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The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  826 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
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Kindle Edition, 184 pages
Published (first published 1965)
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Introduction & Notes
Further Reading
A Note on the Translation

The Vinland Sagas

--The Saga of the Greenlanders

--Eirik the Red's Saga


Reference Section:
Family Tree
Chronology of the 'Vinland Sagas'
The Farm
Social, Political and Legal Structure
Indexes of Characters and Places
J.L.   Sutton
These sagas provide great context for the Norse discovery of America. They also offer a glimpse at the character and motivation of some of the chief figures in this age of discovery, especially Erik the Red and Leif Erikson. The sagas also reveal importance of the colonization of Iceland and how this colonization led to further exploration.
Sep 20, 2011 Siria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in a slim little Penguin Classics edition which brings together The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga (both together are about 50 pages long), together with some good introductory material and lots of informative appendices. Because it's so well-contextualised, I think this would be a very good edition to use in an undergrad classroom—the maps in particular are really excellent, though some of the introductory material is perhaps slightly out of date/not as certain as ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 09, 2015 David Sarkies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians and people who love Vikings
Recommended to David by: It was on the shelf at the Bible College Library.
Shelves: history
Viking adventures across the Atlantic Ocean
27 September 2010

I have long heard the rumours that the Vikings had discovered North America long before Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic but I had always assumed that it was little more than a single expedition of which nothing more came about. However, this little book, which contains two Viking texts: Eirik's Saga and the Graenlendinga Saga says otherwise. Both of these texts tell the same story, however there are a few differences (i
Pete daPixie
I'm being generous here, giving this 3 stars. This Penquin Classic only reads for around 100 pages. The first 50ish contains Magnus Magnusson's Introduction, and that was the best part of the book. Magnus writes of the two Vinland Saga's, their dates, their origins and the contemporary histories of Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the British Isles. He also includes the archaeological discoveries that back up the saga stories. 985, as Forkbeard was cuninge in Denmark, the year perhaps Cnut
The Vikings were the first Europeans in the New World. It did not end well, and there are even two different versions of how it failed. There is some light flashing of the Native Americans by the only Viking lady there in order to scare them away. It's the right level of Icelandic crazy with a dash of swashbuckling and being totally out of their depth in a strange new land.
Adam  McPhee
The Greenland Saga is a fun, straightforward read about colonization of Greenland and several trips to Vinland. The Saga of Eirik the Red is a bit more muddied, conflating the stories of the earlier expeditions and sort of hinting at the mixed feelings people might have had at the recent conversion to Christianity (the saga is clearly pro-Christianity, but the old ways are useful and reminisced over). To make up for it, though, it has a bit more of an adventurous attitude, like this skirmish wit ...more
Mar 25, 2016 Matthias rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read these for the early descriptions of North America and its Indigenous people, expecting them to be rather dry, like a lot of historical documents, but the sagas were written as entertainment and they are still an entertaining read, even with the passage of centuries and the problem of translation.

The descriptions of North America turned out to be scant and opaque - it's mostly a setting for stories about Norse men and women. The description of the trip across the North Atlantic is very br
Sep 07, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The two sagas in question are very short, and the introductory matter is probably no longer up to date (the translation is 40-50 years old). That said, since Magnus Magnusson did the translation, I was willing to give it a whirl. The Graenland Saga (the early and shorter one) was totally loony fun -- I think its freewheeling "anything goes" mentality was a benefit, not -- in the eyes of the introduction -- a hindrance. The later saga (Eirik's Saga) was much less entertaining. It was longer, more ...more
These are particularly short sagas, in fact more of the book is dedicated to the introduction and notes than the sagas themselves. They both cover the same ground, that being the settlement of Greenland and the discovery of Vinland (North America). I find it fascinating to cover that these stories are over 1000 years old, originally from the oral traditional and then written down in medieval Iceland. These are the history of a people, but also of individuals - as well as the big stuff, there's p ...more
russell barnes
Ohhhh, get me reading Icelandic sagas from one thousand years ago. One. Thousand. Years. Ago.

