The Greenlanders

Category: Genre Fiction
Author: Jane Smiley
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by fsiefken   2017-08-19
For a novel set in Norse 14th century Greenland read: "The Greenlanders", it was written in the style of epic sagas.

"Once, in very early winter, when Margret was in the hills above Vatna Hverfi laying partridge snares, a man came upon her suddenly, and gave her a fright. He was wearing a shirt and hood of very thick sheepskin that fell forward over his face, so that she didn't know him, and when he stepped out from a willow cleft, where he had been doing something, she jumped back and gave a cry. As she stepped back, her foot rolled with a loose stone, so that she would have fallen, except that the man caught her elbow and held her up.

There was a man at this time living above Vatna Hverfi district, who had committed the crime of killing his cousin over a horse fight, and had been outlawed for three years by the Thing, although in Greenland outlaws were allowed to live at the fringes of the settlement, sometimes among the skraelings and sometimes not, since there was no going abroad as there had been in the old days. This man was named Thorir the Black-browed, and so, when Margret regained her balance, she said, “Thank you, Thorir Sigmundsson,” and backed away from him, for it was not known how he had been enduring his time of outlawry. Nonetheless, although she was afraid, she took three fat ptarmigan from her pouch and laid them side by side on a flat rock at her feet, saying, “You would do me a great favor by accepting these poor birds, Thorir Sigmundsson." Then she backed away, slowly, not taking her eyes off the outlaw and feeling her way with her feet. The man neither looked at her, nor picked up the birds, and after a while she was out of his sight and she ran the rest of the way to Gunnars Stead. The next evening, when she came into the farmhouse from the dairy, the three birds, all neatly plucked, were lying on the bench beside the fire. Margret went at once to the door and surveyed the homefield for signs of the outlawed man, for there were many reasons why such visits were not a little to be feared, and the fact tthat they were contrary to the law was not the least of these. Vigdis, the wife of Erlend , for one, would be glad of something new to bring against the Gunnars Stead folk. Aside from this, an outlawed man living above Isafjord had gained entrance to an isolated farmstead and stolen a great deal of food from both the kitchen and the storehouse, althouh the tale that he had killed a member of the family had turned out to be false. But there were no signs of anyone except Olaf and Skuli, who were standing near the cowbyre. Margret took the birds outside around the house and buried them in the midden with a spade."