4. The Greenland Vikings – Land of the Midnight Sun

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4. The Greenland Vikings – Land of the Midnight Sun

Sometime around the year 1540, a ship full of Norwegian sailors made the dangerous voyage to Iceland, a frozen island in the middle of the North Atlantic. It was a notoriously dangerous voyage and when they saw dark storm clouds begin to brew on the horizon, they knew they were in trouble. Their boat was lashed by wind and rain and tossed around like a cork on the towering waves The storm went on for days, blowing them far off their course with no idea where they were heading Finally, when all seemed lost, the storm lessened a little and they sighted land in the distance. They managed to beach their boats through the rough waters in a small cove choked with ice and there, they waited for the remainder of the storm to blow over. They didn’t know it then but the storm had blown them right across the Atlantic Ocean, and the coast they now sheltered on was in Greenland, a bleak and icy waste on the north of the American continent. In these days, Greenland was an icy tundra where no sensible European would ever think to venture but as the men waited for the storm to die down, they spotted something not far from their boat. It was a man, facedown, dead in the snow. They saw his clothes made from seal skins and the fur in his hood and they thought that he must be an Inuit, one of the indigenous inhabitants of Greenland. But as they approached, something didn’t look right. They turned the man over and saw with surprise that he had red hair and pale skin. He was a Norseman just like them, but he was dressed in the clothes of an Inuit hunter On his head was a hood, well-made, and otherwise clothes of frieze cloth and of seal skin. Near him was a sheath knife, bent and much worn and eaten away. They thought he must have wandered through the wilderness in these clothes to the coast, perhaps trying to find a ship to carry him away, and then he died right there on the beach, all alone at the edge of the world. Moved by the sight of this man, the sailors took his knife. When the weather cleared and they set sail back to Iceland, they took the knife with them They must have rolled it around in their hands and wondered to themselves who was this Norseman so far from home? Why was he dressed in the clothes of an Inuit hunter? In this bleak and uninhabited waste, where in all the world had he come from? My name’s Paul Cooper and you’re listening to The Fall of Civilizations Podcast. Every episode I look at a civilization of the past that rose to glory and then collapsed into the ashes of history. I want to ask what did they have in common? What led to their fall, and what did it feel like to be a person alive at the time who witnessed the end of their world? In this episode I want to look at one of the most unlikely tales of a society’s fall; the incredible saga of the Vikings of Greenland I want to show how these European settlers built a society on the farthest edge of their world and survived for centuries among some of the harshest conditions ever faced by man. I want to explore how this civilization was able to overcome the odds for so long and to examine the evidence about what happened to cause its final and mysterious collapse. If I were to ask you who was the first European to discover North America, you might think of Christopher Columbus landing on the sandy shores of the Bahamas at the end of the 15th century but actually, Columbus was far from the first. In fact, Europeans had

made routine journeys to America for more than five centuries before Columbus was even born, and their story begins over a thousand years ago in the 10th century. The people who made this dangerous journey were Norsemen, otherwise known in the Middle Ages as Vikings. They were sailors, soldiers, and settlers from Norway and Denmark who had a terrifying reputation in all the lands they encountered. They were known as raiders and pirates to their enemies, but they were also expert sailors and shipbuilders, marvelous writers of epic poetry, and perhaps some of the hardiest explorers in human history Half a millennium before Columbus, the Vikings crossed the ocean and landed on the icy coast of Greenland. They built a permanent settlement there and the Norse of Greenland didn’t just survive in this far-flung outpost; they built manor houses and hundreds of farms where they grew crops, imported steel, wine, and stained glass. They raised sheep, cattle, and goats, and they made voyages to explore the North American mainland too, making forays into Newfoundland and the coast of Canada. They fought with Native American tribes and returned with furs, ivory, and hardwoods cut from the American forests. In Greenland they hunted walrus and even captured live polar bears to send back home to Norway. In this impossible landscape, they grew and thrived. Then, after centuries of survival at the edge of the world, their civilization collapsed. The Norse settlements in Greenland were abandoned, left to crumble into the hard, icy earth. Exactly what happened is still one of our most chilling mysteries Our two main sources of information about the Greenland Norse are two of the great Icelandic sagas. These are pieces of epic poetry passed on by word of mouth that relate the great deeds of Viking heroes and adventurers. They were designed to be spoken out in mead halls for celebration and feasts. This extract of a piece of Viking poetry called the Hofudlausen should give you a sense of the sound and form of these great poems West, over the sea, I fared and mine shore, I bare a across the sea so that it might recall great deeds. The wave oak I have drawn with the ice breaking on, and loaded praises part in the mine ships barred Later, these sagas were written down and today they give us an incredible insight into the lives that these men and women lived as they explored the icy lands of the North Atlantic. Our story begins right there on the snowy slopes and steaming vents of Iceland. Iceland is a volcanic island in the northern Atlantic, about a third of the way between Europe and North America, and until around the year 874, it was completely uninhabited. Only flocks of seabirds and the reclusive Arctic Fox roamed its snowy hills. But then, the Vikings arrived. From their homeland of Norway, it was a journey of over 1,500 kilometres by sea through some of the harshest weather on earth. But the Vikings sailed in slender, wooden long- ships that were the very height of medieval technology. Their ships had perfectly hydrodynamic hulls, and strong, square sails that were perfectly adapted for plying the freezing stormy waters of the northern ocean. After the year 874, when the Vikings first landed, the transformation of the land happened quickly. Back home in Norway, land was scarce and competition over farmland meant that many people were eager to start new lives in a completely unexplored land. Within sixty years of their first landing, the Vikings had already built over 1,500 farms in Iceland and the population rose to over three and a half thousand people. But the ambitions of the Vikings wouldn’t end here. By the Year 930 it seems, just about

