Myths of the Rune StoneViking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America

Myths of the Rune StoneViking Martyrs and the Birthplace of America

David M. Krueger

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780816696918

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Abstract

Myths of the Rune Stone tells the story of how white Midwesterners created, adapted, and propagated a myth that Viking missionaries had visited their region and were “massacred” by local Indians prior to the explorations of Christopher Columbus. Popular enthusiasm for this story developed as a local expression of American exceptionalism that both affirmed and challenged status quo assumptions about the formation of the United States as a nation and what it means to be a “real American.” The narrative of a primordial, white, Christian sacrifice staked an exclusive claim to the landscape, shaped collective identities, and generated social power for groups that viewed themselves as “under attack.” In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, locals persisted in their belief in this Viking origin myth, using it advance their ethnic, racial, civic and religious goals. Although such myths are often thought to be the exclusive provenance of Scandinavian immigrants, Myths of the Rune Stone demonstrates their appeal to a diverse cross-section of residents, including Catholics and the descendants of Yankee pioneer settlers.