Thursday, September 14, 2006
Struck by Viking
I had the most fascinating history class yesterday –about Vikings. Can’t help but share it with you...
Our tale begins in 800AD, shortly after their infamous relatives, the Vikings from Vique, looted and plundered England and North Europe. Despite wealth gained from these escapades, Norway and Denmark still lacked the resources needed to maintain extensive herds of animals. Thus, another group of Vikings set out in search of brighter, greener pasturelands.
Over the next 300 years (800AD to 1000AD), the Vikings skipped from island to island, happily killing forests, trees, and anything else that happened to get in their way. The semi-final leap from Iceland to Greenland was almost accidental; a certain gentleman by the name of Eric the Red was banished from Iceland on the small charge of… murder. He discovered and set up camp in Greenland. But despite its wistful name, Greenland proved to be far from ideal, and Eric’s dear son Leif once again went exploring. He landed in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland (another misnomer; the land was forested.) And here we have the historic first European settlement in America.
The “happily ever after” doesn’t apply to this story though; the network of settlements gradually dwindled to nothing. No one knows for sure why; some say hostile natives, climate change, and disease played a part. It’s too bad, really; I’d love to claim Viking blood :)
A few cool facts about the Vikings:
-They didn’t wear horns on their helmets :(
-The term “Viking” is widely misused (including this post.) Viking actually refers to the plundering Norse and Danish. The correct term for the explorers is “Norse Voyageurs”.
-Despite Christopher Columbus receiving widespread credit as the first European to set foot in the New World, Leif Ericson was 600 years ahead of him. Isn’t it odd then, that Columbus had such a time convincing his contemporaries the earth is round?
-The first Caucasian born in the New World was a boy named “Snorri”.