As Conan O’Brien helps Donald Trump buy Greenland, let’s admire the symmetry.
Greenland was discovered (or re-discovered) by Eric the Red. He has:
— A little in common with O’Brien, whose special airs at 10 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 3) on TBS. Mostly, it’s just the red hair.
— A lot in common with Trump.
Eric, it seems, was a felon, a colonialist, a control freak, a slaveholder, a multiple killer and a guy who exaggerated the value of real estate.
That last one, incidentally, is the part that directly relates to Trump. (I just thought the others provided extra information.) It’s also what relates to Greenland.
Greenland, very simply, isn’t green. Thick ice covers almost 85 per cent of it. Farming is possible only in a few southern spots, and then just enough to raise sheep.
It’s way less habitable than Iceland, but “Iceland” isn’t a name that canny developers would choose. Eric went with Greenland because (according to the “Saga of the Greenlanders,” written in the 13th century), “people would be attracted to go there if if had a favorable name.”
Hey, Trump would have liked this guy. And like Trump, Eric followed family tradition.
That started with his father, who was banished from Norway “because of some killings.” Eric was 10 when the family moved to Iceland, where he later followed tradition by killing Eyiolf the Foul.
Apparently, Icelandic law isn’t harsh on you if your victim is named “the Foul.” Eric was merely banished to another part of the island.
But he returned, reportedly to retrieve some heirlooms he’d left with a friend (or such). They weren’t relinquished and a fight ensued; he reportedly killed the friend’s two sons and “a few other men.”
This time, the law was harsher. Eric was banished for three years.
Having heard reports of a land to the west, Eric set sail in 982. He found the land, which had easy hunting (there was no fear of humans) and fishing. He named the place Greenland and in 985 convinced people they would really like the place.
So 25 ships headed there; only 14 made it and its people may have expected Nirvana or Valhalla or, at the least, something green. Instead, they found a block of ice.
(Did I mention that Donald Trump would really like this guy?)
So Greenland’s population went from 1 to about 450 to, eventually, 3,000. One was Eric’s son, Leif Ericson, who was the first person of European roots to discover North America.
(This, of course, is why we have Leif, Ohio and Leif University and we put our U.S. Capital in the District of Leifia,)
Some scholars now feel that Ericson may have made three or four voyages to Canada. They also speculate that his goal was to find a source for wood: The Vikings needed metal for their weapons and Greenland had almost nothing for blacksmiths to burn.
Sometime in the 1400’s, the Norwegian colonies simply vanished. Various sources guess at a reason – the “Little Ice Age” that made life there even worse than ever … the black plague that swept through Europe … or attacks by Greenland native Inuit people. It would be 1721 before there was a fresh try, via a Norwegian missionary.
If there were so many Norwegians involved, why does Denmark now “own” Greenland? When Norway’s economy faltered, the country merged with Denmark; the two later split again, but the Danes kept Greenland.
Granted, what I know about this comes from scattered sources – A National Geographic edition called “The Vikings” … a World Book Encyclopedia entry (written by someone from my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, which makes him an expert on ice) … Wikipedia … even a children’s book, “History Dudes: Vikings.” Sifting through these, we learn that:
— Brexit is nothing new; there was a sort of Grexit 34 years ago. In 1985, Greenland left the European Economic Community.
– The Danish connection is illogical. Greenland is 1,300 miles from Denmark … and, at some points, only 100 miles from Canada. The Canadians, being both polite and frugal, have never tried to buy it.
— Greenland is also the world’s biggest island. (Australia, apparently, doesn’t count.) It has 836,000 square miles.
— That’s triple the size of Texas. (This would be another good reason for Trump to buy it, so he could tell Beto O’Rourke he owns something that’s bigger than Texas.) In fact, Greenland’s national park – 375,000 square miles of whiteness – is 40 per cent bigger than Texas.
— But in population? There are more than 500 Texans for every Greenlander. There are less than 56,000 people in Greenland, with almost one-third (18,000) in the capital of Nuuk.
— That low population is understandable, since jobs are scarce. There’s only so much you can do with cod and seals and a few sheep. The island also hosts a NATO base and tourism.
— Yes, tourists. In 2016, about 31,000 of them stayed overnight, almost two-thirds from Denmark. There were only 2,767 Americans … but now there’s Conan.
— One thing more: More than 70 percent of Greenland’s energy is renewable. That’s the best percentage in the world, making Greenlanders the leader in fighting global warming and …
Come to think of it, don’t tell that last part to Trump. It might kill the deal.