The only record of the voy­age

There’s just one source for this saga


The Groen­lendinga saga (or the Saga of the Green­lan­ders) comes down to us in a sin­gle man­u­script writ­ten in the late 14th cen­tury called the Flatey­jar­bók. A fire, flood or the nib­bling of rats might have de­prived us of one of the only writ­ten sources that de­scribes the Norse ex­plo­ration of North Amer­ica. Most ex­perts place the com­po­si­tion of the saga in the 12th or 13th cen­tury, at least a cen­tury af­ter the events de­scribed, but much of it has proved his­tor­i­cally re­li­able, if lib­er­ally sprin­kled with fab­u­lous in­ven­tions.

The Flatey­jar­bók was writ­ten for Jón Hákonar­son, a wealthy farmer in Ice­land with an in­ter­est in lit­er­a­ture. Thanks to an in­tro­duc­tion, we know that it was writ­ten by two priests – Jón Þórðar­son and Mag­nús Þórhalls­son – which may ex­plain the favourable de­pic­tion of Chris­tian­ity in the text.

Made from 225 fine vel­lum leaves, the writ­ing in the Flatey­jar­bók con­tains many sagas of the kings of Nor­way and po­ems. Some of these are found else­where, but the Groen­lendinga saga is found nowhere else but the Flatey­jar­bók.

The man­u­script re­mained on the is­land of Flatey for cen­turies. In 1651, King Fred­er­ick III of Den­mark sent out a re­quest for all old manuscripts in his king­dom to be added to the royal li­brary. The

Flatey­jar­bók left its home and would not be re­turned to Ice­land un­til 1971, where it is now con­sid­ered to be one of the na­tional trea­sures of the coun­try.

The Flatey­jar­bók is the only source for the Groen­lendinga saga and other valu­able in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the Norse in North Amer­ica

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