F Heritage History | Eric the Red by George Upton

Eric the Red - George Upton




Thorwald's and Thorstein's Voyages of Discovery

The news of Leif's fortunate discoveries gradually spread among the Greenland colonists. As Thorwald, Leif's brother, did not think that the discoveries had been followed up with sufficient energy, Leif said to him, one day: "If you wish to see Vineland, you can take my ship and go there." Leif himself had already intended to send the ship to the rock to get the timber which Thorer had left behind when he was rescued. So Thorwald, with his brother's consent, secured thirty sailors and prepared for the voyage. After everything was in readiness the anchor was raised, sails spread, and they soon came to the open sea (1002).

We have no reports about the voyage until they reached Vineland and landed at the same place where Leif had built his huts. There they wintered, supporting themselves by fishing. In the Spring of 1003, Thorwald sent some of his men in the long boat southward to explore the country. They found a beautiful, wooded region. The space between forests and sea was narrow and the beach was of pure white sand. Wherever they landed they found no traces of human habitations except a corn shed made of wood upon a certain island far to the westward. Early in the Autumn they returned to the huts. In the following Summer (1004) Thorwald sailed eastward and then northward along the coast, (probably the coast of Cape Cod), where a fierce storm drove them ashore and damaged the keel of the vessel. There they remained until a new keel was made. After this was done, Thorwald said to his people: "It is my intention to set up the old keel here and name the place 'Kjalarness," and this was done.

After the vessel was repaired, they cruised again along the east coast, sailed into neighboring bays, and at last reached a wooded promontory (probably in the vicinity of Plymouth; some think it was in Boston Harbor.) There they entered a harbor, made a bridge from the vessel to the land, and Thorwald and all his men went ashore. Then Thorwald said: "This is a pleasant spot. Here I would like to erect my dwelling."

Returning to the ship, they discovered in a secluded place three canoes set up for tents and three men under each. Thereupon a fight ensued. Eight of them were captured and killed, but one escaped with his canoe. Then they laid down to sleep but were awakened by a sudden shout: "Wake, Thorwald, you and all your men, if you would save your lives. Go back to your ship and sail away as far as possible from this region." Almost at the same instant a multitude of canoes appeared, loaded with Skraellings, prepared for attack.

Then said Thorwald: "Let us fly to our ship and defend ourselves as bravely as possible behind the breastwork of our shields, but do not pursue them." This they did. The Skraellings fired their arrows for a long time and then took to flight. Thorwald asked if any of his men were wounded, but all had escaped injury. Then he said: "I have a wound under my arm, for an arrow found its way between the ship's edge and the shield, and, look you, here is the arrow which will cause my death. Now I advise you to return home as soon as possible, but first take me to the cape where I thought to erect my dwelling. It may have been a true word that came from my lips, that I would like to dwell there a long time. There bury me and place a cross at my head and feet, and name the spot 'Krossaness.' (meaning Cross Cape)"' Thorwald died and his people did as he bade them. Then they sailed back to Leif's huts and related the tragic news to their companions. During that Winter they loaded their vessel with grapes and timber and returned to Greenland. In 1005 they arrived at Eriksfjord and told Leif the sad story of what had happened.

In the meantime, Thorstein, the third son of Erik, had married Gudrida, daughter of Thorbjorn and widow of the dead Thorer, whom Leif had rescued. Thorstein was anxious to go to Vineland and bring back his brother's body. With this object in view he procured a vessel, manned it with twenty-five sailors, and took his spouse Gudrida with him. When all was in readiness they set sail and were soon out of sight of land.

They were tossed about on the ocean all that Summer without knowing where they were, until at last, toward the end of the first week of Winter, they reached the bay of Lysufjord on the west coast of Greenland. Thorstein then placed his men in winter quarters, but as he had not prepared a place for himself and his wife, they remained on board. One day it chanced that some men in the early morning came to Thorstein's quarters. Upon asking who was their leader, the stranger replied, "I am called Thorstein, Thorstein the Black, and I am come to offer hospitality to Thorstein and his wife."

Thorstein explained that he left all such matters to Gudrida, but in consideration of his good intent, he would accept the offer. Thereupon Thorstein the Black said he would come in the morning with oxen and accompany them to his dwelling. He had everything necessary to make a shelter for them. In accordance with his promise, Thorstein the Black came the next morning with the oxen to take his guest, and when they arrived at their dwelling they were given most hospitable reception.

During that Winter a deadly sickness broke out which was fatal to many of the people of Thorstein, Erik's son. Thorstein had the bodies taken to his vessel with the intention of having them buried the next Summer at the home place in Eriksfjord. After a short time, Thorstein's (the Black) family was also attacked. His wife, Grimhild, who was a woman of robust health, was the first victim of the scourge. Almost at the same time Thorstein, son of Erik, was attacked and soon died.

Gudrida was overcome with sorrow as she sat by the death-bed of her husband. Thorstein the Black sought to console her and promised to take her husband's body and those of his companions to Eriksfjord. She thanked him. Thereupon Thorstein, son of Erik, rose up and spoke: "Where is Gudrida?" Three times he repeated these words but she kept silence. Then she asked Thorstein the Black whether she should answer the question. He advised her not to. Then he himself approached the bed, seated himself and said: "What willst thou, comrade of my name?"

After a little Thorstein answered: "I desire to predict my Gudrida's destiny so that she may bear my death more easily. I am in a pleasant resting place. I say to you, Gudrida, that you will marry an Icelander and will live long with him. You will have very wealthy and famous descendants. You will go from Greenland to Norway and thence to Iceland, where you will set up your house and live long. You will outlive your husband and make a journey to the East, to seek the Holy Place. Then you will return to your house in Iceland and erect a sacred building, where you will remain as a nun until you die."

After these words Thorstein fell back again and his body was taken to his vessel. All that Thorstein the Black promised Gudrida was carried out. The next Spring he sold his property and animals, took Gudrida and her effects to a vessel, which he had manned and equipped, and went to Eriksfjord. The body was buried in consecrated ground near the church. Gudrida went to Leif's home at Brattalid, but Thorstein the Black erected a house at Eriksfjord, where he lived the remainder of his life, loved by all for his good deeds.