Actually this a brilliantly easy-reading saga beyond the fact THE Magnus "I've started so I've finished" Magnusson, translated it. Strangely enough, when you read the blurb you think this is going to be some middle-English drag-a-thon, more struggle than fun read, admittedly one that features Vikings.

*However* once you get beyond the introduction (which is longer than both sagas combined), essentially wh
John Nebauer
Jan 03, 2014 John Nebauer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, history, norse
This is a pair of fascinating accounts of the Viking voyages to North America some 400-odd years before Columbus' voyages. Interesting in their own right, they are helped with an excellent introduction by translators Magnus Mangusson. Comprising about 1/3 of this slim volume, it puts the voyages into a broad context which adds greatly to the experience. It gives a brief account of the settlement of Iceland and the beginnings of the doomed Norse outposts on Greenland.

While the translations move t
Jul 01, 2008 Grant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History geeks
An amazing insight into how people lived 1000 years ago. Whilst sometimes the structure of the stories can be a bit clunky, I found these two sagas a riveting read. Given that most of the old Norse sagas are written accounts of stories that were orally passed down through the generations, it is a testimony to Icelandic culture that such stories are remembered with any detail at all. According to my history buff friends this is the easiest to read of all of the sagas.
With an interesting introduct
Jeremiah Carlson
I learned a lot from this book and I found it semi-entertaining too. The introduction is very very overwritten and I would personally just skip it, or read it after the story like most. But it doesn't really ruin much of the stories contained fortunately. Introduction was well written though.

The sagas are okay, but the most fun parts are speculating for yourself what certain things in them mean, and having your own conclusions on this under-read story of history. Though there is enough strange h
dead letter office
kickass stories of the norse settlement of north america circa 1000. the best thing about these sagas (they don't have quite the poetry of, say, Egil's) is their blending of historical fact with myth. the norse landing in newfoundland around this time is archaeologically supported, but plenty of magic and violence and weirdness crept into the account by the time it was set down in the Vinland Sagas 200 years or so after the fact. i imagine (without really knowing) that this is the earliest known ...more
Ian McKinley
Jan 16, 2016 Ian McKinley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did this one in two days, once I got beyond the introduction. A quick, easy read that is an absolutely fascinating account of the first interaction between Europeans (the Norse) and Canada's first nations, likely Mi'Kmaq. Some neat examples of Norse verse, including kennings. Well worth the read.
Oct 01, 2014 Hasina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Vinland Sagas tell the story of a fascinating time in the history of exploration. Like all great stories there’s action, adventure and of course, romance. As stated in the text

The Vinland Sagas contain the oldest descriptions of the North American continent and tell the story of several voyages undertaken by people from Iceland and Greenland to North America around the year 1000 – the first documented voyages across the Atlantic in which the peoples of Europe and America met for the first t
Aug 04, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this book for two main reasons: 1) because I have a triple dose of Scandinavian blood (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish); and 2) because I love ancient and medieval history. I was not disappointed. The language is not necessarily incredibly beautiful or well-phrased, and it is, of course, a translation--I can't speak any of those languages, and certainly not Old Icelandic. However, certain passages struck me as being particularly "Minnesotan"--and perhaps because Minnesotans are, by and ...more
Nov 27, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read some Norse sagas in college and do enjoy the quasi-historical, quasi-fictitious nature of the genre. One thing about it, though--sagas do not work well as a quick or fragmented read. It takes a lot of time and investment in this literature first to get all the names straight and also to unravel the history from the fiction. For some sagas many versions (or fragments thereof) abound, written at different times by people with different motives. But it's fun now and then to dive into this so ...more
Pamela Lloyd
Jun 10, 2008 Pamela Lloyd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
I've only just started reading the introduction, but already I feel this should be required reading for elementary or middle school history classes. (It would be great to have it tied to an English or social studies class on the Norse myths.)