all of the usable land in Iceland had already been claimed, and already stories were beginning to spread among the Norse sailors; stories about a new land, a land of blue ice and mists that lay somewhere over the stormy sea. According to the sagas, the first person to attempt to find this new land was a man named Erik Thorvaldsson and he would be known to history as Erik the Red Erik the Red was born around the year 950 into a Norway that had only just been unified into a single state. Norway has a ragged, undulating coast broken by wooded fjords, great mountainous inlets, and dotted with rocky islands out to sea But Erik was born in the south of the country where the flat land meant that the sea always stretched out before his eyes, calling to him with its inviting horizon As a boy, he must have gazed out at the ships sailing off in the direction of the sunset; watched them sink below the horizon, and he must have wondered what lay beyond that tantalizing vanishing point. Erik was about to find out That’s because he was the son of an outlaw named Thorvald who had an explosive temper. This temper would have dire consequences for Thorvald’s family. When his son Erik was only ten years old, Thorvald killed a man in a quarrel In Norway, murderers didn’t only have the law to fear. Viking honor meant that the family of the dead man would soon be out for blood in revenge. Fearing reprisals, Erik’s family managed to gain passage across the sea to Norway’s newest settlement; the freezing land of Iceland where smoke was said to rise from the very earth. The young Erik must have looked out from the ship on that voyage and seen the seas stretching out in all directions, gray, and bleak, and forbidding. But it must have been exciting for the young boy, too Here at last was the adventure that he dreamed of. By this time, in the second half of the 10th century, Iceland was already well settled by Norway. The Norse had brought large amounts of thralls, or slaves, from Ireland and Scotland to help them populate their new colony. They’d introduced horses, cattle, and rabbits, and Iceland’s snow forests had been cut down to clear farmland for the cultivation of barley. Its people ate cod from the sea, unsalted, but dried on wooden racks by the wind and cold But this success story of a settlement also meant that most of the best land had already been taken. When Erik arrived with his family, all that was left was a plot of uninhabited wasteland in the forbidding tundra of the Northwest. But that was all the choice they had, and Thorvald and his family settled down and began to work their farm. We can imagine that as a child in Iceland, the young Erik must have listened to the stories that the sailors told when they passed through, when they stopped on shore to repair their ships. Norsemen of this age navigated the oceans with no compasses, using the sun, moon, and stars to find their way, as well as following natural cues like the paths of seabirds and whales. But although they were expert navigators, it only took a strong storm to sweep them far off course, as we’ll learn a few times throughout this episode. The Vikings of Iceland believed that they lived on the edge of the world but already at this time, stories were beginning to spread of sailors who had been blown off-course and seen strange things in the distance. They brought back stories about mysterious islands they’d seen drifting out of the sea mists, faraway lands spied across the ocean, tales of blue coasts in the West. When Erik’s father Thorvald died, Erik inhabited their humble farm and he began a family of his own. But as he grew into a proud and pugnacious young man, it became clear that Erik the Red had inherited something of his father’s temper, and even more of his bad luck. One day, a group of workers on Erik’s farm caused a landslide that tumbled into the neighboring farm. This belonged to a disagreeable neighbor known only as Eyjolf the Foul. Eyjolf seems to have lived up to his name. Enraged at the damage caused to his farm, Eyjolf killed Erik’s workers. But Erik was his father’s son,

and he wasn’t to take this insult lightly. He chased after Eyjolf and the two of them fought. In the brutal struggle that ensued, Erik prevailed and Eyjolf the Foul was killed. But once the heat of battle had died down, Erik realized what he had done. Just like his father, he feared the beginning of a blood feud. In the society of the medieval Norse, one death could be like a spark in dry heather, setting off a cycle of violence and revenge that could last for generations. So, it may have felt like something of a relief for Erik when the law and not Eyjolf the Foul’s family finally came down on him. For the killing, the Lords of Iceland declared that Erik the Red was banished for three years Soon, just like his father, Erik would have to flee the land that he had learned to call home. But Erik didn’t have many good options before him. His family had many enemies now; in Norway, the relatives of the man his father had killed might still be looking for blood, and it was clear he couldn’t stay in Iceland. For a Norseman in the 10th century, that didn’t leave many other options Erik stayed in hiding while he put together a boat and a crew. It must have been during this time that those stories came back to him, the stories he’d once heard the sailors tell of the islands in the mist and their blue coasts half-seen beyond the horizon. In the year 982, at around the age of 30, Erik set sail once again with only one goal in mind; he was going to reach the mythical land that was said to lie on the other side of the ocean. Many people must have laughed at him, but that year he set sail and his voyage would change the map of the world forever Greenland is the world’s largest island that is not considered a continent. Over 80% of its land mass is covered in the Greenland ice sheet, a plate of ice up to three kilometers thick, behind only Antarctica as the second largest body of ice in the world. The ice that makes up the sheet is as ancient as rock, some of it over a million years old, and the sheet is so heavy but the land beneath it has been crushed into the Earth’s mantle beneath its weight. Although he couldn’t know any of this at the time, this is the land that Erik the Red set sail for at the end of the 10th century. Against all the odds, he would reach it. The voyage was nearly 1,500 kilometers through a deadly gauntlet of floating ice and Atlantic storms. But despite the dangers, Erik rounded the southern coast of Greenland later that year and sailed up its western coast, searching for somewhere to land. For the most part, the land he saw was covered with Arctic tundra and the unending wall of that enormous glacial ice sheet. But after many weeks of sailing, Erik and his men found a small, sheltered cove that seemed relatively free of ice. When they sailed into, it their hearts must have filled with joy. They saw green slopes where deciduous willows, alder, and juniper trees grew, and low shrubs like dwarf birch covered the sides of some valleys. The landscape here was still harsh It must have resembled the treeline level of Norwegian mountains, right where most forms of life stopped growing To most people it wouldn’t have looked like a promising location for a settlement, but to the Norse of the time, this small strip of land promised the potential for future growth. Erik would spend the next three years of his exile exploring this new land, sailing up its coast methodically, and taking careful note of what he saw. When his sentence of exile was over, he finally returned to Iceland with a plan in mind. He was going to gather as many settlers as he could and travel back to this new land to settle it permanently. But he knew it was going to be a hard sell; how could he convince enough settlers to risk that dangerous crossing, and all for a land that was barely more than a sliver of green on the edge of a barren ice sheet? Well, it seems that Erik the Red had something of a talent for salesmanship, and one of the key ways he tried to encourage people to follow him was with the name that he gave to his newly discovered land. The Icelandic saga

