Art by Matt Smith
Now thing is, the Vikings were all ovah the fuckin’ place a thousand yee’ahs ago. I mean these guys got ‘round, n’ it wasn’t just all sackin’ monahstahries n’ buhrnin’ down villages ah recitin’ poetry n’ chuggin’ mead in Valhalla n’ shit like that like evuhryone always thinks it was. They alsah did some real histahr’cally significant stuff, too, like establishin’ the city’ah Dublin fahr one, ah conque’ahr’in’ Nahmandy fah r’anothah, r’ah even fuckin’ goin’ n’ foundin’ Russia.
But one’ah the Vikings’ biggest fuckin’ deals was that they alsah went n’ discovuh’d Canada n’ they did this like fuckin’ 500 yee’ahs befohr Columbus evah r’even set a fuckin’ foot on Haiti. N’ that’s a point’ah pahticulah r’impohrtance as these guys were pretty much fuckin’ all ovah Newfoundland n’ hell maybe even Nova Scotia, too. That’s all been proven by real life ahcheaologists, yah know? But did they evah get fuhrthah south down intah New England itself? Well, who the fuck knows?
But I’ll tell yah who thought he knew — this guy, Carl Christian Rafn, that’s fuckin’ who!
This honorary plaque resides flat on the ground along the northern edge of the confluence of Memorial Drive and Gerrys Landing Road beneath the imposing bulk of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA.
So Carl Rafn, he was this Danish guy who back in the 1800s made up a bunch’ah shit ‘bout how Leif Eriksson n’ all his Viking buddies had been all up n’ down the New England coast like 800 yee’ahs eahrliah. N’ even though cell covrage mightah been supah fuckin’ spotty back then n’ the wifi was total shit, his ideas still took off like a total fuckin’ Califohrnia wildfi’ah r’n befohr yah know it yah got guys like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Boston n’ Ole Bull who was a wicked good Nahwegian violin playah retweetin’ Carl Rafn’s misinfahmation without even a second fuckin’ thought.
N’ so then this guy Eben Norton Horsford who’s a real fuckin’ crackpot professah r’ovah r’at Hahvahd sees all these rumahs ‘bout Leif n’ the boys blowin’ up on his fuckin’ Facebook feed n’ so natuhr’ly what he does is he goes n’ he stahts promotin’ the shit outtah these rumahs himself since that’s just what people do. N’ since he’s a fuckin’ so-called expehrt with a legitimate LinkedIn account evuhryone just believes it the moment they fuckin’ see it.
But thing ‘bout Eben was he was a fuckin’ chemistry expehrt! He had no idea what the fuck he was talkin’ ‘bout in tehrms’ah ahchaeology ah histahry! I mean the guy had moh r’in common with Waltah White ‘en Hahrrison Fohrd! ‘Cept instead’ah cookin’ meth in competition with a Mexican drug cahtel, he owned a company down in East Providence that basic’ly had a fuckin’ monopoly on bakin’ powdah which ah’couhrse made him supah fuckin’ rich, n’ so now he was able tah staht self-fundin’ his own self-prahclaimed histahrical research n’ befohr yah know it he’s postin’ all sohrts’ah shit all ovah r’his social media accounts ‘bout how he’s discovuh’d Norumbega, Leif Eriksson’s long lost Norse colony right hee’ah r’in Massafuckin’chusetts!
The Norumbega Tower is located, appropriately enough, along Norumbega Road near its intersection with River Road in Weston, MA, very close to the Waltham border. The inscription on the stone at its base includes an explanation of the supposed Norwegian origins of Norumbega; it also claims that Leif Eriksson discovered the Charles River in 1000 A.D.
Now, the name Norumbega dates all the way back tah some Italian maps in the 1500s n’ no one really knows what the fuck it was doin’ on those maps, but Eben figyuh’d that Norumbega’s prahb’ly just a vahriation’ah Norvega which could maybe be some sohrtah old-time Nahwegian tehrm fahr Nahway ah somethin’. N’ truth be told, it kindah makes a compellin’ ahgument on the intahnet when it’s been sensationalized tah kingdom come by the media n’ backed up by thousands’ah fuckin’ likes from a highly polahrized public that can’t put their fuckin’ phones down. It’s a tale old as time n’ a song as old as fuckin’ rhyme.
But anyway at this point Eben’s misinfahmation campaign’s gone totally fuckin’ vihral n’ bein’ as he’s got money out the ass he goes n’ he stahts buildin’ Leif Eriksson monuments all ovah the fuckin’ place! So now we got Leif the Lucky himself out in Back Bay stahrin’ intah the wild blue yondah down Comm Ave, n’ we got a quaint little rune stone commemahratin’ the location’ah his house that nevah r’even existed right outside Mount Auburn Hospital ovah r’in Cambridge, n’ we got an honahahry towah r’out in Weston demahkatin’ the location’ah downtown Norumbega, which was once rumah’d by a bunch’ah fuckin’ teens on TikTok tah have had fuckin’ like 10,000 inhabitants at its height.
The statue of Leif Eriksson in Boston’s Back Bay. Sculpted by Anne Whitney, the statue is located at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Charlesgate East.
N’ ah couhrse Eben’s postin’ all sohrts’ah photos’ah this shit on Instagram—I mean holy shit, the guy took so many fuckin’ selfies with that towah r’in Weston! But he alsah published his results in an actual papah book too, as he did have all those academic credentials n’ connections aftah r’all n’ when yah combine that with the vapid populahrity that he’d built up fahr himself, it was a total fuckin’ no brainah fahr the publishahs tah be allovah his manuscript like flies on dog shit.
N’ the whole thing was all the rage all ovah New England fah r’awhile with people claimin’ tah find new traces’ah Vikings down in Newpohrt one day n’ namin’ public pahks aftah Norumbega up in Bangor the next, shit like that. But then it all died down n’ Eben himself went n’ he fuckin’ croaked n’ then it all faded intah obscuhrity n’ evuhryone pretty much just fahgot that the whole fuckin’ thing had evah r’even happened.
Check out Norse Mythology for Bostonians: A Transcription of the Impudent Edda, a new scholarly work based on this column. For an excerpt about the time Thor had to renew his driver’s license, please click here.