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The Place of Greenland in Medieval Icelandic Saga Narrative
Jonathan Grove

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 2 (2009–10): 30–51

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The Place of Greenland in Medieval Icelandic Saga Narrative Jonathan Grove* Abstract - This paper explores the accounts of Norse Greenland in the medieval Icelandic sagas, looking past the Vínland sagas to examine ways in which Greenlandic settings are employed in the “post-classical” saga-tradition and other texts. The style and content of these tales varied over time, but the recurrence of certain conventional patterns indicates that stories set in Greenland retained important thematic continuities for Icelandic saga audiences. From as early as the 12th century, Icelandic writers identifi ed Greenland as a peripheral space in the Norse world, connected with Iceland, but markedly distinct and remote. This marginalization is evident in the Vínland sagas and developed further in the post-classical tradition, which made Greenland a place of exile in which Icelandic heroes were tested by extreme adversity in the settlements and wilderness. Embodying the preoccupations of Icelandic writers and audiences, these writings tell us little about historical realities in Norse Greenland; but they do show how details of geographical and historical lore were subsumed and transformed in the Icelandic narrative tradition. *Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, University of Cambridge, 9 West Road Cambridge, CB3 9DP, UK; jpg15@ cam.ac.uk. Introduction The Íslendingasögur (Sagas of Icelanders) and the related shorter narratives, or þættir, composed in medieval Iceland contain a number of tales and episodes set in Greenland in the late Viking Age. These stories incorporate a range of observations and truisms regarding life in Norse Greenland, including allusions to the special environmental and economic circumstances of the colony, the disposition of the settlements and central sites, and the importance of foreign trade and connections with Norway. The texts were mostly composed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and although they build partly on oral traditions that may in some cases have originated as early as the 10th and 11th centuries, they do not constitute primary sources for the history of early Greenland; nor yet do they compensate for the lack of equivalent textual remains from Greenlandic contexts.1 The outlook of these stories is resolutely Icelandic, and from a modern perspective much of their content is ahistorical at best. The Íslendingasögur fulfi lled and extended literary conventions that formalized the experience and identity of the Icelanders as a distinct people. Geographical settings developed within them are not unproblematic representations of physical and historical realities, but ideological constructions that assimilated hierarchical perceptions of locality and spatial relations in a set of conventional narrative arrangements. Pseudo-historical and grotesque accounts of activities in Greenland during the formative period of the Icelandic Commonwealth mark the boundaries of the stylized conceptual world of Iceland and Icelandic identity in saga literature (cf. Ólason 1998:82–3). By examining the treatment of Greenlandic settings in medieval narrative texts produced in Iceland, we may identify how the imaginative writings of this historically marginal society embodied its preoccupation with its own perceived place at the heart of the medieval North Atlantic world. Greenland at the Edge in the Icelandic Tradition Íslendingabók, composed by Ari Þorgilsson for an Icelandic audience in the third or fourth decades of the 12th century, famously commemorates the naming of Greenland by its late 10th-century Norse pioneer, Eiríkr rauði. According to Ari, Eiríkr “kvað menn þat myndu fýsa þangat farar, at landit ætti nafn gótt” (ÍF 1:13) (said that it would encourage people to go there that the land had a good name [Grønlie 2006:7]). Ari’s story was propagated with the fl owering of the Icelandic literary tradition in the 13th century, reappearing in Landnámabók, Eiríks saga, and a passage in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta.2 Yet if Greenland was named by its fi rst Norse settlers in terms calculated to advertise the attractions of its south-western fjord-country as a sort of North Atlantic locus amoenus, a fortunate and prosperous place well-suited for human habitation, the label outlasted the message. Fifty years or so before Ari wrote Íslendingabók, the Saxon ecclesiastical historian Adam of Bremen supplied an entirely different explanation of the name. For Adam, the land had acquired its designation from its people, who had lived there long enough to have acquired a greenish tinge from the sea-water beside which they dwelt, and whose style of life was still rooted in bad old northern habits: “Homines … similem Islanis vitam agunt, excepto quod crudeliores sunt raptuque pyratico remigantibus infesti” (Schmeidler 1917:274) (the people live in the same manner as the Icelanders except that they are fi ercer and trouble seafarers by their piratical attacks [Tschan and Reuter 2002:218]). Ari Þorgilsson evidently had access to better information, but his Greenlandic aside is subordinated to the task of portraying his own homeland as the providential terra nova. Before the arrival of the fi rst Norsemen, in Ari’s construction, Iceland had effectively been marked for Christ by the papar, who purportedly left behind them books, bells, and croziers as relics of 2009 Special Volume 2:30–51 Norse Greenland: Selected Papers from the Hvalsey Conference 2008 Journal of the North Atlantic their presence (Íslendingabók ch. 1; cf. Clunies Ross 1997:21–2). Ari’s corresponding reference to the discovery by the fi rst Icelandic pioneers in Greenland of strange boats and tools left by the skrælingar (ch. 6) may refl ect knowledge of historical encounters with Paleo-Eskimo material culture, but the contrast also serves to place Greenland fi rmly at the edge of the map, well beyond the more civilized cultural domains within which Iceland was incorporated (Lewis-Simpson 2006, Lindow 1997:459–60). A comparable marginalizing strategy is detectable in the work of a much later Icelandic historian writing in very different circumstances. In 1264–5, the Icelandic magnate Sturla Þórðarson composed Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar, the posthumous biography of Hákon IV of Norway, for the king’s son and heir Magnús. Chapter 271 of the saga describes the return from Greenland in 1261 of royal ambassadors bearing word that the Greenlanders would recognize themselves henceforth as a subject people, rendering to the crown penalties imposed for the homicide of Greenlanders and Norwegians alike in the settlements and in the Norðrseta—the arctic hunting grounds of the west coast—“ok allt norðr undir stjörnuna” (Jónsson 1957:420–421) (and all the way north under the Pole Star). Sturla was an established poet as well as a prose writer, however, and he ornamented his sober prose account by quoting the penultimate stanza of Hrynhenda, a court poem composed by him in praise of Hákon to promote and advertise his connections with the crown:3 Norðr líkar þér alt at auka yðvart vald um heiminn kalda, — gegnir munu því fyrðar fagna — fjörnis álfr, und leiðarstjörnu. Þengill hefr þar annarr engi, allvaldr, en þú ríki haldit; lengra reiða þjóðir þangat þína dýrð, en röðull skíni. (Þorvaldsdóttir 2009:697; cf. Jónsson 1957:421) It pleases you to increase your power, elf of the helmet [warrior, i.e., Hákon], around the cold world, all the way north beneath the North Star; reliable men will welcome that. No other prince but you, mighty ruler, has held power there; people will spread your glory in that direction further than the sun shines. The submission of Greenland was one part of the political realignment that also brought Iceland to accept Norwegian sovereignty in 1262–1264, and immediately after his quotation of the stanza from Hrynhenda, Sturla supplies a summary of developments in his homeland. Nowhere in the 21 surviving stanzas of Hrynhenda, however, nor in Sturla’s other panegyrics do we fi nd any equivalent allusion to the subjection of Iceland (Pálsson 1988:71–72). If any such references once existed in his verse, Sturla excluded them from Hákonar saga; it is upon Greenland that he focused when he adorned his account of Hákon’s expansion of power in the North Atlantic with a piece of his own ornate and elevated court poetry, and it is the great wilderness hinterland north of the Norse settlements by which he characterizes that land, and by reference to which he measures the king’s unparalleled achievement. There would have been nothing strange to Norwegian ears in Sturla’s allusion to Greenland, but his verse nevertheless expresses a peculiar and well-established Icelandic investment in the idea of Greenland as a place apart, the most far-fl ung outpost of Norse culture in the North Atlantic. The Norwegian perspective on Greenland is supplied in a pair of learned writings that refl ect the growing interest in the colony as it was drawn into the orbit of Norwegian secular and ecclesiastical dominance in the 12th and 13th centuries, with its assimilation into the new archdiocese of Niðarós (Trondheim), established in 1152/53, and its political submission in 1261.4 The anonymous Historia Norwegiae, a synoptic history of Norway most likely composed in Niðarós itself in about 1150, incorporates material on Greenland in an opening description of the northern world which fuses the real and the imagined onto the inherited template of ancient and late-antique geographical arrangements (Ekrem and Mortensen 2003:54–7, 158–162). Konungs skuggsjá, a didactic text composed in Norway in about 1250, ostensibly to educate the future king Magnús Hákonarson in politics, strategy and courtly behaviour, contains a lengthy account of the physical features of Greenland and the Greenlanders’ way of life in an extended section describing the marvels of Norway and the lands of the North Atlantic (Jónsson 1920–21:64–85, Larson 1917:135–153). Greenland is identifi ed in both texts as part of a great northerly landmass, reaching across the arctic from the White Sea—a tradition also known in medieval Iceland.5 Historia Norwegiae populates the wild spaces lying north of human abodes in Greenland with giants, maidens who become pregnant by sipping water, and “quidam homunciones … quos Screlinga appellant” (the dwarfs whom they call Skrælings)—apparently Eskimos of the Late Dorset culture encountered in the Norðrseta, who are said to use walrus ivory in place of iron, but, in keeping with their identifi cation with non-human domains, do not bleed when wounded (Ekrem and Mortensen 2003:54, 55). Both Historia Norwegiae and Konungs skuggsjá also refer to Greenland as a destination for merchant ships that risk adverse gales, sea-ice, and huge sea-beasts in the pursuit of trade, and alongside its descriptions of fabulous sea-creatures, Konungs skuggsjá famously specifi es the motivations of those prepared to make the long voyage west: hunger for fame, 32 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 natural curiosity, and the desire for wealth (Jónsson 1920–1921:71–72, Larson 1917:142). In Norway as in Iceland, Greenland marked the western limit of the known world. But these texts, representing the view from the center at separate stages in the emergence of Norwegian hegemony in the North Atlantic, offer a rather different outlook from the medieval Icelandic literary tradition. It is only in the Icelandic sagas that we fi nd Greenlandic settings deployed in narrative contexts. These tales embody a series of literary responses to a centuries-long acquaintance with Greenland which was conditioned by the correlations and contrasts perceived by Icelanders in the interconnected histories and separate identities of the two colonies. For the writers of these tales, far removed from the political and ecclesiastical centers of Scandinavia and Christendom, it was convenient to refl ect with Ari Þorgilsson and Sturla Þórðarson that their Greenlandic cousins occupied a still more marginal place in the Norse world. The role of Greenland in Icelandic narratives as a frontier space, employed to defi ne the horizons of Icelandic self-identifi cation, is apparent already in the passing reference to a voyage west in the moralizing tale Auðunar þáttr vestfi rzka (CSI 1:369–374, ÍF 6:359–368). Of the various Íslendingasögur and þættir referring to Greenland, the tale of Auðunn of the Westfjords may still be dated relatively confi - dently to the early 13th century.6 The þáttr tells how Auðunn leaves home to seek his fortune, and like many other medieval Icelandic tales of the 13th and 14th centuries, it exemplifi es the independence of mind shown by Icelanders in negotiating relations with Norwegian royalty. Crossing to Greenland, Auðunn sells all his possessions in order to buy a tame polar bear, and then takes passage with it for Scandinavia. He stops off fi rst at the Norwegian court of King Haraldr harðráði, where he refuses to part company with the beast, having already decided to take it to Denmark to present it as a gift to King Sveinn Úlfsson. Notwithstanding Auðunn’s defi ance of Haraldr, the Greenlandic bear becomes a source of enormous economic and symbolic capital for the Icelander. On one level, it may serve as a literary refl ex of the “Pearl of Great Price” from the parable in the Gospel of Matthew, physically embodying the spiritual treasure that becomes available to Auðunn when he departs Sveinn’s court on a pilgrimage to Rome.7 However, the impoverished traveller’s single-minded pursuit of his secular and religious goals also brings him substantial earthly rewards, for his conduct impresses Haraldr as well as Sveinn, and he eventually returns home a wealthy man. Auðunn’s travels start and end in Iceland, and his itinerary triangulates the position of Iceland spatially and culturally between Greenland at the far edge of the Scandinavian North Atlantic settlements, the political and cultural centers of the Scandinavian heartlands, and Rome, the focal point of western Christendom. Greenland itself does not acquire any signifi cant dimensionality as a setting in this short tale. The focus lies on the Icelander, but Greenland provides the liminal context within which he fi rst displays the strength of purpose that will fi nd its reward in more prestigious settings, and fi nally transform his status at home.8 The best-known Icelandic texts referring to Greenland in greater detail are of course the Vínland sagas, Eiríks saga and Groenlendinga saga.9 Neither, it should be noted, depicts the Greenlandic colony in an alluring light. It is a marginal place, marked by dearth, disease, uncouth habits, and strange goings on. In Eiríks saga, when famine strikes, Christian visitors at Herjólfsnes are obliged to participate in outlandish pagan ceremonies (ch. 4). At Brattahlíð, Eiríkr rauði, the most powerful chieftain in the land, refuses to accept the new religion (ch. 5), and priests and churches are so few in conversion-era Greenland that the dead are buried in unconsecrated ground (ch. 6). At Lýsufjƒrðr, in the sticks of the Western Settlement (the only other concrete Greenlandic setting in the Vínland sagas apart from Brattahlíð and Herjólfsnes), plague spreads from a visiting ship and infects the farm, which then experiences a spate of paranormal activity (Eiríks saga ch. 6, Groenlendinga saga ch. 6). The supernatural has a more insistent presence in the Greenlandic settings deployed in these texts than in most other contexts in saga narrative; Þorbjƒrg lítilvƒlva, the most elaborately imagined seeress in saga-literature, tells the future at Herjólfsnes. During the outbreak of plague at Lýsufjƒrðr, the dead walk and utter prophecies, and Groenlendinga saga describes how every timber in the house creaks as the corpse of the farmer’s wife walks the premises, and her husband struggles to drag out her coffi n for burial. Such tales dramatize the hardship and claustrophobia of life at the edge of Norse cultural life, as seen from Iceland. They articulate a medieval Icelandic discourse on marginality and isolation, transferred to distant shores reassuringly far from Iceland itself. The intention of the present paper is to explore the wider framework within which early Greenlandic settings are deployed in the Íslendingasögur, outside the all-too familiar Vínland sagas.10 By focussing on episodes in Fóstbroeðra saga, the more far-fetched Flóamanna saga and Króka-Refs saga, and the still more overblown Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífl s, and Jökuls þáttr Búasonar, we can draw out some common elements in narratives connected with Greenland in the söguöld and so contextualize readings of Eiríks saga and Groenlendinga saga. Exact datings are impossible to establish (Thórsson 1990), but the composition of this corpus 2009 J. Grove 33 probably spans the 13th to 15th centuries, when reported communications with Greenland peaked and declined (Table 1). Apart from Fóstbroeðra saga, all of these texts are usually qualifi ed as post-classical sagas—fantastical works, customarily thought to have been composed from the end of the 13th century onwards, which display an increasingly strong predilection for the manifestly implausible designs of the medieval romance and folklore traditions, describing the extraordinary adventures of larger-than-life heroes in supernatural settings and far-off lands.11 Yet shared features suggest that as time passed and different tastes and literary conventions asserted themselves, stories set in Greenland retained important thematic continuities for Icelandic saga audiences. Aside from this core group of Íslendingasögur and þættir, comparable material referring to Greenland in the later 10th and 11th centuries occurs in a number of other Icelandic writings including Landnámabók and the konungasögur (Sagas of Kings). There are some additional Greenlandic passages in the so-called samtíðarsögur (Contemporary Sagas) connected with the doings of Icelanders in the 12th and 13th centuries, represented chiefl y in the tales in the great Sturlunga saga compendium and the various biskupa sögur (Sagas of Bishops). Alongside these texts, we may also place Groenlendinga þáttr, also known as Einars þáttr Sokkasonar.12 This shorter work describes the circumstances leading to the establishment of the bishopric of Garðar in 1123–6, and a violent altercation over salvage rights between Greenlanders and a party of Norwegian merchants in 1135–6. It is an exceptional case in the whole body of medieval Icelandic narrative texts relating to Greenland. With its elaborately constructed and comparatively realistic 12th-century setting, and its adoption of a uniquely Greenland-centred narrative, the tale stands apart, in style, content and orientation. 13 Yet as will be seen, even Groenlendinga þáttr shares elements with the other texts under discussion here, reminding us all the more forcibly that these works refl ect the persistence of a long-standing and highly conventionalizing Icelandic literary discourse on Greenland. Fóstbroeðra Saga, Flóamanna Saga, and Króka-Refs Saga Like the other Íslendingasögur and þættir, the texts in our main set of tales referring to Greenland in the 10th and 11th centuries are atavistic works that exploit their audiences’ interest in the real or imagined accomplishments of their forebears, and the performance of an anachronistic and often dangerous ideology of honour that could safely be realized and contained in the past and, in these cases, overseas. This can be illustrated in the work with the most realistic Greenlandic setting in this group, the 13th-century Fóstbroeðra saga (CSI 2:329–402, ÍF 6:119–276).14 The saga tracks the fortunes of Þorgeirr Hávarsson and Þormóðr Bersason, a pair of predatory and competitive trouble-makers who plague northwestern Iceland in the early 11th century. After they part company, Þorgeirr becomes a retainer of Óláfr Haraldsson, the saint-king of Norway, but is killed in a brawl in Iceland. The king sends Þormóðr to take revenge, and chapters 20–24 of the saga tell how, after a hard voyage to the Eastern Settlement, he tracks down Þorgeirr’s surviving killer, Þorgrímr trolli Einarsson, slaughtering him and four of his fi ve nephews, and evading capture as an outlaw. It is an extreme performance even by the standards of the old ethos. Although partly sanctioned by the royal saint, Þormóðr’s comprehensive violence attracts even the king’s incredulity. Safely back in Norway, however, he subjects himself wholly to his Christian patron, dying with him at the Battle of Stiklastaðir. Fóstbroeðra saga and the other texts with which we are concerned locate Greenland as a recognized stepping-stone in the career path of the Icelandic adventurer, a peripheral setting in which manhood is challenged and vigorously asserted. In this context, the Icelander performs the extraordinary exploits by which his reputation will be cemented when he is integrated back into the centers of culture in Iceland or Scandinavia. Because Greenland, like Iceland, was subject to Norwegian cultural and political infl uence through much of its history, and eventually fell under the sway of the kings of Norway, it offered Icelandic saga-writers a particularly pertinent setting in which to exercise their abiding interest in the negotiation of political relations between their protagonists and Norwegian rulers. More generally, however, Greenland provides in the sagas a special transitory venue in which Icelandic protagonists are free to act in an environment that was in some ways more recognizable than almost any other outside Iceland itself, but also Table 1. Some Íslendingasögur and þættir, indicating dates of composition customarily accepted in modern scholarship, and dates of the earliest surviving manuscripts (cf. Thórsson 1990:35; for more complete information on the manuscript preservation of the works listed here, see the index of Old Norse texts in Degnbol et al. 1989). Text Conventional dating Earliest manuscripts Auðunar þáttr vestfi rzka Early 13th century ca. 1275 Groenlendinga saga Early 13th century ca. 1387–95 Eiríks saga rauða Early 13th century ca. 1302–10 Fóstbroeðra saga Early or late 13th century ca. 1302–10 Flóamanna saga Late 13th/early 14th century ca. 1390–1425 Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss Early or mid-14th century ca. 1390–1425 Króka-Refs saga 14th century ca. 1450–1500 Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífl s Late 14th or 15th century 17th century Jökuls þáttr Búasonar Late 14th or 15th century 17th century 34 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 markedly far-off and foreign. As a geographically and culturally liminal setting, it also provides fertile ground for the uncanny and supernatural, as evident in the Vínland sagas, and a context within which Icelandic anxieties about marginality and isolation could be sublimated. While Fóstbræðra saga restricts Þormóðr’s exploits to districts in the Eastern Settlement, the more far-fetched adventures of Flóamanna saga and Króka-Refs saga refl ect the exploitation of Greenland’s glaciated coastal wildernesses as a setting for extra-societal adventures, pushing the peripheral quality of the location to its extreme.15 Króka-Refs saga (CSI III:396–420, ÍF 14:117–60) follows the adventures of Refr, a young Icelander who turns out to be a wondrously ingenious craftsman and a lethal defender of his own honour. The extent of Refr’s capacities does not become evident until he moves to Greenland, where his skills allow him to elude all diffi culties and defeat his enemies. He establishes himself in the Eastern Settlement, but after he is slandered by a neighbour, Þorgils Víkarskalli, Refr mirrors the exploits of Þormóðr Bersason by killing him and his four sons, while failing to dispatch a fi fth relative, a son-in-law of Þorgils named Gunnarr. 16 Before taking up residence in the Eastern Settlement, however, Refr had constructed a hidden refuge for himself amid the glaciers in the wilderness of the east coast of Greenland, where he fi rst made landfall, and it is there that he now takes shelter. Gunnarr eventually tracks Refr down with the help of a Norwegian merchant and retainer of Haraldr harðráði. The Norwegian is aided from afar by King Haraldr, and what ensues is an indirect permutation of an Íslendingaþáttr-style confrontation between king and Icelander in which the resourceful Refr prevails over Haraldr by virtue of his technical wizardry in the defence of his home, and the king’s retainer winds up dead (cf. Arnold 2003:191–7). Refr’s aptitudes are exposed in the Greenlandic wilderness, but it is in the heartlands of Scandinavian and Christian culture that the Icelander makes good in the social framework. Leaving Greenland, he travels to Haraldr’s court in disguise, where he leaves his calling card by killing another of the king’s henchmen, declaring his culpability in a riddle only the king can interpret, and effecting his escape. He fi nally settles in Denmark, laden with Greenlandic trade-goods, and dies on a pilgrimage to Rome. The dual interest in the Greenlandic wilderness regions—the óbyggðir—and the social environment represented in Króka-Refs saga is more elaborately and outlandishly developed in Flóamanna saga (CSI III: 271–304, ÍF 13:229–327). This tale recounts the story of Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri, an Icelandic adventurer and Christian convert, who undertakes journeys to Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Greenland. Like Fóstbræðra saga, it shows how a champion in the old mold could make the transition to the new social ethic of Christianity, but in this case, the change is completed without the infl uence of a proselytizing king of Norway; it is in the adversity which he faces independently in Greenland that the Icelander consolidates his religious transformation. The tale is a typically fantastical post-classical saga, replete with trolls, ghosts, and supernatural phenomena. An extended sequence describes the attempt of Þorgils to settle in Greenland (chs. 20–26), leading to a ghastly shipwreck in a haunted wilderness of ice. An epic survival tale ensues as Þorgils and his companions endure horror in the arctic winter, facing disease, starvation, and internal confl icts leading to the murder of Þorgils’s wife. Þorgils fi nally manages to reach the Eastern Settlement with a handful of survivors. Once there, he uses his skills to protect the interests of the Greenlanders by killing a predatory polar bear and then rooting out a nest of troublesome outlaws. In the end—unlike Þormóðr and Króka-Refr—Þorgils returns to Iceland, settling down with his reputation established after further adventures in the British Isles and Norway. A common feature in the construction of Greenland in these and other texts is its function as a place of exile. Poverty is an occasional motivation for migration to Greenland, prompting fi gures such as Auðunn of the Westfjords, or Þorbjƒrn Vífi lsson in Eiríks saga (ch. 6), to leave their homes, but exile resulting from social confl ict fi gures prominently in the saga-accounts of Greenland journeys. Both sets of circumstances are evident in Hrafns saga Sveinbjarnarsonar, which seems to dramatize the conditions of continued migration as late as the 13th century. The two versions of the saga recall the departure for Greenland from northwest Iceland in 1208 of Víga- Haukr—who had attempted to murder the rapacious chieftain Þorvaldr Vatnsfi rðingr, and had maimed one of his followers—together with his brother-in-law Magnús Markússon, who had recently been cheated out of his paternal inheritance (Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:216, McGrew 1970–1974 II:212; cf. Helgadóttir 1987:28). The landnám tradition surrounding the foundational fi gure of Eiríkr rauði—outlawed from both Norway and Iceland—may represent a cultural memory of the social forces underlying migration from Iceland to Greenland in the 10th and 11th centuries, or a literary refl ex of more recent historical tendencies, or both. But it is also clear that the connection of Greenland with exile was a literary convention that affi rmed the marginality of the setting and the alienation of those placed within it. Although they are not formally outlawed, the heroes of Króka-Refs saga and Flóamanna saga take fl ight from Iceland to avoid trouble after becoming involved in violent confl icts. In Fóstbroeðra saga, Þormóðr sails west in fulfi lment 2009 J. Grove 35 of his oath of vengeance, but the exile theme comes into play in Greenland itself when the Garðar assembly outlaws him for the killing of Þorgrímr trolli (ch. 23). The pattern crops up repeatedly elsewhere too. Landnámabók tells of the early and ill-starred expedition of Snæbjƒrn Hólmsteinsson to the Gunnbjarnarsker, skerries west of Iceland from which new land—apparently the east coast of Greenland—had supposedly been sighted early in the 10th century (ÍF 1:194–196, Pálsson and Edwards 1972:73–74).17 Snæbjƒrn quits Iceland after perpetrating a disproportionately comprehensive massacre in vengeance for another killing, but his expedition destroys itself in a confl ict that leaves Snæbjƒrn dead. At the end of Gísla saga, the two sons of Vésteinn Vésteinsson fl ee Iceland after avenging their slain father; the older brother is killed in Norway, but Helgi Vésteinsson escapes to Greenland, where he successfully evades vengeance, only to meet his end on a hunting expedition in the Norðrseta (CSI II:48, ÍF 6:117–6118). In Eyrbyggja saga, Snorri Þorbrandsson and his brother Þorleifr kimbi quit Iceland in the 990s after becoming entangled in a prolonged feud, and travel to Greenland; the saga reports that Snorri later accompanied Karlsefni to Vínland, where he was killed by the skrælingar (CSI V:195, ÍF 4:135).18 A pair of anecdotes playing off the identifi cation of