of the Greenlanders recalls this trick with something of an ironic tone. There was a man called Erik the Red who traveled out from here and took land. He gave a name to the land and called it Greenland, and said that people would be more eager to go there because the land had a good name Perhaps imagining rolling green fields and pastures, many Icelanders agreed to follow Erik. When summer came back around, he set sail once again for the land beyond the ocean. But this time, he wasn’t going alone. Erik the Red had amassed a great fleet of 25 ships full of men, women, and children, along with supplies, building materials, wood and nails, as well as livestock including cattle, chickens, and rabbits. It must have been an incredible sight; all of those colorful sails and dragon-headed prows cleaving through the ocean waves. Of these 25 ships, only 14 would reach Greenland. 11 of them were lost at sea, and for those that arrived, the trials had only just begun. For the medieval Norse of Europe, establishing a colony in Greenland was about as difficult as we today might find establishing a colony on the moon If that seems like a far-fetched comparison, consider that only 18 astronauts have ever been killed in the history of space exploration. For medieval Vikings crossing the Atlantic, the casualties were enormous, and the reasons for this aren’t hard to imagine Firstly, the journey to Greenland took several weeks by sea through freezing arctic conditions. If you want to see a good example of the kind of ship the Norse used, there’s no finer example than the so-called Gokstad ship in the Museum of Oslo. When you see this ship, you’re at once impressed by its slender, organic shape which testifies to the enormous skill of the shipbuilders. But you’re also struck by just how small and exposed it is, how the Vikings who huddled on board must have suffered on those weeks-long voyages through storms and waves that must have towered over this tiny ship. Today, it seems incredible that anyone survived these journeys at all. Greenland is about as far from Iceland as Iceland is from Norway; both of them being journeys for about 1,500 kilometers. But although the distances are similar, the voyage from Iceland to Greenland was many times more dangerous Worse than anything else was the drift ice. Greenland sat right on a powerful current that flowed down from the Arctic Ocean, and this current drew huge blocks carved from glaciers and icebergs the size of mountains. This freezing current runs down the east coast of Greenland and then back up the west coast, effectively ringing the island in a chainsaw blade of flowing ice. Today, this flow causes just as much of a problem to modern shipping as it did in the 10th century, but the Vikings didn’t have any of the advantages of our technology One story shows just how deadly these seas could be. A saga tells the story of a Norse Icelander named Loden, who got himself the nickname Lik-Loden, or Corpse Loden, because he made his living sailing up and down the east coast of Greenland, exploring its caves and coves, and gathering up the corpses of men shipwrecked there. Ships were always wrecked in this ice from the northern bays. Lik-Loden would search the waves to the north and bring back to church the bodies he found in caves and on rock ledges. They had come there from the drift ice or wrecked ships, and near them they often lay carved runes about all the events of the misfortunes and sufferings. But the skill of Norse sailors meant that many did successfully navigate this asteroid belt of ice. Still, it couldn’t hurt to pray. One surviving document contains a prayer written by a Greenland sailor who was about to undertake this perilous voyage. God, the sinless I pray, save my voyage from danger. Lord of heaven on high, guard my ways. But despite these immense obstacles, Erik and his surviving 14 boats of

settlers did succeed. They landed in Greenland and started one settlement on the south tip of the island. This would become known as Eystribyggð or the Eastern Settlement, and it’s where Erik built himself an estate and began to farm the land. Later, the Norse would sail up the western coast of Greenland and found a second settlement. This was called Vestri- byggð or the Western Settlement Life in Greenland was hard. Greenland has an Arctic climate, with average temperatures that don’t exceed 10 degrees centigrade or 50 degrees Fahrenheit even in the warmest summer months. Summer temperatures can drop as low as minus 30 degrees centigrade, or minus 27 degrees Fahrenheit. During winter, the temperatures can reach minus 50 degrees centigrade or minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit. For two to three months in summer, there is continuous daylight, the so-called Midnight Sun During winter, the sun never quite rises; with only three to four hours of daylight peeking over the horizon. But the Norse were expert settlers. There’s evidence that they adapted to the difficult farming conditions of the Greenland winters by aggressively fertilizing the soils around their farmsteads. While the men of the settlements were out hunting, the women would have spent the day improving the soil, spreading it with manure to increase its fertility. Studies of the soil in early North settlements show a dramatic increase in the thickness of soil after the arrival of the Norse and the establishment of their farms. Bone samples suggest that at the height of the settlements, even small farms kept a cow or two which was a sign of great status back in Norway. Written records from Greenland mentioned dairy products including cheese, milk, and yogurt as important staple foods. But it soon became clear that the Greenland settlers wouldn’t simply survive in this barren land. In fact, they would thrive and ultimately make themselves and their home country very wealthy That’s because Greenland had a plentiful supply of one resource that was in enormous demand in Europe at the time That thing was the walrus An adult bull walrus has tusks made of ivory that can grow to be over a meter long and can weigh as much as five and a half kilos each. Ivory was hugely prized by medieval people and many ivory artifacts from the Middle Ages were carved from walrus tusks. The most famous of these artifacts are the Lewis chessmen carved in Scotland in the 12th century, with marvelously expressive eyes and faces. It’s hard to overstate just how valuable ivory was at this time Every six years the Norse in Greenland paid their taxes to the Norwegian King, and a document from 1327 shows that a shipment of a single boatload of walrus tusks, hunted from about 260 walruses, was worth more than all the woolen cloth sent to the king by nearly 4,000 Icelandic farms in the same period This single boatload of tusks was equal to the cost of nearly 800 cows. The Vikings monopolized this high-value commodity right across Northern Europe The few walrus there were in Iceland had already been hunted to extinction for their tusks, but in Greenland, the Vikings came across vast herds in a place called Disko Bay, an ice fjord about 500 kilometres to the north of the Western Settlement. It seemed there were more than they could ever hunt As well as the walrus, the Vikings also hunted seal and salmon, and even the elusive narwhal, the whale with a single bony horn jutting from its head. Here again, the Vikings showed they had a flair for salesmanship. They sold the horn of the narwhal to gullible Europeans, claiming them to be the horns of unicorns. Suddenly unicorn horn became in great demand throughout medieval Europe, with the powdered horn being used to treat a variety of ailments. It was believed that unicorn horns could detect poison in food and drinks, and the horns themselves were used to make the sceptre and imperial crown of the Austrian Empire, and the unicorn throne of the Danish kings, among other artifacts across Europe. This growing economy attracted more people to Greenland and before long,

