrir oss. When the skrdingar attack in Eiriks saga rauda they bring with them a weapon very unlike those used by the explorers. it is with counter-sunwise poles and loud shrieking (228). for die next time the natives approach the camp.468 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES |)eir bam sinn vaming l brott l mpgum sinum" (262) [and at once when they saw the milk of sheep and cattle. the bull is the impems behind the skrdingar's hostility. When the pregnant woman smacks a sword against her breast." he advises (263) [We shall also take our bull and let him go before us]. for at this point "J)eir Karlsefni finna hana ok lofa happ hennar" (229) [Karlsefiii and his men found her and praised her good luck]. Once the natives tum hostile (tinderstandably. ok let illiliga vid. This frightened the skrdingar. svd atpdfysti einskis annars enfiyja ok halda undan upp med dnni. (228-30) . Though the Norsemen in this saga do not utilize the bull specifically to frighten the natives. they will presumably flee in conilision. In Eiriks sc^a rauda a similar fear ofthe btill is revealed. Karlsefni tises this unfamiliarity as a weapon. Synisk peim nu sem pat eina mun lidit verit hafa. Pat sdpeir Karlsefni. ok gellr hatt. the natives possess one usefiil and singular tactic for defining the Other in battle. and the battle seems to be over. I>etta fselask Skrcclingar ok hlaupa lit a keipana ok rem siQan su5r fyrir landit" (228) [It happened that the btill which Karlsefni and his men owned leapt from the forest and bellowed loudly. er J)eir Karlsefni attu. Milk must have been a fascinating delicacy for a people unused to domesticated mammals and their uses. The skrdingar. the natives flee—apparently all of them.. seem inordinately skittish. In this saga. at gridungr hljop or skogi. pvinar til atjafha sem saudarvgmb. making them easier targets for the Norsemen. pvi at peim pdtti lid Skrdinga drifa at ser gllum megin. again when the natives first approach Karlseftii's camp. then. okfkygdu afstgnginni upp d landityfir lid peira Karlsefhis. ok helzt bldn at lit. en hittfdlkit mun verit hafa sjdnhverfingar. Vid petta sU dtta miklum d Karlsefni ok allt lid hans. Freydis's famous breast-slapping has a similar efFea. par sem nidr kom. when one of their number has been killed by the strangers). magic.. er af skipunum kom. then they wanted to buy that and nothing else. Even if they do not have courage and weaponry comparable to those ofthe Norsemen. When the foolish skrdingar see the fearsome bull charging toward them. "Pat bar til. and they ran to their boats and rowed south along the land]. however.

"we find again. disorienting..'^ Sayers identifies the ball in Eiriks saga rauda as a type of "war medicine" with which the Norsemen may have been familiar.) Whatever is in the large blue ball the natives fling seems to disorient the Norsemen. the explorers mtist flee to a more defensible position.. and it made a horrible sound when it came down. ("Psychological Warfare" 258) It is perhaps dubious whether a group of explorers from Iceland and Greenland would have much experience with the Sami. andgand-zivows. Closer to home. who even in mainland Scandinavia were a somewhat isolated and ostracized group. apparendy projected from the native side.and they went up the river. which could be sent out to reconnoiter as well as serving as a mount for spirit travel. it is possible that the "brestr mikinn" [great crash] heard by Gu6ri9r at the disappearance ofthe second Gu3ri3r (and the onset of violence between the two groups) could indicate a similar device (263). While such overdy magical techniques are not seen in Granlendinga saga. deceptive visual phenomena associated with noise and aggressive intentions" ("Psychological Warfare" 244). and this was thrown from the stafFup onto the land over Kadsefni and his host of men.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 469 (Karlsefni and his men saw the skrdingar lift up on a pole a very large ball... According to Sayers. John Lindow's comment on similar lines may be more useful. even expulsive effect. and the other people had been an illusion. that which came from the boats. Later it appeared to them that there had been only one group. causing them to see another party oi skrdingar attacking them from a diflFerent direction. so that they wanted nothing other thanflight. the paraphemaUa of Sami sorcery in Norse eyes included the sorcerer's staflF (gandr).. then it seems odd that in this saga the illusion should appear before the loud crash and that only one person seems to be afFeaed by the natives' magic.. . If the second Gudridr is the "deceptive visual phenomena" to which Sayers refers. "The magic 13. Not knowing which group to face. This struck great fear into Karlscfni and all his host.. It then seems legitimate to conclude that the Norsemen in Vinland may have preserved a historically accurate impression of indigenous supplements to hand-to-hand warfare because they recognized the pole and its charge as compatible with magically endowed objects in their own or neighboring cultures that were intended to have a destabilizing. very like a sheep's stomach and extremely blue in color. because it seemed that the skrding host drove at them from all sides.