Greenland as a place of exile even appears in konungasögur originating in the earlier 13th century. The versions of Óláfs saga helga conventionally attributed to Snorri Sturluson tell of Þórarinn Nefjólfsson, who is commissioned by Óláfr Haraldsson to convey Hroerekr, the deposed and blinded king of Heiðmƒrk, into permanent exile in Greenland—although in the event, storms force Þórarinn and his captive to make for Iceland instead (Hollander 1964:329–330, ÍF 27:125– 128; cf. Johnsen and Helgason 1941 I:183–188). The survey of Norwegian regnal history in Morkinskinna includes the story of Þrándr of Upplƒnd, whom King Magnús góði supposedly sent to Greenland to avoid the enmity of his co-ruler Haraldr harðráði during their joint kingship in 1046–1047 (Andersson and Gade 2000:159–161, Jónsson 1932:103–108). The marked association of Greenland with social exclusion is complemented in Króka-Refs saga and Flóamanna saga by the focus on the desolate spaces of the óbyggðir.19 Króka-Refr and Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri set out to take refuge in the Greenland settlements, but they both fi nd themselves fi ghting for survival in the wilderness. For Refr, his house in the óbyggðir becomes his last redoubt in Greenland, before his departure for Scandinavia. Flóamanna saga follows a reverse trajectory, bringing Þorgils to Brattahlíð from the nadir of his shipwreck in the wilderness. In both cases, however, the Greenlandic óbyggðir provide a ready-made backdrop for the examination of the hero’s capacity to prevail in adversity, beyond the limits of normal social life, by his own prowess and ingenuity. In Fóstbræðra saga, Króka-Refs saga, and Flóamanna saga, the marginalization of the Icelander is intensifi ed by the animosity of Greenlanders in one or both of the settlements. In each case, the Icelander is demeaned as an outsider; and in each case, this is accentuated by reports of scandalous slurs impugning the Icelander’s manhood. The prelude to Þormóðr’s murder of Þorgrímr at the Garðar assembly makes emphatic his inferior status as a foreigner (ch. 23). When Þorgrímr and his men arrive by ship, Þormóðr is loitering at the shoreline. The Greenlanders have their hunting and fi shing gear with them, as is their custom, and as they unload, Þormóðr studies one of the Greenlandic seal-spears deposited on the beach. His curiosity elicits the derision of one Þorgrímr’s adherents, who refuses to acknowledge that Þormóðr—evidently no local—might know how to use such a thing. Þormóðr lets the matter drop, but in the manner of skaldic poets in the sagas he speaks a wry verse to himself in which he contrasts the Greenlander’s insolence with the respect to which he has been accustomed in the retinue of King Óláfr. It is clear, however, that his pursuit of vengeance is no longer simply a matter of duty to his dead friend Þorgeirr: Þormóðr’s own honour is at stake in this place where his past reputation carries no weight. After the killing of Þorgrímr, one of Þormóðr’s few Greenlandic allies commends him for his deed but identifi es the danger of his position: “‘Mikit stórvirki hefi r þú gƒrt, einn útlendr maðr ok einmani, sem þú ert hér … ok eigi sýnt, hvárt þú kømsk í brott’” (ÍF 6:237) (“You’ve performed a great deed, a foreigner and alone as you are here … and it’s not certain you’ll be able to escape” [CSI II:380]). The warning defi nes Þormóðr’s plight as a fugitive, but also the challenge that leads him to exact further vengeance. Back in Norway, Þormóðr claims in a verse spoken before King Óláfr to have ended up killing so many men in restitution for Þorgeirr because the Greenlanders had outlawed him. In typically cryptic poetic language, the skaldic stanza objectifi es the men of Greenland as criminals, permanently shamed by Þormóðr’s manly performance: Éls, hefk illan díla, Ekkils, þeims mik sekðu, geig vannk gervidraugum, Groenlendingum brenndan. (ÍF 6:259–260.) An evil mark have I branded on the Greenlanders: I brought harm to the men [literally, “trees that perform a storm of Ekkill (a sea-king, whose storm is ‘battle’)”] who had me outlawed. Þormóðr supplies another explanation for his violence, however, when he claims that the Greenlanders 36 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 had insulted him by saying he sought out men “sem meri með hestum” (ÍF 6:259) (like a mare among stallions [CSI II:391])—a conventional expression of sexual insult, or níð, defaming his manhood by asserting his readiness to submit to male sexual advances. The claim does not correspond with the details of the preceding chapters, indicating that the theme of sexual insult has been deliberately suppressed in surviving texts of the saga (Meulengracht Sørensen 1983:71), but it dramatically expresses the mutual antagonism of the whole episode. There are no such indications of expurgation in the text of Króka-Refs saga (cf. Meulengracht Sørensen 1983:39–44). Refr’s homicidal vengeance on the family of his objectionable Greenlandic neighbour Þorgils Víkarskalli is stimulated by the same sort of sexual calumny, but here the insult is logically articulated in the narrative sequence. It also involves an even more clearly expressed opposition of regional identities. Refr establishes himself in the Eastern Settlement by marrying Helga, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and taking over her father’s farm. This wins him the enmity of Þorgils, whose son Þengill’s suit Helga had previously rejected. The hostility between the two households blossoms into open confl ict when it is put about that Refr had shunned an encounter with a predatory polar bear subsequently slain by Þorgils’s sons. The successful immigrant is reviled by his neighbours as an unmanly coward and a sexual deviant who transgresses the bounds of nature, and has no place in Greenland. “‘Hygg ek þat, at aldri hafi dáðlausara höfuð komit til Grænlands en hann ber’” (ÍF 14:134) (“I don’t think that a fainter heart has come to Greenland than the one in his breast” [CSI III:406]) asserts Þengill Þorgilsson,20 and he embroiders the tale of Refr’s cowardice by claiming that he pissed himself as he fl ed—when he had in fact been running to fetch an axe. It is Þorgils who introduces the element of sexual ridicule, by asserting that Refr had been exiled from Iceland because “hann [var] ekki í æði sem aðrir karlar” (“he was not like other men in his nature”). Adopting the grotesque exaggeration conventional in níð, Þorgils alleges that Refr had been accused of taking the form of a woman every ninth day in order to have sexual intercourse with men: “ávallt mætti Grænland rauða kinn bera, er þat heyrði Refs getit” (“Greenland will always have to blush when it hears Refr named”), he states, adding, “ek sá, þegar hann var hingat nýkominn, at öfl uð hafði verit áðr Grænlandi in mesta skömm” (“when he fi rst came here I already saw that Greenland had been affected by a great scandal”). Such insults are designed fi guratively to emasculate the accused, depriving him of prestige and social agency; here, as once seems to have been the case in Fóstbroeðra saga, they focus attention on the test of manhood at the center of the Greenlandic narrative. The theme of sexual insult appears again in Flóamanna saga, but this time in the context of an actual transgressive situation in the story, which reads like an attempt to enact and surpass the kind of ostentatiously implausible perversions of nature customarily invoked in the traditional rhetoric of Norse insult. The saga describes the gradual process by which the intemperate Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri learns to curb his self-seeking aggression following his conversion to Christianity. A signifi cant moment in this transformation takes place during the trauma of the shipwreck in the Greenlandic wilderness, when the hardy warrior successfully breastfeeds his newborn son Þorfi nnr after his wife is brutally murdered. In an unparalleled scene in saga literature, Þorgils slices open one of his nipples, and squeezes until milk fl ows from his breast: “Fór fyrst út blóð, síðan blanda, ok lét eigi fyrr af en ór fór mjólk, ok þar fæddist sveinninn upp við þat” (ÍF 13:289) (First blood came out, then a mixed fl uid, but he did not stop until milk came out, and he nursed the boy with it [CSI III:291]). This act is evidently connected with the theme of Þorgils’s acceptance of Christ. Analogues for the motif of male lactation in medieval ecclesiastical art, learned writings, and hagiography of the 12th to 14th centuries refl ect the emergence of the idea of Christ as mother, imparting grace upon sinful humanity like mother’s milk.21 By producing life-giving milk from a self-infl icted wound, the recent convert Þorgils imitates the self-sacrifi ce of Christ, making himself like the pelican, the commonplace Christological symbol of the medieval bestiaries and encyclopaedias, which fed its young by piercing its own breast and pouring out blood like milk.22 Flóamanna saga is no programmatic ecclesiastical text, however. The specifi c narrative context of shipwreck and extreme privation suggests that the story refl ects an awareness of the unusual but welldocumented physiological effect of spontaneous lactation, known to occur sporadically in men recovering from protracted periods of severe physical hardship and malnourishment—conditions that were not unknown in the medieval North Atlantic.23 In its narrative context, the breast-feeding of Þorfi nnr by his father is an epiphany, but it also encapsulates the extreme conditions of shipwreck, and the suspension of all familiar norms in the travails of the Greenlandic wilderness setting as seen from Iceland. In the Eastern Settlement, however, the genuine ambiguity of gender that the nursing of Þorfi nnr suggests leads to the customary pattern of accusation. By the time Þorgils and his loyal companions fi nally escape to Brattahlíð, Þorfi nnr is weaned, but the strange story reaches the ears of the Greenlanders. One night, seated in the communal privy, Þorgils’s friend Kolr and a member of Eiríkr’s household engage in a mannjafnaðr, a formal comparison of male accomplishment, 2009 J. Grove 37 comes a great chieftain. In the second episode (chs. 18–21), the focus is on the exploits in the Greenlandic óbyggðir of Gestr, the son of Bárðr and one of Miðfjarðar-Skeggi’s daughters. Gestr becomes a retainer of Óláfr Tryggvason of Norway, and a reluctant convert to Christianity. At Óláfr’s court, he accepts a challenge from the revenant corpse of an undead Viking called Raknarr, and sets out to traverse Greenland en route to northern Helluland, where he wrestles Raknarr in his tomb and vanquishes him with the help of a priest and Óláfr’s miraculous intervention (cf. Sayers 1994). Bárðar saga was certainly written before the mid-14th century, and still displays a vestigial concern with the human inhabitants of Greenland in its use of the familiar pseudo-historical setting of Brattahlíð. The descent into the realms of pure fantasy in the Greenlandic wilderness in the latter part of the saga anticipates the direction of our youngest saga texts, in which the Greenlandic setting becomes almost entirely abstract. Gunnars saga (CSI III: 421–36, ÍF 14:341–79) tells the adventures of Gunnarr Þorbjarnarson, an unpromising layabout who blossoms as a champion in an icy wilderness far out in the northwest Atlantic (chs. 5–6). Gunnarr fl ees Iceland to escape the vengeance of a chieftain whose son he has killed. He takes passage for Scandinavia with a Norwegian merchant, but the ship is driven west by storms to a glacial coastline. The place is not identifi ed as Greenland, but the setting in which Gunnarr fi nds himself corresponds with the óbyggðir of Flóamanna saga, Króka-Refs saga, and Bárðar saga.26 Gunnarr’s powers now come to the fore and he organizes the ship’s company to house themselves and survive the winter. He pioneers the glaciers above their camp alone, and demonstrates his prowess by defeating adversaries including the statutory polar bear and various giantesses and trolls. The ship returns to Norway in the spring, where Gunnarr’s stature is suffi cient to win the jealousy of Hákon jarl of Hlaðir. After going on viking expeditions, he returns to Iceland where he fi nds the vengeful chieftain dead, marries his daughter and takes over his authority. In Jökuls þáttr Búasonar (CSI 3:328–334, ÍF 14:45–59), too, the story is bereft of any effort at historicization, and is marked by the ascendancy of the fantastical generic conventions customarily associated with the fornaldarsögur, romances of the legendary past mostly thought to have been composed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Nevertheless, it offers a refl ex of the same sort of traditions about voyages to Greenland that we fi nd in Bárðar saga and Gunnars saga. Jökull— the half-human grandson of the Norwegian giant who had fostered Bárðr Snæfellsás in his youth— is forced to fl ee Iceland, abandoning his claims to his paternal inheritance after he accidentally kills concerning the relative merits of Eiríkr and Þorgils (ch. 25). Understandably, perhaps, the Greenlander points out that he cannot tell whether Þorgils is a man or not. Kolr kills him for his impudence; but it is soon after this that Þorgils takes on the band of outlaws that troubles the settlements, proving his manhood by defending the Greenlanders when they need help. Eiríkr, however, is an intransigent pagan, and he becomes increasingly cool and unwelcoming towards his heroic houseguest, prompting Þorgils’s fi nal departure (ch. 26), and his eventual reaffi rmation of his place in Christian Iceland. Bárðar saga, Gunnars saga, and Jökuls þáttr Búasonar In Flóamanna saga, Þorgils’s encounters with polar bears and pirates in the Greenlandic settlements stand cheek by jowl with supernatural meetings in the óbyggðir. The giants and trolls faced by the heroes of the remaining, more fabulous texts in our group of Íslendingasögur—Bárðar saga Snæfellsáss, Gunnars saga Keldugnúpsfífl s, and Jökuls þáttr Búasonar—represent the increasing focus on Greenland as a fantastical setting.24 The tendency towards the adoption of a narrative mode concerned with superhuman feats in outlandish settings complies with the changing generic parameters of post-classical saga literature in the 14th century.25 It is nevertheless striking that the remaking of Greenland as a rendezvous for fabulous adventures with little regard for even the most vaguely historicized human dimension becomes most apparent at a time when regular communications with Greenland were diminishing, but, strangely perhaps, not necessarily before they had ceased altogether—if we assume that the conventional dating of these texts is correct. Bárðar saga (CSI II: 237–266, ÍF 13:99–172) constitutes a special case among the Íslendingasögur. It relates, in the style of a family saga, a tale of Norse landnámsmenn in western Iceland; but this is the family of the half-human, half-giant Bárðr, who occupies Snæfellsjökull with his daughter Helga. The saga is filled with fantastical and folkloric elements. Two episodes are connected with Greenland. The first describes how Helga Bárðardóttir is accidentally carried to Greenland on a storm-driven ice floe (ch. 5). She stays with Eiríkr rauði at Brattahlíð, where she encounters Miðfjarðar-Skeggi, a visiting Icelander of the more conventional (human) type who is residing there. What we have here is an embedded tale about an Icelandic hero proving himself in Greenland, but with the narrative focus on the she-giant Helga. She helps Skeggi accomplish feats of heroism in which he destroys a family of trolls, before she returns to Snæfellsnes and he to Miðfjörður, where he be38 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 of foreign territory in Greenland in such terms, for the action of pagan deities could not be allied with divine ordinance as the age of the missionary kings Óláfr Tryggvason and Óláfr Haraldsson approached in the accounts of the sagas. Whereas the pre-Christian religion of the fi rst Icelanders was pardonable, the intransigent paganism of Eiríkr rauði and his generation is made a symptom of cultural backwardness in a time of religious transformation; in Eiríks saga (ch. 5), he resists the efforts of his own son, sent as a missionary to Iceland by Óláfr Tryggvason. 