Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Thrall's Tale

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The Thrall's Tale

by Judith Lindbergh

The Thrall's Tale by Judith Lindbergh X
The Thrall's Tale by Judith Lindbergh
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2006, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2006, 464 pages

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Greenland Then: There is evidence of habitation in Greenland up until about 200 AD, but then the islands appear to have been uninhabited until the Norse settlers from Iceland arrived led by Eric The Red. Around 1200 Inuit from North America migrated southwards and appear to have coexisted peacefully with the Norse. However, by the mid 14th century all signs of habitation by descendants of the Norse had disappeared, possibly due to famine brought on by the "Little Ice Age" (starting in the mid-13th century), possibly by other factors explored in chapters 6-8 of Jared Diamond's Collapse.

Greenland Now: Resettlement of Greenland by the Danes began in the 18th century. In 1953 Greenland was made an equal part of the Danish Kingdom and in 1979 home rule was granted. It is considered the world's largest island (about 3 times the size of Texas), about four-fifths of its land is covered in ice caps, and permafrost covers two-thirds of the island. It's current population is about 56,000.

Elsewhere: While the Norsemen (Vikings) were expanding their colonies North in the late 10th century, what was happening elsewhere?

  • Iceland had been settled by Norwegians for about 100 years.
  • In the Kingdom of England, Aethelred II ("The Unready) was attempting to stop the Norse raids with monetary payments, known as danegeld. The strategy failed dismally. Eventually Aethelred fled to Normandy (leaving England in the hands of Norse kings for much of the next fifty years) thus setting in motion the events that led up to the Norman invasion of England in 1066 (the Normans being "Vikings" themselves, who had settled in the area about 80 years before).
  • Ireland, Scotland and Wales were split into various kingdoms managing their own infighting while attempting to hold off the Vikings.
  • The Holy Roman Empire controlled much of Central Europe.
  • What is now modern day France was in the midst of a power struggle between two families. In 987 Hugh Capet established the Capetian dynasty which ruled France for more than 800 years.
  • In the early 9th century a Norse tribe known as the Rus established a trading base in the North-West of what is now Russia. By the late 10th century, the Norse minority were intermarrying with the native Slavic population to form what would become the Russian people.
  • Around the year 1000 Leif Ericsson landed in North America at what he called Helluland, Markland and Vinland, the exact locations are unknown but are believed to be between Baffin Island and Newfoundland.
  • Map of Europe c.1000


Interesting Links:

Useful to know:

  • Greenland is a very big island but not as big as it often appears on world maps. This is because most world maps use the Mercator projection to convert the spherical world on to a two-dimensional piece of paper. The Mercator projection significantly inflates objects close to the poles (to see this, slice an orange skin into segments and lay them flat on a table, note how the segments meet at their "equator" but there is considerable space between the tips of each slice, more about this).
  • Viking is the Scandinavian word for pirate. The period of European history between 793-1066 is sometimes referred to as the Viking Age. Map of Viking voyages.

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Thrall's Tale. It first ran in the February 21, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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