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  On June 20, 1587 the English explorer Martin Frobisher set ashore at the Eastern Settlement of Eystribyggo on Greenland, there he found only eerie abandoned ruins.  Where were the Norse?  What had happened to them?  There was nothing there to provide an answer.  They had simply, mysteriously vanished from history.     

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     The history of the Viking age is based primarily on oral tradition, much of it recorded centuries after the actual events took place in the form of chronicles, sagas, skaldic poetry and runic inscriptions.  These sources tell us that Eric Thorvaldsson, better known as ‘Eric the Red’ had discovered Greenland in the year 982.  He had been exiled for three years by the Icelandic Assembly of Elders for murdering his neighbor, and had sailed off with a small group of followers.  When Eric returned to Iceland he spoke glowingly about the new land that he had found and embellished it with the name ‘Greenland,’ when in fact, eighty-five percent of its landmass was under a permanent ice sheet.   It’s interesting to note that Iceland is green, and Greenland is mostly ice.

      The charismatic leader convinced many Icelanders to join him to establish a settlement in this new found land. After a perilous sea journey in 985, a battered fleet of 14 longships (of 25 that had set forth) arrived to establish the new Eastern Settlement of Greenland.  Eric, from his previous sojourn there, had already staked out his own substantial farm in a desirable location at the base of a long, deep fjord which gave way to a fertile coastal woodland.  He naturally assumed leadership of the new colony.

     A few years later, circa 1000, Eric’s son Leif (the lucky) explored the north-western coast of Greenland, crossed to Baffin Island and worked his way south to Labrador.  He then sailed across the narrow Strait of Belle Isle to Newfoundland (Vinland) and established a temporary encampment at L’Anse aux Meadows.  Leif is generally believed to be the first European to have used the Atlantic stepping stones to reach the North America continent, nearly half a millennium before Christopher Columbus in 1492.

     The Vikings had arrived in Greenland during an extended warm period and thrived for hundreds of years with well cared for farms, local government, churches and even a Bishop sent out by the King of Norway in 1124.  At its peak, there were upwards of 4,000 inhabitants spread between the Eastern and Western settlements.  The last actual written record documents a marriage which occurred there in 1408.  It is now known that the Western Settlement (located 400 miles to the north) was abandoned circa 1375 and the larger Eastern Settlement around 1450.

     Many theories have been offered to explain this mysterious collapse including changing weather patterns, environmental damage and the onset of the ‘little ice age,’ possibly caused in part by a gigantic volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1275.  When you factor in the impact of the Black Death, rising sea levels, emigration and withering trade with Scandinavia, you have all the elements of a good mystery.  The most likely real story behind the collapse is a complex interplay of all of these.

     The reality is that the Greenland settlements were never really viable as a pastoral farming enterprise.  The underlying strength of their economy from the very beginning was the trade in walrus tusks.  The ivory from these tusks was in great demand back in Scandinavia and throughout Europe.  They could be exchanged for many of the necessities that made life in this cold, foggy outpost tolerable.


     Lars Bjorklund was sitting on his sea chest pulling on a 17 foot oar on the starboard side of the knarr cargo vessel.  The young twenty year old was a farm worker when he was at home in the Eastern Settlement, and an occasional seaman and walrus hunter.  Like many of his Greenland Norse contemporaries he was a multi-tasker who did whatever was required to help sustain life in the community.  It was late summer in the year 1438, and already the weather was offering a chilling preview of the coming winter.  The twelve man crew were navigating in frigid waters further north than they had ever been before.  The sea was currently calm, but they had encountered ice flows so the sail had been struck and they were maneuvering carefully with the oars.

     The knarr wasn’t quite as sleek as a Viking longship; still it was double-ended and could quickly reverse course if necessary by having the oarsmen simply turn around and row in the opposite direction.  The boat was fifty-four feet in length and had a fifteen foot beam.  With a four foot draft, it was designed as a sturdy ocean going vessel with more emphasis on cargo capacity than speed.  In rough seas the sail was seldom lowered because it was impossible for the men to row under stormy conditions, and without forward propulsion, the power of the waves would force the boat to turn sideways, where it could be knocked down and overwhelmed by a breaking wave.  

