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The Vinland Sagas: The Norse Discovery of America

(Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,022 ratings  ·  94 reviews
One of the most arresting stories in the history of exploration, these two Icelandic sagas tell of the discovery of America by Norsemen five centuries before Christopher Columbus. Together, the direct, forceful twelfth-century Grænlendinga Saga and the more polished and scholarly Eirik's Saga, written some hundred years later, recount how Eirik the Red founded an Icelandic ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 27th 1973 by Penguin Classics (first published 1220)
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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
Dec 13, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Very interesting sagas, and very easy to read despite the style being rather dry, the passages too brief and devoid of details when describing anything.

This Penguin Classics edition comprises two sagas, the Groenlandinga Saga and the Saga of Erik the Red, the first dealing with the discovery and early settlement of Greenland and the second with the immediately following accidental discovery of Vinland (actual North America), both by intrepid Norwegian vikings sailing out of their most recent co
Sep 15, 2011 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classroom—the maps in particular are really excellent, though some of the introductory material is perhaps slightly out of date/not as certain as ...more
I’ve actually read the Vinland Sagas before, though not in this translation. Back in the 90s I was also lucky enough to visit the site of the Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows, in Newfoundland. You might say the subject interests me!

This translation confirms my previous impression, which is that I prefer the Greenlanders’ Saga to Eirik The Red’s Saga. The former is a bit more grounded in reality, whereas the latter has been embellished to include stories of mythical beasts and the like, som
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, classics
I'm fascinated by history and pseudoarcheology, so this seemed like a great way of dipping my toe into the Icelandic Sagas, which I've been meaning to get around to for quite a while now. It was fascinating to read both accounts and try to contemplate & imagine where all along the coast they'd been, what all they'd seen, and what future encampments we might be able to find in the future.

This particular edition was pretty cool in that it had footnotes confirming the existence of various struc
Christine Spoors
This book is all about The Vinland Sagas, which follow the first Vikings to reach North America from Greenland and Iceland. I classed it as non-fiction because much of the book is discussing Viking culture at the time and giving context, such as maps, about the sagas. Although I find the Vikings fascinating, I've never read many books about them, so this was a brilliant Christmas present to receive.
David Sarkies
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. The first saga, that of Eirik the Red, is a bit misleading, as Eirik doesn’t play a major role beyond his exile and founding of Greenland. The first half of the saga is a rather dull laundry-list of names -- warriors who married and begat children, etc. It really begins to pick up with the prophetess and Lief’s exploits, and then comes to an abrupt end.

The Saga of the Greenlanders is much more interesting and detailed in the description of the founding of Vinland (likely in Newfoundl
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my youth I became an avid collector of Penguin Classics and this was one of the first I bought and read. I remember enjoying it; but I don't remember much else about it. Having just re-read it more than 35 years later I think I got more out of it now. For one thing, I actually read the rather lengthy (and very informative) introduction on this occasion, rather than just jumping straight into the two sagas unprepared. My interest in the Viking Age has been rekindled by this second visit to two ...more
Rebecca Upjohn
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Fantastic and fascinating read especially in conjunction with The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone.
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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, norse, owned
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
Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
J Name
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 22, 2015 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.
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Vinland Sagas comprise The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga. These are prose narratives written in the 13th century without associated author names but based on, and thus bearing a complex relation to, oral histories passed down from centuries earlier. The two sagas are part of a larger body of such literature known as The Sagas of Icelanders, but they’re collected together in this instance because of their shared subject matter and narrative overlap. The introductory text s ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
The introduction was MUCH longer than necessary. The important bits could have been done in 3-5 pages...instead the intro was stretched to 43 pages.

The Graenlendinga Saga was by far the more interesting of the two sagas. It had much more about the explorations in it. Also the section on Freydis was awesome! That chick was all kinds of crafty crazy!

Eirik's Saga was more of a historical recount of the various families genealogy rather than the expeditions. There was a cool bit about the burial tra
William Stanger
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book on a flight to Iceland last month as I thought it would be appropriate reading for such a journey. The book contains two sagas - The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga. These are sagas concerning the first documented voyages across the Atlantic.

When I opened the book to discover that there were almost 50 pages of introduction I have to admit to being a bit worried. However, these pages proved to be very interesting and contained a lot of background abou
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mythology
The Vinland Sagas was on my reading list for a while. This book includes the two sagas about Eirik the Red and Leif Erikson and a long introduction with a in depth explanation about the two sagas. The saga from Eirik the Red was mainly about the settlement in Greenland, while Leif explored bigger parts of North America. I think the stories will give you a good view of how live would be on Greenland and how the exploration of North America went, with all troubles they encountered. It is a bit clu ...more
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having just visited L’anse aux Meadows (and picking this up at Dark Tickle nearby), this is a pleasantly readable translation with a preface that sets the context as well as what Meadows is and isn’t. Also included in this book are appendices on boats, houses, terms, and, most helpful, theories on where the Viking went when they sailed to the New World some 500 years before Columbus (the mostly likely scenario, in my opinion, is that they went as far south as New York), this based on the clues a ...more
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A completely new edition from Penguin Classics, featuring a new translation by Keneva Kurtz, and a completely new introduction, reference notes, and appendices by Gísli Sigurdsson. The translation is a bit more colloquial than the previous one by Magnusson and Paulsson, but the differences are minor. The scholarly apparatus, however, is much more extensive than that in the previous edition; Professor Sigurdsson makes fine use of the archaeological work done at L’Anse aux Meadow in Newfoundland a ...more
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Other books in the series

Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders (1 - 10 of 27 books)
  • Islendingesagaene I: Skalder / Grønland og Vinland
  • Islendingesagaene II: Fredløse / Skalder og helter
  • Islendingesagaene III: Njålssoga / Helter og eventyrere
  • Islendingesagaene IV: Lokale feider
  • Islendingesagaene V: Rikdom og makt / Tro og kamp
  • Egil's Saga
  • Vatnsdæla saga
  • Laxdæla Saga
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Hrafnkels Saga Freysgoda
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