there may have been over 5,000 inhabitants spread over the fjords and valleys of Greenland’s coast. Most of these would be in the Eastern Settlement which was the closest to Europe and the better connected of the two. In the Eastern Settlement, at a place they called Garda, the Norse built an ornate Christian cathedral out of sandstone that they quarried from the Greenland Hills, probably using the skills of stonemasons brought from Norway. This Cathedral was complete with stained glass and a heavy bronze bell shipped over from Europe It must have been quite a sight when the eerie lights of the aurora borealis flickered blue green and violet over this church, streamers of charged particles thrown out from solar flares, impacting the Earth’s atmosphere 100 kilometers overhead. But just as impressive today is the remains of a barn in Gardar, itself the size of a cathedral. Its doorways are built of enormous solid stone blocks that today looked like the pillars of Stonehenge Here, the prized animals of the Greenland Vikings, perhaps as many as a hundred cows, would shelter through the bitter winters, protected from the biting wind and snow by thick walls covered in banks of earth Viking chronicles record that in spring, the Vikings would often have to carry their cows out of these sheds since the animals legs grew so weak from inaction through the long dark winter months. But despite their impressive advancements, the colonies of Greenland never became truly self-sufficient. We can see this demonstrated in the story of one Green- lander named Asmund Kastanrassi. In 1189, Kastanrassi built his own ship in Greenland which is quite an achievement considering the lack of timber, steel, and other building materials in the environment. Kastanrassi’s ship was held together with wooden pegs and lashings made of walrus sinew and amazingly, he sailed it successfully back to Iceland Although we don’t know exactly what this craft looked like, we can tell it was a strange sight by the way people reacted When he landed, the Icelanders on the shore gathered around to marvel at his strange Frankenstein’s monster of a ship returned from beyond the edge of the world. But Kastanrassi’s inventiveness could only take him so far. Somewhere on the next leg of his voyage to Norway, the tendons and wooden bolts that held the craft together gave way. The ship came apart and Kastanrassi went down with his ship somewhere in the North Sea This story gives you some sense of just how difficult life would be for the Greenlanders if their connection to Europe was somehow severed The harsh weather conditions of Greenland weren’t the only opponents that the Greenlanders faced. When the Vikings first arrived in this new land, they began to find clues that told them that they weren’t the only people to have set foot there In fact, the sagas recall how the Vikings stumbled upon the ruins of a previous inhabitation. They found their people’s habitations both to the east and the west on the land. Pieces of skin boats and worked stones from which one could tell that a people were already there whom the Greenlanders call skrælings The word skræling is the only word from the old dialect of Greenlandic Norse that has survived into modern Icelandic In the modern language it means something like barbarian, and in the Middle Ages, the Greenland Vikings used it to describe all the various tribes and peoples they encountered during their exploration of the new world. In Viking folklore, the indigenous peoples of North America are often referred to as semi-mythical creatures and less than human. In the stories, they transform into witches, pygmies, and trolls. The first people that the Norse encountered in Greenland were called the Dorset but their contact was fleeting. The Dorset were later supplanted by a people known as the Thuli, who are the ancestors of all modern Inuit peoples and were at this time spreading their influence across Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. In the vast expanse of Greenland, it took the Thuli and the Norse a long time to come into contact, but by the end of the 12th century at least, it seems they had encountered each other. One explorer

known as Thorfinn Karlsenfi, wrote down an account of these peoples. They were short in height, with threatening features and tangled hair on their heads Their eyes were large and their cheeks broad. We don’t just have the Norse side of this story. Today, tales of the arrival of the Vikings still survive in Inuit folklore and it’s fair to say that at times, relations between these two cultures were not always friendly. In the Inuit folktales, the Vikings are sometimes referred to simply as the enemy. In their stories, encounters between the Inuit and the Norse are often violent; for instance, in this ancient Inuit tale. It once happened that a kayaker from Arpat-sivik came rowing up the river, trying his new bird javelin. On approaching Kak-ortok, where the first Norseman had taken up their abode, he saw one of them gathering shells on the beach. Presently, the Norseman called out to him; let’s see whether you can hit me with your lance The kayaker would not, but the other kept shouting at him to throw. At last, however, the kayaker lost patience. He threw his spear and killed the Norseman on the spot. When winter came, all feared that the Norsemen would come and avenge the death of their countryman. In this piece of folklore, this one act of violence begins a cycle of revenge that leads to a war between the Inuit and the Norsemen Norse accounts also seemed to indicate that battles between the two cultures did take place. Other Inuit stories cast the Norsemen as mysterious and slightly ridiculous creatures, ill- suited to the harsh environment but who nevertheless have power over strange magic. A kayaker one day went to the bay of Iminguit to catch fish. He found there a tent belonging to some Norsemen and heard them joking and talking inside He was curious and he thought he might play a joke on the Norsemen, so he left his kayak, went up to the place, and began to strike on the sides of the tent Inside they fell quiet, and so he struck harder on the tent. Then he took a peep inside and a lot of them shrieked with fear. There were four fathers and their children, and they fled in fear across the ice. But the ice was thin and broke through with them, so that all were drowned. He said that some nights they can still be seen through the ice and when they are visible, it is an omen that someone will soon die. By the 14th century, the Thuli peoples had moved south towards the settled areas of the Vikings At some sites, they even occupied the same fjords, although at different sides of the water. It’s worth pointing out that the images of friendly Eskimos you may have seen in children’s books shouldn’t fool you into thinking that the Inuit were a meek or pacifist people Although they were not a particularly warlike society, they were more than capable of defending themselves when challenged, and they frequently defended their southern borderlands against other Native American tribes like the Cree Their warriors wore armor made of hardened walrus hide and sinew, and they carried bone harpoons and knives with stone blades. Their bows were particularly powerful weapons, as the Inuit enhanced their tensile strength by coiling them with dried sinew. This all meant they could be a serious threat to the Norse settlements. In 1379 for instance, Viking chronicles record that the Thuli attacked the Eastern Settlement, killing 18 men, and capturing two boys and a woman. This isn’t to say that contact between these two cultures was always violent. In fact, it seems a rich tradition of trade went on between them. Items such as comb fragments, pieces of iron, cooking utensils, and chisels, chess pieces, ship rivets, carpenters planes, and oaken ship fragments have been found in several Inuit sites far beyond the traditional range of Norse colonization. A small ivory statue that appears to represent a European has also been found among the ruins of one Inuit house, and it’s clear that there was more than just goods being exchanged. Today, we can trace some words in modern Inuit languages back to their Viking origins, borrowed nearly a thousand years ago from their Norse neighbors. But while there were periods of peace between these two cultures, they were often at odds, and the Vikings’