Similarly. then. This. AU these differences—appearance. without provocation.. Gekk svd kaupstefha peira um hrid. Whether associated in the Norse mind with gods or with Sami. in which the skrdingar have shown themselves to be inferior beings who might as weU be kiUed. and the skrdingar gave just as much for it as before. if not more. different ethnicity is endowed with the supernatural" (13). so they cut it into smaller pieces that were not wider than the width ofa finger. on the assumption that such an isolated company must be oudaws" (Barnes. of course. Peir hgfdu mdti atgefa skinnavgru ok algrd skinn... Because these natives are away from others and with no apparent dweUings. as happens to Norse criminals like Eirikr the Red. ok skdru peir pd svd smdtt i sundr. vildi pat fdlk helzt hafa rautt sknid. In Granlendinga saga the natives are seduced by milk into leaving their valuable furs behind in a very uneven trade (262). (228) (most of all those people wanted red cloth. language. In Eiriks saga rauda the Norsemen also fleece the natives. Karlsefni's men "tinhesitatingly impose Norse values of social organization upon the aboriginal population by kiUing.) .. In Granlendinga saga. In return they had fiirs and grey skins to give. emphasizing their Otherness to an extreme. at eigi var breidara en pversfingrar. cultural sophistication. perhaps this is because they are on "his" land or perhaps because their hide-covered boats mark them as alien (255-6). I>orvaldr Eiriksson is ready to kiU the natives he meets with no compunctions. ok gdfu Skrdingar pdjafhmikit fyrir sem ddr eda meira.. Then the cloth began to run out for Karlsefni and his men. Pd tdk at fattask skrudit med peim Karlsefni. which paralyzes an opposing army with fear when thrown over them. The skrdingar took a hand-span of red cloth for a pale skin and bound them around their heads. in both sagas Karlsefni is perfecdy wiUing to cheat the natives who come to trade. In a cognate episode in Eiriks saga rauda. values that motivate their treatment ofthe skrdingar. Viking 17). the Norse automatically assume that "J)essir menn myndi hafa verit ggrvir brott af landinu" (230) [these men must have been sent away from the land]. Peir Skrdingar tdku spannarlangt rautt sknid fyrir dfglvan belg ok bundu um hgfud ser. the apparent magic of the skrdingar quite effectively serves to distance them from the Europeans. Thus went their trading for a while. five men—prestimably on a hunting expedition—whom they find asleep along the coast.. occurs after a number of encounters between the two cultures. and magic—aUow the Norsemen in the sagas to place negative values on the natives.47O SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES bag of the skrdingar is a supernatural artifice rather like Odin's spear. Once again.