30 Icelandic visitors to early Norse Greenland in the sagas fi nd themselves fl ung into a context of profound religious uncertainty and confrontation. Þormóðr Bersason only escapes Greenland with the miraculous intervention of Óláfr Haraldsson and, more strangely, the magic of an old woman too frail to go to church, but whose carved image of Þórr reminds her of the superiority of the Christ. Gestr Bárðarson defeats the undead viking warrior Raknarr with the help of a Christian priest and the miraculous assistance of Óláfr Tryggvason. Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri’s Greenland odyssey is set against his efforts to defy the threats of a jilted Þórr. In each case, it is only with the return from the volatile transitional space of Greenland that full resolution is achieved; the Greenlandic experience is made constitutive for a Christian history lying outside Greenland itself. Groenlendinga saga and Eiríks saga close with Guðríðr Þorbjarnardóttir and Þorfi nnr karlsefni quitting a Greenland disturbed by witches and unquiet corpses and re-establishing themselves in Iceland. After Karlsefni’s death, Guðríðr makes a pilgrimage to Rome and becomes a nun and anchoress, but they both achieve a place as foundational fi gures in the Christian history of Iceland, as great-grandparents of the 12th-century bishops Þorlákr Runólfsson of Skálholt, and Bjƒrn Gilsson and Brandr Sæmundarson of Hólar. Flóamanna saga makes the convert Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri more than equal to Guðríðr and Karlsefni, asserting his position as a forefather of the bishop-saint Þorlákr Þorhallsson of Skálholt, and the later Jörundr Þorsteinsson of Hólar (d. 1313). In Króka-Refs saga, set in the mid-11th century, we fi nd ourselves outside the context of the main missionary period in the history of Scandinavia as it was seen in the sagas. Even in this case, however, Refr fi nally dies on pilgrimage to Rome, and the saga claims that one of his descendants was Absalon, bishop of Roskilde and archbishop of Lund in the later 12th century (d. 1201).31 What we seem to have here, then, is a set of close intertextual connections between these texts and the Vínland sagas, deriving conventional elements from other parts of the saga tradition which are then deployed repeatedly and consistently in order to enhance the cultural liminality of the Greenlandic setting. his human father in a wrestling match.27 When his ship is driven west and wrecked on the Greenlandic coast, Jökull comes into his own. After conveying his companions to safety on the shore, and fi nding shelter for them, he establishes his heroic credentials by killing various Greenlandic giants and trollwomen. He fi nally manages to leave Greenland, and eventually ends up as king of a legendary realm in the Orient. In Gunnars saga and Jökuls þáttr, the wilderness setting displaces the interest in confl ict in societal contexts. Both protagonists fl ee confl ict situations in Iceland, maintaining the customary exile theme, but they are driven west involuntarily in fi erce storms, and experience Greenland only in its guise as supernatural wasteland. The separation from even the most vaguely discerned historical contingencies is complete in Jökuls þáttr, in which the hero’s adventures in the óbyggðir lead him not to a re-determination of his religion or his relations with any identifi able ruler in Norway, or to improved circumstances in Iceland, but to his acquisition of fabulous wealth and power in the imaginary east. The Conversion Theme Testing encounters in the settled and wilderness spaces beyond the cultural centers of Iceland and Scandinavia provide the central focus of the Íslendingasögur set in Greenland. But a recurrent feature of the tales under discussion here, which connects them rather closely to the Vínland sagas, is their tendency to make Greenland a theater for the religious confl icts and ambiguities remembered as having attended the transition from paganism to Christianity. 28 Religious conversion is an important theme in the Íslendingasögur, but it achieves special prominence in Greenlandic settings, almost certainly because of the recollection in medieval Icelandic writings and the memorial traditions upon which they depended of the proximity between the settlement of Greenland and the formal acceptance of Christianity in the North Atlantic colonies in around 1000. In the pseudo-historical saga traditions concerning the settlement of Iceland in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, the landnámsmenn are frequently represented as having secured the sanction of pagan gods, the only divine forces that the majority of the settlers recognized.29 By tacitly condoning these traditions, the texts indicate that the supervision of the Icelandic land-taking by non-Christian supernatural authorities in the pagan period was allowed to anticipate the divine legitimization of the settlement from a later Christian perspective, establishing the Icelanders’ god-given right to the land which was fi nally perfected with their conversion (Clunies Ross 1997:18–25; cf. Barnes 2001:11). There is no corresponding attempt to conceptualize the colonization 2009 J. Grove 39 no lack of opportunities to gather narrative material from Greenlandic oral or written sources, if only from intermediaries who had made the voyage west or heard travellers’ tales in Norway. Although they became increasingly sporadic, Norwegian commercial and administrative communications with Greenland persisted intermittently down to 1377 or 1378, when the last bishop of Garðar died and was not replaced (Seaver 1996:139–1). It is possible that Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen meant to place the Greenlandic church under the supervision of the Icelandic see at Skálholt in 1056 (Schmeidler 1917:274, Tschan and Reuter 2002:218; cf. Halldórsson 1981:204), but any such connection had been broken by 1124, by which point archiepiscopal jurisdiction had shifted to Lund and, according to Groenlendinga þáttr (ch. 1), Sigurðr Jórsalafari of Norway sponsored the consecration of the Norwegian priest Arnaldr as bishop of Garðar. Lay connections between Greenland and Iceland were suffi ciently close, however, that Grágás (the law code of the Icelandic Commonwealth) includes provisions accepting the jurisdiction of local law over Icelandic expatriates involved in manslaughter cases or claiming inheritance in Greenland (Dennis et al. 1980–2000 I:235, II:247–8; Finsen 1852 I:240, 249, 1879:71, 90, 389–90).35 If the testimony of Hrafns saga Sveinbjarnarsonar is correct, Icelanders still migrated west occasionally in the early 13th century,36 and some mobility may even have been known in the late 14th and early 15th centuries when communications fi nally petered out.37 There were certainly more Greenlandic visitors to Iceland than those few deemed exceptional enough for one reason or another to have warranted notices in the samtíðarsögur, and in the late medieval Icelandic annals which began to be compiled towards the end of the 13th century: the comically named but otherwise mysterious Ásmundr kastanrazi (“Wriggle-arse”), who arrived in 1189 in a strangely constructed boat from Krossey and Finnsbúðir, in the wilderness at the southeastern tip of Greenland, but was lost at sea the following year (Storm 1888: 22, 61, 120, 180, 477; cf. Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:138–9, Karlsson 1983:69);38 Bishop Óláfr of Garðar, who visited Iceland in 1262 (Storm 1888:27, 67, 134, 193, 330); the company of a Greenlandic ship wrecked in western Iceland in 1266 (Storm 1888:136, 258 [s. a. 1265], 330); and another crew, blown off course while sailing home from the North American coast in 1347 (Storm 1888:213, 353, 403). Páls saga biskups, the biography of Bishop Páll Jónsson of Skálholt, refers in passing to the visit in 1203 of Bishop Jón smyrill of Garðar, who taught his Icelandic hosts how to make communion wine from crowberries (ÍF 16:311). Less memorable encounters than these, in Iceland, Greenland, and Norway, must have promot- The Historical Setting Further textual parallels and interconnections among these texts are identifi able in the way in which episodes outside Eiríks saga and Groenlendinga saga set in Greenland in the 10th and 11th centuries are anchored historically to the fi gure of Eiríkr rauði. Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri’s voyage to Greenland is presented as a response to an invitation from Eiríkr, and it is to Brattahlíð that he makes his way after escaping from the wilderness (Flóamanna saga ch. 24). It is Eiríkr, again, who receives Helga Bárðardóttir when she washes ashore in Greenland (Bárðar saga ch. 5). It is to Leifr Eiríksson at Brattahlíð that Óláfr Haraldsson commands Þórarinn Nefjólfsson to bear the deposed king Hroerekr in versions of Óláfs saga helga; and Þormóðr Bersason’s fi rst port of call is once again Brattahlíð, where Þorkell Leifsson, an otherwise unknown grandson of Eiríkr, is supposedly established as the dominant fi gure in the Eastern Settlement (Fóstbroeðra saga ch. 20). As we have seen, Eiríkr rauði’s landnám was remembered in Icelandic writings from as early as Íslendingabók. It was to his household that the story of the conversion inevitably cohered in the story of Leifr Eiríksson and Óláfr Tryggvason in Eiríks saga, Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, and Kristni saga.32 The story of Leifr’s mission had arisen by the early 13th century (Halldórsson 1978:381–389, 1981; Kristjánsson 1997:272–273), and it seems to be a refl ex of the historical traditions regarding the chieftains Gizurr hvíti and Hjalti Skeggjason, who were supposedly converted at Óláfr’s court and then sent home as native missionaries, setting in motion the events leading to the formal acceptance of Christianity at the Icelandic Alþingi in ca. 1000. It is interesting, however, that Icelandic saga narratives have no other concrete information to offer about historical circumstances in early Greenland. There is no attempt to invoke any broader framework of 10th- or 11th-century Greenlandic genealogical relations, no references to other families or individuals who must have been infl uential in Greenland in the period, beyond the lists of principal landnámsmenn remembered as having left Iceland in ca. 985.33 The connection with Eiríkr or Brattahlíð is suffi cient to establish a recognizable context in most of these texts; the Icelandic saga writers evidently had nothing to gain from more elaborate historicization. Only in Groenlendinga þáttr do we fi nd an attempt to supplement the stories regarding the emigration west from Iceland in the late 10th and early 11th centuries with more detailed material on Greenlandic affairs.34 The historical information in Icelandic accounts of Greenland is surprisingly thin. The exact extent of Icelandic interactions with Greenland after the settlement is hard to gauge, but there can have been 40 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 board carved from walrus ivory, a vessel of walrus skull, and a tame polar bear (ch. 11).43 At the end of the saga, in a transparent exercise in Icelandic wishfulfi lment, Refr’s victory over his Greenlandic and Norwegian foes is represented in his establishment as a man of means in the kingdom of Denmark, enriched by his cargo of Greenlandic wares: Kom þat upp, at þeir hefði of fjár í svörð ok tannvöru ok skinnavöru ok mörgum þeim hlutum, er fásénir váru í Danmörk af grænlenskum varningi. Þeir höfðu fi mm hvítabjörnu ok fi mm tigi fálka ok fi mmtán hvíta. (ÍF 14:157.) It became known that they had great wealth in walrus-hide ropes, walrus ivory, and furs, and that they had many kinds of Greenland wares which were seldom seen in Denmark. They had fi ve polar bears, and fi fty falcons including fi fteen white ones. (CSI III:418–19.) As the example of Króka-Refs saga shows, the Icelandic interest in Greenlandic trade resources partly explains the abiding fascination of the Greenlandic óbyggðir in Icelandic writings, for it was the immense hinterlands of the arctic wilderness —notably the Norðrseta on the west coast—which supplied Greenland’s overseas trade. The wilds of Greenland exercised a potent hold on the imagination of some Icelanders in the 13th and 14th centuries. This was not merely a literary preoccupation. In 1285, two Icelandic brothers facing severe fi nancial diffi culties set out on a voyage of discovery west of Iceland, and returned claiming to have found a place which they called Nýjaland (New Land) or Dúneyjar (Eiderdown Islands) (Storm 1888:142, 196; cf. 50, 337, 383). The Höyersannáll version of the Icelandic annals located this place in “Grænlands óbyggðir” (Storm 1888:70), and although it is not known exactly where the brothers went and what they found, it seems likely that the land they claimed to have discovered lay somewhere on the east coast of Greenland, which would have remained largely unexplored in the late 13th century and evidently offered a powerful lure to Icelanders eager to obtain their own supply of Greenlandic trade-goods. The brothers apparently exaggerated the success of their venture, however, for accounts of their dealings after 1285 indicate that their circumstances were not improved. Nevertheless, the tale of discovery found a receptive audience in Norway—in 1289, King Eiríkr Magnússon dispatched an envoy named Hrólfr to seek out the new territory, but the unfortunate royal henchman never made it beyond Iceland, where he died in 1295 (Pálsson 1964). The fi ctitious story of Króka-Refr’s acquisition of “great wealth” from his haunts on the east coast in the mid-11th century evidently tapped a rich seam of Icelandic wishful thinking in the later medieval period. ed the exchange of information and the swapping of tales between