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A GREAT READ FOR YOUNG VIKINGS!
In ancient Iceland every midsummer there was a great meeting. Men from all over the country came and made laws. During the day there were rest times, when no business was going on. Then some skald would take his harp and walk to a large stone or a knoll and stand on it and begin a song of some brave deed of an old Norse hero. At the first sound of the harp and the voice, men would come running from all directions, crying out:
"A skald! A skald! A saga!"
There they would stand for hours listening and shouting applause. When the skald was tired, another would take his place. The best skalds were well travelled and visited many people. Their songs made them welcome everywhere. They were always honoured with good seats at a feast and were given many rich gifts. Even the King of Norway was known to sometimes send across the water to Iceland for a skald to attend his court.
Initially these tales, or sagas, were not written for few men wrote or read in those days. When at last people began to read and write, they first recorded the sagas on sheepskin, or vellum. Many of these old vellum books have been saved for hundreds of years and are now in museums in Norway. Some leaves have been lost, some are torn and all are yellow and crumpled. But they are precious. They tell us all that we know about that olden time. There are the very words that the men of Iceland wrote so long agostories of kings and of battles and of ship-sailing. Some of those old stories have been told in this book.
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Excerpt from VIKING TALES
ERIC THE RED
.."We will go with you to this strange land" they said.
So all were ready and they pushed off with Eric's family aboard and those friends who had joined him. They took horses and cattle with them, and all kinds of tools and food.
"I do not well know where this land is," Eric said. "Gunnbiorn said only that he sailed east when he came home to Iceland. So I will steer straight west. We shall surely find something. I do not know, either, how long we must go."
So they sailed that strange ocean, never dreaming what might be ahead of them. They found no islands to rest on. They met heavy fogs.
One day as Eric sat in the pilot's seat, he said:
"I think that I see one of Gunnbiorn's ships of ice. Shall we sail up to her and see what kind of a craft she is?"
"Yes," shouted his men.
So they went on toward it.
"It sends out a cold breath," said one of the men.
They all wrapped their cloaks about them.
"It is a bigger boat than I ever saw before," said Eric. "The white mast stands as high as a hill."
"It must be giants that sail in it, frost giants," said another of the men.
But as they came nearer, Eric all at once laughed loudly and called out:
"By Thor, that Gunnbiorn was a foolish fellow. Why, look! It is only a piece of floating ice such as we sometimes see from Iceland. It is no ship, and there is no one on it."
His men laughed and one called to another and said:
"And you thought of frost giants!"
Then they sailed on for days and days. They met many of these icebergs. On one of them was a white bear.
"Yonder is a strange pilot," Eric laughed.
"I have seen bears come floating so to the north shore of Iceland," an old man said. "Perhaps they come from the land that we are going to find."
One day Eric said:
"I see afar off an iceberg larger than any one yet. Perhaps that is our white land."
But even as he said it he felt his boat swing under his hand as he held the tiller. He bore hard on the rudder, but he could not turn the ship.
"What is this?" he cried. "A strong river is running here. It is carrying our ship away from this land. I cannot make head against it. Out with the oars!"
So with oars and sail and rudder they fought against the current, but it took the boat along like a chip, and after a while they put up their oars and drifted.
"Luck has taken us into its own hands," Eric laughed. "But this is as good a way as another."
Sometimes they were near enough to see the land, then they were carried out into the sea and thought that they should never see any land again.
"Perhaps this river will carry us to a whirlpool and suck us under," the men said.
But at last Eric felt the current less strong under his hand.
"To the oars again!" he called.
Table of Contents for VIKING TALES
|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|WHAT THE SAGAS WERE|
|PART I: IN NORWAY|
|THE TOOTH THRALL|
|OLAF'S FIGHT WITH HAVARD|
|HARALD IS KING|
|GYDA'S SAUCY MESSAGE|
|THE SEA FIGHT|
|KING HARALD'S WEDDING|
|KING HARALD GOES WEST-OVER-SEAS|
|PART II : WEST-OVER-SEAS|
|HOMES IN ICELAND|
|ERIC THE RED|
|LEIF AND HIS NEW LAND|
|WINELAND THE GOOD|
|SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS|
|A READING LIST|
|CREDIBILITY OF STORY|
|OTHER SAGAS EASILY ACCESSIBLE|
|A PRONOUNCING INDEX|
|A GUIDE TO PRONUNCIATION|
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