and we would no longer know with clarity who 'Ve are" and who "they are. the Norsemen emphasize the opposite in their own characters... and cowardliness. the Norsemen must ascertain that the boundary between themselves and the Other is a strong one. In this saga. The constructed differences separating the nadves and the explorers in these sagas fimcdon to maintain a social order that empowers the Norsemen.. as Syed Manzuml Islam remarks. By characterizing theskrdingar as wretchedly different in their ugliness. when it seems to me that you might kill them just Uke catde. Ethics 43-4) As long as the Norse can maintain the skrdingar as whoUy Other.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 471 Not only are the natives easily distracted by the bright red cloth. It says: there is a boundary between us and them and it must not be crossed. er mer Jjoetti sem per m^ttifl drepa nidr sva sem biife. the natives prove themselves to be not merely different. Again. Freydis offers a pithy evaluation ofthe nadves' worth when she scornfuUy asks her feUows. but inferior in their difference. As Islam observes. but they are also apparendy too foohsh to realize that the lengths of cloth for which they trade furs are getting progressively shorter. It provides a space without the troublesome middle term so that the purity of each identity is never endangered through the leakage of its difference or each other's identity. Perhaps it is an innate understanding ofthe need to maintain the power of difference . sva gildir menn sem per erud. stupidity.. "The boundary that affeas the inside/outside disdnction creates the binary of order/disorder to sustain the very fabric of the social and moral laws of society.^" (229) [Why do you rtm from such wretched men. Ethics 25). and their own coUecdve idendty and the power contained therein wiU be in danger. such worthy men as you are. If it is crossed the world will be plagued with disorder.'']. In order for them to maintain this opposition and the power it gives them over the nadves. The Manichean order rests both on the spacing of difference and the staging of opposition. they are in no danger. it creates clearly demarcated spaces from within which their identities emerge in resplendent isolation. "Hvi renni per undan Jjessum auvirdis-mpnnum. Such miserable creatures should be killed easily by the strapping Norsemen. the waU of binary opposition wiU begin to crumble. Moreover. the embodied botindaries are the basic techniques of power which help to fashion the subject in its own image" (Islam. but as soon as they begin to make concessions." (Islam.. In other words . Each demarcated space of identity is rigorously protected from its other by an uncrossable chasm between them. which the Norsemen have luckily brought with them.

possible only in an other place. His instinct is to keep these people separate from his own. Even the name assigned to the nadves. the Norsemen come to Vinland out of a desire for the Other.472 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES that leads Kadsefni in both sagas to forbid the trading of weapons to the nadves. of marking boundaries" (18). as to the lands from which the exhibits have been seized. Stephen Greenblatt's discussion of New World exhibidons brings more insight into the Norse treatment of the skrdingar: "the viewers carry with them to the exhibits. is . precisely the funcdon perfonned by the descripdons ofthe cross-cultural encounters throughout the two sagas. a powerflil set of mediating concepdons by which they assimilate exodc representadons to their own culture. however. and huge maple trees like those from which Leifr coUects souvenirs are objects of fantasy. The sagas themselves fimcdon like the exhibits Greenblatt discusses in that they portray the skrdingar to the reader. of course." meaning "wretched. The paradisiacal nature ofthe land. "the existence of any group automadcaUy implies—perhaps requires—the existence of one or more others. as compared to that ofthe Norsemen. Knowledge ofthe aUen is. In the comparadvely frozen North. ski3gar3 rammligan um bee sinn" (262) [Karlsefni had a strong wooden fence built around his farm]. for such definidon is a matter of contrast. grapes. as "Karlsefni let verja dyrrnar" (262) [Karlsefni had the doors defended] between his people and the skrselingar when the nadves first visit the camp. Karlsefni stiU wants to erect boundaries. providing these people with European military technology wotild act as an equalizer by bringing the nadves closer to the sameness that only the Norsemen should have. These concepdons are at once agents and obstacles in the drive to possess a secure knowledge ofthe aUen" (122). these botindaries momentarily become physical as well as ctiltural. Even when this first encounter concludes in peacefiil trading of fiiirs for milk products. and the knowledge ofthe skrdingar communicated through these sagas repeatedly establishes the Norsemen's supedority over this race. Lured by the differences between this land their own. "skrseling. power over the alien. In Granlendinga saga. According to John Lindow." passes judgment on the nadves and their culture. "Karlsefni \xti gera. self-sown wheat. The evaluadons made about the natives exist to emphasize the contrast between the two groups in quesdon by creating the necessary boundary that keeps otherness separate from sameness. aUowing the same unfavorable comparisons drawn by the saga heroes.

