Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

After that, that man inquired after nearly each and
all the important men of Borgarfiord or Breidha-
fiord. And before they told him this, he inquired mi-
nutely after all the people, especially after the prefect
Snorre and Thuride, of Frodha, his sister, and, most
of all, after Kjartan, her son, who was a land-owner
there.
“The men of the land cried out in their turn that
some council should be convened regarding the ship's
crew. After that, this great man went away from
them, and took with him twelve men from among his
people, and they sat a long time talking together.
After that they went back to the crowd, and then
the great man spoke thus to those of Gudleif: “We and
the people of the country have talked somewhat about
your case, and the people of the country have now
given it in my power; but I will now give you leave
to sail from now on whither soever you are willing, but
though you think the summer to be now much to the
end, yet will I give you this advice, that you start
abroad from here quickly, because the people here are
not reliable, and bad to deal with ; and they think
that the law has heretofore been broken to their detri-
ment.’ Gudleif answered: ‘What shall we say, if we
were ever to come to our fatherland: who has given
us this deliverance?" He answered: “I must say you
nothing of that, because I want not this: my friends or
brethren of war to have a voyage to this country, as you
would have had, if you had not had me with you; but
now is my age become such,' said he, “that this life may
be over at any moment and misery rise over my head;
but though I live yet a while, there are here in the
country some men richer than I, who would give little
peace to foreign people, if they should come, although
they are not now near this place, where they were to

[ocr errors]

come.' Then he gave them help to make their ship ready for sea, and was with them there, until a favorable wind came, so that they were able to set sail. And before Gudleif separated from him, this man took a golden ring from his hand, and placed it in the hands of Gudleif, and, therewith, a good sword. Then spoke he to Gudleif: ‘If they were ever to come to Iceland, then shalt thou take this sword to Kjartan, the landowner at Frodha, but the ring to Thuride, his mother,’ Gudleif said: ‘What shall I say to them, who sent them these things?' He answered: “Say, which is certain, that he sent them who was with her more familiar at Frodha than at the godha's, her brother's, at Helgafell. But if some man know who has owned these things, then declare him my word: that I forbid every man to set out to find me, because he would be in the greatest dangers, unless the men should take that route fit to land, that you have taken; but the country here is vast and bad as for havens, and everywhere is ill will shown to foreign men, unless they be so favored, as now has happened to you.’ “After that Gudleif led them to the sea, and they made Ireland late in autumn, and they were there in Dublin during the winter. But the following summer they sailed to Iceland, and Gudleif got then those presents off his hands; and they hold for certain that that man has been Björn Breidhavikingakappe, but nothing certain have we about this, but that which was just said.”" The history of Björn Asbrandson and the adventure of Gudleif Gudlaughson are strange and romantic, indeed; and yet we could not doubt the truthfulness of the simple, artless narrative made by the Eyrbyggja

1 See Document XXXII., b.

Saga, which is one of the most reliable Icelandic his-
tories, while its heroes are well-authenticated personages
whose names are clearly mentioned in the Landnáma-
bók, the historic genealogy in Iceland. The voyages to
our continent of Björn from Iceland, and of Gudleif
from and to Ireland again, can be set down as real,
actual facts." -
We do not know whether the advice of Björn was
heeded by his countrymen, but it is rather likely that
the fears of the old man had a contrary effect upon
the stout mariners, whose delight it was to glide along
the most abrupt and most distant shores, and whose
sportive vocation, to deal or to receive deadly blows.
More than one Northman has probably made it the
object of his fearless ambition to go and survey the
mysterious country where Ari Marson and the cham-
pion of Breidhavik had risen to power.”
Be this as it may, it is well known that, as we shall
notice farther on, several expeditions were undertaken
by the Northmen of Greenland to various parts of the
American continent about the same time that Björn
and Gudleif sailed to Great Ireland.
Our subject requires that we should anticipate a few
particulars of one or two of their naval excursions.
Thorwald, son of the Greenland magnate Eric the
Red, renewed, in the year 1002, the voyage which, the
previous year, his brother Leif had made to Vinland,
the modern New England States. In the spring of the
following year he despatched some of his men in his
long-boat towards the South and the West, on an ex-
ploring expedition, which lasted until the fall. The
success was hardly satisfactory, for, while they found
fine countries, they did not espy any trace of man in-

* Beauvois, La Découverte, p. 16; * Gravier, p. 135. Rafn, Antiquitates, p. 215, seq.

..

dicative of former visits by civilized people; with the single exception of a wooden shed, built on an island far to the West, apparently for the purpose of sheltering corn or other country produce. Their labor was useless, unless their report have given occasion to later voyages." In the spring of the year 1007 the famous Scandinavian, Thorfinn Karlsefne, fitted out a ship at Brattalidha, Greenland's capital, and made other preparations for a permanent settlement on continental America. Accompanied by two other vessels, he took with him all the necessary arms, implements, and cattle. Quite a number of men and five women embarked in the undertaking. They had coasted our eastern shores a great distance to the South, and afterwards in a westerly direction, when they landed in a country where no snow fell and where their animals could graze all winter. Thorhall, one of the party, proposed to return to the North, in search of a region discovered a few years before and called Vinland; but only a few men with him left the main body of the colonists, and adverse winds, the saga says, drove them to Ireland, where they all were reduced to slavery. Thorfinn, on the contrary, and his men erected habitations in the lovely new country. One morning a great number of canoes appeared in sight, and Thorfinn hung out his token of peace, a white shield. The dark, broad-faced natives understood the signal, and approached confidently. A lively trade was soon established between the natives and the new-comers, a quantity of valuable gray furs being exchanged for narrow strips of red woven cloth at first, and afterwards for white meats prepared by the five women. This splendid business of the Northmen was, however, disturbed one day by one of their cattle, that, bellowing innocently, proceeded from the woods to the trading-post; for no sooner had the Skraelings, as the colonists called the aborigines, heard and seen the huge beast, than they all took to their heels and disappeared as fast as they could in their canoes. They had fled for their lives, and never returned but to do away with men who kept such dreadful brutes. Indeed, when looked for no longer, the Skraelings returned at the beginning of the next winter, more numerous than ever, armed and yelling loudly. Thorfinn brought forward the red shield, but it did not stay their courage. In vain did the Northmen produce one of their oxen; the natives gave proof of their resolution by sending a perfect shower of arrows and stones upon the strangers, whom they succeeded in frightening in turn, and in driving towards the woods. Several men fell on both sides, but the Northmen continued to lose ground. One of them was found dead with his axe by his side. A native picked up the steel weapon, tried it on a tree, and wondered; but, having used it upon a stone, and seeing its edge dulled and broken, he flung it away with contempt. His companions, meanwhile, continued their pursuit, and would have exterminated the colony had it not been for a woman, Freydisa, who, brandishing the sword of Thorbrand Snorrason, who had been killed by a flattened stone hurled by the assailants, boldly posted herself in front of the Skraelings, who, frightened as at the sight of a supernatural being, stopped, turned back, and disappeared with their canoes. Thorfinn and nearly all his men were saved, but, as they could no longer consider their settlement secure against the daring assaults of the natives, they wisely

* Rafn, Antiquitates, p. 40; Moosmüller, S. 87; Aa. passim.

« ElőzőTovább »