Icelanders and Greenlanders for four centuries or more. Yet, although some historical notices concerning Greenland occur in Icelandic writings,39 and the annals indicate that contacts with Greenlanders might sometimes have stimulated local Icelandic folklore,40 the opportunities for acquiring knowledge of the Greenlandic past do not seem to have provided any real grist for the saga-writers. Despite the fact that the Icelander customarily remains a foreigner in those texts in which Greenlandic settings are developed, accounts of the Norse colony itself emphasize the similarities and kinship between Greenland and Iceland: the settlements are composed of scattered farms, chieftains preside over assemblies, and a recognizable way of life is practiced in a recognizable domestic environment. References to a few distinctive aspects of life in Greenland become key markers of setting for the Icelandic writers and their audiences. Polar-bears prowl the meadows,41 and the special importance to the Greenlanders of hunting and fi shing attracts occasional comment.42 One of the most signifi cant aspects of Greenlandic life in these narratives, however, which would certainly have been well-known and enviable to many Icelandic observers while communications continued, is the importance of the trade axis between Greenland and Norway. In its heyday, Greenland supported a trade in high-value goods of which Iceland could only dream (Seaver 1996:48, 80–88; cf. Jónsson 1920–21:71–2, Larson 1917:142). The commercial lure of Greenland is clearly identifi ed in Fóstbroeðra saga and Króka-Refs saga. There are repeated references in Króka-Refs saga to the special Greenlandic goods for which the Greenland trade was famous: walrus-hide ropes, walrus ivory, and arctic furs (chs. 10, 11, 14, 18), and Fóstbræðra saga refers to the fi ne clothes, linen, and valuables that moved in the opposite direction, and were deemed too good for the Icelandic market (ch. 16). In 13th- and 14th-century Iceland, it would have been patently obvious even to the most retiring saga-writer that the Greenland trade with Norway had important political implications, especially after the expansion of Norwegian royal authority in the North Atlantic in the 1260s and its concomitant trading privileges. Little surprise, then, that the trade in Greenlandic commodities is a matter of royal interest in the sagas. The Greenlandic merchant Skúfr, who conveys Þormóðr to Iceland in Fóstbræðra saga, is identifi ed as a friend of King Óláfr, and in his paid employ (ch. 18). In Króka-Refs saga, Haraldr harðráði sends his retainer Bárðr, a merchant, to Greenland to bring back a cargo of walrus ivory and ship-ropes (ch. 10). Access to Greenlandic wares provides access to an important source of social leverage. Bárðr’s Greenlandic ally, Gunnarr, wins the favor of Haraldr with characteristic gifts: a gaming 2009 J. Grove 41 stories told by Icelandic ship-owners to cover their deliberate fl outing of trading privileges reserved to the Norwegian crown; however, if this was so, the tales of Atlantic storms were still convincing enough to satisfy royal offi cials (Seaver 1996:146–158). Historically and experientially grounded as the accounts of gruelling westbound voyages may have been, in the immediate narrative contexts of the sagas they serve the literary effect of distancing Greenland from the central reference point of Iceland. In Fóstbroeðra saga, Þormóðr toils to keep his ship afl oat in storm conditions (ch. 20). The accounts of Greenland voyages in Króka-Refs saga, Flóamanna saga, Gunnars saga, and Jökuls þáttr are all closely related to one another and to the accounts of troubled trips in the Vínland sagas—notably the long journey west of Þorbjƒrn Vífi lsson. Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri’s ship lies becalmed on the ocean for months before it is caught up in storms that leave it wrecked in the wilderness beneath the glaciers of Greenland (Flóamanna saga ch. 22). The ship Jökull Búason had expected to take him to Norway is broken on skerries off the Greenlandic coast after enduring a summer lost on the ocean, and autumnal storms (Jökuls þáttr ch. 1). Króka-Refr and Gunnarr Keldugnúpsfífl experience similarly testing voyages, making landfall in the wilderness (Króka-Refs saga ch. 6, Gunnars saga ch. 5). The topos gets a suitably fabulous spin in the account of Helga Bárðardóttir’s mishap when she is washed to Greenland while playing on an ice-fl oe that is suddenly blown west from the foggy coast of Snæfellsnes (Bárðar saga ch. 5). Getting back from Greenland does not generally seem to involve the same diffi culties as getting there in these tales, and we hear of no corresponding wrecks on the fearsome Atlantic lee shores of Iceland, Scandinavia, or the British Isles on the return journey. The asymmetrical pattern bespeaks the artifi ciality of these narratives. Getting away is part of the point in tales set in Greenland after the settlement era, and the voyage home is not usually a matter for concern once affairs in the west have been tied up and indicators of remoteness are no longer required.48 Parallel accounts of storms at sea occur in several stories of voyages to Iceland during the pioneering period in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. In the story in Landnámabók of the original discovery of “Snowland,” Naddoddr is driven west by storms while trying to reach Faroe from Norway, and he is forced to spend the winter in the uninhabited wilderness (ÍF 1:34–35, 37; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:16). The pattern is familiar and entirely formulaic, but neither the tale of Naddoddr nor those of the explorers and landnámsmenn who followed him include references to such hardships as their successors are remembered as having faced on the sea-routes to Greenland: the winds that blow about Getting to Greenland The tendency to take a piece of common lore about Greenland and develop from it a conventional literary pattern is evident elsewhere in our texts. So for example, there is rarely in these sagas any such thing as an easy voyage to Greenland. There is no reason, of course, to doubt the hardship of sailing the North Atlantic in open boats, and the hazards are widely acknowledged in medieval sources.44 Yet the turbulent voyage becomes a principal leitmotif of Icelandic tales concerning Greenland and the lands further west. Of twenty-fi ve ships in the fi rst wave of colonists Landnámabók remembered as having left Iceland in about 985, only fourteen are supposed to have reached Greenland (ÍF 1:132–133, Pálsson and Edwards 1972:49). Landnámabók and Groenlendinga saga (ch. 1) preserve fragments of a poem called Hafgerðingadrápa, attributed to a Hebridean Christian aboard one of the ships that brought settlers to Herjólfsnes, which comprises a prayer for deliverance from giant waves (ÍF 1:132–134, Pálsson and Edwards 1972:50).45 The Vínland sagas recall other troubled journeys. The ship which bears Þorbjƒrn Vífi lsson and his daughter Guðríðr to Greenland in Eiríks saga experiences favorable conditions at fi rst, but then disease strikes, followed by storms, and they spend the whole summer at sea before reaching Greenland and the shelter of Herjólfsnes at the start of winter (ch. 3); in Groenlendinga saga, Leifr discovers Guðríðr Þorbjarnardóttir and her fi rst husband Þórir wrecked on a skerry within sight of Greenland (ch. 3).46 When Bjarni Herjólfsson attempts to join his father in Greenland in Groenlendinga saga (ch. 1), his voyage starts well, but they are taken in wind and mist to within sight of Vínland—while in Eiríks saga, it is Leifr who discovers Vínland, after enduring prolonged storms during his return to Greenland from Norway (ch. 5).47 These tales may in part refl ect the pattern of inherited oral traditions regarding historical circumstances in the pioneering period, but they were also congruent with more recent experience. The Icelandic annals are littered with references to ships that never made their intended ports, including several that disappeared on the voyage to or from Greenland (Storm 1888: 22, 61, 120, 180, 228, 258, 323 [s.a. 1185, 1189, 1265, 1369]), that were driven off course to Greenland while sailing between Norway and Iceland (Þorsteinsson 1922–27:13–20 [s.a. 1209, 1381, 1382, 1384/85, 1406]; Storm 1888:123, 282, 364–6, 414), and that were in some cases wrecked on Greenland’s east coast (Storm 1888:282, 364–5 [s.a. 1382]). So repetitious are the references in the annals and Norwegian documentary sources to ostensibly accidental voyages west by Icelandic trading ships in the fi nal period of contact in 1381–1406 that it has been suggested that these were in fact tall 42 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 kind of Shangri-La away from the complications of society, whether in Iceland or the Greenlandic settlements, and a redoubt in which he can resist his foes. In a still more simplistic fantastical mode, Gestr, Gunnarr and Jökull are able to undertake various adventures from their places of refuge against the wild and supernatural denizens of this place. For Þorgils, the site of his shipwreck is an inhuman nightmare, in which human relations and social hierarchies are submitted to the most extreme pressures, and from which only Þorgils and his most loyal adherents escape with their lives. The frightful experience of Þorgils in the Greenlandic óbyggðir in Flóamanna saga has a number of parallels in other texts. A signifi cant precedent lies in the account in Landnámabók of Snæbjƒrn Hólmsteinsson’s calamity in Greenland in the mid-10th century. Snæbjƒrn comes ashore on a desolate coastline amid “frost ok kulða, / feikn hvers konar” (ÍF 1:195) (frost and cold, every kind of ill-omen), but he is murdered in the strife that breaks out while his party is holed up for the winter in their skáli.49 The survivors retreat in the spring. Groenlendinga þáttr describes the horrifi c scene at a site on the southeast coast of Greenland where the marooned survivors from the wreck of Arnbjƒrn’s ship perished. In this case, the story is told from the perspective of the Greenlandic hunter Sigurðr Njálsson who fi nds a skáli and the bodies of the survivors of the wreck, who appear to have died later of starvation or disease (ch. 2). A very similar situation—the discovery by Greenlanders of the corpses of shipwrecked mariners on the southeast coast—is referred to in an anecdote in the version of Hemings þáttr Áslákssonar in the early 14th-century Hauksbók miscellany, which describes an encounter between Haraldr harðráði of Norway and a Greenlandic skipper called Líka-Loðinn (Corpse-Loðinn). Like Sigurðr Njálsson, Loðinn is remembered for recovering corpses from the óbyggðir, for he had supposedly retrieved the body of Óláfr Haraldsson’s nephew Finnr from the site of a shipwreck at the site known thereafter as Finnsbúðir, “fyri austan jokla a Grænalandi” (Fellows Jensen 1962:41) (east of the glaciers in Greenland). For further analogues to these tales of shipmates thrown ashore on remote coastlines, holed up in cabins, and sometimes subject to bouts of fatal confl ict, one need only look as far as the Vínland sagas, and their accounts of the temporary settlements made by Norse expeditions to the fabled lands lying south and west of Greenland. It cannot easily be ascertained whether the accounts of Leifsbúðir (Groenlendinga saga ch. 2) or the búðir of Karlsefni at Hóp (Eiríks saga ch. 10), and stories of the dissension in Karlsefni’s winter camp at Straumsfjƒrðr (Eiríks saga ch. 12) or the disastrous stay of Freydís at Leifsbúðir, early Iceland in the sagas tend to draw pioneers to their destined land-holdings in the new country rather than threatening them with hardship and destruction at the edge of the known world (e.g., Egils saga Skalla-Grímssonar chs 23, 27 [CSI I:58, 64; ÍF 2:58, 71–72]). The currency of the motif of the storm-tossed voyage suggests that the interrupted journeys to Greenland in the story of Þórarinn Nefjólfsson and King Hroerekr and in Groenlendinga þáttr should be read as marked deviations from a narrative pattern that was well-established in the 13th-century Icelandic tradition. In each case, the unexpected arrival in Iceland of a prestigious Norwegian visitor sets up a tacit contrast between circumstances in the two colonies. When Þórarinn is commissioned by Óláfr Haraldsson to carry the deposed king of Heiðmƒrk into exile at Brattahlíð, he expresses apprehension at the danger of the voyage, and Óláfr assures him that it will be a fi tting test of skill for such an experienced skipper, but that he may take Hroerekr to Iceland as an alternative. Þórarinn’s fears are proved correct, and the saga describes how he labours futilely off Greenland through the summer in fi erce storms and heavy seas. When Þórarinn fi nally brings his ship in to Iceland rather than Eiríksfjƒrðr, Hroerekr is received by Þorgils Arason and Guðmundr Eyjólfsson, chieftains as proud and magnifi cent as any regional king of former times in Norway, by whom he is vexed to fi nd himself treated merely as a social equal (ÍF 27:127–8, Hollander 1964:330; cf. Johnsen and Helgason 1941 I:187–8). In Groenlendinga þáttr (ch. 1), Bishop Arnaldr’s ship is likewise forced to take shelter in Iceland on his way to Garðar, and he winters with Sæmundr fróði at Oddi before continuing his journey. But Arnaldr’s stay at Iceland’s most important cultural center in the early 12th century is counterpointed with the grim fate of Arnbjƒrn, a Norwegian skipper who had sailed in company with the bishop, and who is later found to have died with his entire crew after they were wrecked on the east coast of Greenland (ch. 2). The pattern of close intertextual correspondences in the saga accounts of voyages to Greenland is maintained in those tales that take their stormtossed Icelanders onto dry land in the óbyggðir. In Króka-Refs þáttr and Flóamanna saga, in the tale of Gestr in Bárðar saga, and in Gunnars saga and Jökuls þáttr, the Icelander protagonist and his companions makes landfall on the wilderness east coast of Greenland late in the year, close to the beginning of winter. In each episode, the party constructs— or, in the case of Jökull, fi nds—a skáli, a hall in which to pass the winter months. Króka-Refs saga, Flóamanna saga, Gunnars saga, and Jökuls þáttr describe the fjord setting in some detail, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. In Refr’s case, this is a 2009 J. Grove 43 Later on, the different versions of the saga relate the parallel tale of Guðmundr’s uncle Ingimundr, although without making any explicit connection between the two episodes. Ingimundr attempted to sail to Iceland from Norway in 1189 on a ship named the Stangarfoli (cf. Storm 1888:22, 120–121, 180–181). Three years earlier, he had rejected the offer of the bishopric of Greenland, but he was to end his days there whether he liked it or not: Skip þeira kom í óbygg[ð]ir á Grænlandi, ok týndust menn allir. En þess varð svá víst, at fjórtán vetrum síðar fannst skip þeira, ok þá fundust sjau menn í hellisskúta einum. Þar var Ingimundr prestr. Hann var heill ok ófúinn ok svá klæði hans, en sex manna bein váru þar hjá honum. Vax var ok þar hjá honum ok rúnar þær, er sögðu atburð um lífl át þeira. (Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:138; cf. Karlsson 1983:68, Vigfússon and Sigurðsson 1856–1878 I:435.) Their ship was lost on the deserted shores of Greenland, and they all perished. This came to light fourteen years later when their ship was found and the remains of seven men in a cave. Ingimund the Priest was one of them: his corpse was intact and undecayed, as were his clothes, and the skeletons of the other six were by his side. They also found a wax tablet close to him with runes that told the story of their death. (McGrew 1970–1974 II:118.) The coincidence of two brothers dying in such similar circumstances on two separate occasions would stretch plausibility beyond its limit, and Jan Ragnar Hagland (1996:102–3, 106) has argued that the story of Ingimundr must represent the alternate version of the tale previously told about Einarr. The two separate anecdotes would therefore derive from Greenlandic reports of the initial recovery of Einarr and his companions and the discovery some years later of Ingimundr and his party with their account of the wreck written in runes.51 The bifurcated tale of the doomed survivors of the Stangarfoli, stranded in a barren waste, divided into hostile factions, refl ects a narrative pattern similar to that which informs the stories of Snæbjƒrn Hólmsteinsson and Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri, and there is evidently also a close relationship with the accounts of the discovery of dead mariners by Líka-Loðinn and Sigurðr Njálsson. 