     Today however, the sea was like glass and the ten oarsmen sang out a tune as they put their backs into the work.  There were five men rowing on each side of the boat, with another man up front on lookout, while the steersman leaned against the stern post with one hand on the tiller.

     The men had been traveling for 28 days in the open boat.  They were constantly wet from waves breaking over the bow, and cold from the wind and cool temperatures.  Usually the vessel was carried forward by the power of the big square sail.  The oarsmen, then reprieved, would sit with their backs to the topside hull sheltering as best they could from the elements.  There was no cabin or overhead protection other than a wool awning that was rigged at night when they pulled into a safe harbour and dropped anchor.  It was too risky to sail after dark along this jagged coast, so their progress was limited to about 75 miles each day during daylight hours.   

     When their ancestors had begun hunting for walruses they had made the perilous trip each summer sailing north to the breeding grounds at Disko Bay.  But, over time the animals had been hunted excessively, and it was now necessary to travel much farther afield.  They were currently about 1,000 miles north of Disko, approaching Ellesmere Island within the Arctic Archipelago.

     Lars was wearing a thick, lanolin rich wool sweater that even when wet trapped some of the heat and kept him relatively warm.  On a particularly cold day or when it rained he would wear the sealskin waterproofs that were stored in his sea chest.  He and the other men hadn’t consumed any hot food for more than a week, and were subsisting on a diet of salted herring, dried salmon and dried fruit.  For several days they had endured stormy weather and life aboard the knarr was boring, cold and miserable.  Lars had not removed his wet boots since they had pulled in for an overnight at Disko Bay some fifteen days earlier.  Since then he had mostly huddled from the wind wondering, will I ever be warm again?

     The boat they were sailing in had endured many years of service, and although solidly built with well-sealed shiplap planking, it still leaked.  Several times each day the crew had to lift the removable decking and bail out the sea water that was creating an excessive amount of unwanted ballast.  Now, rowing amongst these ice flows the steersman was worried for their safety.  If they struck one of these icebergs or some hidden underwater obstacle, the hull would be compromised and they would quickly sink.  He knew it was long past time to turn around and begin the long voyage home.

     In earlier times, the Norse hunters would return at each summer’s end with huge loads of walrus tusks, skins and meat.  Many of the tusks then had measured one to two feet in length, and were immensely valuable in trade with the Mother Country.  The Inuit people (the Norse called them Skraelings in reference to the dried skins they wore) looked on with dismay and anger as the Norse slaughtered walruses by the hundreds.  There was no thought given to good husbandry or conservation, and over time the herds were depleted and the animals driven almost to the point of extinction.  In more recent years, with most of the larger male animals already harvested, the hunters had turned to killing the females.  Even though they had smaller tusks, it kept the trade going for a little while longer.  But, this irresponsible hunting practice only accelerated the final outcome.


     After a lengthy return voyage, Lars Bjorklund and his companions arrived at the sheltered anchorage of the Eastern Settlement.  They had very little to show for two months of effort other than a few small walrus tusks, and some hides which were starting to smell a little ripe.  In reality, their voyage had probably been a waste of time.  The trade in walrus tusks was almost nonexistent since higher quality elephant ivory from Africa had become widely available.  It was now the popular choice in Europe due to its greater consistency of color, and larger size which made it more versatile for carvers.  With nothing of value to export, foreign traders had little reason now to visit Greenland.  Even contact with neighboring Iceland had fallen off as dangerous ocean storms had become more prevalent and ice flows often clogged the sea lanes.

     Lars set out on the two hour walk to his family’s farm carrying a bundle of possessions and cut of seal meat wrapped in the animal’s bladder.  He shouted out greetings to a few neighbors as he followed a pathway along the length of a deep fjord.  At its base stood an impressive house and barn surrounded by fields of hay.  It was the home of a wealthy farmer named Liefr Andersson who Lars worked for occasionally when a strong back was needed.  His own family’s more modest property was situated on several acres of land adjacent to the larger farm. It also fronted on the fjord and was impressive for its well-cared-for appearance.  His mother Freya rushed out and greeted him warmly, relieved that he had returned safely from the hunt.

