Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Erik The Red, Etc. (OR: What! An actual Norse Post? on a Tuesday?!)

Yesterday I spent some time researching Iceland. I do this periodically, and not just for my own pleasure, but because I find that no matter how hard I fight it, a lot of my short stories wind up taking visits there, if they don't just flat out move across the Atlantic. Today was all about The Ring Road (interesting article from the New York Times), and the sights to be seen along the way. I remembered seeing a picture someone took of the Black Sand Beach at Vík, and the setting was perfect for something my character was in the process of doing, so since I could name it, for google purposes, I started there. (Stay with me guys, this post gets AWESOME!)
The beach at Vik

And then I found this goldmine of a website. Virtual tours of a bunch of cool places, plus a small map to let you know where it is in Iceland. Guys. If you are writing a story about Iceland and you have never been there, this website was made for you. Even if I were not writing about Iceland, I could spend hours just watching the slow 360 degree panorama of locations. But I mean, that kind of goes without saying, coming from me.

A google of The Ring Road led me to the NYT article linked above, and from there I looked up Eriksstadir-- the home of Erik the Red, which P.S. from that article sounds like a blast to visit. But it wasn't enough to just know where Eriksstadir was, I needed to know about Erik. Specifically, I needed to know if Erik followed the faith of his forefathers, or converted to Christianity. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia did not have the answer to this all important question, and I wouldn't really have trusted it if it had, so I went to the source. The Saga of Erik the Red.

My friends, Erik the Red was some kind of Character. I'm not even sure what to make of him, except I'm starting to think "the Red" was more a descriptor of his temper than it was his hair color. Maybe "seeing Red" comes from Erik the Red. And if it doesn't, it should. But that's neither here nor there. After wading through a few chapters at the Icelandic Saga Database (Yes, I do have this saga in a physical book on my shelf, but I was trying to do a cursory search, not a sit-down-and-read-research-expedition-into-the-past), I found this most fabulous of all fabulous quotations regarding, of all things, Erik's lack of enthusiasm for Christianity (emphasis mine):
Eirik took coldly to the proposal to forsake his religion, but his wife, Thjodhild, promptly yielded, and caused a church to be built not very near the houses. [...] After she accepted the faith, Thjodhild would have no intercourse with Eirik, and this was a great trial to his temper.
Oh, Erik. Just when you'd finally settled down and finished murdering people, now this? It should probably be noted, also, the person trying to convert Erik is none other than his son, Leif.

Of course at this point in the saga, one is tempted to wonder, what WASN'T a trial to Erik the Red's temper?


  1. Those panoramas are gorgeous. Love the one that goes behind Waterfall Seljalandsfoss.

    You may be right. It sounds as if Erik was the guy who gave redheads their undeserved bad name. But after Thjodhild started holding out on him, well, you can see where his mood might deteriorate even further. :)

  2. That is a very cool panoramas site, and thanks for the great post. I love the way the internet can just draw you further and further into something.

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed them, VR! I confess that I lost some time staring at them.

    Erik definitely seems to have had some anger management issues. But, I will say that exile from the country for three years is a pretty light sentence for murdering a number of people.

    Angeline: So glad you liked them! It was a pretty directed search-- I knew what I was going to need-- but it's cool when I find websites I didn't expect :)


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