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Could America Have Looked Like This?

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Could America Have Looked Like This?

What if Icelanders and Greenlanders had stayed in Vinland? Photo: Illugi Jökulsson

Most people know that the Icelandic sailor Leifur Eiríksson sailed past Greenland and came to the American continent. Leifur was in fact living in Greenland at the time, but born in Iceland. Even the Norwegians claim to own Leifur because his grandfather was born in Norway. Leifur was called Leifur the Lucky, not because he discovered Vinland, but because we say that Leifur and the other sailors discovered America around the year 1000 AD.

One of our Facebook friends did not agree: “Beautiful photo, but “Found”? Really? Got news for you; there were millions in The Americas before Leifur “found” what would become the Labrador coast of Newfoundland, Canada. As with those who came after him, they were also not very nice to the Americans they "found". If Vikings had been nice to First Peoples they probably would have learned how to survive and expand their Vinland and Greenland settlements rather than starving and having to abandon them”.

It is true that the Icelanders did trade with the natives, whom they called skrælingar a rather derogatory term. They also got into fights and eventually the sailors returned to Greenland and Iceland. Of course they found America, even though others had found the country previously, just like you find something every day, e.g. your cell phone. Nobody knew there was a country there, and some thought that you might sail off the edge of the earth.

For some reason the stories did not encourage others to visit Vinland, as the country was called. Maybe kings did not believe these stories or thought that they were about some islands around Greenland. The stories are contained in Icelandic sagas, most in Greenlanders’ saga and the Saga of Eirík the Red. Eiríkur was Leifur’s father.

Now Icelandic journalist Illugi Jökulsson has written an article about what could have happened, if the settlements had been permanent and Nordic people had gone to other parts of Vinlandia, as he calls the imaginary country. What he calls Nye Kalsefnisbúð is now commonly called New York (previously New Amsterdam).

Icelanders like to speculate like this, and to most of us this is a delicate family matter. Just to put all into context: My great-great … great grandmother (29th ancestor) Þjóðhildur Úlfsdóttir was the sister of Jörundur Úlfsson, Leif the Lucky’s grandfather.

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