     At thirty-seven years of age, Lar’s widowed mother was worn out from the labors of a hard scrabble life on the farm with her only son.  Her husband had never returned from the summer walrus hunt when Lars was just a boy of six, and since then it had been a struggle to survive.  She maintained a large vegetable garden and stored much of the produce in a cold cellar.  Three goats were milked to make cheese, but the animals had to be brought into the house during the winter and were more like pets.  Lars had to harvest enough hay to keep them fed.  Just finding enough firewood to heat the house through the winter was a major challenge.  The conundrum of the walrus hunt was that it took the men away just when the demands of working the farm were greatest.  Lars reward for participating in this year’s hunt was limited to the seal meat tucked under his arm.

     Lars and his mother knew that life in the settlement was hard for everyone.  The weather was decidedly colder than in previous times, and with a shortened growing season it was difficult to produce enough food for people and fodder for the domestic animals.  It was no longer viable to raise large numbers of cows or sheep, and as a result the diet of the Greenland Norse had largely evolved towards seal meat, fish and wild game.  The once thriving population was now less than two hundred people, and the Western Settlement had been abandoned for over fifty years.  Many of the young people in particular had emigrated back to Iceland or Scandinavia which offered better prospects for their future.  With fewer young people, there weren’t enough babies being born to maintain a viable replacement level in the population.  As a result, the settlement was in a spiral of terminal collapse.

     There were many tasks for Lars to complete before winter set in.  First, he had to scythe the fields and gather the hay for storage in the barn.  Sod had to be cut for repairs in the roof, and wood gathered to keep the fire in the hearth burning.  Finding wood had become increasingly difficult as most of the larger trees had been cut down to provide material for building houses, barns, ship building and for heating homes.  Recently Lars had taken to scavenging the many deserted farms in the settlement for any usable wood or other useful items that might have been left behind.  Finally, there was the important issue of food.  He would have to hunt seals or caribou to lay in a supply of protein for the winter.  His mother wouldn’t even consider the possibility of butchering her goats.

     Another option for Lars was to trade his labor in exchange for hen’s eggs and other food items.  His immediate neighbors operated a very substantial farm with numerous goats, sheep and half a dozen cows.  Mr. Andersson also enjoyed the luxury of owning a horse.  As a member of the Council of Elders he was well respected in the community, although the toothless edicts from that body were now largely ignored by the increasingly desperate residents.  The most common issue was dealing with acts of petty thievery, but the committee had little enforcement capability and many disputes were resolved by violence. 


     Jarl (chief) Leifr Andersson was a man in his early fifties, and by the standard of the day he was considered to be an old man.  Life expectancy in the Norse settlement was in the thirty-five to fifty year range, limited by many dangers and hardships, although sometimes a wealthy, well-nourished man like Andersson might live to the ancient age of sixty.  That was a rare exception though, and he knew it. 

      As a widower with three young daughters, he was increasingly concerned about the future welfare of his children in a community that was in an advanced state of collapse.  The girls were aged eight, ten and sixteen.  Ingrid was the oldest and now of a marrying age, but there were few suitable male candidates.  Young Lars on the next farm was a possible choice, but so he far had hadn’t expressed any interest.  Unbeknownst to Liefr Andersson, Lars and his eldest daughter had already begun a tentative friendship.

     Andersson had been good friends with Lar’s father, and was devastated when his boat was lost during the summer walrus hunt fifteen years ago.   In an already fragile community, the loss of a dozen good men created an immense burden on the surviving families.  Not to mention the staggering loss of a valuable, irreplaceable vessel.  It was a heavy blow, which only accelerated the departure of many additional people. 

      The demographic was now heavily skewed towards the older generation, those whose roots were deeply entrenched, and who couldn’t conceive of giving up their farms and making a new start elsewhere.  These people were descendants of settlers who had lived in Greenland for hundreds of years, and they no longer had any affinity with Iceland or Norway.  Particularly as Greenland now came under the nominal rule of King Eric of Denmark.  They would remain with the sinking ship, and their bones would eventually lay in the same ground as their ancestors. 

