Day 215: Facts! The Inadvertant Explorer Family

Today I wanted to get back into the swing of things after this weekend’s brief foray into #auspol, but then I happened upon Christopher Columbus and started reading, which quite frankly wasn’t exactly the break from white people being racist that I had hoped for. But Columbus did lead me to the people who discovered North America before him, which was far more interesting.

As always, this is all information that anyone can find with my specialty, the Stacey O Cursory Wikipedia Search (patent pending).

– We begin with Naddodd, a Norwegian who is said to have discovered Iceland. He was travelling from Norway to the Faroe Islands when he – whoops – got blown off course and into Iceland. I absolutely love it when a country is founded accidentally, and as we shall see, this isn’t the last time. In fact, this isn’t even the last country accidentally discovered by a member of this family.

– Generations pass, but we pick up the family thread with Naddodd’s great-great nephew, Thorvald. Clearly a friendly chap, he was kicked out of Norway in around 960 for killing a guy, and so he moved to Iceland. Erik the Red was Thorvald’s son, and taking after his father, he himself was banished from Iceland in 982 for killing people. So he headed west, happened upon a little-known island and decided to establish a settlement there. In order to make his colony sound more attractive to the people of Iceland, he named the island “Greenland”.  A Medieval Nordic PR expert, this guy.

– However, Erik wasn’t so lucky in other areas. His son Leif (more on him later) converted to Christianity and as they say, no zealot like a convert. He convinced many of his family members to become Christians, including his mother, Erik’s wife Thjothhild, but Erik stuck with his Norse gods and didn’t convert. Thjothhild was so disappointed at her husband’s reluctance to adopt her new faith that she became rather, umm…withholding. Poor fella.

– Before being freezed out by his wife Erik did have children, among them the aforementioned proselytizing Leif Eriksson. In breaking one family tradition, Leif ventured westward of his own accord, rather than being banished from his hometown for killing the hell out of someone. But in keeping with another, older family tradition, the Leifster was on his way from Norway to Greenland to evangelize when he was blown off course and accidentally hit North America. Oops. That’s according to one story, anyway. Another version claims that Leif’s friend Bjarni was the one who was accidentally blown into the New World, and upon hearing the tale Leif set out to retrace his steps and explore these fantastic new lands.

Either way, modern analysis has figured out what these steps probably were. He sailed west from Greenland and first hit Baffin Island, which he called Helluland (sounds like a Scandinavian metal band), then bumped into the mainland in Labrador, which he called Markland (sounds like he lost a bet with Mark), and finally touched down in Newfoundland, which he called Vinland (“THERE’S WINE HERE GUYS, PARTY IN THE NEW WORLD WOOOOO!”). And thus Canada – mysterious land of timber and booze – was discovered by Europeans 500 years before Columbus. Accidentally.

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