Answer two of the three questions below in the form of an essay, approximately 1,000-1,250 words in length. It should contain a thesis statement in the first paragraph; it should develop the argument by introducing and analyzing evidence taken from the text; and it should wrap up your thoughts in a conclusion.
Your essays should be based on the Kunz edition of the Vinland Sagas, and no other sources.
Also, you’ll see that there is a lot of overlap between the three questions—they differ mainly in their points of emphasis. If you would like to develop your own question (for instance, one that combines aspects of the three questions below), feel free to do so—just run it by me first and be sure to state the question clearly at the beginning of the essay.
Finally, in the past I’ve noticed that some students were unaware that Vinland was in present-day Canada–their papers spoke of Vinland as if it were a blessed and mysterious isle, like Shangri-La. It was not. As always, be sure to place the text and the Viking voyages in their specific historical and geographical context–use the maps at the end of the book–they are very useful.
1. What are the most important similarities and discrepancies between the two sagas? Focus on the people (their names can be confusing—best to make a list), families/lineages, and religion. What accounts for the discrepancies?
2. How would you characterize Norse economy, society, culture, and political institutions in Iceland, Greenland, Norway, and Vinland (keep in mind that there may be discrepancies between the two texts)? Does your answer help explain what motivated the Norse to explore and settle the North Atlantic?
3. Why was Vinland abandoned? In answering this, be sure to consider multiple causes because there is no single reason. Nevertheless, a complete answer must factor in the role of the indigenous peoples of Vinland as well as the nature of Norse society.