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with Dale Connelly, 6/23/00

DC: This year marks the 1000th anniversary of Leif Erickson's arrival
in North America. A major exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington is calling attention to the early Nordic presence on the continent, sparking an uncharacteristic outpouring of emotion from Scandinavian Americans.

(sfx: subdued Nordic murmering)

In fact, in the background, we're listening in on a raucous celebration of this momentous occasion … the coffee is extra strong … and pulling himself away from the party for a few moments to speak with us is Kristian Kristiansen, holder of the Brynjulvson Endowed Chair in Old New World Studies at Pandering College. Dr. Kristiansen, welcome.

KK: Ya, thanks. Hang on here.
(to group) Hey, knock it off back there, eh? Can't think.

(sfx: subdued Nordic murmering fade out)

That's more like it, eh?

DC: Yes, thanks. Recent archeological studies have thrown an entirely new light on the Viking settlement in Newfoundland, and on the Vikings themselves.

KK: Ya.

DC: In general … the consensus seems to be that the Vikings WERE sometimes fierce, but they were also farmers and herdsman who grew more crops and raised more livestock than we thought. Correct?

KK: Ya. (pause) Farmers. Sounds about right.

DC: And they were great metal workers and politicians.

KK: Ya, I guess so.

DC: And conversationalists.

KK: I suppose.

DC: Actually I was kidding about the conversation part.

KK: Ya, sure.

DC: It was a joke.

KK: I got the joke. Funny stuff.

DC: Tell us, Dr. Kristiansen, a bit about what it was like to be in Leif Erickson's Viking settlement 1,000 years ago.

KK: Well, it was hard. I suppose.

DC: There must have been something good about it.

KK: Health care was free.

DC: Of course. So the doctors worked for the government?

KK: No, there were no doctors.

DC: There was probably no government.

KK: Sure there was government. They were Scandanavian.

DC: And the government's job in this new territory?

KK: Protection from the Skraelings, I guess.

DC: And the Skraelings were …

KK: The natives, the Indians.

DC: Columbus called them Indians.

KK: A lot later, he did. Ya.

DC: Right. Because he thought he had reached India. But Erickson was much smarter.

KK: Ya. He knew he was in Skrae.

DC: It occurs to me, if the Vikings had stuck around, we'd be speaking Old Norse today. Why didn't they stay?

KK: Nobody asked 'em to.

DC: You think they were waiting for an invitation?

KK: Oh, maybe the Skraelings said once "Hey, why don't cha stay a while longer?"
But if they didn't ask a couple more times, then any good Norwegian would say "oh, no. We really gotta be goin."
They'd douse the fire, stir the ashes, douse it again, and get outta there.

DC: Maybe that explains why a lot of people think Columbus discovered America. The Vikings were only here for 20 years! When the southern Europeans came, they came for good.

KK: For good? I don't think they had anything particularly good in mind.

DC: I mean they were here permanently.

KK: Here permanently? Maybe not.

DC: Oh! So … you think things could … revert?

KK: Revert?

DC: Yes, revert! Why do you repeat everything I say?

KK: Repeat everything you say? It gives me a running start at putting together a sentence.

DC: So you do or don't think things will revert.

KK: Naw. You got an awful lot of roads and sewers and shopping malls now. Cleanin' all this up before you leave would be a major, major deal.

DC: But this stereotypical vision we have of the nordic pioneers as backwards, monosyllabic, humorless, moody, unemotional drones …

KK: There's no truth in that.

DC: They weren't … kinda dull?

KK: No, no. Real social and technological too. And emotional.

DC: Emotional?

KK: Oh ya. We found documents and such that refer to viking laughter.

DC: They laughed?

KK: Ya, and there's references there to their joys, their tears … their Saabs.

DC: You found this?

KK: Ya, and we also dug up a Volvo. Started right away. Runs real good.

DC: Proof positive that Nordic explorers reached Newfoundland 1,000 years ago! Thanks to Dr. Kristian Kristiansen, holder of the department of Old New World Studies at Pandering College. Thanks!

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