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Poem: "People of the Longboat" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "People of the Longboat"

This poem was inspired a prompt from aldersprig.  It has been sponsored by je_reviens and Stephen Laird.  Among the things I researched for this poem were Algonquian and Iroquois people, Leif Ericsonnative canoes, and Viking ships.


People of the Longboat


It was the Algonquian people
whom Leif Ericson encountered
on the shores of what he called Vinland.

As the two peoples began to mingle,
the Vikings told stories about the riches of Europe,
and those stories made their way down the east coast
to the Haudenosaunee. 

Like the Algonquian tribes,
the Haudenosaunee used birchbark canoes
to travel along the waterways.
Some of their canoe makers traveled north
and looked at the great dragon ship of Leif Ericson.

"It is like a giant canoe," one said,
"made from tree limbs pieced together.
Birchbark is more solid.  We can do better."

"It has a windcatcher like the tipi  of the plainsmen,"
another observed.  "We could use that."
"Surely a longhouse would be more useful
to keep off the rain and the waves of the ocean,"
said a third canoe maker.

This discussion, of course, attracted the attention
of the Algonquians and the Norsemen.
By the time they were done, there was a canoe
the size of a dragonship, with paddles instead of oars
and nimble triangular sails like tipis
rising above the longhouse cabin.

The crew crossed the Atlantic in comfort,
guided by Ericson's navigator
and a star-watching shaman,
stopping by Greenland and Iceland
on the way to Scotland.

The Vikings were all for pillaging,
but the Haudenosaunee chief shook his head.
"Can you get maple syrup from a tree
that you have burnt up in your campfire?
Do not be foolish!"

So instead they met with the Scotsmen
and discussed matters of tribute and trade.
The Haudenosaunee discovered that
the Scotsmen were shrewd traders
and remarkable craftsmen, and oh,
how the women at home would love
the brilliantly woven plaid fabrics.

If a few lovely red-haired brides were stolen,
and a few brawls and fires started anyhow,
well, everyone understood how impetuous
young people could be, and surely
it could all be straightened out
with good words and a bale of beaver furs.

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5 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: July 4th, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fun!!!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 4th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you liked it.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 4th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

All cultures have some diversity. I try to read -- and write -- history with an eye toward that.

Besides, I figured that Ericson and company could plausibly mesh better with the natives than later Europeans did. A tall ship is just unimaginably alien, but a Viking ship basically looks like a giant canoe with a hide stretched above it. So if the builders got to talking, they'd have enough common ground to bump the technology forward. I also thought that someone like Ericson would be compatible with the Indian idea of "war" as extreme roughhousing, rather than insisting on the Viking idea of "loot, murder, and burn."
paka From: paka Date: July 6th, 2012 06:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Question, I thought the people in Vinland were supposed to have been either vaguely Inuit or vaguely Micmac, not Algonquins?

I still think the chunkiest bits of Vinland are how nasty Leif's sister Freydis was. She's such a dramatically strong-willed character I'm surprised you haven't written about her before.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 6th, 2012 07:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Question, I thought the people in Vinland were supposed to have been either vaguely Inuit or vaguely Micmac, not Algonquins? <<

It varies, depending on whose records of tribal territory you use and where you believe Vinland was (there are multiple theorized locations). Inuit, Micmac, and Algonquin have all been cited in that general part of the world. Since this is alternate history, I figure that's sufficient.

>> I still think the chunkiest bits of Vinland are how nasty Leif's sister Freydis was. She's such a dramatically strong-willed character I'm surprised you haven't written about her before. <<

You could always suggest her in a future prompt.
5 comments or Leave a comment