52 It would be tempting to argue that the circulation of the story of Einarr and Ingimundr might have infl uenced the accounts of earlier disasters in the sagas, but establishing the relative chronology of the different texts in their earliest forms is too problematic to allow us to determine the priority of this particular narrative and, say, the tales of Snæbjƒrn’s 10th-century expedition, or the wreck of Arnbjƒrn in 1124, as we now know them. It seems wisest to argue which ends in massacre (Groenlendinga saga ch. 7), provided literary models for the Greenlandic stories or a set of parallel refl exes of a commonplace theme in Icelandic narrative tradition. Either way, we are clearly dealing with a well-used literary motif, in which the circumstances and fate of each expedition seems to refl ect its moral integrity and cohesion far from home. Yet among the stories of violence and lingering death following shipwreck in Greenland, there is an important additional case, which must have begun to take shape in Iceland from reports circulating in the 1190s and the fi rst decade of the 13th century, but which only survives in the various much later versions of Guðmundar saga biskups, the saga of the turbulent 13th-century bishop and uncanonized saint Guðmundr Arason of Hólar. These texts contain references to the shipwreck and death on the east coast of Greenland of two of Guðmundr’s paternal uncles, the brothers Einarr and Ingimundr Þorgeirsson. The accounts appear to derive from oral reports connected with the discovery of the corpses, which were absorbed into the 13th-century textual traditions thought to underlie the extant versions of Guðmundar saga (Hagland 1996:99–100).50 The opening chapters in the so-called Prestssaga Guðmundar góða in the Sturlunga saga compilation and in the separate Guðmundar sögur give information on Guðmundr’s genealogical background and relate how his uncle Einarr lost his life “á Grænlandi í óbyggðum” (Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:116) (in the wastelands of Greenland [McGrew 1970–4 II:93]). The texts state explicitly that two different versions of the story were known, before supplying the version derived from the account of a Greenlander named Styrkárr Sigmundarson, who is identifi ed explicitly as a notable and reliable source of oral lore (sagnamaðr mikill ok sannfróðr): Skip þeira hefði fundizt í óbyggðum, en lið þeira hefði gengit í tvá staði ok barizt um þat, er aðra hafði fyrr þrotat vist en aðra, ok komst Einarr brott við þriðja mann ok leitaði byggðar, hann gekk á jökla upp, ok létu þar lífi , er dagleið var til byggðar, —ok fundust vetri síðar. Lík Einars var heilt ok ósakat, ok hvílir hann á Herjólfsnesi. (Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:116; cf. Karlsson 1983:17, Vigfússon and Sigurðsson 1856–1878 I:408.) Their ship was later found in the wilds of Greenland, but the crew had divided into factions and fought each other when one party had used up all its provisions. Einar escaped with two companions in search of the settlements; he climbed among the glaciers and died there within a day’s journey of the settlement, and his body was found a few winters later; it was intact and uncorrupted and is now buried on Herjólfsnes. (McGrew 1970–1974 II:93.) 44 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 much about the geographical and historical actualities of place. We should not necessarily be surprised if they refl ect historical realities on some levels, but the mental maps detectable in the sagas are less often a vestige of Viking Age mnemonics, more often the simplifi ed intertextual arrangements that emerged to serve the needs of medieval storytellers.56 The geography of Greenland impacts on the narratives in our core group of Íslendingasögur in various ways. Fóstbroeðra saga focuses on the Eastern Settlement, and the vicinity of Brattahlíð and Garðar, in Eiríksfjƒrðr and Einarsfjƒrðr. The attention to this limited human setting in the cycle of vengeance meted out by Þormóðr refl ects much closer attention to local geography than we encounter in any other text apart from Groenlendinga þáttr, including the Vínland sagas. As we have seen, the other tales exhibit an interest in the remote wilderness settings of Greenland to which Fóstbræðra saga does not aspire. Flóamanna saga and Króka-Refs saga both set up a basic opposition between the óbyggðir and the settlements, the byggðir. The Greenland episode in Flóamanna saga opens with the drama of Þorgils’ shipwreck in a barren fjord beneath the ice-sheet. This scene is clearly based on accounts of the harsh eastern seaboard of Greenland, upon which shipping must frequently have foundered. Þorgils and his companions eventually escape southwards down the coast, into the haunts of an outlaw called Hrólfr, who was an exile from the Western Settlement (ch. 24). They travel on “south along the shore” (CSI III:294, ÍF 13:300) and, having met an Icelandic trading vessel making landfall on the coast, they continue to Brattahlíð, and eventually also to the Western Settlement (ch. 25). The spatial relationships identifi ed here basically correspond with the “real” geography of Norse Greenland, but they seem to have been simplifi ed along a roughly diagonal north–south axis, which confl ates the wild east coast of Greenland with the Norðrseta, on the arctic west coast. Hence Hrólfr, an outlaw from the Western Settlement, seems to have ended up on what we would naturally think of as the east coast, construed as the “north” of Greenland, eventually returning to the Western Settlement after Þorgils intervenes on his behalf.57 Geographical simplification also marks the disposition of the main settlements. In Flóamanna saga, Brattahlíð essentially is the Eastern Settlement. No other farmsteads there are named, and none are identifi ed in the still more remote Western Settlement. The two main centers are placed far too close to one another, so when Þorgils kills a troublesome polar bear at Brattahlíð, he wins a reward from all the Greenlanders, including the people of the Western Settlement (ch. 25). Likewise, the encampment of a group of outlaw vikings inhabiting coastal that the accounts relating to the 1189 wreck were assimilated into a conventional story pattern that was sustained by its connection with known events. The historical authenticity of the accounts of Einarr and Ingimundr in the form in which they appear in the Guðmundar sögur, let alone hypothetical earlier stages in the development of the story, simply cannot be taken for granted. The twin versions of the tale have only survived because they served the purposes of the biographers of Guðmundr Arason: the discovery of the unblemished corpses of the two Icelanders introduces a markedly hagiographical tone, anticipating the assertions of their nephew’s sanctity (Hagland 1996:105). The duplication of this motif plainly refl ects the concerns of the Icelandic texual community, and it may have seriously distorted the shape of an underlying tale if we assume that Einarr and Ingimundr’s parties represent the opposed factions among the survivors of the shipwreck—in which case, it would be unusual for both men to have been imagined as dying with something of the aura of sanctity about them. It is striking too that there is no reference at all to the broader Greenlandic contexts of the story in its surviving form, aside from the passing allusion to Styrkárr Sigmundarson. The bleak shores and icy wastes where the Icelanders had struggled and died loom large here, but the Greenlanders who discovered the bodies—the counterparts of Líka-Loðinn and Sigurðr Njálsson—are left unidentifi ed. Extraneous narrative details have been stripped away, leaving the Greenlandic setting in its most restricted form as a perilous and otherworldly region. It seems probable that whatever its historical authenticity, the reference to the use of runic letters in extremis by Ingimundr or another member of his party as a means of communicating from beyond death in the wilds would have accentuated the sense of estrangement from familiar cultural settings. That the writer in the narrative chose to use runes on his wax tablet and not Latin letters suggests that we are to understand that in this context the elevated script of the church could not be expected to be comprehensible to anyone likely to fi nd the bodies.53 The Geography of Greenland in the Sagas Although at least as late as 1410, some Icelandic shipowners had fi rst-hand acquaintance with Norse Greenland, geographical accuracy is no more a conspicuous concern in the Icelandic narrative literature than historical depth. Accurate knowledge was still to be had, as refl ected in the lists of fjords colonized during the settlement period,54 and the sailing directions across the North Atlantic seaways to Greenland preserved in Landnámabók (ÍF 1:132–5; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:16),55 but the spaces mapped out in saga narrative are not always designed to tell us 2009 J. Grove 45 The conjunction in Bárðar saga of the Greenlandic wilderness and Helluland, the most barren and northerly of the lands at the western edge of the known world in the exploration narratives of the Vínland sagas, signals a new development in the construction of remote North Atlantic locations in the sagas. Geraldine Barnes has observed that Helluland displaces Vínland as the locus of fantastical encounters in the utmost west in the legendaryheroic sagas of the 14th and 15th centuries (Barnes 2001:33–4). In the long version of ¯rvar-Odds saga (ch. 21)—which survives in manuscripts dating from the 15th century—the legendary hero Oddr travels across Grænlandshaf (the Sea of Greenland), in pursuit of a giant foe. Arriving at the far shore, he turns south and west along the coastline to reach Helluland.59 The only living creatures he meets along this coast—evidently Greenland itself—are two sea-monsters (Boer 1888:131–2, Pálsson and Edwards 1985:86). Elsewhere, Greenland is elided altogether: in Hálfdanar saga Brönufóstra (ch. 4), which only survives in 15th- and 16th-century vellums, the sea-routes west of Scandinavia and the British Isles lead to Helluland, and Greenland does not fi gure at all (Jónsson 1954a:297). This focus on Helluland partly refl ects the logical consistency of Icelandic writers in their fabrication of the past, for these tales supposedly took place in a legendary period “before” Greenland was discovered and settled. Yet the new interest in this “pre-historical” setting nonetheless complements the gradual fading out of Norse social environments in saga accounts of Greenland. The old tales of Norse Greenland continued to be read and copied—after all, it is only from the very end of the 14th century that our texts of Groenlendinga saga and Groenlendinga þáttr in Flateyjarbók date, and the Skálholtsbók version of Eiríks saga was set down in the fi rst half of the 15th century—but as time drew on, the view of the lands west over the sea in the Icelandic sagas became increasingly bleak and dehumanized. Conclusions The medieval accounts of Greenland discussed here embody the constant renewal and adaptation of traditional elements that is a general characteristic of Icelandic saga literature. Sagas of pioneering adventure even further than Iceland from the centers of Scandinavian culture allowed Icelandic writers and their audiences to emphasize the distinction of their own origins and the social and spatial contexts by which they defined themselves and their changing perspective on their past. Accounts of Greenland allowed Icelandic writers to chart the parameters of Icelandic cultural self-consciousness in their writings, against the ever-receding memory islands off Eiríksfjƒrðr, in the Eastern Settlement, is explicitly identifi ed as lying just off the Western Settlement, as if the two locations were immediately adjacent, and not 500 kilometers apart. The same sort of simplifi ed geographical arrangement is adopted in Króka-Refs saga, in which the óbyggðir are situated northwards up a simple coastal axis, below which lie the Eastern Settlement and the Western Settlement respectively. Króka-Refr’s fi rst landfall from Iceland brings him to his hidden valley under the glaciers, where he establishes his place of refuge, far to the north of human habitation (chs. 6, 9). When Refr eventually fl ees back there from his farm in the Eastern Settlement, the Greenlander Gunnarr, a resident of the Western Settlement, sends men “norðr í óbyggðir” (ÍF 14:138) (north into the wilderness [CSI III:408]) to hunt him down; and correspondingly, when Refr sends his sons on an errand out of the wilderness, they travel “suðr til byggðar” (ÍF 13:146) (south to the settlements [CSI III:413]).58 In different ways in Flóamanna and Króka-Refs saga, the depiction of Icelandic visits to the Norse settlements in Greenland is bound up with the drama of wilderness survival, whether conducted by necessity or choice. In Gunnars saga and Jökuls þáttr, we fi nd only a harsh arctic desert inhabited by polarbears and supernatural beings, in which a previously idle youth shows his true mettle by protecting and providing for his companions. It is this same desert aspect that marks the second journey west in Bárðar saga, where the Greenlandic wilderness borders the otherworld space of northern Helluland. The description of Gestr’s journey seems to embody a geographically distorted account of an east–west traverse of Greenland, from sea to sea; but it introduces bizarre images of what appears to be a volcanic landscape (ch. 18). Some of Gestr’s companions are swallowed up in the ground when they try to approach a strange cauldron full of gold slung on two golden poles (CSI II:262, ÍF 13:163), which appears to represent a folkloric reanalysis of a pool of simmering magma (Falk 2007:11–12). Their journey then continues across ancient lava fi elds; the vision of Greenland imparted in the text is one of a peculiarly Icelandic wilderness of glaciated volcanic terrain: Þeir gengu fyrst eftir landinu milli vestrs og útsuðrs; síðan snéru þeir um þvert landit; váru fyrst jöklar og þá tók til brunahraun stórt … Svá gengu þeir upp þrjá daga. En er hraunit þraut, kvámu þeir at sjó fram. (Bárðar saga 1991:164–165.) [T]hey went overland in a southwesterly direction; then they turned across the land. They came to glaciers fi rst, then enormous stretches of burnt lava … They walked like this for three days. When the lava fi eld ended, they came to the sea. (CSI II:263.) 