however. Later in the same saga. If they stay in these bountiful lands. but he is prevented from so doing by a fatal arrow from a native bow. Largely. while unattractive. and his fellows return to Greenland without further thought of settlement (255-6). In Granlendinga saga I>orvaldr Eiriksson wishes to settle the ideal headland he has found. Karlsefni's group similarly decides that settlement in this land is untenable: "I>eir Karlsefni {)6ttusk nu sja. they will always be in danger of attack from the skrdingar. the Other appears as the forbidden world of desire with its attendant pleasure and dread" ("Marco Polo" 7). In Einks sa£ia rauda. . and partly by the Norsemen's own perceptions ofthe place. attempts at settlement are foiled by the hostile actions of the natives. litan at kanna landit" (224) [they heeded nothing except to explore the land]. for winter comes and "tokusk af veiSarnar. initially seem peaceful in both sagas. they begin to discover that its pleasures of material bounty are deceptive and that this land is also dangerous. thus revealing that danger lurks beneath the attractive surface. Karlsefni proclaims that he does not want to stay there longer and wants to go to Greenland]. Karlsefni suddenly packs up his camp and departs as soon as the seas are safe: "En at vari. Karlsefni's expedition is also driven away following attacks by the natives. er fyrir bjuggu" (230) [Karlsefni and his men now seemed to see that though there were good features ofthe land. According to Islam. ^a lysir Karlsefni. "when these figures of absolute otherness are pressed into the play of difference they map an impossible relationship between the 'Same' and the 'Other. As the explorers spend increasingly more time in their newfound paradise. at hann vill eigi {)ar vera lengr ok vUl fara til Groenlands" (264) [And in the spring. Their dependence on the summer bounty of this place backfires. ok gerSisk illt til matar" (224) [the hunting tapered off. In each saga. the dangers ofthe land are embodied in the charaaers ofthe skrdingar. j^ott [^ar vxri landskostir g66ir. where "^eir gaQu einskis. they are deceived because the whale turns out to have rotted beyond safe consumption. Even when the poor explorers think they are saved by a whale they find washed up on the beach. Karlsefni's expedition discovers a plenteous land. at {)ar myndi jafnan otti ok ofriSr a liggja af J)eim. that equal amounts of fear and enmity lay there from those who had already settled it]. partly by the presence of natives. who in this saga have the advantage over the intruders. who.' Hence. In Einks saga rauda. and provisions ran short]. The bountiful Otherness of this new land causes the Norsemen to forget simple preparations for winter.BOUNDARIES OF DIFFERENCE 473 flawed.

thus emphasizing their inseparability from these lands: according to Islam. iJorvaldr initially mistakes the natives under their canoes for hillocks: "Sja a sandinum inn fra h^fSanum firjar hxdir ok foru til J)angat ok sja J>ar hudkeipa J)rja ok |)rja menn under hverjum" (255) [They saw on the shore against the headland three hillocks and went up there and saw three hide canoes and three men under each]. As the natives and their land are part of one another. however. Just as often. the natives' negative characteristics beginning to taint the Norsemen's perception ofthe land as the land swallows up its original inhabitants. In Granlendingasaga. the Norsemen learn more about the skrdingar when they capture. but we may hardly have the use of it]. Repeatedly throughout the sagas. In Eirtks saga rauda. en}p6megu ver varla njota" (231-2) [We have taken a land with good qualities. baptize. and those skrdingar sank down into the earth]. but the others escaped.. "the relation between the same and the other. sometimes through the Norse perception that the natives have already settled the land and have some prior right to it.474 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES I>orvaldr Eiriksson's dying words in this saga offer a poignant statement ofthe effects ofthe native presence: "Gott land h9fu ver fengit kostum. the skrdingar are perceived as physically a part ofthe land itself. In both sagas the natives suddenly appear from and disappear into the forests. The interrogation ofthe boys (who seem to learn the Norse language in a very short time) reveals that "lagu menn J)ar 1 helium eda holum" (234) [men there sleep in caves or holes]. The ability ofthe natives to disappear into the ground in this way suggests both a fantastical otherness and a oneness with the land itself. it is impossible for the Norsemen to enjoy it when fantastic unipeds can appear from nowhere and kill their leaders: as Zumthor notes. and interrogate two native boys: "Toku {)eir Karlsefni sveinana. en hinir komusk undan. more often than not. the realization that the human part of these new lands is not under their control creates a fear that forces them to withdraw. as if space has the natural propensity to entwine individual bodies inhabiting it. shaping them in its very image" (Ethics 5). For the Norse. their individual othernesses leak through. ok sukku ^eir Skrjelingar 1 jgrS ni5r" (233) [Karlsefni and his men caught the boys. is grounded in spatial locations. in such texts is an astonishment and even a terror of that space which man would no longer master" (820). . "always lurking. and the Norsemen are unable to find them.. the skrdingar are shown to be an unavoidable part of these new lands. These animalistic natives dwell in the ground. However abundant the land may seem.