inability to make a lasting peace with their new neighbors would certainly not help matters when their luck took a turn for the worse The Vikings’ difficulty in making friends in the new world would extend beyond Greenland, too. This can be seen more than anything when they made their famous voyages over to the mainland of North America, five centuries before Christopher Columbus was born. The Icelandic sagas vary on their accounts of who was the first Norseman to discover America, but many believe that the most plausible account gives the honour to a man called Leif Erikson. In Norse naming conventions, the name Erikson means literally that he was the son of Erik, and the Erik in question was the one we’ve already spent some time with, Erik the Red Born the son of this high chief of greenland, Leif Erikson shared some of his father’s adventurous spirit, and a little of his appetite for trouble. In the year 999, Leif travelled back to Norway as a young man in his 20s and he swore to serve under the Norwegian King Olaf the first. Olaf was the first Norwegian king to convert to Christianity and to turn his back on the old gods of his ancestors Thor, and Odin, and Loki. While serving under King Olaf, the young Leif also converted to Christianity and soon the new king had a mission for him; he was to return to his home of Greenland and convert the people there to Christianity, too So, Leif was soon back on the sea, but whether by divine intervention or by the fickle nature of fate, Leif was blown off-course like so many Vikings before him. After many weeks of sailing through open ocean, he landed on the coast of a strange land he had never seen before Wild grapes were growing here, fields of wild wheat, and even butter nuts that he and his men gathered for food. They also found two shipwrecked Norsemen who had been blown off course like them. They rescued the men and took them on board, and if Leif’s story is to be believed, these shipwrecked sailors were actually the first Europeans to ever discover America, and we will never know their names. When he returned to Greenland, Leif was determined to put together an expedition to explore this new land. He gathered as many men as he could and got back on the sea as soon as possible They crossed the choppy waters and soon landed in a desolate and rocky place that he called Helluland, or the land of flat rocks. From there they sailed south to a place he called Markland, or forest land, and finally they returned to the land that he called Vinland after the grapevines that he once again found growing there. Here there was a mild climate and bountiful supplies of salmon This was most likely the coast of what we today would call Canada, where you can still find this particular species of frost grape growing wild. Leif and his men spent the winter on the North American coast in a small settlement they called Leafsbudir. When spring came, they sailed back to Greenland with a cargo of timber and grapes. Leif’s journey and the stories he brought back would encourage other Norsemen to make the same journey. Not to be outdone, Leif’s brother Thorvald, named after his hot-blooded grandfather, made the journey in the year 1004, but he was to have far worse luck than his brother. At first, the journey seemed to be going well Thorvald landed at Leif’s abandoned camp and spent the winter there without incident. But in the spring, they sailed south and came across a strange sight on one of the beaches. They saw nine people sleeping under three skin-covered canoes. They were indigenous Americans, or what the Norsemen would have called skrælings. Thorvald attacked these sleeping men and killed eight of them, but among them, one managed to get away and flee through the forests that fringed the beach The Norsemen celebrated their victory and set up camp, but their celebration wasn’t to last long. Soon, they heard the noise of an approaching force and shouting voices coming through the trees They realized too late that the man who had escaped had come back, and this time

with reinforcements. Arrows began whizzing out of the forest, and the Norsemen fled back to their boats in disarray, hastily throwing up a barricade while they prepared to set sail. During the flight, Thorvald was struck by an arrow and it pinned him to the wooden hull of his ship. As he died, he is supposed to have shouted out a final bellowing proclamation. what a fat joke; we found a land of fine resources but we will hardly enjoy any of them. The group retreated back along the coast and without a leader, they fell to in- fighting and bickering. They only just managed to make it back to Greenland alive. We may never know how things might have gone had history been just a little different, but it’s possible that this fierce reaction by the indigenous inhabitants of Vinland may have prevented the colonization of America for another 500 years Partly because of their unwillingness to coexist with native peoples, the Vikings were never able to establish a permanent settlement in North America. The Norse- men did set up a number of temporary camps in Canada; often places where they would spend the winter before abandoning them and returning to Greenland. Today, only one confirmed Norse site has been discovered in North America, at a place called L’anse aux Meadows, or the Bay of Meadows in Newfoundland, Canada. In 1960, a man called George Decker who lived in a small fishing village nearby, led archaeologists to what he called the old Indian camp. But when the archaeologists began to excavate, they realized that these ruined buildings didn’t match the profile of any Native American building methods. In fact, the only thing they resembled were the Viking buildings in Iceland and Greenland; rough stone walls covered over with turf to keep in the warm. Eight buildings were discovered in total, which could have held up to 150 people, and Viking artifacts were uncovered at the site, too; a stone oil lamp, a whetstone, a bronze fastening pin, a bone knitting needle, and part of a spindle. But it seems that this too was a temporary settlement. There were no findings of burials here, or tools, agriculture, or animal pens, but archaeologists did find a carpentry workshop and an iron forge, suggesting that L’anse aux Meadows was used as a way station to repair boats damaged on the violent seas. Partly helped by repair stations like this, the Vikings made routine voyages to North America to collect wood to build their ships, and probably to collect the furs of foxes, bears, and lynx, too. But Greenlanders simply never had the resources to establish a permanent settlement in America. Their links back to Europe were just too fragile to support anything other than a temporary base and for a number of reasons, these links were about to weaken. In fact, events would soon occur that would threaten the very survival of the Green- land settlements themselves Greenland’s Western Settlement, the more remote of the two and the furthest from Europe, was the first to fall Strangely, nobody at the time seems to have known what happened. The last person to set eyes on the Western Settlement was a man named Ivar Bardason, who sailed to Greenland in the year 1341. For more than a decade, no one had heard any news from the Western Settlement. For centuries, it had sent taxes to the Norwegian king and although these shipments were often many years apart, they had never failed to pay what they owed to their distant homeland. But the last payment to arrive from the Western Settlement had been in the year 1327 That’s fourteen years earlier. Ivar Bardason was given one task; to make the terrifying voyage across the North Atlantic, to find the Western Settlement, and to demand to know why their taxes were so late. It was a long and dangerous voyage through icy waters. We can imagine the eerie lights of the aurora borealis flickering far overhead as Bardason made the journey, but he survived the trip. He arrived in the Eastern Settlement in Greenland and began asking

