Alternate History

Fish-Eating Norse

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Fish-Eating Norse
Events and Background
New World
Old World


In OTL, the worldwide Norse conversion to Christianity followed the Norse colonists to Greenland by sixteen years, resulting in the conversion of the colony in about 1000 CE. Clinging to their identity as European Christians, and their lifeline to Europe, contributed significantly to the failure of the colony. Also, Eiríkur Rauði (Erik the Red, hereafter Eirikur) and his colonists apparently had some irrational phobia of fish-eating, which also contributed to the failure of the colony.

In this timeline, Erikur and his chief warriors instead have an irrational hatred of Christianity and no fear of eating fish. As a result, they reject royal orders and eventually cut off their ties to Europe. This makes them more willing to adopt the behavioral changes necessary to survive in the New World and re-locate to the mainland.


All dates are in Christian calendar for comprehensibility.

  • 982 Erikur first explores Greenland.
  • 984 Erikur returns with a fleet of colonists. They settle the Eastern Settlement including Gardar Farm.
  • 986 Norse settle the Western Settlement to provide convenient hunting for walrus tusk for export.
  • 996 News reaches Greenland of the conversion to Christianity of Norway by Olaf I. Erikur vows to uphold and defend the worship of Odin. Erikur sends messengers to Iceland denegrating the "new religion" of "soft, evil southerners."
  • 1001 A wave of Norse refugees arrives in Greenland with news of the conversion of Iceland, Shetland, the Faroe Islands, and the Orkneys. These refugees bring with them needed iron, labor, and also disease. In ATL, though, the plague brought by the Norse refugees is milder than in OTL and Erikur does not die. The population of Greenland is now about 4500.
  • 1005 With the colony recovered and a bit overcrowded, Erikur organizes a war party to repossess the Faroe Islands from the Christians. Taken by surprise, the Faroe Norse capitulate quickly. The Norse then land in Iceland and fuel a religious civil war.
  • 1006 Norwegian ships arrive in the Faroes and drive out the pagan Norse, and then head for Iceland to reenforce the Christians. Erikur survives but more than half of the Greenlander's ships are destroyed. The now universally Christian Skandanavians officially cut off all trade with the pagan Greenlanders.
  • 1008 A group of Greenlanders wanting to convert to Christianity (in order to bring back trade with Norway) rebel against Erikur's leadership. Erikur is killed but the rebels are defeated by his son, Leif. The rebels steal a ship to flee to Iceland. This leaves the colony with only two ships, both aging and in need of repair.
  • 1009 Leif leads a major expedition to the Labrador coast of North America for lumber. Finding both lumber and bog iron there, Leif establishes a permanent settlement named Markland and starts shipping both resources back to Greenland. The settlers have several clashes with the Dorset people there, which are quite one-sided.
  • 1012 The Dorset people of Markland are pretty much wiped out but the Norse, both with axes and with the spread of disease. These diseases (measles and the weaker form of smallpox) travel south and west, gradually infecting various Indian tribes.
  • 1016 The increasingly marginal Western Settlement is abandoned, and its farmers moved to Markland where they establish farms on the newly cleared land. Since there are too many people, an expedition heads south and establishes another small colony in Leifsbudir (Newfoundland).
  • 1018 Exploring for better farmland, Leif discovers Vinland (the St. Lawrence river valley). He immediately recognizes this as the best land available.
  • 1019 A settlement is established at Vinland. The local skraeling (American Indian) tribes attack the Norse (in retaliation for Norse cruelty) but have been weakened by European diseases and so are easily repulsed. Vinlandic version of Althing is established in near Leifsbúðir.
  • 1024 Leif makes a treaty with the skraelings, establishing trade relations and making them concede ownership of the valley to the Norse.