     Liefr Andersson’s farm was extremely labor intensive and he relied on outside workers to help with the work.  He was very involved personally, but at his age and suffering with various physical ailments, it was a constant challenge.   He had a full time cook and housekeeper, and he engaged a number of part time workers subject to their availability.  Lars was indispensable, but he also had his own farm to look after and was one of the key members of the walrus hunting group.  The girls were now able to help, particularly Ingrid who milked the goats and prepared the cheese. Obtaining firewood was a constant problem, as he had a big house to heat and also kept a low fire in the barn during winter to keep the chickens alive.

     As a community leader, Liefr Andersson did his best to stay in touch with his neighbors.  He knew they were all struggling, but the difficulty was that the Eastern Settlement was spread over more than a hundred square miles.  It had originally boasted more than five hundred farms, although less than fifty were still inhabited.  The ragged coast of southern Greenland was made up of more than a dozen lengthy fjords, and had irregular terrain which made it very difficult to reach out and physically communicate with everyone.  He knew there were serious food shortages, and that with winter approaching many people would be unable to properly heat their homes.  He was concerned about the widows and older folks who were particularly vulnerable.  Andersson had written to authorities in Iceland, and even to the Danish King asking for help.  But there had been no response.  It seemed as if the settlement in Greenland had been forgotten.  They hadn’t been visited by a ship for over two years.


     Lars had been back at the farm for two weeks and had already made good progress by cutting and gathering the hay and repairing his mother’s sod roof.  The following day he planned to set out and visit a number of deserted farms in the settlement to recover any planking that could be cut up and burned during the winter.  He would be gone for several days and planned to cache any wood that he found, and return later after the snow fell to haul it back on a sled.  Lars knew that this was not a sustainable practice and he was concerned about the future.  He was aware of the fragile condition of the settlement and had seriously considered the idea of emigration to Iceland.  Currently there was no shipping traffic however, and even if there was he had no way to pay for a passage.  Aside from this, his mother refused to go and he couldn’t leave her behind.  It seemed an insoluble problem.

     Over the next four days Lars investigated over twenty deserted farms within a twenty mile radius of his home.  It was sad seeing the deserted houses and overgrown fields and he could imagine the desperation that had forced these people to leave.  It appeared that some of the properties had already been picked over by other foragers, and he found little of value.  He did manage to salvage a good supply of wood which apparently hadn’t been the target of previous visitors.  At one point he caught sight of a group of Skraelings and kept himself hidden until they moved past.  Lars had heard reports that these wild people had taken over parts of the abandoned Western Settlement, and it now appeared as if they were migrating further south and were a potential threat to the few remaining Norse farmsteads.

     The relationship between the Norse and the wild people had always been an antagonistic one.  There was no trade between the two groups and in the past there had been instances of violence, usually instigated by the Norse who were more aggressive and territorial.  They abhorred the Skraelings, which was unfortunate, as they could have learned much from a people who thrived and were at one with the very environment that was overwhelming the Norse.  It was really a simple matter of ‘learn to adapt, or perish.’ The Norse had not adapted, and the results were catastrophic.  Lars was just a young farm worker, but he had given much thought to the matter.  Regrettably, his friends and neighbors were captive to tradition, and this had led to a societal collapse that was now irreversible.

     Lars knew there were seventeen churches in the Western Settlement, all of them now abandoned.  He felt that if previous generations had committed more resources into developing sustainable farming methods instead of building churches, the current situation might be different.  As well, the yearly walrus hunt had taken men away when they were needed the most, and many of them had perished over the years causing great hardship in the community.  As wild game became scarce and the number of domestic animals declined people began to experience hunger, while the sea around them was teeming with fish.  Unlike the Skraelings who maneuvered in nimble kayaks, the Norse used clunky wooden boats to hunt for seals and for fishing, with just limited success.  And, while they had cut down all of the available trees for wood to heat their homes in winter, the Skraelings warmed their smaller, more energy efficient dwellings with seal and walrus oil.