around, seeing if anyone knew what had happened in the West. But no one could tell him anything. There, too, no one had heard anything from the Western Settlement for years. So, Bardason set out on the next leg of his voyage with a growing sense of foreboding When he finally arrived at the Western Settlement he saw why; the entire place was in ruins I saw nobody, neither Christians nor heathen, only some wild cattle and sheep all running free. Bardason explored the ruined settlement but he could find no sign of the settlers, and he couldn’t find any clue about where they might have gone. Since the domestic animals were still there, wandering free among the crumbling buildings, it can’t have been long since they left. The animals wouldn’t have survived long without shelter. Bardason wandered around the surrounding area and found four more farms in similar condition. He and the men with him knew that the farm animals wouldn’t survive the winter, so they slaughtered them and took as much meat as they could carry back to their ships Bardason felt sure that he knew what had happened. He reported back to Norway that the Greenland settlers had been killed by skrælings, by the indigenous people of Greenland. But to the end of his life, he must have wondered why were there no signs of bloodshed at the Western Settlement? Why no signs of battle or the burning of buildings? If the skrælings had done this, then what had they done with the bodies? As we’ve already seen in a number of different collapses over the course of this series, for much of history humankind has been at the mercy of the global climate. Even small variations in weather systems can have utterly devastating consequences for human societies, and those that are already pushing the boundaries of habitability are particularly vulnerable The first Norseman to discover Greenland did so during a time that we know today as the Medieval Warm Period. This began around the Year 900 and lasted for about four centuries, ending around the year 1300. During this period of warmth, sea ice decreased in the North Atlantic, so sailing from Scandinavia to Greenland became less dangerous. The longer summers meant that cattle, sheep, and goats could graze in the meadows along Greenland’s sheltered fjords on the southwest coast, and the growing seasons allowed European crops to be cultivated in this northern land. This relatively mild climate meant that in the early days of their settlement, the Vikings were able to more or less transplant their medieval European lifestyle to this new land. During the summer, some might even have been able to imagine that they were back home in the quiet fjords of Norway, but this warm period wouldn’t last forever Soon, the Norsemen of Greenland would realize that they were actually very far from home. The Medieval Warm Period was followed by a period that today we call the Little Ice Age. This describes a period that began in the late 13th century, when summer temperatures around the world underwent a dramatic drop There are many theories about what caused this dramatic climate shift. Some scientists have suggested astronomical causes, including a fall in solar radiation or even changes in the earth’s tilt and orbit. Others have pointed to a heightened volcanic activity around the world, including the eruption of the Indonesian island of Lombok in 1257, one of the most powerful eruptions of the last seven thousand years, that reduced the penetration of sunlight all around the world. Others have even suggested that the drop in temperature resulted from the reduction in the overall human population caused by the Black Death, which caused the death of as many as 200 million people across Eurasia, reducing the population by as much as 60%. Whatever the cause, an icy veil began to descend over the whole world. Radiocarbon dating of plant material in Iceland shows that summers began to get abruptly colder between 1275 and 1300, and sea ice expanded. This was followed by yet another dramatic drop from 1430 to 1455. The lowest winter temperatures of the last 2,000 years

occurred right around this time, during the 14th and 15th centuries. In London, people would soon skate on the River Thames and hold frost fairs out on the ice while in Rotterdam, people would skate on the city’s Grand Canal. Painters like Pieter Brueghel the Elder would depict winter scenes of enormous scale, while crop failures and epidemics led to a dramatic increase in a number of executions for witchcraft across Europe Through all of this chaos, the Greenland settlers were all but forgotten. But for them, the results of this changing climate would be the most devastating of all The Greenland Norse settlements were already built on the edge of the Earth’s habitable zone. Only 300 kilometers to the north lay the Arctic Circle, beyond which the sun didn’t show in winter Just over the hills to the north of the Viking settlements, the vast expanse of the Greenland ice sheet stretched. In Greenland, temperatures would now plummet to as much as six to eight degrees lower than summer temperatures today. Soon, sea ice would choke up the fjords and prevent ships from landing. The ice would crush the ship’s hulls in a vice-like grip and freeze the ground to stone so that nothing would grow. The number of storms coming in from the sea also increased dramatically during this time Studies of ice cores show that around this time, the Greenland ice contained a greater amount of salt, since the harsh ocean winds were blowing sea mist across it with greatest strength and ferocity As the weather got worse, the Greenland Vikings had a simple choice; they could continue living their essentially European lives, the lives of growing crops and grazing livestock, or they could adapt. They could learn from their Inuit neighbors and change their lifestyles to that of subsistence hunter-gatherers, relying on hunting and fishing instead. For a long time, historians have assumed that the Greenland Norse didn’t adapt when the harsh winters arrived. It was thought that they must have stuck to their crops and livestock, and when these died, so did they. One archeologist, Thomas McGovern, has summarized this theory in blunt terms. Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment, and then they all die when it gets cold. To some extent, it’s true that the Vikings clung to their European culture even when conditions worsened. Archeologists have recovered clothing left behind by the Greenland Norse, perfectly preserved in the ice Some even have the brilliant red dyes still on their fabrics, as bright today as the day their owners left them From these clothes, we can see that well into the 15th century, the Greenland Vikings still wore woollen clothing and even kept up with the latest European fashions; hooded clothing with long capes Meanwhile, their Inuit neighbors knew that seal skins and furs provided the best protection against the cold The Norse also seemed to have clung largely to their European eating habits They never copied the Inuit in learning to cut holes in the ice and fish the waters underneath. They never carved fish hooks out of bone the way the Inuit did, and some writers like Jared Diamond have seized on a lack of fish bones found in the settlements of the Norse. They argue that this shows a cultural aversion to eating fish, that the the Norse thought themselves simply too good for this lowly food. But I think the numerous references to salmon that we find in Icelandic sagas seems to refute this, and it’s worth remembering the fish bones are very delicate and fragile. In the harsh environment of Greenland, they may be simply more prone to breaking down or being blown away. Still, we can see some stubbornness in the Vikings’ refusal to adopt the ways of the Inuit entirely After all, they were Norsemen and if they began wearing seal skins and carving boned fish hooks, what would that make them? To the Vikings of the time, perhaps this was considered behavior suited only to the skrælings Perhaps to them, adopting these methods of survival would have looked something like a cultural suicide Some commentators have also focused on the damage that they claim the Norse did to their environment. They observed that the Vikings imported farming methods that were successful in Europe but were less well-suited to the thin soils and

