| Viking Tales|
|by Jennie Hall|
|We follow the fortunes of Harald from the time he is given his own thrall at the cutting of his first tooth, through his exploits as a viking adventurer, to his crowning as King of Norway. Then population pressures at home and eagerness for adventure and booty from other lands combine to drive some of the bolder Vikings to set forth from their native land. Sailing ever westward across the Atlantic, they hop along the chain of islands that loosely connects Norway with America in search of home and adventure. Ages 6-9 |
WINELAND THE GOOD
N an autumn, a year or two after Leif came home, Eric
and his men saw two large ships come to land not far
down the shore from the house.
"They look like trading ships," Eric said. "Let us go
down to see them."
"I will go, too," Gudrid said. "Perhaps they will have
rich cloth and jewelry. It is long since I had my eyes
on a new dress."
So they all went down and found two large trading ships
lying in the water. A great many men were on the shore
making a fire.
"Welcome to Greenland!" called Eric. "What are your
names and your country?"
Then a fine, big man walked out from among the men and
went up to Eric.
"I am Thorfinn," he said, "a trader. I sailed this
summer from Iceland with forty men and a shipload of
 the sea I met this other ship from Iceland.
The master is Biarni. Come and look at my goods."
So he rowed Eric and Gudrid out and they went aboard
his boat. Thorfinn opened his chests and showed Eric
gleaming swords and bracelets and axes and farm tools.
But before Gudrid he spread beautiful cloth and gold
embroidery and golden necklaces. As they looked, he
told of doings in Iceland and asked of Greenland.
"We never see such things as these in this bare land,"
Gudrid said, as she smoothed a beautiful dress of
purple velvet. "I envy the women of Iceland their fair
"There is no need of that," Thorfinn said, "for this
dress is yours and anything else from my chests that
you like. Here is a necklace that I beg you to take. It
did not have a fairer mistress in Greece where I got
"You are a very generous trader," Gudrid said.
Then Thorfinn gave Eric a great sword with a
gold-studded scabbard. After a
 while he took them to
Biarni's ship. He also gave them gifts. They all talked
and laughed much while they were together.
"You are merry comrades," Eric said. "I ask you both
and all your men to spend the winter at my house. You
can put your goods into my store-houses."
"By my sword! a generous offer," said Thorfinn. "As for
me, I am happy to come."
Biarni and all the rest said the same thing. Thorfinn
walked to the house with Eric and Gudrid, while the
other men sailed to the ship-sheds and pulled their
boats under them.
Then Thorfinn saw to the unloading and storing of his
"Is this Gudrid your daughter?" he asked of Eric one
"She is the widow of my son Thorstein," Eric said. "He
died the same winter that they were married. Her
father, too, died not long ago. So Gudrid lives with
Now all that winter until Yuletime Eric spread a good
feast every night.
 There was laughter through his house
all the time. Often at the feasts the men cast lots to
see whether they might sit on the cross-bench with the
women. Sometimes it was Thorfinn's luck to sit by
Gudrid. Then they talked gaily and drank together.
At last Yule was coming near. Eric went about the house
gloomy then. One day Thorfinn put his hand on Eric's
shoulder and said:
"Something is troubling you, Eric. We have all noticed
that you are not gay as you used to be. Tell me what is
"You have carried yourselves like noble men in my
house," Eric answered. "I am proud to have you for
guests. Now I am ashamed that you should not find a
house worthy of you. I am ashamed that when you leave
me you will have to say that you never spent a worse
Yule than you did with Eric the Red in Greenland. For
my cupboards are empty."
"Oh, that is easily mended," Thorfinn said. "No house
could feed eighty men
 so long and not feel it. I never
knew so generous a host before. But I have flour and
grain and mead in my boat. You are welcome to all of
it. You have only to open the doors of your own
store-houses. It is a little gift."
So Eric used those things, and there was never a
merrier Yule feast than in his house that winter.
When Yule was over, Thorfinn said to Eric:
"Gudrid is a beautiful and wise woman. I wish to have
her for my wife."
"You seem to be a man worthy of her," Eric said.
So that winter Gudrid and Thorfinn were married and
lived at Eric's house.
One day Thorfinn said to Eric:
"I have heard much of this wonderful Wineland since I
have been here. It seems to me that it is worth while
to go and see more of it."
"My son Thorstein and I tried it once," said Eric. "It
was the year after Leif came back. We set out with a
fair ship and with glad hearts, but we tossed about all
summer on the sea and got
 nowhere. We were wet with
storm, lean with hunger and illness, and heartsick at
our bad luck."
"And yet," Thorfinn said, "another time we might have
better weather. I have never seen so fair a land as
this seems to be."
Then he went to Leif and talked long with him. Leif
told him in what direction he had sailed to come home,
and how the shores looked that he had passed.
"I think I could find my way," Thorfinn said. "My heart
moves me to try this frolic."
He spoke to Gudrid about it.