     With these thoughts in mind, Lars dropped by his neighbor’s farm on his way home.  He wanted to speak with Liefr Andersson about possibly trading some the wood he had just secured in exchange for foodstuffs.  He was also hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful young Ingrid.  Lars was surprised when Andersson invited him into the house to have a serious discussion.  He shared his view that the Eastern Settlement could not continue as a viable place to live for more than another year or two.  He went on to say that he was very concerned for his children, given his age and declining physical ability, and questioned how much longer he could maintain the farm and keep the girls safe.  Lars was shocked and secretly delighted when Andersson suggested a merger of the two farms, and formalizing the arrangement with a marriage between Lars and his eldest daughter.


     The knarr was advancing through stormy seas on a southerly heading along the coast of Labrador.  They had been under sail in the open boat for twelve days, charting an indirect route to their destination, with the coastline never far from sight.  The previous night they had sheltered in a protected cove and the cook had gone ashore to prepare a large pot of porridge laced with rich butter and bits of dried fruit.  The crew had eaten the hearty fare while huddled under an awning on the boat.  After a bitter cold night they pushed off again at first light.  The vessel was slightly undermanned with a crew of just nine men, but these few were all that could be recruited given short notice and the dangerous nature of the mission.

     Liefr Andersson shared ownership of the vessel with the man currently at the tiller.  It was the only seaworthy boat remaining in the settlement with the exception of two others which were in a state of disrepair and pulled up in dry dock.  Andersson had asked Lars to represent him on this voyage to harvest wood products that could be used to repair the derelict boats.  Once they were again seaworthy, the small flotilla would be used to transport many of the remaining settlers from Greenland to Iceland.

     They anchored in a protected bay which was surrounded with old growth forest.  After going ashore the men set out to locate the perfect trees for their purpose.  Two trees would be trimmed up as masts for the derelict boats, while others would be cut and later split to replace some of the planking in the hulls.  Transporting this unwieldy load back to Greenland would be very challenging, particularly if they encountered rough seas.  While the trees were being cut and assembled, the cook and the steersman stayed near the shoreline to keep watch.  Lars and another man acted as sentries and provided security for the workers.  Both were outfitted with a sword and wooden shield.

     The men had just finished loading the logs into the boat when a group of Aboriginals appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  They had painted faces and projected an aggressive posture, brandishing war clubs and chirping in a strange high-pitched dialect.  Lars stepped forward and raised his hand in a friendly greeting.  In response, several of these strange men began to encircle him.  Then, as he withdrew his sword and adopted a defensive stance, they paused to evaluate this sturdy giant with flaming red hair and a flowing beard.  Finally, one of them swung his club at Lars, who blocked the blow with his shield and then sliced open the man’s torso with a powerful thrust of his sword.  Lar’s companion then entered the fray, and they cut their way through the savages and forced them to withdraw into the woods.

     As the two men hurried back to the shoreline, Lar’s companion suddenly fell with an arrow in his back.  Advancing from the trees, the savages now rained arrows down on the open boat.  When one of the crew was struck, the steersman panicked and hastily cut the rope to the anchor.  The boat which had been positioned in deeper water offshore began to drift out with the tide.  It was further propelled by a few of the men who had taken up the oars.  The small skiff was still on the beach, but there was no way Lars could launch it and row out to the departing vessel without being hit with arrows.  The Aboriginals whooped with excitement as they raced towards him.  Lars turned and ran for his life along the rocky shore and eventually into the deep forest.

     A few arrows whisked past as he threaded his way through the trees, closely followed by the screeching savages.  Eventually Lars managed to extend his lead and the sounds of pursuit grew fainter.  Although fatigued, he redoubled his efforts and climbed up a steep escarpment leading further inland.  Finally, with his heart hammering, he stopped to catch his breath.  That’s when the reality of his situation set in.  The boat had sailed and the terrified crew were unlikely to return as they would presume him to be dead.  This left him alone in a vast wilderness where rescue was impossible, and bloodthirsty natives wanted to kill him.  To make matters worse, a cold rain had started to fall.  He thought, bye the Gods Odin, what else?