Update: Having finished reading the introduction and both sagas, I feel even more strongly that this work needs to be far better known. Our children are still taught, by and large, that Columbus discovered America. Even discounting the fact that this contine
Mar 05, 2014 Xavier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I found the prose to be quick and lively, as one would expect of an oral history. This is especially true in the first, more sober account. I know there are genealogies now and then, but they're really not that bad. The story of Eric the Red's discovery and settlement of Greenland is interesting, and his children's discovery and attempted settlement of America is fascinating. The embellishments seem for the most part rather obvious, espec ...more
Containing The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga, the two Icelandic sagas to deal with the exploration of Vinland, this book is both an interesting historical docoment on an aspect of both Scandinavian and American history that is rarely ever considered, and an entertaining read from a storytelling perspective, as it was intended in its original writing. Vinland was the Scandinavian term for the areas of eastern Canada discovered and briefly visited by Icelanders and Greenlanders ...more
Justin Evans
And then some stuff happened, and then some other stuff happened, and then some more stuff happened, and here's a list of names that you'll never remember, and then some stuff happened. Okay, it ain't a work of beauty. I daresay that if these chronicles related the discovery of Gersey nobody would bother translating it, let alone read it. But it is pretty cool that some random viking types found the North American continent. And these 'sagas' are short, so you can read them pretty quick, and get ...more
N.J. Ramsden
With its brief and to-the-point supporting material accompanying two short medieval documents, there's little air around the content here – but that makes for a tight and informative read, and there are adequate pointers to where else to go for more. The translation reads solidly, with hints at the original Icelandic, which is nice to see in a book aimed at the lay-reader.

The nearest I can come to a minor whinge is that there is a) no accompanying original text (for which one would go to a compl
Oct 26, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
It took me over a year to read the 50 pages of this book. I bought it after visiting Lanse aux Meadows and I was inspired to hear Viking tales in their own words. Due to the unfortunate practice they had of naming everyone Thorsomething it was hard to keep everyone straight. But once you got past the family tree at the beginning of each story it would finally get interesting. Vikings are not big on explaining motivation so why someone would up and kill half of her party is left to the reader's i ...more
So this read exactly like a history book. I am not sure why they keep calling it a SAGA. Seriously, it reads like this, "Then Erik sailed here and he called it this. He then got in a fight and left for here. It looked like this and they called it this. He died." The end. I am not saying it was bad reading, just 7th grade history boring except that I am now an adult and can see the value better reading. I would suggest this to others who like history and who wish to be better informed.
P.S. The in
Feb 10, 2012 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
The Vinland Sagas are two very short (compared to Egil's or Njal's or some of the others) Sagas that tell about the earliest white explorers to arrive in North America. The Vinland saga is actually an excerpt from a larger work about some Norweigan King so it doesn't fit the usual setup afforded most of the sagas. The Saga of Erik the Red talks more about Greenland and a teensy bit about Vinland.

I really enjoyed these sagas but I wish they were longer and had more details. Its amazing to think a
John Wyss
The historical value is fantastic; these are the accounts of the first Europeans in North America, 500 years before Columbus. The intro is well written and informative, and the maps section as well as the supplementary material (which is included in other sagas by Penguin), is good. The sagas themselves are pretty boring for a saga, and are the least favorite I have read so far. That's not to say they don't have some great "saga moments" such as Eirik the Red killing neighbors, being forced to m ...more
Electric Landlady
Fascinating, especially having read The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman earlier this year and then visited L'Anse aux Meadows. The sagas themselves are quite short - 50 pages total - but the book is also full of information, footnotes, maps, family trees and a glossary. It makes for an absorbing read especially if you're at all interested in the Vikings and/or Newfoundland and/or early voyages to the Americas.
Incredibly short. Though not intimidating to the uninitiated, this is not the great introduction to Sagas that the length would suggest. While the subject matter is compelling - the founding of Greenland & America - and there are some interesting scenes; it leaves one feeling more like one's going through a stranger's family tree. Lengthy to the point of confusion genealogy is a staple of this genre - but in longer sagas the dozen names that one has run through usually cross paths with other ...more
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