"Oh, yes!" she cried. "Let us go. It is long since I
felt a boat leaping under me. I am tired of sitting
still. I want to feel the warm days and see the soft
grass and the high trees and taste the grapes of this
Wineland the Good."
Then he talked with his men and with Biarni.
"We are ready," they all said. "We are only waiting for
"Then let us go!" cried Thorfinn.
So in the spring they fitted up their
 two ships and put
into them provisions and a few cattle. Some of Eric's
men also got ready a boat, so that three ships set sail
from Eric's harbor carrying one hundred and sixty men
to Wineland. As they started, Gudrid stood on the deck
"I will feast my eyes on new things—
On mighty trees and purple grapes,
On beds of flowers and soft grass.
I will sun myself in a warm land."
They sailed on and past those shores that Leif had
spoken of. Whenever they saw any interesting place they
sailed in and looked about and rested there.
They had gone far south, past many fair shores with
woods on them, when Gudrid said one day:
"This is a beautiful bay with a smooth green field by
it, and the great mountains far back. I should like to
stay there for a little while."
So they sailed in and drew their ships up on shore.
They put up the awnings in them.
"These shall be our houses," Thorfinn said.
 They were strange-looking houses—shining dragons with
gay backs lying on the yellow sand. Near them the
Norsemen lighted fires and cooked their supper. That
night they slept in the ships. In the morning Gudrid
"I long to see what is back of that mountain."
So they all climbed it. When they stood on the top they
could see far over the country.
"There is a lake that we must see," Thorfinn said.
"I should like to sail around that bay," said Biarni,
"I am going to walk up that valley yonder," one of the
And everyone saw some place where he would like to go.
So for all that summer they camped in that spot and
went about the country seeing new things. They hunted
in the woods and caught rabbits and birds and sometimes
bears and deer. Every day some men rowed out to sea and
fished. There was an island in the bay where thousands
of birds had their nests. The men gathered eggs here.
 "We have more to eat than we had in Greenland or
Iceland," Thorfinn said, "and need not work at all. It
is all play."
Near the end of summer Thorfinn spoke to his comrades.
"Have we not seen everything here? Let us go to a new
place. We have not yet found grapes."
Thorfinn and Biarni and all their men sailed south
again. But some of Eric's men went off in their boat
another way. Years afterward the Greenlanders heard
that they were shipwrecked and made slaves in Ireland.
After Thorfinn and Biarni had sailed for many days they
landed on a low, green place. There were hills around
it. A little lake was there.
"What is growing on those hillsides?" Thorfinn said,
shading his eyes with his hand.
He and some others ran up there. The people on shore
heard them shout. Soon they came running back with
their hands full of something.
"Grapes! Grapes!" they were shouting.
 All those people sat down and ate the grapes and then
went to the hillside and picked more.
''Now we are indeed in Wineland," they said. "It is as
wonderful as Leif's stories. Surely we must stay here
for a long time."
The very next day they went into the woods and began to
cut out lumber. The huts that they built were little
things. They had no windows, and in the doorways the
men hung their cloaks instead of doors.
''We can be out in the air so much in this warm
country," said Gudrid, "that we do not need fine
The huts were scattered all about, some on the side of
the lake, some at the shore of the harbor, some on the
hillside. Gudrid had said:
"I want to live by the lake where I can look into the
green woods and hear sweet bird-noises."
So Thorfinn built his hut there.
As they sat about the campfire one night, Biarni said:
"It is strange that so good a land
 should be empty. I
suppose that these are the first houses that were ever
built in Wineland. It is wonderful to think that we are
alone here in this great land."
All that winter no snow fell. The cattle pastured on
"To think of the cold, frozen winters in Greenland!"
Gudrid said. "Oh! this is the sun's own land."
In the beginning of that winter a little son was born
to Gudrid and Thorfinn.
"A health to the first Winelander!" the men shouted and
drank down their wine; for they had made some from
"Will he be the father of a great country, as Ingolf
was?" Biarni mused.
Gudrid looked at her baby and smiled.
"You will be as sunny as this good land, I hope," she
They named him Snorri. He grew fast and soon crept
along the yellow sand, and toddled among the
grapevines, and climbed into the boats and learned to
talk. The men called him the "Wineland king."
 "I never knew a baby before," one of the men said.
"No," said another. "Swords are jealous. But when they
are in their scabbards, we can do other things, even
play with babies."
"I wonder whether I have forgotten how to swing my
sword in this quiet land," another man said.
One spring morning when the men got up and went out
from their huts to the fires to cook they saw a great
many canoes in the harbor. Men were in them paddling
"What is this?" cried the Norsemen to one another.
"Where did they come from? Are they foes? Who ever saw
such boats before? The men's faces are brown."
"Let every man have his sword ready," cried Thorfinn.
"But do not draw until I command. Let us go to meet
So they went and stood on the shore. Soon the men from
the canoes landed and stood looking at the Norsemen.
The strangers' skin was brown. Their faces were broad.