     From his perch on the high ground, Lars noticed a flicker of movement in the forest below.  He dropped on his belly and from a concealed position watched as two Aboriginals emerged from the trees and rapidly approached.  Each carried a bow in one hand and a war club in the other.  They seemed to be following his faint tracks like dogs on the scent, and would be upon him in a very short time.  As they closed the distance, he could see that their faces were painted a hideous blue and an array of feathers protruded from each one’s hair.  At a glance, they looked like something out of your worst nightmare.  Lar’s bowels felt weak and his heart started to race.  To just keep running didn’t seem like the best strategy.

     He wormed his way backwards on this elbows and knees to below the crest of the escarpment, and then turned and ran as fast as he could.  He was looking for a good defensive position and found it in the large exposed root system of an ancient blow-down.  He ran past it knowing that the Aboriginals would follow his tracks, and then circled back and crouched behind the shoulder-high hiding place.  It was just moments later that one of the pursuers rushed past.  Lars leaped out and slashed his sword across the back of the man’s legs.  He quickly spun around to engage the second man who had dropped his club, and was attempting to nock an arrow in his bow.  Upon seeing a crazed red bearded giant descend upon him, he dropped his bow and fled.

     Lars turned just as the other man loosed an arrow which hissed and embedded itself in his shield.  He rushed up and extended the point of his sword to the man’s throat.  The injured man was laying prone and appeared unable to stand.  At this point, helpless and having seen his comrade run off, the fight had gone out of him.  Lars snapped the handles of both men’s war clubs and then gathered up the two bows and arrows.  He left the wounded man where he lay and jogged back towards the forest. 

     The rain fell in torrents as Lars pushed his way through a thick growth of coniferous trees.  He maneuvered around ancient blow-down and over large outcroppings of rock, which made it impossible to maintain a direct line of advance.  As his adrenalin rush subsided, fatigue and cold began to set in.  He wished he had the seal skin waterproofs that were stored in his sea chest aboard the departed knarr.  Tired as he was, Lars momentarily considered lightening his burden by throwing away the heavy wooden shield.  But then he thought better of it.  His immediate plan was to simply put much distance as possible between himself and the Aboriginals.  The problem was, he was unfamiliar with this type of terrain, and with no obvious features to navigate by, had lost all sense of direction.  Lars finally paused for a few moments to catch his breath and evaluate the situation.

     By then it was late afternoon and the light was beginning to fade.  Although the rain had stopped, he was completely soaked.  Lars was used to being wet and cold from weeks of sailing in an open boat, so he just shrugged of the discomfort.  He had a much needed drink from a fast flowing brook.  It seemed to be draining from a much higher elevation.  He wondered, what should I do?  Instinct told him to move to higher ground where he could better defend himself.  On the other hand, gnawing hunger pains suggested that there might be more certainty of finding a good source of food along the ocean front.  He decided to follow the waterway and continue moving higher; at least until dark.  In the morning he would cut back towards the coast.  

     Just before dusk, Lars stopped to hunker down for the night.  He figured it was too dangerous to be stumbling around in this terrain after dark.  Besides, he was exhausted.  He cut several cedar boughs with his sword and made a small shelter with a sapling lodged between two trees as a center pole.  Then he gathered a large quantity of pine tree detritus, piling it on his shield and carrying it to the shelter.  After several loads he had enough to create a rough bed that he could burrow into to try to ward off the cold.  In spite of the relative warmth of the day, the nighttime temperature had dropped sharply.  He wore a thick woolen sweater, but it was soaked through and provided minimal warmth.  Shivering and miserable, he was now being plagued by swarms of hungry mosquitoes.  In defence, he placed the shield over his face and upper body.  He thought, it’s going to be a long night


     At first light, Lars drank from the brook and then cut a diagonal path back towards the coast.  He tried to maintain a steady direction by sighting a particular tree or groupings of rock in the distance, and then making his way towards it.  He adopted a slow and easy pace while staying alert for any sign of the Aboriginals.  As he walked along, he took a mental inventory of his resources.  His clothing consisted of a wool sweater, caribou skin breaches, a thick belt of braided leather, walrus skin boots and a knitted cap.  A long-sword was secured in its wooden scabbard, and a seaman’s knife was tucked in a sheath around his waist.  He had slung the heavy shield over his back, along with the two recently acquired bows.  Clutched in his hand, was a quiver of flint tipped arrows which he had taken from his injured foe the previous day.