  • 1025 Leif dies in a fight with a kinsman. His son, Thorkell, takes over leadership of the Norse. Recognizing the vulnerability of Vinland, he enforces the skraeling treaty and kills two Norsemen caught raping Amerindian women.
  • 1031 Several farms in the Western Settlement are flooded from erosion caused by overgrazing. About 1/3 of the remaining population of Greenland moves to Vinland. This leaves the Western Settlement with less than 1700 inhabitants. Gardar Farm is given to Thorkell's cousin, Bjarni, and Thorkell makes New Farm in Vinland the "capital" of the Norse.
  • 1034 The Norse are attacked by another group of skraelings. Having learned to communicate somewhat, they learn that this group of Indians is a separate tribe from the ones they signed a treaty with. The Norse make peace with the new tribe, dividing the territory of their former allies. The Norse and new Indians then wipe out the St. Lawerence River Indians, leaving the Norse in control of hundreds of sq mi of prime farmland. In the fighting, Thorkell dies.
  • 1035 after a brief successional battle, Thorkell is succeeded by his nephew Thorvald.
  • 1037 battle with the Amerindians.
  • 1043 another battle with the Amerindians
  • 1044 Thorvald is killed in a fight with the Amerindians and succeeded by his extremely strong-willed sister Grunheld. Grunheld rules for only four years but manages to establish lasting ground rules with the Amerindians that stave off significant conflict for 40 years.
  • 1049 Norse explorers following the St. Lawrence River discover the Great Lakes. A trading post is built on Lake Ontario, later to become the colony "Mikluvellir".
  • 1068 Having doubled in population and built several ships using Markland's lumber, a group of Norse go Viking to raid the Christians of Iceland. This raid is very successful, bringing livestock, cloth and tools much needed by the Vinlanders.
  • 1070 the Norse raid Iceland again. This time the Norwegians are there with a fleet and wipe out the raiders. None return.
  • 1089 the Norse establish a new colony Alderland yet further South (in Maine). After a poor first meeting, they slaughter the Indians already there. This enrages the Northern Amerindians who launch a war on both colonies and Leifsbudir.
  • 1090 A truce is reached with the Indians. The Norse have taken many casualties but the Amerindians have fared worse. Norse territory expands.
  • 1100 The population of Greenland and Vinland is about 19,000.
  • 1110 The Inuit begin to arrive in numbers at Helluland (Baffin Island). The Norse fight with them sporadically through the next decade. Eventually the colony there is abandoned as it had never been self-sufficient anyway.
  • 1113 The Vinlanders resume raiding Iceland. Since Norway is distracted by Skandanavian and Russian wars, they are unable to repulse the Vinlanders effectively.
  • 1170 The Norse establish trade relations with the Inuit for desired walrus ivory, kayaks, and whale products. Helluland is re-established as a trading post. The Norse learn new shipbuilding and fishing techniques from the Inuit.
  • 1175 The Icelandic version of the Latin alphabet is adopted in Iceland which spreads later to the new world. This would be an important step in Vinlandic law and the development of Odinism.
  • 1200 The population of Greenland and Vinland is now around 84,000. Conflicts with Indians continue but are increasingly one-sided as Norse population grows faster than that of the Amerindians, and the Vinlanders become experts in playing off Amerindian tribal conflicts.
  • 1207 Vinlandic explorer Hrol Thorvalsson explores down the Florida coast. There he encounters very hostile Indians, boiling heat, malaria, and dragons (alligators). After the death of more than half of the expedition members, they turn back and tell the Vinlanders that Florida is not worth settling. This results in the Norse not discovering the Gulf for another two centuries.
  • 1250 By this point, the Norse have colonies in Leifsbúðir (Newfoundland), Óðinsland (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), Karlsey (Prince Edward Island), Lake Ontario (Mikluvellir), Lake Erie (Aldinvötn), and Maine (Alderland). Their population has soared to more than 110,000.
