Thorwald's Rock Hampton, New Hampshire
The story of Thorwald Rock is well known but what isn’t as well known is that there is a rock in Hampton New Hampshire that is said to be the grave marker of Thorwald Eriksson who was the Brother of Lief Eriksson. There are many opinions regarding the stones authenticity but whether you believe that the stone is real or that it is a hoax there is one thing that cannot be denied. A Viking knar, or a long-ship of the time period were of an advanced design and they possessed the ability to reach North America.
The fact that they did can be proven by the *L'Anse aux Meadows site on the coast of Newfoundland in Canada. Once North America was reached they could have sailed in sight of land from Maine to Florida providing that weather conditions cooperated and the necessary food, water, and other crucial provisions were available.
According to the Greenlanders’ Saga, Bjarni Herjulfsson became the first European to sight mainland America when his Greenland-bound ship was blown westward off course about 986.
In around the year 1000 a crew of 35 men led by Leif Eriksson set out to try to find the land accidentally sighted by Bjarni
Leif’s expedition came first to an icy, barren land which they called Helluland (“Flat-Stone Land”); and deciding that this couldn’t be the land described by Bjarni they continued sailing southward, where they eventually encountered a flat, wooded land which they called Markland (“Wood Land”). They raised anchor and set sail southward again, and the warmer, wooded area that they found they named Vinland. There they built some houses and explored the region before returning to Greenland. Below are a few paragraphs that describe how the name of Vinland (Wineland or Vineland) was chosen.
One evening the news spread that a member of the
crew was missing, none other than Tyrker the German.
Leif was much disturbed at this, for Tyrker had lived in
their household a long time and had been greatly
devoted to Leif when he was a child. Leif angrily re-
proached his men, and made ready to start off with a
search party of twelve.
They had scarcely left the house
when Tyrker came walking towards them, and he was re-
ceived with great joy. Leif saw at once that his foster
father was in high spirits. Tyrker was a short fellow,
rather puny looking, with a prominent forehead and rest-
less eyes in a smallish face; but he was handy at all sorts
Leif said to him, " Why were you so late, foster father,
and how did you get parted from your company? " Tyrker
first talked a long time in German, rolled his eyes and
made faces. They did not understand a word he said.
After a while he changed over and spoke Norse.
" I did not go very far beyond the rest of you, and yet
I have some real news for you. I found grape vines and
" Is this really true, foster father mine? " said Leif.
" Certainly it is true/' he answered, " for I was born
where there is no lack either of vines or grapes/'
Now they slept that night, but the next morning Leif
told his crew, " From now on we have two jobs on our
hands. On one day we shall gather grapes, and on the next
we shall cut grape vines and chop down the trees to make
a cargo for my ship.'
Sometime around 1004, Leif Ericsson sat his brother down and told him about his voyage to Vinland and that he believed there was great fortune to be had there, gave his brother Thorwald a ship and bid him to make his way to Vinland. Thorwald made his way down the formerly uncharted coastline, admiring the richness of the land and trying to decide where to settle. This is where things went awry for Thorwald and his crew.
After a time they went back to the ship. Then they
caught sight of three little mounds on the sand farther in
on the cape. When they got closer to them, they saw three
skin-covered boats, with three men under each. They split
up their force and seized all the men but one, who escaped
in his boat. They killed all eight of them, and then re-
turned to the cape. Here they saw a number of mounds
in the fjord and guessed that these must be human dwell-
After that such a drowsiness fell upon them that they
simply could not stay awake, and they all fell asleep. Then
a voice cried out to them, so that they all awoke, and this
is what the voice said, " Wake up, Thorvald, and all your
crew, if you value your lives! Get aboard the ship with
your men and hurry away from this country with all
speed! " A host of boats was then heading towards them
from the inner end of the fjord.
Thorvald then said, " We shall set up our breastworks on both sides of the ship and
defend ourselves as best we can, but do as little killing as
possible/' So they did, and after the savages had shot at
them for a while, they hurried away as fast as they could.
Thorvald asked if any of his men were wounded. They
said they were not.
" I have got a wound under my arm/' he said; " an
arrow flew between the gunwale and my shield and struck
me under the arm, and here is the arrow. This will be the
last of me. Now I advise you to make ready for your re-
turn as quickly as possible. But me you shall take back to
that cape which I found so inviting. It looks as if I spoke
the truth without knowing it when I said that I might live
there some day! Bury me there with a cross at my head
and another at my feet, and ever after you shall call it
So Thorvald died and they did everything just as he had
told them. Then they came back to their companions and
exchanged news about all that had happened.
In my opinion it doesn’t really matter whether the stone sitting in front of the Tuck Museum in Hampton, New Hampshire is genuine or a hoax; as many say. To me it serves as a historical bookmark, a reminder and monument, to the brave Norse Men and Women who braved the north seas and ventured into the unknown in an attempt to either find their fortune or simply to better their lives for themselves and their families.
Here (above) is an image of Thorwald Rock as it currently sits surrounded by a round stone encasement and protected overhead against vandals by Iron bars on the grounds of the Tuck Museum in Hampton, New Hampshire. Photo Courtesy of The Tuck Museum
Here (above) is a photo showing part of a page from an original copy of the Greenland/Vinland Saga.
Here (above) is a map showing where L'Anse aux Meadows. Comparing the distance of sailing back to Norway with sailing down the coast of what would eventually become the USA makes Vikings in New Hampshire seem possible.
The boat-types used by the Norse were quite varied, depending on what the ship was intended for, but they were generally characterized as being slender and flexible boats, with symmetrical ends and with a true keel. They were clinker built, which is the overlapping of planks riveted together. This design was extremely versatile and allowed the Vikings to travel far from their Scandinavian homeland, to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Newfoundland, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and Africa.
In my opinion a successful Viking journey to the seacoast of New Hampshire is not farfetched at all. So long as the travelers had fair weather, provisions, and crew enough to handle the job efficiently there is no reason to believe that it was not possible. For now it’s just theory but who knows maybe someday a bit of archaeological proof will surface which will officially place the Vikings in New Hampshire.