As the Danish Vikings settled the northern lands of England, they brought with them a judicial and administrative system known as the 'Danelaw'.
The civilized nature of these Scandinavians gave away to peaceful settlements based upon farming communities.
Similarly, in the islands of the Faroes and Shetlands, a degree of law and order reigned, which gave A semblance of personal security to the new settlers.
On Iceland the Althing, or peoples'assembly, was established in 930 AD.
To legislate and dispense justice.
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But things were different in Norway and Denmark.
Turbulent times troubled the people.
King Håkon the Good of Norway, had drawn up legal codes, the Gulathing and Frostathing, and though a Christian, stayed his hand at enforcing his religious beliefs on the people of his country.
His good deeds came to little: In 960 AD King Håkon was slain and replaced by a man of sharp contrasts named Harald Greycloak who sought, through terror and force, to suppress all heathen sacrificial practices.
Harald in turn was killed, but his death did not resolve the internal strife that continued to exist within and between the two countries of Norway and Denmark.
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Against this background, the story of Eirik the Red emerges from the chilly landscape of Iceland.
He came to Iceland with his father, Thorvald, due to a killing perpetrated in his hometown of Jæren in south-west Norway.
Iceland had been discovered in the first half of the 9th century and a stream of emigrants had made the way to it for a new life, though by about 930 AD the period of colonization had almost abated.
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These settlers brought with them a heritage of communal law and justice that had been used in their own small villages in Norway and Denmark - the type of law which had been easily transplanted in England.
Eirik was an outstanding leader, but a rebel too. Like his father, he soon found himself an outlaw in Iceland.
The Icelandic Thorsnes court banished him for three years from the country for a murder he allegedly committed - Eirik took to sail and left to serve his punishment.
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EIRIK LEAVES FOR GREENLAND:
Turning adversity to advantage, Eirik sailed westwards in search of a land that he'd heard of from other sources.
He found Greenland, reaching it at a place he called Midjokul.
He then sailed southwards along the coast to find out if the country was habitable.
For three years he explored the coastline; giving names to each place he surveyed and visited.
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The following summer of his third year - having served his period of exile - Eirik returned to Iceland, bringing with him news of a land worth settling in.
He called this new discovery Greenland, saying that by giving it a good name people would want to live there.
After wintering in Iceland, 25 ships in 985 AD set sail to Greenland packed with people hoping for a new life under Eirik's leadership.
Only 14 ships made it, the rest being wrecked or turning back in bad weather. But Eirik established a farm at Brattahlid, where he remained for the rest of his life.
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HE HAD MOVED ON:
One of the men who had voyaged to Greenland with Eirik was Herjolf Herjolfsson.
His son Bjarni still in Norway, set sail for Iceland to find his father, little knowing that he had moved on to Greenland as a settler.
Upon his arrival in Eyr in Iceland, Bjarni learned of his father's departure to the new settlement, but was determined to follow him.
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Bjarni's crew asked him what he intended to do.
He replied that being a man of habit, he wanted to winter with his father
in Greenland, but warned them that he knew nothing about the route there and that it would be dangerous.
His crew gave little consideration to the dangers and agreed to sail with him all the same.
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THE LAND SANK INTO THE SEA:
Bjarni set out in search of Greenland and his father. After three days, the land disappeared and "sank into the sea."
They had little idea of which direction they were headed, except that it was mostly westerly.
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THE FOG CLEARS:
The wind had dropped, and a fog replaced it.
For days on end there was not much that Bjarni and his crew could do but drift aimlessly as the currents took them.
Then the sun emerged from the clouds, allowing Bjarnis' crew to take bearings and put themselves on a westerly course, hoisting sail by day and night.
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Eventually Bjarni spotted land, causing great excitement among his crew. But from a distance none of them believed it could be Greenland.
Bjarni decided to sail towards the shoreline, and their first impressions were confirmed.
Unlike Greenland, they could see that the land had no mountains but was wooded with low ridges, unlike anything they had come across before.
