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Northmen, the

The Scandinavians ——inhabitants of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—were called Northmen. They were famous navigators, and, in the ninth century, discovered Iceland and Greenland. In the tenth century a colony led by Eric the Red was planted in the latter country (983). It is said that an adventurer named Bjarni discovered the mainland of North America in the tenth century (986). These people were chiefly from Norway, and kept up communication with the parent country. According to an Icelandic chronicle, Captain Lief, son of Eric the Red, sailed in a little Norwegian vessel (1001), with thirty-five men, to follow up the discovery of Bjarni, and was driven by gales to a rugged coast, supposed to have been Labrador. He explored the shores southward to a more genial climate and a well-wooded country, supposed to have been Nova Scotia, and then to another, still farther south, abounding in grapes, which he named Vinland, supposed to have been Massachusetts, in the vicinity of Boston. Lief and his crew built huts and wintered in Vinland, and returned to Greenland in the spring, his vessel loaded with timber. Thorwald, Lief's brother, went to Vinland with thirty men in 1002, and wintered there in the vicinity of Mount Hope Bay, R. I., it is supposed. The next year he sent some of his men to examine the coasts, with the intention of planting a colony. They were gone all summer, and it is believed they went as far south as Cape May. In 1004 Thorwald explored the coast eastward, and was killed in a skirmish with the natives (see Skraelings), and the following year his companions returned to Greenland.

Thorstein, a younger son of Eric, sailed for Vinland with twenty-five companions and his young wife, Gudrida, whom he had married only a few weeks before. Adverse winds drove the little vessel on a desolate shore of Greenland, on the borders of Baffin Bay, where the company remained till spring. There Thorstein died, and sadly his young wife took his body back to Eric's house. During the next summer Thorfinn Karlsefui, a rich Norwegian [492] living in Iceland, went to Greenland, fell in love with the young widow, Gudrida, and, with his bride and 160 persons (five of them young married women), sailed, in three ships, for Vinland, to plant a colony. They landed, it is supposed, in Rhode Island. Thorfinn remained in Vinland about three years, where Gudrida gave birth to a son, whom they named Snorre, who became the progenitor of Albert Thorwaldsen, the great Danish sculptor. Returning to Iceland, Thorfinn died there, and his widow and her son went, in turn, on a pilgrimage to Rome. Icelandic manuscripts mention visits to Vinland in 1125, 1135, and 1147. About 1390 Nicolo Zeno (q. v.), a Venetian, visited Greenland, and there met fishermen who had been on the coasts of America. A remarkable structure yet standing at Newport, R. I., Is supposed by some to have been erected by the Northmen. Bishop Thorlack, of Iceland, a descendant of Gudrida, compiled a record of the voyages of the Northmen from the old chronicles.

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