A millennia ago, the Vikings sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. It is believed that they briefly settled in Newfoundland, Canada at L’Anse aux Meadows. Viking sagas refer to three other New World Viking sites as well. Viking tales of “Helluland” are believed to be in northernmost Canada’s Baffin Island while Viking tales of “Markland” are widely accepted as referring to Labrador, Canada. However, the location of the third site that is mentioned in Viking sagas still remains a mystery. That mysterious Viking site is called “Vinland” or “wine land.”
Norseman Leif Ericson, (who is believed to be the first European explorer to have set foot in North America 500 years before Columbus) is said to have led a North American expedition to a place he named “Vinland” where he wished to gather grapes for wine and cut wood for his ship. Grapes do not grow in any of the other known Viking sites in Canada. Moreover, a Norwegian coin dated between 1065 and 1080 was found as far south as Maine in a 1957 archaeological dig. No one knows how a Viking coin appeared over 500 miles south of Newfoundland.
How far south did the Vikings go after their brief stay in North America’s most northern regions? Did the love of grapes and wine lure the Vikings to the Green Mountains and to more hospitable climates? Ponder the many mysteries of the Vikings while you stay in one of the cozy, thatched roof cabins of Viking Villages in the charming forests of Guilford, Vermont.
The incredible fables and great legends of heroes’ strife and struggles were written by the conquerors, by the victors in history; these great sagas were written by ancient, proud warrior men. This mythic tale is different. This is a saga of grit, adventure, and violence, like any other Viking tale, but this story reveals an ancient, near forgotten secret that only the quiet remnant know and until now have kept hidden.
I am Shanabewshet, Beothuk daughter of the Great Spirit, lord of Sky and Nature. I will tell you about the Vikings who invaded my People’s continent and who are said to have then mysteriously disappeared. I will tell you of bloody battles and tense tribal trades, but most importantly, I will tell you of a secret new dawn and the unknown bridge between the greatest warriors of our World.
On the month of the Tenth Moon, my People were blessed by Great Spirit, who brought us Big Fish that beached on the shore, providing us with food and oil for the harsh winter to come. As we honorably tended to this mighty beast, we saw a giant canoe, a serpent boat, with many strange, ghostly, white faced beings. Their giant serpent boat had red and white striped fabric billowing in the cold winds, fabric that was as big as our long houses; the giant serpent boat had many painted round shields along each side that hovered over many more wooden oars.
A small band of “Norsemen” came to shore with white hair and faces that were half covered in metal. They wailed blood chilling screams into the Tenth Moon winds as they fought us for our giant Fish. Our men fought bravely with bow and arrow while these white, evil ghosts fought with round shields and axes. The battle raged long, but before Spirit Sun touched the far edge of the Great Water, the waves soon ran red, and their giant serpent ship sailed back over the edge of the waters from which it came.
In the Moon of New Blossoms, another serpent ship appeared with the hairy faced demons. Although suspicious of their ghostly white faces, our fearless leaders stood proud, firm, and gestured to our warm fur pelts and to their metal weapons. Through fumbling attempts to communicate for trade, it seemed their leader, “Thorfinn Karlsefni,” was not willing to trade his metal weapons. Instead, he offered a strange, new white drink from their black and white creatures. We made a good trade: their white drink for our pelts. We retreated into our sacred forests, and they returned to their serpent boat.
The victors of the great Last Battle will tell you that one of our People was to blame for trying to steal one of their metal weapons. This was not how the great Last Battle began. It was not even one of our warriors who was involved. Our gentle spirit Medicine Man noticed that the axe of one of the Vikings was held wrongly, in a way that threatens the spirits. This is worse than bad luck. Good trade cannot last if we anger the spirits. Medicine Man merely tried to show Viking how to hold his metal weapon in our Native way, but, of course, with fear and suspicions running high, Viking believed this was a warrior’s act of stealth and aggression; he immediately struck out and murdered our beloved spirit man. This was the beginning of the massive Last Battle. After Mother Earth was soaked red with Beothuk and Viking bloods, the remaining white faces turned back to their serpent ship and sailed over the water’s edge a final time.
After the battle, Great Spirit directed sister women to the many slain Viking ghost men whose bodies seemed less fearsome as they lay lifeless across our forest floor. We scoured the battleground for metal weapons and other tools of the sea warriors. When I flipped over the blood soaked fur of one Viking, I gasped because his eyes opened. I looked to my sister women who were too far to hear my shock that the dead was not dead. I stared back into the strange, Day-Sky colored eyes of this fallen creature. He stared back at me. For a flash, I saw only my own People lie there. Afterall, Viking wore our traded pelts, our bear claws, lived from the same Great Water, and his blood was red like ours.
History will tell you that all Vikings returned to “Grunland” and that their settlements were eventually abandoned because of inhospitable conditions. But history has clouded truth. Not all Vikings returned. One slain warrior was tended to in secret by the human daughter of Great Spirit, who directed her to the bloody ghost warrior lying amongst the Viking dead.
At the time, I did not understand why Great Spirit would ask for my obedience and have me tend to this white trade-partner enemy. Yet I was obedient and under cover of a raven Dark-Sky, I brought herb paste for his wounds and Mother Earth’s spring water for his thirst. After three days, I eventually shared my own portions of Fish my sister women and I had dried and smoked. And so, amidst the violently, blood-soaked pine grounds, gradually a new kindness grew like a tender flower sprung out of hard mountain stone.
It was indeed a fragile flower. To protect it, I, Shanabewshet, Beothuk daughter of Great Spirit, and Thorvald, Viking son of Eric and brother of Leif, chose to disappear from our sea-side peoples. We went far south, away from dangerous shorelines where sea warriors would not travel. He brought what later generations would call “Holstein,” the black and white creature which made only white drink. I showed him how to procure dark, sweet juice from our sacred Maples. It was difficult to live away from the sea gifts of the Great Water, but we survived in the lush, forested hills. We built his people’s wood cut huts—first, one hut for us, then more for our children and for our children’s children.
Great rumors and fables have been told around the hearths and campfires of many generations, but none have known until now the secret I have told: The tale of how one Viking survived and how one Beothuk loved after the bloody Last Battle. History has described the closing of an incredible Age which saw fearsome Viking quests of great adventure turn into fixed European earldoms then kingdoms. While the world believed for so long that the Vikings had disappeared from North America, there remained a secret remnant deep in the forests, far south of Vinland, and away from the dangerous shores of developing active trade and sea commerce.
Wise travelers have called this the tale of the ancient settlement of The First Two at what is now known as Guilford Vermont’s Viking Village. But I tell you that this is the story of two Little Seeds from very different, long ago great warrior nations who united quietly to live a peaceful and secret life in the great Green Mountains.