July 10: First white flight in North America

Don't let the plushness fool you -- Helga from "Hagar the Horrible" was capable of anything.

Wikipedia says that "Vinland" (discussed today in "American Historical Documents"), may not mean Wine-land at all, but Pasture-land. That's probably just as well, for based on my previous researches into Vikings -- which consist mostly of heavy metal album covers -- they are associated with mead, not wine. (Wine = classical music and Norah Jones. Beer = rock, cheap beer = rawk, and jazz = heroin, of course.)

But since Vinland is in Newfoundland, what's this reading doing in American Historical Documents? My paranoid anti-Catholicism sensors, projecting back on the WASPs of a century ago, tend to think that it's the good people of Harvard trying to make sure we know that America was not discovered by an Italian, and would all those people in the North End please be quiet? But I don't really believe that, it just amuses me to pretend to believe it (which is awful of me). This reading is supposed to be interesting because the first white baby to be born in the New World is in it. Well, I like white babies fine -- my wife and I got a couple a few years back, although I cruelly made her do the unloading -- but I can't help noting that this particular family got the hell out once they saw who their neighbors were. That's right, Skrellings:
The Skrellings advanced to the spot which Karlsefni had selected for the encounter; and a battle was fought there, in which great numbers of the band of the Skrellings were slain..... Then they fled helter skelter into the woods, and thus their intercourse came to an end. Karlsefni and his party remained there throughout the winter; but in the spring Karlsefni announces that he is not minded to remain there longer, but will return to Greenland.
I'm sure he mentioned that the schools were better in Greenland.

The reading then concludes with the lurid story of Freydis (Leif Ericson's sister), which proves -- as if it needed proving -- that there is no Eden so fair that snakes won't appear in it. Freydis has decided to leave Vinland, and has negotiated with one of the other settlers that they'll swap ships so she can leave. Now she goes home after having concluded this deal:
Therewith they parted; and she returned home and Finnbogi to his bed. She climbed up into bed, and awakened Thorvard with her cold feet; and he asked her why she was so cold and wet. She answered with great passion: “I have been to the brothers,” says she, “to try to buy their ship, for I wished to have a larger vessel; but they received my overtures so ill that they struck me and handled me very roughly; what time thou, poor wretch, wilt neither avenge my shame nor thy own; and I find, perforce, that I am no longer in Greenland. Moreover I shall part from thee unless thou wreakest vengeance for this.”

And now he could stand her taunts no longer, and ordered the men to rise at once and take their weapons; and this they yield. And they then proceeded directly to the house of the brothers, and entered it while the folk were asleep, and seized and bound them, and led each one out when he was bound; and, as they came out, Freydis caused each one to be slain. In this wise all of the men were put to death, and only the women were left; and these no one would kill. At this Freydis exclaimed, “Hand me an axe.” This was done; and she fell upon the five women, and left them dead. They returned home after this dreadful deed; and it was very evident that Freydis was well content with her work.
You can say one thing for these Vikings -- at least they're thorough.

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