short grazing seasons of Greenland. Over the centuries, the Norse also cut down the low trees and vegetation that grew in the Greenland landscape, partly to create pastures for their farm animals While the Inuit burned seal blubber to heat and light their homes, the Norse continued to burn wood in their stoves and hearths just as they would have in Europe. This deforestation gradually exposed the land to the brutal icy winds, and soon the topsoil was blown away, and covered in sand and ice. In one settlement known as Vatnahverfi, the ruin of one Norse house has been found completely buried in sand dunes up to ten feet deep, and surrounded by barren plains that were once fertile farmland. So, some of the collapse can be attributed to these factors, that the Greenlanders didn’t sufficiently adapt and that they caused some damage to the environment. But new evidence has shown but this might not be a complete picture. New excavations of Norse settlements have shown that around this time, the Norse did undergo a dramatic shift in their diet. Like the Inuit, they began to hunt seals, and the amount of seal bones found in the rubbish heaps of their settlements increases dramatically around this time Bone analysis shows that food from the sea would increase as a proportion of the Norse diet until it made up about 80% in the final days of the settlements Far from committing the irresponsible environmental damage, it seems the Norse were careful to manage their scarce resources. For instance, they show that efforts to fertilize the harsh soil actually increased during the Little Ice Age, and another example is how the Norse conducted their seal hunting There are two kinds of seals that live in the fjords of Greenland; the first is the harbour seal, and today this species is critically endangered. It’s not hard to see why. Harbour seals are so called because they raise their young on the beaches, making them easy prey for hunters. But despite their desperation, the Greenland Norse seemed to have limited their hunting of this species, being careful not to drive them to extinction. Instead, they went after the more abundant but more difficult-to- catch harp seal, which migrates every year up the west coast of Greenland on their way from Canada. But despite their efforts to adapt, studies on human remains found in the Norse settlements show that the population began to become severely malnourished around this time Skeletons buried in the late period of the settlements are stunted in growth and the teeth are worn down from eating poor quality food. But in all of this, perhaps the Greenland Norse might still have survived. Despite all these pressures, it’s worth noting that these settlements continued for over a century, even after the climate of the Little Ice Age reached its coldest point. Part of this reason is that their connection to Europe allowed them to continue getting supplies and food to the hardy settlers. Perhaps if this connection had remained, the Greenland settlements might not have fallen. But for a number of reasons, as the 14th century drew on, that connection was going to be put under increasing strain In the year 1349, a ship arrived in Norway from England and docked at the port town of Bergen. This ship would cause the death of as many as half of the people of Norway. That’s because like all ships at the time, it carried black rats that fed on its grain cargo. The rats carried fleas that fed on the rat’s blood, and the fleas carried the bacterium Yersinia pestis, known commonly as the bubonic plague or Black Death Days after the ships arrival in Bergen, familiar symptoms exploded among the population. People’s skin turned black, they coughed blood, and their lymph nodes swelled to enormous size. From Bergen, the plague spread rapidly along the coast and over land, ravaging Norway for approximately six months. The annals say that roughly two-thirds of Norway’s population died, and while this may be an exaggeration, mortality may have reached as much as 40 or 50 percent. Able-bodied men were now dying in Norway’s streets

Every major industry, including those involved in shipbuilding and maintenance, would have suffered while some may have collapsed completely. While there’s no evidence that the Black Death ever crossed the sea to Greenland, this epidemic would still be utterly devastating for the Greenland Vikings Bergen was the port from which all voyages to Iceland and Greenland would have departed. As Norway reeled from the disaster and tried to pick up the pieces, it seems supply missions to the distant outpost slowed to a trickle The last Bishop of Greenland died around the year 1378, and no new Bishop was ever sent from Norway to replace him. Matters would only get worse In the year 1393, a band of German pirates known as the victual brothers attacked the city of Bergen. They raided the port, pillaged and looted the town, killed the garrison, and finally burnt it to the ground. The link from Greenland to mainland Europe was now all but severed Imports of grain from Norway to Greenland virtually stopped, and this happened right as the cold weather swept in on the Greenlanders, and their crops and cattle began to die. They became increasingly short on iron, too. We can see this from the lack of any nails or iron objects in the top layer of their habitation. The Greenlanders now had to constantly reuse the same iron tools, and archaeologists have found the tragic artifacts of knives worn down almost to stubs by use, but still too precious for the Greenlanders to throw away. With food dwindling, the Norse in Greenland would have had little choice. They would now have to hunt even more seals and walrus in order to feed themselves To make this possible, they couldn’t spare a single man. Now, every able-bodied hunter in the settlements would have to sail farther and farther up the Greenland coasts, sometimes traveling as much as 1,500 kilometers on their hunts, often rowing large portions of the journey when the weather was too bad to sail. Their ships in this era might have begun to resemble something closer to Kastan- rassi’s Frankenstein’s monster of a craft, rather than the sleek longboats sent from Norway. Virtually all the men of these settlements would have left on these long trips. As the climate worsened, the ice spread, and storms on the sea increased, it’s not hard to imagine what could go wrong. For a historical parallel, we might look at another set of islands in the North Sea; the Shetlands to the north of Scotland On the 16th of July, 1832, a freak storm hit the Shetland Islands completely by surprise. On that day, the whole fishing fleet of the islands was out at sea. 16 boats were sunk and over a hundred men were killed. In some of these small Shetland communities, this meant that over 80% of the male population was wiped out in a single day. Many of these communities never recovered, and as the Greenland Vikings were driven ever further from their homes seeking food, it’s not hard to imagine something like this catastrophe swooping down on them After that, the death of these communities would have been assured The 15th century marked the end of the Norse presence in Greenland. The last written record of the Greenland Vikings documents a marriage in the year 1408 at Hvalsey Church, part of the surviving Eastern Settlement. This took place around 70 years after Ivar Bardason dis- covered the ruins of the Western Settlement The ruins of Hvalsey Church can still be seen today, a rough construction of granite field stones crumbling into the grassy banks of the fjord. It almost looks like part of the landscape. Hvalsey Church is the best preserved Norse building in Greenland, and today when you walk through the ruins, you can almost imagine the atmosphere of that day in 1408, the wedding of Thorstein Olafsson and Sigrid Bjornsdottir. As the fires burned and the seal meat crackled in celebration, Thorstein and Sigrid would soon leave Greenland, back to Thor- tein’s native Iceland. After this, barely any written records mention the Greenland settlers. By the year 1435, less than three decades later, archaeological