46 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 Icelandic narrative tradition, and the limited quantity of specifi c local information supplied in these texts, amount to a tacit acknowledgement that Norse Greenland was a place with its own identity and history, and a story that was not expected to be fully encompassed within the medieval Icelandic literary tradition. The memory of Viking-age Greenland suffered a sea-change in the Íslendingasögur, and became, if not always something rich, then certainly something strange. Greenland never took on the lustre of the exotic that can be identifi ed in the tales of Vínland. Instead, these texts present a series of distorted images of Greenland as an extreme environment, an increasingly remote outpost of the Norse world, perpetuating a tradition of alterity that was already established in Íslendingabók and exaggerated in the Vínland sagas. The Íslendingasögur that have been discussed here refl ect the coming together of different types of lore, some of which refl ected knowledge of historical conditions in Norse Greenland. Yet this was attenuated by the passage of time, by generic conventions that did not value historical and geographical specifi cities in the account of that “cold world”—as Sturla Þórðarson called it—and above all by the fact that these texts were written by Icelanders, for Icelanders, about the place occupied by Iceland and its people in their own literary imaginations. Acknowledgments I am grateful to the managers of the University of Cambridge Scandinavian Studies Fund for supporting my participation in the Hvalsey Conference. Eleanor Barraclough and Rosie Marshall read the paper in draft and made several helpful corrections and comments alongside those of two anonymous referees; Judith Jesch and Kirsten Seaver both kindly allowed me to see transcripts of the pieces presented by them at Qaqortoq, neither of which was submitted for publication in these proceedings. Literature Cited Amory, F. 1983. Pseudoarchaism and fi ction in Króka- Refs saga. Mediaeval Scandinavia 12:7–23. Andersson, T.M., and K.E. Gade (Trans.). 2000. Morkinskinna. The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030–1157). Islandica 51. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, USA, and London, UK. 556 pp. Árnason, J. (Ed.).1954–1961. Í slenzkar þjó ðsögur og ævintý ri: ný ú tgá fa. Bókaútgáfan Þjóðsaga, Reykjavík, Iceland. 6 vols. Arnold, M. 2003. The Post-Classical Icelandic Family Saga. Scandinavian Studies 9. Edwin Mellen, Lewiston, NY, USA, and Lampeter, UK. 275 pp. Barnes, G. 2001. Viking America: The First Millennium. Boydell and Brewer, Cambridge, UK. 187 pp. Benediktsson, J. 1981. Hafgerðingadrápa. Pp. 27–32, In U. Dronke et al. (Eds.). Speculum Norroenum Turville Petre Speculum Norroenum: Norse Studies in Memory of Gabriel Turville-Petre. Odense University Press, Odense, Denmark. 508 pp. of social mobility in the North Atlantic during the Viking Age. Saga traditions concerning Greenland were perpetuated in Iceland with the reformulation of old literary material in post-medieval contexts. The fi rst antiquarian accounts of Greenland in the late 16th and 17th centuries leant heavily on medieval lore,60 but in one case, the shape of an otherwise unknown medieval tale is preserved in the more popular versenarrative tradition. Surviving in 16th-century and later manuscripts are the Skáld-Helga rímur (Jónsson 1905–12 I:105–65), a sequence of verse narratives concerning an 11th-century Icelandic poet which seem to have been based on a lost saga (Helgason 1976).61 The exact shape of the medieval story is not known, but it seems to have comprised an interesting permutation of conventional patterns, for unlike the central fi gures in other tales of Icelanders who travel west in the 11th century, Helgi chooses to remain in the west. Taking a wife, he settles at Brattahlíð— unsurprisingly perhaps—becomes the legal expert of the colony, and is recognized as “merkismaðr mestr á Grænalandi” (Jónsson 1905–1912 I:161, st. 54) (the most remarkable man in Greenland). Many of the elements of the story are familiar, however: the hero is an exile from Iceland, his ship is driven by storms to Greenland, and there he encounters pagan witchcraft and conducts a bloody feud in the wilderness. Helgi even goes on pilgrimage to Rome, like other Greenland-farers before him, although in order to accommodate the reversal whereby he remains permanently in the west the rímur relate that it was during his attempt to return home to Iceland from his pilgrimage that Helgi was driven out west. Narrative conventions connected with Greenland that had originated in the late medieval tradition remained alive in Icelandic literary culture, even as times changed and early-modern navigators brought this land—now devoid of its former Norse colonies—back into the fi nite spheres of European knowledge.62 The special interest of Greenland in medieval contexts lay of course in the recognition of its historical origins as a secondary settlement from Iceland— but one that was situated in a more extreme context and existed on a much smaller scale, with its own political organization and its own connections with Norway. As transatlantic links grew more tenuous, and eventually failed altogether in the early 15th century, the notion of the óbyggðir, which looms so large in Icelandic tales of outlawry, plays an increasingly prominent role in the Greenlandic setting, taking over from the focus on societal contexts. Even though there was still sporadic contact between Iceland and Greenland as late as 1410, the Icelandic accounts of Greenland usually thought to have been composed in the 13th and 14th centuries were not informed by any broad base of historical knowledge. The marginality of Greenland in the 2009 J. Grove 47 Halldórsson, Ó. (Ed.). 1958–2000. Ó lá fs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta. Munksgaard/Reitzel, Copenhagen, Denmark. 3 vols. Halldórsson, Ó. 1978. Grænland í miðaldaritum. Sögufélag, Reykjavík, Iceland. 453 pp. Halldórsson, Ó. 1981. The conversion of Greenland in written sources. Pp. 203–16, In H. Bekker-Nielsen, P. Foote, and O. Olsen (Eds.). 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Grove 49 7Matt XIII:45–6: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant, seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” For references to the export of live polar bears from Greenland in the sagas, see Kreutzer 1985 and Miller 2008:18, n.8. 8More detail concerning Auðunn’s stay in Greenland is supplied in the Flateyjarbók version of the tale, in which Auðunn acquires his bear from a Greenlandic hunter in the Western Settlement (Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 III:411; Miller 2008:7). 9Eiríks saga is preserved in two manuscripts, Hauksbók (ÍF 4:193–237), from the fi rst half of the 14th century, and Skálholtsbók (ÍF 4:401–434), from the fi rst half of the 15th century, both based on a version set down after 1263. For a translation of the Skálholtsbók version, see CSI I:1–18; signifi cant variants from the Hauksbók version are supplied in the translation in Jones 1986:207–32. Groenlendinga saga (ÍF 4: 239–269; CSI I:19–32) is preserved in the version of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta in Flateyjarbók. Scholars have usually argued that both sagas originated in the early 13th century (Halldórsson 1978:398–400, 2001), but the evidence is insecure (Þorláksson 2001). 10Since the publication of the foundational compilation of textual sources on Norse Greenland in Magnusen and Rafn 1838–1845, standard accounts of the medieval Icelandic writings on Greenland (e.g., Halldórsson 1978, Jansen 1972:26–31, 41–67) have addressed the Vínland sagas—implying greater confi dence in their value as sources for Viking-age activities—but they offer little or nothing on the other sagas with Greenlandic settings. 11For a recent discussion of the emergence of the postclassical sagas, focussing on Fóstbræðra saga and Króka-Refs saga, see Arnold 2003, especially pp. 141–232. 12ÍF 4:271–292, CSI V:372–382. Like Groenlendinga saga, the þáttr survives only in the late 14th-century saga compendium Flateyjarbók. 13Halldórsson (1978:401–405) argues that Groenlendinga þáttr was compiled from eyewitness accounts of the events to which it refers, but Ebel (1999) has shown that the plot depends on changes in the Icelandic laws of salvage, so the text in its extant form dates from no earlier than the mid-13th century. 14The saga is preserved in two medieval versions. There is no consensus on the date of original composition, or the priority of the different versions; the saga has been dated variously to the earlier and later parts of the 13th century. 15Flóamanna saga survives in two versions, but the longer version—usually thought to be closest to a late 13th- or earlier 14th-century original—is fragmentary. Króka-Refs saga exists in its entirety in a single 15th-century vellum and various later paper copies, but is usually thought to have been composed in the 14th century. 16Refr’s vengeance so strongly recalls Þormóðr Bersason’s activities that it has been suggested that the author of Króka-Refs saga was directly indebted to the Fóstbroeðra saga account. See Amory 1983:13–14, Arnold 2003:197–203, ÍF 14:xxxv–vi. 17According to Eiríks saga ch. 2 and both main versions of Landnámabók (ÍF 1:131, Pálsson and Edwards 1972:49), Eiríkr rauði’s voyage west was planned as a search for this place. Vigfússon, G., and C.R. Unger (Eds.). 1860–1868. Flateyjarbók: En samling af Norske Kong-Sagaer med indskudte mindre foretællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. Malling, Christiania, Norway. 3 vols. Þorláksson, H. 2001. The Vinland sagas in a contemporary light. Pp. 63–77, In A. Wawn and Þ. Sigurðardóttir (Eds.). Approaches to Vinland. Proceedings of a Conference on the Written and Archaeological Sources for the Norse Settlements in the North-Atlantic Region and Exploration of America. The Nordic House, Reykjavik, 9–11 August 1999. Stofnun Sigurður Nordal, Reykjavík, Iceland. 238 pp. Þorsteinsson, H. (Ed.). 1922–1927. Annálar 1400–1800. Vol. 1. Hið íslenzka bókmenntafélag, Reykjavík, Iceland. 732 pp. Þorvaldsdóttir, V.E. (Ed.). 2009. Hrynhenda. Pp. 676–98, In K.E. Gade (Ed.). Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035–c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Brepols, Turnhout, Belgium. 916 pp. Endnotes 1Texts in Latin script must have been known in Norse Greenland, if only to support ecclesiastical needs, but surviving writings consist entirely of terse runic inscriptions (Stoklund 1981). The late 13th-century Icelandic Codex Regius of the Poetic Edda identifi es the heroic poems Atlakviða and Atlamál as Greenlandic. Dronke rejects this possibility in the case of Atlakviða, arguing that the poem may predate the Norse settlement, but fi nds some internal evidence supporting the Greenlandic origin of Atlamál (Dronke 1969:45, 107–710). 2See ÍF 1:132 (translated in Pálsson and Edwards 1972:49); ÍF 4:201, 406 (CSI I:3). For the text in Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar, see ÍF 1:242, Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 I:430 (ch. 1 of Groenlendinga saga in Jones 1986:186). 3The poem details the events of 1247–1262, and forms part of a sequence of four encomia on Hákon transmitted piecemeal in Hákonar saga. Hrynhenda was probably composed for Sturla’s visit to Norway in 1263, the year of Hákon’s death. The rest of the sequence was completed as a memorial to the king. Cf. Pálsson 1988:68–82. 4Ecclesiastical and commercial connections between Norway and Greenland in the 13th and 14th centuries register in some contemporary documents, and in the mid-14thcentury description of the Greenlandic church attributed to the Norwegian priest Ívarr Bárðarson, which survives in a 16th-century Danish redaction (Jónsson 1930). 5See the description of Greenland in the Icelandic manuscripts AM 736 I 4to, composed ca. 1300, and AM 194 8vo, dated 1387 (Kålund 1908:12; cf. Jones 1986:20, Simek 1986:247). Narrative refl exes of this tradition occur in the late legendary romance Samsons saga fagra (Jónsson 1954b:380–381), and the tale of Hallur geit, preserved in the 17th-century, who travelled from Greenland to Norway on foot (Halldórsson 1978:52). 6The þáttr is preserved in the late 13th-century manuscript of Morkinskinna, a chronicle of the kings of Norway, but derives from an archetype set down ca. 1220 (Andersson and Gade 2000:24, 66–67). An alternate version differing in minor details appears in the related assembly of tales in Flateyjarbók, compiled ca. 1387–1395 (Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 III:410–415; Miller 2008:7–12). 50 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 2 31The pilgrimage motif also surfaces in Auðunar þáttr, and in Fóstbroeðra saga ch. 24, in which Þormóðr’s ally Bjarni Skúfsson dies on a pilgrimage to Rome after quitting Greenland, but the textual parallels are not so pronounced in these cases. Pilgrimages occur in a number of Íslendingasögur, including the closing sequences of Njáls saga, Grettis saga, and Laxdæla saga, and in various other texts. Cf. Hill 1993. 32See endnote 30, above. 33See Landnámabók (ÍF 1:134–135; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:50) and the Flateyjarbók version of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta (ÍF 4:243; Jones 1986:187; cf. Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 I:430), and the accounts of individual landtakings in Groenlendinga saga ch. 1 and Eyrbyggja saga ch. 48 (ÍF 4:135–136; CSI 5:195). 