Their hair was black. Their bodies were short. They
 clothes. One man among them seemed to be
chief. He spread out his open hands to the Norsemen.
"He is showing us that he has no weapons," Biarni said.
"He comes in peace."
Then Thorfinn showed his empty hands and asked:
do you want?"
The stranger said something, but the Norsemen could not
understand. It was some new language. Then the chief
pointed to one of the huts and walked toward it. He and
his men walked all around and felt of the timber and
went into it and looked at all the things there—spades
and cloaks and drinking-horns. As they looked they
talked together. They went to all the other huts and
looked at everything there. One of them found a red
cloak. He spread it out and showed it to the others.
They all stood about it and looked at it and felt of it
and talked fast.
"They seem to like my cloak," Biarni said.
One of the strangers went down to
 their canoes and soon
came back with an armload of furs—fox-skins,
otter-skins, beaver-skins. The chief took some and held
them out to Thorfinn and hugged the cloak to him.
"The chief held them out to Thorfinn and hugged the cloak to him"
"He wants to trade," Thorfinn said. "Will you do it,
"Yes," Biarni answered, and took the furs.
"If they want red stuff, I have a whole roll of red
cloth that I will trade," one of the other men said.
He went and got it. When the strangers saw it they
quickly held out more furs and seemed eager to trade.
So Thorfinn cut the cloth into pieces and sold every
scrap. When the strangers got it they tied it about
their heads and seemed much pleased.
While this trading was going on and everybody was
good-natured, a bull of Thorfinn's ran out of the woods
bellowing and came towards the crowd. When the
strangers heard it and saw it they threw down whatever
was in their hands and ran to their canoes and paddled
off as fast as they could.
 The Norsemen laughed.
"We have lost our customers," Biarni said.
"Did they never see a bull before?" laughed one of the
Now after three weeks the Norsemen saw canoes in the
bay again. This time it was black with them, there were
so many. The people in them were all making a horrible
"It is a war-cry," Thorfinn said, and he raised a red
shield. "They are surely twenty to our one, but we must
fight. Stand in close line and give them a taste of
Even as he spoke a great shower of stones fell upon
them. Some of the Norsemen were hit on the head and
knocked down. Biarni got a broken arm. Still the storm
came fast. The strangers had landed and were running
toward the Norsemen. They threw their stones with
sling-shots, and they yelled all the time.
"Oh, this is no kind of fighting for brave men!"
Thorfinn cried angrily.
The Norsemen's swords swung fast,
 and many of the
strangers died under them, but still others came
on, throwing stones and swinging stone axes. The
horrible yelling and the strange things that the
savages did frightened the Norsemen.
"These are not men," some one cried. Then those
Norsemen who had never been afraid of anything turned
and ran. But when they came to the top of a rough hill
"What are we doing? Shall we die here in this empty
land with no one to bury us? We are leaving our women."
Then one of the women ran out of the hut where they
"Give me a sword!" she cried. "I can drive them back.
Are Norsemen not better than these savages?"
Then those warriors stopped, ashamed, and stood up
before the wild men and fought so fiercely that the
strangers turned and fled down to their canoes and
"Oh, I am glad they are gone!" Thorfinn said. "It was
an ugly fight."
"Thor would not have loved that battle," one said.
 "It was no battle," another replied. "It was like
fighting against an army of poisonous flies."
The Norsemen were all worn and bleeding and sore. They
went to their huts and dressed their wounds, and the
women helped them. At supper that night they talked
about the fight for a long time.
"I will not stay here," Gudrid said. "Perhaps these
wild men have gone away to get more people and will
come back and kill us. Oh! they are ugly."
"Perhaps brown faces are looking at us now from behind
the trees in the woods back there," said Biarni.
It was the wish of all to go home. So after a few days
they sailed back to Greenland with good weather all the
way. The people at Eric's house were very glad to see
"We were afraid you had died," they said.
"And I thought once that we should never leave Wineland
alive," Thorfinn answered.
Then they told all the story.
 "I wonder why I had no such bad luck," Leif said. "But
you have a better shipload than I got."
He was looking at the bundles of furs and the kegs of
"Yes," said Thorfinn, "we have come back richer than
when we left. But I will never go again for all the
skins in the woods."
The next summer Thorfinn took Gudrid and Snorri and all
his people and sailed back to Iceland, his home. There
he lived until he died. People looked at him in wonder.
"That is the man who went to Wineland and fought with
wild men,'' they said. "Snorri is his son. He is the
first and last Winelander, for no one will ever go
there again. It will be an empty and forgotten land."
And so it was for a long time. Some wise men wrote down
the story of those voyages and of that land, and people
read the tale and liked it, but no one remembered where
the place was. It all seemed like a fairy tale. Long
afterwards, however, men began to read those stories
 wide-open eyes and to wonder. They guessed and
talked together, and studied this and that land, and
read the story over and over. At last they have learned
that Wineland was in America, on the eastern shore of
the United States, and they have called Snorri the
first American, and have put up statues of Leif
Ericsson, the first comer to America.
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