A Different Mirror

A Different Mirror

by

Ronald Takaki

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A Different Mirror: Part 1, Introduction: Before Columbus: Vinland Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Vikings landed on the North American continent, the Native people living there must have thought they looked like strange, pale-skinned monsters. The Viking expedition was led by Thorvald Eiriksson, who journeyed over from Greenland. He had heard about a mystical, fertile land called “Vinland” (currently Newfoundland) from his brother. Thorvald and his men were attacked by a group of Indigenous people, and Thorvald died. However, another expedition followed, and similarly encountered the indigenous Beothuk people. Despite not being able to understand each other, the two groups exchanged goods.
This introductory passage dispels the myth that Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on the American continent. Although this might seem trivial, it sets the stage for further myths that Takaki will expose as false. It also provokes the question of what purpose these myths serve. Perhaps insisting that Columbus was the first European in North America helps bolster the idea that he was fated to conquer the land.
Themes
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
However, when the Beothuks returned and found a whole Viking settlement in the same spot the following year, conflict erupted. The Vikings ended up abandoning the settlement and returning home, fearing “terror and trouble” from the indigenous population. This all took place around 1000 AD, and although it was preserved in Viking oral history, it was not officially acknowledged until the 1960s when archaeologists discovered the remains of the settlement. In 1492, the next Europeans to arrive in North America—led by Christopher Columbus—at first believed they were in Asia. At this point, colonization began.
Unlike the later settlers, the Vikings had the humility to fear the indigenous population to whom the land belonged. Of course, the difference was that the Vikings had only primitive tools and resources, whereas the later wave of European colonizers had an enormous amount of wealth and weapons. They came to the country prepared to violently take over.
Themes
Whiteness and the Other Theme Icon
Labor, Profit, and the Building of the Nation Theme Icon