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Bjarni left the land on the port quarter and sailed onwards. Two days and two nights later his men caught sight of land again - once more it was flat and wooded. By this time Bjarni was anxious to reach his father before the winter set in.
His men became restive, demanding that they go ashore to find food and water. Their captain's reply was curt and final:
"You're not in need of either."
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THEY HOIST SAIL:
Bjarni ordered them to hoist sail. With some reluctance and quite a few angry words, his men did so.
They turned the prow away from the land and sailed out to sea with a south-westerly wind behind them for three days and nights.
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They spied the distant outline of a high and mountainous landscape, which was blanketed with glaciers.
Bjarni decided not to lower sail but to continue on his course without stopping. He followed the coastline and discovered it to be an island.
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HOME AT LAST:
After four days and nights, they sighted land for the fourth time.
Its appearance coincided with descriptions of Greenland given to Bjarni before he had left Iceland.
They sailed inshore and there found a boat lying near a headland where they traced Herjolf, Bjarni's father, living on a farm he had recently established.
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Bjarni was overjoyed at being reunited with his father and family. He made up his mind to remain with them in Greenland, helping them to farm the land and care for the livestock.
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But during the long winter evenings and nights, Bjarni was able to entertain his family and friends with stories of his seafaring exploits and the new lands he and his crew had encountered along the way.
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A FERTILE LAND:
News of Bjarni's voyage quickly spread amongst the Greenlanders.
One of those to learn of it was Leif Eiriksson, son of Eirik the Red, a close friend of Bjarni's father.
The story that there might be a more fertile land towards the west fired Leif's imagination.
The new land offered the possibility of valuable timber for house building and ship construction, for Greenland already had to rely on its supply from Norway.
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Thus in 992 AD. Leif Eiriksson assembled a crew of 35 men, purchased Bjarni's ship, and made preparations for his voyage West in search of the new found land. But not before he had asked his father Eirik if he wished to accompany him.
Restless and still game for a seafaring adventure, Eirik agreed, but met with a horse riding accident which forced him todrop out of the expedition.
Leif set forth without his father.
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INVITING SHORES I:
Leif first came across the glacier island described by Bjarni, though on this occasion the Viking sailors landed only to find that between the shore and ice there was nothing more than stone and rock.
Leif called the island 'Hulluland' Stoneland and disappointed, hoist sail again.
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INVITING SHORES II:
Having sailed farther west for another two days, Leif came across an island with abundant grass and sweet dew.
They crossed from the island to a headland, then took their ship up river where they found salmon in abundance and maple forests from which they could construct their crude huts.
It was at this time, according to the saga, that one of the men on the expedition found grapes and vines, prompting Leif to name the new found land "Vinland" or Wineland.
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After building their huts, Leif and his men wintered in Vinland.
He returned to Greenland in the spring but his brother Thorwald assembled another crew who sailed to Vinland.
They found the dwellings built by Leif's men and stayed there.
When spring arrived, they struck camp and explored the coastline further.
They came upon wooded fjords, which led Thorwald to exclaim: "This is truly a fair land. Here I will build my farm."
Other Viking expeditions followed, intent upon settling in Vinland.
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Vinland was rich in timber, teeming with wildlife, but its inhabitants were hostile.
Leif's expedition was the first to encounter the local Indians, or Skraelings as the Vikings called them. Subsequent expeditions of Viking settlers tried to barter with the Skraelings, but to no avail.
Temporarily the Indians were appeased, but not for long.
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The hostility of the Skraelings, who greatly outnumbered the small contingent of the Greenlanders attempting to settle in Vinland, was only one reason why further efforts to colonize the country were abandoned.
Another was the fragility of the lines of communication. Links with the home-base were overextended and weak As the years passed by, Greenland itself became isolated from its eastern lifeline to Iceland and Norway.
As the climate became colder, the glaciers moved south, and ice drifts began to envelope Greenland's coastline cutting it off from the seaways which lead eastwards to Scandinavia.
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