In both sagas. where he and Gudridr produce a string of famous descendants. Although the sagas mention no further voyages to these lands. the Norse seem unwilling to return to Vmland once they have spent time there. they do not live up to the expectations generated by early tales so that subsequent explorers cannot feel they have reached the new lands. after the narrative of Freydis's voyage. therefore. contempt. In Granlendinga saga. the final chapters take place in Iceland. suggesting that this wooded land continued to be a relatively common destination for Icelandic ships well after the period covered by the sagas. travel to North America apparently continued. and violence. probably a figurehead]'* made of Vinland maple. the Norse in these sagas have created ones that are impossible to cross. . however. The fabled lands of boimty are elusive and deceptive. As many scholars have noted. the saga follows Karlsefni on a journey to Norway. as though severing his last des with the new lands. where he sells ofFa "hiisasnotra" (268) [ornament for a ship. not a single explorer makes a repeat voyage to the new lands. and descendants are listed (236-7). Similarly.'^ In constructing boundaries ofdifference between themselves and the new lands they encounter. the Norsemen have achieved a difference so great that it becomes threatening. The paradisiacal nature ofthe land is deceptive if it can foster such evil.BOUNDARIES OF D I F F E R E N C E 475 Significantly. for both its natives and its bounty are dangerous. an entry for the year 1347 in the Skdlholtsanndll records the arrival in Iceland of a ship which had been to Markland. In neither saga are further voyages to Vinland mentioned. where his mother becomes reconciled to Gu6ridr. In Granlendinga saga. Eiriks saga rauda ends similarly: Karlsefni returns to Iceland. Freydis's expedition also ends in bloodshed as Freydis's greed for the resources of Vinland prompts her to effect the murder of half of her companions so that her share ofthe voyage's profits will be that much larger (264-7). the necessary boundaries of difference created between the Norsemen and the skrdingar—v/ho are inevitably equated with the land—engender hostility. Karlsefni then returns to Iceland. William Sayers suggests in his recent article "Karlsefni's htisasnotra: The Divestment of Vinland" that the hiisasnotra is a wind vane rather than an ornamental figurehead. Though boundaries are necessary to travel in order to create a separation between the homeland and that which one intends to reach. Karlsefni's foiled settlement is the last trip to the new lands. T'he Norsemen are 14. In Eiriks saga rauda. in both sagas. Vinland must be abandoned. though interest remains high among those who have not made the trip. one more expedition is attempted after Karlsefni's group gives up. 15.

^* i6. barred from Paradise by the boundaries they have constructed. as the boundaries they have set up to separate themselves from the Other funcdon to push them away. and the sagas end with the heroes defeated.1 would like to thank Kari Ellen Gade and Angela Florschuetz for their feedback on earlier versions of this essay.476 SCANDINAVIAN STUDIES forced to conclude that the land is dangerous. the Norsemen find it impossible to stay. . Because ofthe extreme and insurmountable otherness of Vinland.

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