evidence suggests that all of the Greenland Vikings had disappeared It’s as if they simply vanished from the earth. At least some of this decline seems to have been economic. Evidence suggests that walrus ivory, the most valuable export from Greenland, simply began to lose its value towards the end of the Norse period. This was the beginning of the age of European empire, and around this time, Portugal and other Mediterranean countries were beginning to open up their trade routes with sub-saharan Africa This meant that high-quality elephant ivory began to enter the European market Elephant tusks yield an ivory of higher quality and size than the walrus hunted by the Norse, and so with the climate worsening, with the cold winters falling on them harder and harder, some of the Greenland Vikings may simply have drifted back to Iceland or Norway and never seen any point in returning. As with any tale of economic downturn, this certainly seems to have been the case with the younger generations. In the later stages of Norse settlement, most of the human remains found are of older people. All of the youngsters seem to have left for somewhere else. But this emigration doesn’t seem to have happened en masse There’s no mention in the Icelandic Chronicles of any kind of exodus or evacuation from Greenland, and if thousands of people had started arriving on Iceland’s shores looking for food and farmland, wouldn’t there be some mention of this in the histories? At other sites around Greenland, the situation looks to have been pretty bleak. Studies have shown that the remains of blowflies have been found in the living areas of some Norse ruins, suggesting that at some point the bedrooms and living areas were home to rotting carcasses, and of course, that no one was around to bury the dead The silted-up ruins of one Norse farmhouse tells another chilling story Here, archaeologists have found the remains of two animals; one a newborn calf and the other a Norwegian elk hound, a large hunting dog. Both sets of bones were covered in knife marks, meaning that these animals had been butchered and eaten. It’s fair to say that no family would have killed and eaten this dog unless they were on the edge of starvation. Hunting dogs were useful; they helped the Vikings to catch animals like caribou in the spring, and so they were vital to survival on the settlements We can imagine that the Norse were probably no more inclined to kill their four-legged companions than we might be today, but at this point they may have had little choice. Remains also show that the Vikings around this time began eating the hooves of cows and hunting small animals like birds and rabbits, that up until that point they wouldn’t have considered worth hunting. So, this is the most pessimistic theory. But as the climate worsened and ships from Europe stopped coming, all the Greenland Vikings who remained simply starved and froze to death in their homes. But there’s one final theory that I think is worth mentioning, and this theory changes the outcome of this story completely. Could it be that the Greenland Vikings didn’t simply freeze and starve as we might have thought? In fact, might they have left for somewhere else? In 1723, a Norwegian explorer named Hans Egede visited Greenland with the intention of finding the Norsemen who he believed still lived there. Like Bardason before him, he was disappointed to find only rubble and ruins left behind. But while he was there, he spent time among the Inuit people of Greenland and tried to see if they knew anything about what had happened to the Vikings who once lived here The Inuit had no clear answers for him, but they showed him the ruins of a stone church where once the Greenland settlers had worshiped. I inquired of the savages whether they had destroyed the stone building, but they replied that the Norwegians did it when they left this country. But if they left this country, where did they go to? It’s true that at some settlements, it seems the Norse did depart in an orderly and planned fashion They took all their valuables with them

and in some places even closed the doors behind them. But where did they go? Why did no one back in Europe know what had happened to them? Why did Hans Egede think he might find Norsemen still living there? Could it be that when the climate became impossible in Greenland, the Vikings did what they had always done? That’s set sail and find a new land to call home The land that the Vikings called Vinland and we today call Canada, was unknown territory for the Norse. But it’s worth remembering that it was a much shorter journey than the voyage back to Norway or Iceland. With Arctic ice floes and the activity of pirates worsening, this might have been a major factor in their decision. For a race of settlers and explorers, they might have found the distant shore a more tempting prospect than struggling to survive in the already well-settled land that their ancestors had left behind. Some corroboration for this theory comes from the annals of the Bishop Oddsson, writing in the 17th century. He tells a remarkable story about where the Greenland Vikings might have gone. The settlers of Greenland lapsed of their own free will from the true faith and the Christian religion. Having abandoned all good conduct and true virtues, they turned to the people of America There is some more evidence that at least some of the Greenland Vikings may have actually departed for America. At around the period of the decline of the Greenland settlements, in the year 1347, the Icelandic Chronicles mention a curious incident. A ship arrived on the shore of Iceland after apparently being blown off-course, and the crew claimed that their destination had been Vinland Some have argued that this could have been one of a number of ships full of Norse immigrants trying to start a new life on the coast of North America once life in Greenland had become impossible What happened to these settlers? If they existed, we may never know. Did they meet a violent end like Thorvald Ericksson, under a hail of native arrows? Or did they learn the lessons of their ancestors? Did they learn to adapt to their new environment, to make friends with the people who already lived in that land? Did they take up their ways and customs and embrace their new adopted country? Until any archaeological evidence is uncovered to support this theory, it will remain just a theory. But I’d like to remind you of the story that we opened the episode with, of that Norseman lying face-down in the snow, dressed in the seal skins of an Inuit. Does this show that some of these Vikings actually did take that final step and blend in with the people of the new world? Did they learn their language and adopt their customs? While I’m suspicious of this story as a historian, as a storyteller I do like to imagine that this is a possibility, that at least some of the Vikings of Greenland may have swallowed their European pride and put on the seal skins that would keep them warm through the increasingly darkening winters. I like to imagine that they once again set sail for a new horizon and lost themselves somewhere on the shores of a new world I want to end the episode by reading a piece of ancient Norse poetry called the Voluspa. It comes from the era before the introduction of Christianity to Norway, when the Vikings worshiped the old gods of ancient times. It tells the story of how the world was created and how it will soon come to an end. This passage tells of the coming end of the world, an event known as Ragnarok. As you listen, try to imagine what it must have felt like to live right at the end of the known world, surrounded by the dark and wild oceans on every side. Imagine how it must have felt to have your contact with the rest of the world slowly fade and then die altogether, how it must have felt to feel all alone on that narrow strip of land between the blue-white glacial walls and the roaring Black Sea as the Northern Lights flicker in the sky overhead and all around you, the ruins of your houses and fields, your farms and your churches, crumble unstoppably into the earth Black become the sun’s beams in the summers that follow, weathers

all treacherous. Brothers will find and kill each other, sisters’ children will defile kinship It is harsh in the world, infidelity rife, an axe age, a sword age Shields are riven. A wind age, a wolf age, before the world goes headlong. No man will have mercy on another Thank you once again for listening to The Fall of Civilizations Podcast. I’d like to thank my voice actors for this episode; Jacob Rowlinson, Jake Barrett-Mills, and Sebastian Garbacz. Special thanks go to Jordan Ashley Moore for letting us hear these poems in their original Old Norse. Do check out his YouTube channel Ancient Literature Dude for more readings from ancient and medieval languages. I love to hear your thoughts and responses on Twitter, so please come and tell me what you thought. You can follow me @PaulMMCooper, and if you’d like updates about the podcast, announcements about new episodes, as well as images, maps, and reading suggestions, you can follow the podcast @Fall_of_ Civ_Pod with underscores separating the words. This podcast can only keep going with the support of our generous subscribers on Patreon. You keep me running, you help me cover my costs, and you also let me dedicate more time to researching, writing, recording, and editing to get the episodes out to you faster and bring as much life and detail to them as possible. I want to thank all my subscribers for making this happen. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider heading to patreon.com/fallof civilizations_podcast If you can spare anything, please help keep this podcast running For now, goodbye, and thanks for listening