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The “story” of Iceland and Greenland

Once upon a time, war broke out among Norwegian Vikings. One band launched the boats and fled. They discovered a green island and settled. Afraid that their enemies might pursue them, they sent word back to Norway that their island was actually an ice-land, but that another island — more distant, larger and indeed covered by ice — was inhabitable green-land. And so the green island became Iceland, and the icy island became Greenland.

Flying over Iceland 's craters

This story is fiction, which is to say false.

The true (non-fiction) story of Iceland’s founding is more complicated and had something to do with Ingolfur Arnason (above), a Norse chieftain who founded Reykjavik in 874.

Greenland, meanwhile, was not “discovered” (by Norsemen, that is) until a century or so later, when a Norwegian who was sailing to Iceland was blown off course. It was later named “green land” by Erik the Red, another Norwegian, who really was fleeing from Norway and first went to Iceland before settling in Greenland. He wanted to bring more settlers and was obviously good at branding and marketing — “green jobs” for his “green economy”, if you will.