Where China Leads, The World Follows
Sometimes you have to call ‘em like you see ‘em. So it was with Naddador, the first Norse explorer to set foot on Iceland. Because it was snowing, he named the country Snæland or “snow land.” He was followed by Swedish Viking Garðar Svavarosson. He and his ego decided this new land should go instead by the name of Garðarshólmur, or“Garðar’s Isle.” It was the third to land there, another Viking named Flóki Vilgerðarson whose name finally stuck. His daughter drowned during passage and his livestock starved to death during the protracted winter. Grief stricken, Flóki climbed a mountain and cast his eyes over the horizon for any sign of hope. He was met with the sight of a fjord filled with icebergs as far as he could see. The name Iceland has since stuck.
Eirikr rauði Þorvaldsson, aka Erik the Red, adhered to the Viking creed of place naming. As he approached the shores of the island history credits him with discovering, he noted its inviting and verdant lushness and proclaimed it be “The Green Land.” Mind you, Erik was not out for a Sunday sail, he was running for his life. While the “Red” has always been associated with his hair and beard, his temperament likely earned him the nickname. No doubt, the young man came by his name and temperament honestly. As penalty for ‘a number of killings,’ his father Þorvaldr Ásvaldsson, had been exiled from Norway in 960 A.D. That’s how the elder Red and his family landed in Iceland. In the interest of carrying on the family business, in 982, Erik was exiled from Iceland for three years for settling a feud with murder. And that’s how he and his bride Tjodhilde and their family landed in Greenland.
Lucky for Leif, the apple fell a bit farther from the father’s tree. After journeying back to Norway, Leif Eríksson, known as ‘The Fortunate,” returned to Greenland around the year 1000. With him were the first Christian missionaries to set foot in North America who then proceeded to build the first church on the continent. Tjodhilde’s Church, was originally erected in Brattahlið. All that remains is a reconstruction that can be visited in Qassiarsuk, population 39, in southern Greenland. Today, the area still home to sheep farmers which distinguishes it from the rest of the country’s towns supported by fishing. When Leif first brought the new Nordic settlers, the Viking societies numbered 3,000. While the mystery remains as to why they died off after a half century, theories abound tied to the increasingly colder climate, conflicts with the native Inuit, European pirates, overgrazing and bouts of the plague.