was a man named Helge, son of Olav, who was a great adventurer. Helge
journeyed to Vinland to study the Skraelings and to follow in the
footsteps of the old warriors. He took as his wife a woman named Anne.
Together they made many discoveries and told many stories that brought
great honour to his people. In time Helge became a great man and died
at a very old age.
The life of Helge Ingstad, who died yesterday in Norway at the age
of 101, was very much in the manner of the Norse Sagas he helped to
popularize. He was a lawyer, a Governor, an author and an archeologist
who rewrote history by proving that Norse explorers landed in Newfoundland
500 years before Columbus. And his accomplishments should be considered
as important to Canadians as they are to Norwegians.
While Vikings have enjoyed something of a public relations revival
of late, their reputation a generation or two ago was quite different
-- that of horn-hatted madmen running berserk through coastal villages.
In large part, this was because the historical record of their time
consisted mainly of the writings of monks, the Vikings' frequent victims.
In the case of the Norse, history was written by the losers not the
And so the great many achievements of the Norse in the areas of science,
politics and exploration were largely ignored. In particular the Vinland
Sagas, which detailed trips by Leif Ericsson and others to Vinland
(North America) were dismissed by many academics as fantasies. Mr.
Ingstad set out to find evidence of the Vinland tales and in the 1960s,
with the help of his wife Anne Stine, he found the remains of three
sod huts and various Viking artifacts at L'Anse aux Meadow in Newfoundland,
now considered a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. The approximate
date of the settlement was 1000 AD, long before Continental Europeans
had the notion or ability to travel across the Atlantic. The rehabilitation
of the Vikings had begun.
Canadians should be particularly thankful for the contributions of
Mr. Ingstad. History is becoming a popular topic in this country,
and if we consider the voyages of Jacques Cartier and his contemporaries
to be important to understanding who we are, then surely Leif Ericsson
deserves equal consideration. Mr. Ingstad's work has also inspired
artists to fill in the details of early Canada that archeology cannot
provide, such as Joan Clark's excellent 1995 novel Eiriksdottir. In
revealing to the world the true accomplishments of the old Norse explorers,
Mr. Ingstad revealed something important to Canadians, as well.
reader link from from the National Post)