     He thought about his pregnant wife Ingrid back home in Greenland, and he worried about his mother who would now be left all alone.  Lars wondered, will I ever see them again?  It didn’t seem likely, and the very thought of it left him with a hollow feeling in his gut.  Putting these thoughts temporarily out of his mind, he refocused on the current situation.  He had to find food.  He needed shelter, and he needed to know where the Aboriginal encampment was, so he could determine how far he needed to safely distance himself.  The acquisition of the two bows and arrows had been a stroke of good luck.  Lars was an experienced hunter and had more than passing skill with this useful weapon.  He had a feeling that the bows might very well be the key to his survival.

     It was mid-day when he heard the sounds of the surf crashing against the shoreline ahead.  Minutes later he emerged from the forest and descended a steep embankment to reach a sunlit beach.  The beach was carpeted with flat stones and driftwood and extended for about half a mile in either direction.  Both extremes ended with rocky headlands.  Currently, the tide was out and the screeching seabirds were soaring all around.  Lars decided to explore and began walking towards the most distant end.  As he passed an area where the embankment was higher, he observed seagulls returning to their nests nestled in little depressions in the steep cliff face.  Leaving his shield and weapons behind, he carefully climbed up and raided three nests, extracting a number of eggs which he gathered in his woolen cap.

     Lars cracked the contents of two eggs and gulped down the raw contents.  Now, with his hunger abated, he continued walking along the beach.  When he reached the far end, the water was too deep for him to enter and wade around the headland, so he climbed over the top.  Before him lay a magnificent crescent shaped bay which was cloaked with thick forest extending inland as far as he could see.  The elevation seemed to gradually rise from the shore to eventually form a high plateau.  From its heights a stream flowed through the forest, culminating in a beautiful waterfall which drained into the ocean.  It was an idyllic setting which lifted his spirits immensely.  Lars decided to walk towards the waterfall and take a look around.  As he advanced, he detected the enticing smell of cooking food.  Then he saw a narrow plume of smoke rising up through the trees.

     Lars quickly ran from the open beach and entered the forest, his senses on high alert.  He withdrew an arrow and with one of the bows in hand, cautiously crept forward.  A few minutes later from the cover of the trees he observed two young Aboriginal men squatting before a fire.  They were roasting a large fish on a spit while exchanging muted conversation.  They didn’t appear threatening like the savages he had encountered the previous day.  These young men wore no paint on their faces and had no feathers in their hair.  There were no war clubs in evidence, although two bows were propped against a nearby tree within easy reach.  Lars wondered, what should I do?  He thought about it for just a moment and then decided.  Dropping his bow, he stepped forward with his arm raised and shouted out a friendly greeting.

      The two men looked up and momentarily froze in horror as a giant red-bearded apparition materialized in front of them.  Scrambling to their feet, they both cried out as they fumbled for their weapons.  One man lurched through the fire, knocking the fish from its spit.  The other had managed to grab his bow, and was attempting to withdraw an arrow from a quiver which was suspended in the tree.  Lars withdrew his sword and swung his shield around into a defensive position.  Advancing swiftly, he slashed out and cut the bow string just as the man was about to release an arrow.  As the two men stood there in shock, Lars plunged the sword into the ground and shouted, “Friend!” He shifted the shield behind his back and raised both hands in a peaceful gesture.  With a smile he gently repeated his entreaty.  The three men stared at each other for what seemed a considerable length of time, until the tension slowly subsided.

     A short time later they attempted to explain their respective circumstances, while making a meal of the fish.  With the language barrier there was a lot of pointing, gesturing and dramatic enactment.  It seemed that the two men were on a hunting trip, and their village was deep in the interior.  Lar’s attempted explanation of how he had arrived from across the ocean left them with puzzled expressions.  They were in awe of this friendly giant, and soon a good level of comfort was established.  The following morning Lars left in their company.  Fate would now lead him on an extraordinary journey.


~                       ~                       ~

     Two hundred years later, a French Canadian courier-des-bois encountered a band of Algonquin Indians who were particularly tall and had piercing blue eyes.  Mon Deux, comment c’est?

By Michael Barlett


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