Volume 1, Chapter 2 -- Original Discovery of Greenland by the Icelanders.[1]

Although the discoveries contained in this and the next subsequent chapter were certainty preceded, in point of time, by the voyages of the two Mahomedans, in Chap. IV. and the insertion of these two chapters, II. and III. in this place may therefore be considered as a deviation from the chronological order of our plan; it seemed proper and even necessary, that they should be both introduced here, as presenting an unbroken series of the discoveries of the Norwegians, and as fully authorized by the geographical principles of our arrangement.

Among the many petty sovereigns, vikingr or chieftans of Norway, who had been reduced to subjection by Harold Harfagr, or the fair-haired, was one named Thorer. Thorwald, the relative of this person, had lived at the court of Earl Hayne, whence he had been obliged to fly, on account of having committed a murder, and went to Iceland, where he settled a considerable tract of country with a new colony. Eric-raude, or red-head, the son of Thorwald, was long persecuted by a powerful neighbour named Eyolf Saur, because Eric had killed some of Eyolf's servants; and at length Eric killed Eyolf likewise. For this and other crimes he was condemned to go into banishment for three years; and knowing that a man named Gunbiorn had previously discovered certain banks to the west of Iceland, named from him Gunbiorn's Schieran, or Gunbar banks, and likewise a country of considerable extent still farther to the westwards, he determined on making a voyage of discovery to that country. Setting sail therefore from Iceland, he soon fell in with a point of land called Hirjalfs-ness; and continuing his voyage to the south-west he entered a large inlet, to which he gave the name of Erics-sound, and passed the winter on a pleasant island in that neighbourhood. In the following year he explored the continent; and returning to Iceland in the third year, he represented his new discovery in the fairest light, bestowing lavish praises on the rich meadows, fine woods, and plentiful fisheries of the country, which he called Greenland, that he might induce a considerable number of people to join with him in colonizing this new country. Accordingly, there set out for this place twenty-five vessels, carrying people of both sexes, household furniture, implements of all kinds, and cattle for breeding, of which only fourteen vessels arrived in safety. These first colonists were soon followed by many more, both from Iceland and Norway; and in a few years their number is said to have increased so much, as to occupy both the eastern and western coasts of Greenland.

This is the ordinary and best authenticated account of the discovery and settlement of Old Greenland, which rests on the credit of the great northern historian, Snorro Sturleson, judge of Iceland, who wrote in the year 1215. Yet others assert that Greenland had been known long before, and ground their assertion on letters-patent from the Emperor Lewis the Pious in 834, and a bull of Gregory IV. in 835, in which permission is given to Archbishop Ansgar to convert the Sueones, Danes, Sclavonians; and it is added, the Norwaehers, Farriers, Greenlanders, Halsingalanders, Icelanders, and Scridevinds. Even allowing both charter and bull to be genuine, it is probable that the copy which has come down to our time is interpolated, and that for Gronlandon and Islandon, we ought to read Quenlandon and Hitlandon, meaning the Finlanders and Hitlanders: Quenland being the old name of Finland, and Hitland or Hialtaland the Norwegian name of the Shetland islands. It is even not improbable that all the names in these ancient deeds after the Sueones, Danes, and Sclavonians, had been interpolated in a later period; as St Rembert, the immediate successor of Ansgar, and who wrote his life, only mentions the Sueones, Danes, and Sclavonians, together with other nations in the north; and even Adam of Bremen only mentions these three, and other neighbouring and surrounding nations.[2] Hence the authority of St Rembert and Snorro Sturleson remains firm and unshaken, in spite of these falsified copies of the papal bull and imperial patent; and we may rest assured that Iceland was not discovered before 861, nor inhabited before 874; and that Greenland could hardly have been discovered previous to 982, or 983, and was not inhabited before 985 or 986.--Forst.

[1] Forster, Voy. and Disc. 79.
[2] Vit. S. Anscharii, ap. Langeb. Script. Dan. I. 451. Ad. Brem. Hist. Eccles. Lib. I. cap. 17.


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