34See Ebel 1999 on the operation of legal norms established in mid-13th century Iceland in determining the development of the hostility between the Greenlanders and Norwegian merchants described in the text. 35The prohibition of bigamy in Iceland and “í várum lƒgum” (Finsen 1852 I:226, 1879:70) (where our laws obtain [Dennis et al. 1980–2000 II:8]) apparently refers to Greenland, indicating that the activities of visiting Icelanders were subject to the legal strictures of home. 36The memory or continued expectation of reverse migration from Greenland in 13th-century Iceland may be at work in Fóstbroeðra saga ch. 24, which describes the relocation to Norway of Þormóðr’s Greenlandic allies Skúfr and Bjarni and the widow Sigríðr of Hamarr and her son. 37Seaver 1996:151 –158 discusses the last recorded Icelandic visit to Greenland in 1406–1410. She argues that the Icelander Sigríðr Bjarnardóttir, who married her compatriot Þorsteinn Óláfsson at Hvalsey in 1408 and left Greenland with him in 1410, was the widow of a Greenlander to whose household she was sent from Iceland in 1392 or shortly thereafter. 38The Annales regii and the Oddaverjaannáll report Ásmundr’s arrival on a ship “er seymt var trésaumi einum nær, þat var ok bundit sini” (Storm 1888: 120, 477) (which was tightly seamed with wooden pegs; it was also bound with sinew). Notices in other annals and in versions of Guðmundar saga simply register Ásmundr’s arrival from Greenland. The late Danish text of Ívarr Bárðarson’s description of Greenland locates Finnsbúðir and Krosseyjar east of Herjólfsnes (Jónsson 1930:21–22). 3917th-century excerpts of Hauksbók show that the compilation once included a letter from Greenland written soon after 1266, referring to an exploratory expedition in the Norðrseta (Halldórsson 1988:238–239). Flateyjarbók supplies a list of Greenlandic churches and the bishops down to 1314 after Groenlendinga þáttr (Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 III:454). The Icelandic annals and samtíðarsögur contain references to the consecration and westward voyages of bishops of Garðar. 40The Höyersannáll redaction of the Icelandic annals refers to the coming of Ásmundr kastanrazi in 1189; but the 1192 entry notes the arrival in Breiðafjörður of another boat, described in identical terms to Ásmundr’s craft in the Annales regii and Oddaverjaannáll (Storm 1888:61; cf. endnote 46, below). It too is said to have sailed from Krossey and Finnsbúðir, but the annal states that the crew had been in the wilderness for 7 years—which may 18Cf. Eiríks saga ch. 11, according to which it is Snorri’s son Þorbrandr who is slain. 19The conception of wilderness as exile country is commonplace in tales set in Iceland itself, notably the outlaw sagas Grettis saga, Gísla saga and Harðar saga. Cf. Hastrup 1985:142–145, Ólason 1998:186. 20The Old Norse may be rendered more literally, “I think that a more uncourageous head has never come to Greenland than the one he bears”. 21The standard accounts of these themes remain Bynum 1982:110–169, 1987:165–180, 270–275. The motif of the holy man suckling an infant—the closest medieval literary analogue for the motif in Flóamanna saga—occurs in Irish ecclesiastical texts, discussed in Bray 2000. 22The analogy between the blood of salvation and mother’s milk is strengthened in medieval medical lore, according to which breast-milk was a form of processed blood (see Bray 2000:287–288; Bynum 1982:132, 1987:270). 23Many recorded instances of spontaneous lactation in men can be ascribed to disruptions in the balance of hormone-production and regulation following exposure to extreme physical stress and starvation (Diamond 1997:53–54, Greenblatt 1972). 24The earliest manuscripts of Bárðar saga date from the late 14th or 15th century, and the text probably originated in fi rst half of the 14th century. The earliest manuscripts of Gunnars saga and Jökuls þáttr are paper copies of the 17th century. These sagas contain romance elements that are thought to be indicative of comparatively late origins, in the later 14th or 15th centuries. 25Traditional theories regarding the diachronic development of different modes of writing in the sagas are now contested, but a general consensus that the taste for fantastical material grew in the 14th and 15th centuries remains (Ólason 1998:60–61). 26The only historical fi gure in the text is the Norwegian jarl Hákon Sigurðarson of Hlaðir (970–995); it is possible that the story is supposed to be set before the settlement in ca. 985. 27The death of Búi Andríðsson is recounted at the end of Kjalnesinga saga (ÍF 14:43, CSI III:327), to which Jökuls þáttr is a sequel. 28Of the main saga texts under discussion here, only in the late adventure stories Gunnars saga and Jökuls þáttr is there no refl ex of these patterns. See Barnes 2001:3–9 for a discussion of religious themes in the Vínland sagas, Fóstbroeðra saga, and Flóamanna saga. 29This is best exemplifi ed in those tales in Landnámabók and the Íslendingasögur in which settlers reach their allotted destinations on arrival in Icelandic waters by a form of cleromancy, casting overboard their carved wooden high-seat pillars (ƒndugissúlur) and following them ashore. See the accounts of Ingólfr Árnason in Landnámabók (ÍF 1:42–45; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:19–21), and Þórólfr Mostrarskegg in Landnámabók (ÍF 1:124–125; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:45–46) and Eyrbyggja saga ch. 4 (ÍF 4:7–8; CSI V:133). 30The story of Leifr and Óláfr also appears in versions of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar (ÍF 26:334; Hollander 1964:218; cf. Halldórsson 1958–2000 II:170–171, 200) and in Kristni saga (ÍF 15 II:30; Grønlie 2006:47). Comparatively early texts such as Fagrskinna and Oddr Snorrason’s Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar link the conversion of Greenland to Óláfr without mentioning Leifr; references to the conversion of Greenland in Adam of Bremen’s Gesta, Historia Norwegiae and Groenlendinga saga make no mention of either fi gure. 2009 J. Grove 51 story of Loðinn stating that runic inscriptions were often found at the sites of Greenlandic shipwrecks (Halldórsson 1978:56–57; cf. Hagland 1996:106–107). 53See Hagland 1996:105–6 for the argument that this reference to the use of runes on a wax tablet provides unique testimony to the parallel use of runes and Latin letters in Iceland in the mid-13th century, when the story was set down. 54See endnote 33, above. 55See also Halldórsson 1988 for an attempt to reconstruct a medieval Icelandic description of Greenland used as a source in 16th- and 17th-century antiquarian texts. 56For a more positive view see the discussion in Sigurðsson 2004:253–302 of saga accounts of the Vínland voyages and Viking-age mental maps supposedly underlying them. 57The operation of the same spatial arrangement may explain the passage in Groenlendinga saga ch. 5 describing Þorsteinn Eiríksson’s failure to reach Vínland. He spends a whole summer at sea, tossed by storms between Iceland and Greenland, but fi nally washes up in the Western Settlement, just before winter. The implicit notion that the easternmost settlements in Greenland lay further north than Eiríksfjƒrðr may also help make sense of the confusing account of Eiríkr rauði’s explorations in Eiríks saga, Landnámabók, and Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar (for references, see endnote 2, above). 58This distortion resurfaces in the reference to Líka-Loðinn in the 17th-century Grænlandsannáll, which views Herjólfsnes as the northernmost graveyard in Greenland, on the grounds that Loðinn brought the bodies of dead sailors there from the northern óbyggðir (Halldórsson 1978:7). The error is repeated in the Seiluannáll, s.a. 1652 (Þorsteinsson 1922–1927:301). 59The identifi cation of the óbyggðir in Gunnars saga as part of Greenland is dependent on parallels with the accounts of other Greenlandic texts: but Gunnarr’s adventures take place in a fjord called Skuggi, which is the name of Oddr’s destination in Helluland. 60See Halldórsson 1978:147–292 for an account of the composition and medieval sources of Grænlandsannáll, compiled by Jón lærði Guðmundsson in ca. 1623. On the wider context of early antiquarian writings on Greenland, cf. Benediktsson and Samsonarson 1980:218–232. 61I am grateful to Judith Jesch for drawing my attention to these parallels in her unpublished paper from the Hvalsey conference, “The most remarkable man in Greenland: The literary history of Skáld-Helgi.” 62Two Icelandic folktales collected in the mid-19th century, the tales of Grímr Skeljungsbani and Skessu-Jón (Árnason 1954–1961 I:238–247, III:271–275), demonstrate the enduring productivity of the medieval narrative conventions, with their stories of accidental voyages, and encounters with the giants of the Greenlandic óbyggðir. Standard forms are entertainingly reversed in the tale of Skessu-Jón, who encounters an amorous Greenlandic giantess who has been driven by storms to an isolated spot in the West Fjords of Iceland, where she and her sister quarrel about the division of food (recalling the fractiousness of Icelandic parties marooned in Greenland). indicate that they were supposed to be survivors of the Greenland-bound ship lost in 1185 (Storm 1888:22, 61, 181, 323): compare the account in Flóamanna saga ch. 23 of Þorgils’s escape from the óbyggðir in a coracle made of hides and wood. The annal goes on to outline a sinister ghost story, reporting that the crew died on arrival, but would not lie quietly in their graves. 41See Króka-Refs saga ch. 7; Flóamanna saga chs 24, 25; Gunnars saga ch. 5. 42Fóstbroeðra saga chs 22, 23; see also the references to professional Greenlandic hunters in Eiríks saga ch. 8 and in the Flateyjarbók version of Auðunar þáttr (Vigfússon and Unger 1860–1868 III:411; Miller 2008:7). 43Cf. Groenlendinga þáttr ch. 1, in which Einarr Sokkason courts favour in Norway with gifts of walrus-hide ropes and ivory. 44Historia Norwegiae and Konungs skuggsjá note the dangers of voyages to Greenland, real and imagined (Ekrem and Mortensen 2003:54–57; Jónsson 1920–21:64–72; Larson 1917:135–42). Cf. Adam of Bremen’s account of a Frisian expedition in Arctic waters in 1035/43 (Schmeidler 1917:276–278; Tschan and Reuter 2002:220–221). 45Hafgerðingadrápa was probably composed no earlier than the later 11th century (Benediktsson 1981:27–32). Konungs skuggsjá describes hafgerðingar off Greenland (Jónsson 1920–1921:66; Larson 1917:137–138). 46Cf. Eiríks saga ch. 3 for an alternative account, in which the wrecked ship is not Guðríðr’s. 47Cf. the accounts of Þorsteinn Eiríksson’s failed Vínland expedition in Eiríks saga ch. 5, Groenlendinga saga ch. 5. See also the tales of accidental journeys to Hvítramannaland, a fabled land adjacent to Vínland, in Landnámabók (ÍF 1:162; Pálsson and Edwards 1972:61) and Eyrbyggja saga ch. 64 (ÍF 4:176–180; CSI V:215–217)—cf. Eiríks saga ch. 12. See further Mac Mathúma 1997 for a discussion of the connections between these episodes and medieval Irish voyage tales. 48An exceptional case is the account of Þorgils Ørrabeinsfóstri in Flóamanna saga ch. 26, who is driven by storms from Greenland to Ireland, Norway, and fi nally Iceland. See also Leifr’s passage to Norway in Eiríks saga ch. 5, in which storms carry him to the Hebrides. 49The verses derive from a prophetic stanza spoken by the killer of Snæbjƒrn, predicting both their deaths. 50The 14th-century versions of the separate Guðmundar saga are thought to build on a lost account of Guðmundr’s early career before his episcopal ordination in 1203, composed in the mid-13th century (cf. Karlsson 1983:cl–cliii, Kristjánsson 1988:185). This text appears in an abridged form in the Sturlunga saga compilation assembled in ca. 1300, from which all quotations here are drawn. 51Ingimundr’s remains were found in 1203 or 1207 according to the different versions of Guðmundar saga (Jóhannesson et al. 1946 I:138; cf. Karlsson 1983:68, Vigfússon and Sigurðsson 1856–1878 I:435), but in 1200 according to the Icelandic annals (Storm 1888:121, 181, 477). 52The similarity with the tale of Líka-Loðinn is underscored by the deliberate or accidental confl ation of the two narratives in the 17th-century antiquarian compilation Grænlandsannáll, which includes a variant of the story of Loðinn stating that runic inscriptions were often found at the sites of Greenlandic shipwrecks (Halldórsson 1978:56–57; cf. Hagland 1996:106–107). 53See Hagland 1996:105–6 for the argument that this reference to the use of runes on a wax tablet provides unique testimony to the parallel use of runes and Latin letters in Iceland in the mid-13th century, when the story was set down. 54See endnote 33, above. 55See also Halldórsson 1988 for an attempt to reconstruct a medieval Icelandic description of Greenland used as a source in 16th- and 17th-century antiquarian texts. 56For a more positive view see the discussion in Sigurðsson 2004:253–302 of saga accounts of the Vínland voyages and Viking-age mental maps supposedly underlying them. 57The operation of the same spatial arrangement may explain the passage in Groenlendinga saga ch. 5 describing Þorsteinn Eiríksson’s failure to reach Vínland. He spends a whole summer at sea, tossed by storms between Iceland and Greenland, but fi nally washes up in the Western Settlement, just before winter. The implicit notion that the easternmost settlements in Greenland lay further north than Eiríksfjƒrðr may also help make sense of the confusing account of Eiríkr rauði’s explorations in Eiríks saga, Landnámabók, and Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar (for references, see endnote 2, above). 58This distortion resurfaces in the reference to Líka-Loðinn in the 17th-century Grænlandsannáll, which views Herjólfsnes as the northernmost graveyard in Greenland, on the grounds that Loðinn brought the bodies of dead sailors there from the northern óbyggðir (Halldórsson 1978:7). The error is repeated in the Seiluannáll, s.a. 1652 (Þorsteinsson 1922–1927:301). 59The identifi cation of the óbyggðir in Gunnars saga as part of Greenland is dependent on parallels with the accounts of other Greenlandic texts: but Gunnarr’s adventures take place in a fjord called Skuggi, which is the name of Oddr’s destination in Helluland. 60See Halldórsson 1978:147–292 for an account of the composition and medieval sources of Grænlandsannáll, compiled by Jón lærði Guðmundsson in ca. 1623. On the wider context of early antiquarian writings on Greenland, cf. Benediktsson and Samsonarson 1980:218–232. 61I am grateful to Judith Jesch for drawing my attention to these parallels in her unpublished paper from the Hvalsey conference, “The most remarkable man in Greenland: The literary history of Skáld-Helgi.” 62Two Icelandic folktales collected in the mid-19th century, the tales of Grímr Skeljungsbani and Skessu-Jón (Árnason 1954–1961 I:238–247, III:271–275), demonstrate the enduring productivity of the medieval narrative conventions, with their stories of accidental voyages, and encounters with the giants of the Greenlandic óbyggðir. Standard forms are entertainingly reversed in the tale of Skessu-Jón, who encounters an amorous Greenlandic giantess who has been driven by storms to an isolated spot in the West Fjords of Iceland, where she and her sister quarrel about the division of food (recalling the fractiousness of Icelandic parties marooned in Greenland).