  • 1251 Iceland reaches the point of ecological collapse and civil war. The Christian chiefs send to Norway for Royal help, but the Vinlanders get their first. They launch a religious civil war, deposing the Christian chiefs and establishing Odinism as the religion of Iceland.
  • 1252 Norse explorers found a trading post on Útvík (Cape Cod). Recognizing the value of the natural harbor, Vinlander settlers move South. The Cape is easily defended against the periodically vengeful Indians.
  • 1254 A Royal Norwegian expedition drives out the Vinlanders and most of their pagan allies.
  • 1300 Vinland and Greenland populations are around 185,000, covering most of the New England seaboard.
  • 1397 The Danish crown unites all of Christian Scandinavia.
  • 1400 There are now more than 250,000 Vinlanders in the Western Hemisphere.
  • 1401 The Vinlanders led by Erikur Gunnarsson invade Iceland again. Since Iceland had become an increasingly marginal colony requiring royal financial support, the Danish abandon it to the pagan Norse.
  • 1403 Erikur convenes the Althing of Vinland, Iceland and Greenland. He is named war-leader of the three lands and begins planning an attack on the Faroe islands.
  • 1405 Shamed by its Christian allies, Denmark launches a "Crusade" to re-take Iceland. It meets Erikur's fleet near the Faroe islands. European cannon clash with Inuit ship-building technology adopted by the Norse. Erikur is forced to retreat and loses most of his ships, but learns a great deal about the new weapons. The Danish fleet loses Erikur in the foggy seas.
  • 1407 The Danish, Wendish and others send a second expedition to "free Iceland". It is turned back after losing 3 ships to North Atlantic icebergs. Erikur, with more experience of sea ice, grounds his ships waiting for a warmer month.
  • 1408 Erikur attacks the Faroe Islands by surprise early in the Spring, before the less maneuverable European ships are able to get out of harbor. He burns the European ships but is unable to take the Faroe islands due to the large numbers of armed European sailors ashore. He does achieve his primary goal of stealing a cannon and kidnapping a gunner though. Erikur is fatally wounded in this raid.
  • 1412 The Danes launch another small fleet to the Faroes which becomes lost in fog and arrives a month late. The starved sailors put off an attack on Iceland until next year.
  • 1413 The Danes attack Iceland and burn Reykjavik. The Icelanders counterattack by night, setting fire to many Danish ships. After several months of running battles, the Danish defeat the Vinlanders, forcing the survivors to retreat to Greenland. However, the Danish ships become frozen into the Icelandic harbors and the Danish are unable to pursue them to Greenland that year or the next year.
  • 1414 The Danish fleet, half starved and wounded, retreats to the Faroes and to Europe, abandoning Iceland. Iceland is wracked by famine after soldiers killed (and ate) most of the sheep and stole all of the seaworthy boats. The Icelanders send to Greenland for help but the Vinlanders cannot send out ships that year.
  • 1415 six ships from Vinland reach Iceland to rescue Iceland. Many Icelanders who sided with Vinland against the Danish are evacuated; the other Icelanders are left to their fate. The Danish do not return (due to the Pomeranian or Russian wars) and the remaining Icelanders starve.
  • 1416 the relocated Icelanders are sent to establish a new colony further down the coast on an easily defended large Fljótsey (OTL New York).
  • 1422 due to bad weather and a short summer, the Greenland population is unable to grow crops. Many starve and the rest are evacuated to Vinland the next year and sent south to settle more land. A small trade station and fort, dependent on trade with the Inuit for survival, is the only remaining habitation in Greenland.
  • 1430 The settlement of Markland shrinks as many Marklanders flee south due to an inability to farm. The trading post at Helluland is moved south to Markland and the Inuit gain more territory.
  • 1500 The Vinlandic population is now almost 400,000, including the descendants of the Icelanders, and covers the East Coast down to OTL Carolina. Vinland, now a town and capital of the colony, is home to over 10,000 people.
  • 1489 Third and worst of The Greenland Crusades

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