Today, October 9, is officially Leif Eiriksson Day, named for the Viking explorer who discovered North America 500 years before Columbus (whose day we celebrate a symbolic three days later).
I've also heard from Donald Wiedman, who blogs at http://lavalhallalujah.wordpress.com. As he writes, "Though interested and intrigued by Denmark and Scandinavia, Donald was/is not on any particular mission to locate the lost Viking settlements in North America--but he’s positive he’s found them." Using Google Satellite and various old maps, he places Vinland in Laval, Quebec, which is in line with the speculations of many Old Norse scholars that any Vikings cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence would have sailed up the St Lawrence River toward what's now Quebec City.
But, like the Fara Heim sailors, unless Wiedman finds an archeological site with demonstrably Viking artifacts (as at L'Anse aux Meadows), the debate about where the Vikings sailed will go on and on.
Which is why it excites me. Icelandic storytellers kept the knowledge of Vinland alive for 200 years before it was written down in the two Vinland Sagas, The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eirik the Red. These sagas were copied and recopied and come down to us in three manuscripts. The Saga of the Greenlanders takes up two pages in Flateyjarbók, the Book of Flatey, a beautiful manuscript written between 1387 and 1394. The Saga of Eirik the Red appears in two very different versions in Hauksbók, the Book of Haukur (1299-1334), and Skálholtsbók, the Book of Skalholt (written around 1420).
Six hundred years later, these Icelandic stories are still inspiring explorers and archaeologists. Their authors and editors and copyists should be proud. Today is their day too.
Join me again next week at nancymariebrown.blogspot.com for another adventure in Iceland or the medieval world.