Plots don’t get more twisted and convoluted than this one! Did legendary explorer Leif Erikson encounter Bigfoot on his voyage to the New World? Many sources say so. One scholar casts some doubts so CryptoVille investigates – the Truth!
I stumbled across a very interesting and provocative article the other day that I wanted to share with you. I will be quoting from it extensively throughout this post. The article, found on the Skeptical Humanities website, is called For the Love of Yeti, Bigfooters, Read a Primary Source!
The author is Eve Siebert. Who is she? A graduate of Saint Louis University who holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her specialty is Old and Middle English literature, but she also has “secondary concentrations” in Old Norse and Shakespeare. The specialty in Old Norse literature is the key component for today’s analysis.
How many times have we read about the earliest sighting of Bigfoot attributed to Leif Erikson during his historic voyage to the New World? You don’t see it a lot, but it’s out there often enough and has become part of the canon of Bigfoot lore.
We may have been duped. I’m not suggesting anyone intentionally tried to dupe us, but let’s just say their research was fraught with problems.
To Date or Not To Date
Siebert begins her article recalling how a TV program “Ancient Mysteries: Bigfoot” retold the tale of Erickson encountering Bigfoot in 986. She points out that the year 986 is always mentioned in these accounts but she never found the source for that error. And it’s a big error because as it turns out, Leif Erikson wasn’t born yet in 986 and his father hadn’t yet settled in Greenland. We have to remember the Vikings traveled from Iceland to Greenland and then finally to Vinland in the New World.
Another important factor is the fact the Vikings didn’t write in journals. They only had a runic alphabet, and as Siebert points out they were unlikely to bring large boulders with them on the ship just to tap out the day’s events. The sagas weren’t written until centuries afterward.
In Siebert’s article we learn that two sagas refer to the Norse discovery of America:
Greenlander’s Saga: Leif’s voyage to the New World is mentioned briefly. All he seems to find of significance are grapes and vines so he names the new land Vinland. It’s reported that Leif sees salmon that were quite large.
Saga of Eric the Red: Again, Leif’s voyage to the New World is briefly mentioned and it recalls his discovery of Vinland and how he named it. Nothing about animals or creatures in this text.
Nothing about Bigfoot sightings, footprints, growls, odors, or anything. Hmm.
Author Siebert shares a few other references in books and blogs where this erroneous information is put forth as historical fact, and sometimes embellished. She recalls how the Vikings are referred to in one article as Berserkers and they were nothing of the kind. Though they had a history of being raiders as we know them stereotypically, in this case, Leif and his crew were explorers.
The misunderstandings and misinterpretations seem to take on a life of their own.
Siebert believes the misunderstanding stems from Peter Byrne’s book, The Search for Big Foot: Monster, Myth or Man? In his book, Byrne draws from Samuel Eliot Morison’s book The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages, A.D. 500-1600. Ironically, Morison never mentioned Bigfoot in his text.
So what happened?
It seems that Byrne misunderstood the word “skellring.” He said it means barbarian but then asks, why did the Norse describe them as hairy? Byrne figures it was because they were Bigfoots – a lot hairier than humans in any era.
In Morison’s account, he describes the Skrellings (proper spelling) the Norse found in the New World as horribly ugly, hairy, swarthy, with great black eyes. But in his account, he’s describing the natives, not another bipedal hominid. Furthermore, Morison never recounts any encounters between Leif and any sort of animal whatsoever.
Siebert sums it up this way, “So how did humans become Bigfoot? Well, first Morison retold the sagas in a slightly odd way. Byrne seized on one word and ignored everything else Morison said, while making several mistakes. Others have dismissed Byrne’s reservations but repeated his mistakes, while adding their own (anyone who uses the word “Skellring” has clearly gotten their information from Byrne, either directly or indirectly). The same mistakes get repeated religiously until they become established fact. And no one, not even Byrne, bothers to look at the actual sagas.”
Oh brother. There is a lot of truth in this for people like me who love cryptozoology, who hunt the internet trying to gather facts and information to share with my readers about the monsters we love, and who can inadvertently fall prey to misinformation.
I think I’ve said this to my readers before – we all must be careful what we read on the internet and we should vet the sources. Are the writers qualified?
I promise you, I do try to get to the bottom of the topics in my articles and find the absolute truth. I most always seek scientific documents because I believe science is the key to understanding our natural (and cryptid) world.
I think the best thing we can do is proceed with prudence and a healthy dose of skepticism.
I’m glad to know the truth about Leif Erikson and the story of his seeing Bigfoot in America. But this doesn’t mean Bigfoot doesn’t exist, it just means Leif didn’t see it/them as far as anyone knows. And that’s fine. We’ve currently got plenty of sightings and clues pointing to the existence of this creature today and that’s really exciting!
If you’ve read my Bigfoot articles, you’ll know I believe!
So what do you think about all this?