Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America (1970)



Director:     Tony Stone.

Starring:     Fiore Tedesco (Volnard), Tony Stone (Orn),  James Fuentes (Monk One),  Noelle Bailey (Abenaki Woman),  Gaby Hoffmann (Orn's Wife), James Fuentes (Abenaki Man),  Clare Amory (Volnard' Sister),  Nathan Corbin (Viking Tjhrall),  Sean Dooley (Monk Two).

in 1007 Vikings mistakenly leave two men behind and they have to struggle with nature, Irish monks, Abenaki natives and their own natures to try to get back to the Viking settlement


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

From the Vinland Sagas:  "In the year 1007 an expedition led by a man called Thorfinn Karlsefni sets sail from Greenland to explore the land to the west.  They reached the settlement of Leifsbudir where the Vikings found the land barren and desolate.  From there they headed south in search of Vinland, the land of grapes.  They sailed down the eastern coast, exploring the bays and estuaries and found the land abundant  They stopped and camped and sent two men inland to see what this rich land had to offer.

"One morning they saw a great horde of Skraelings (Indians) approach from the south along the beach.  The Vikings raised their shields and the Skraclings raised their sticks and bows and the two parties began to trade.  They traded red cloth for pelts but soon a Skraeling was killed for trying to steal an ax.  Thus began a great battle and arrows rained down on the Vikings, some dying with sword in hand.  The retreating men made their way to the boat and rowed.  Karlsefni and his men now realized that although this land was excellent, they could never live there in freedom from fear because of the Skraelings.  They sailed north toward Leifsbudir, leaving the two men behind, assuming they had been killed."

North America 1007 A.D.  On a beach there are dead Vikings riddled with arrows.  Two Vikings are left behind. presumed dead by their fellows.. They look out over the ocean.  Then they walk among the dead bodies. 

Chapter 1.  Stranded. 

The two men sit saying they should move away from the beach or they will have to deal with the Skraelings.  They think they should move inland and get on top of a mountain so they will be able to see any ships coming by.  With their axes they fell many trees.  They cut the branches off the tress and then carry them over to a huge felled tree.  They lean the trees on the huge tree and then cover the leaning trees with branches to make a shelter. 

Chapter 2.  Camp.

The men make a fire with flint.  They sit and sharpen poles to a point.  They use the sharpened poles as sticks to use in spearing fish for their meals.   At night they take turns on watch.  One of the men hears a pack of wolves and throws his lighted stick at them.  The two men talk at night about the Christians. Orn says a man told him that the Christians were everywhere  -- Norway and even in Iceland.   His informant said this makes it easier for King Harold to rule all of Norway.  Volnard asks what's wrong with the gods Odin and Thor?  He adds that his sister wanted to be a Christian. 

Flashback.  A young blonde woman takes a walk up a hill there to meet a red-headed man.  They walk along arm in arm.  They sit in the grass.  Volnard comes up and confronts his blonde sister.  He grabs her cross from around her neck and pulls it off her.  He then chases down the other man and kills him.  The sister then jumps off the cliff to her death.

Back to the present.  The men discuss whether they should try to walk back to Leifsbudir.  They wonder if they can make the journey successfully.  After all, they do have to worry about the Skraelings.

Chapter 3.  Conquest. 

Orn and Volnard start walking.  They come to a waterfall and rest.  They hear some noise and go to investigate.  What they see are two Irish monks.  They have built a very tiny cabin with a huge cross in front of the place.  When the monks see the Vikings they yell out "Heatherns!" and run.  The Vikings catch up with the monks.  Orn kills the monk he chased.  Volnard spares the  monk he castches.  The surviving monk says in Norse thanks for sparing him and the Viking demands to know why he speaks Norse.  The monk says he was a slave in Iceland. 

The monks had a rooster that Orn kills for supper.  Orn pours hot water on the chicken and then cleans it.  Volnard chases after another chicken. He kills the chicken.  The two set the little cabin aflame.  They watch the flames consume the cabin as they eat their chicken.  In the morning the only thing left is the cross that still stands where it was.  Volnard gets up and washes his face in a stream.  The spared monk buries his brother monk.   Orn chops the cross down. 

End of Chapter 4. 

(They never indicated the beginning of Chapter 4.)  

Chapter 5.  Encounters. 

In the morning Volnard gets up and goes to find the source of a great noise.  It is another waterfall.  He sees the surviving monk across the stream and up a bit looking at him.  The monk leaves.  Volnard follows him, but the monk stays ahead of him.  Volnard returns to see Orn practice throwing his ax.  He tell Orn that there is a river nearby.   Orn goes down by the river.  He sees an Abenaki  native there.  He runs back and tells Volnard he saw a Skraeling.  They both put on their helmets.  They, however, don't find any Skraelings.  But the natives are watching the two Vikings.  Volnard runs into the monk he spared earlier.  They say something to each other, but the audience is not allowed to hear what was said.

The Vikings continue their journey.  Orn tramps through some swampy areas.  Later he has to dry out his clothes.  Volnard takes a torch and goes and finds the monk.  They speak again.

Chapter 6.  Separation.

In the morning Volnard and the monk are walking together.  They stop and the monk tells him about his being taken as a slave.  He was taken to Heksabjorn where the Vikings stocked up on supplies.  He and some other monks were able to row the boat away from the Vikings and out of the fjord.  The winds took them west and one day they awoke to the sight of this new world.  Volnard skims stones on the water as the monk reads his Bible.  Volnard gets the monk to try to skim stones. 

Orn sleeps by the campfire.  He wakes up, looks around and then goes back to sleep.  He dreams that a young woman, his wife, asks him:  "How are you on your glorious journey, you stupid fool?  What now, since you've been ditched?"  She tells Orn that Loki took Volnard while Orn was supposed to be on guard.  She says Volnard is better of without Orn, who runs from Skraelings.  His wife tells him she divorced him and married Bjornson. 

Orn wakes up and looks around.  He finds three fish and cooks them.  A native woman watches him.  

The monk tells Volnard that the Skaelings were not afraid of them, but rather were very fascinated by them.  The monk falls asleep while reading his Bible.  Volnard picks up the Bible.  He looks at the pictures in the book. 

Orn eats blackberries lain on a rock.  He looks around as he eats them.  He soon becomes dizzy and faints.  The natives pick him up.  The native woman has him placed in a canoe and rows him to her village.  The natives say they want to make it so that the "white beasts" will never return to their lands again.  They want to capture Volnard now.   Orn finally awakens.  The native woman stakes his hands to the ground.  She then pulls his pants off.  Now she seems to be having sex with the white beast.  The next morning Orn tries to get out of the hut, but soon falls back onto it. 

Orn starts to take off. 

Chapter 7.  Reunion.

The monk follows behind Volnard as he walks through the woods.  Orn is also walking through the woods. Orn sees the monk. attacks and kills him.  Volnard tries to come to the rescue but is too late.  Orn takes Volnard down.  Orn thinks about killing Volnard but then he doesn't do it.  When Volnard gets up he attacks Orn, knocks him down and then keeps hitting him.  He gets up and leaves.  Orn is still alive.  Volnard slowly walks away.  Orn gets up and starts slowly walking following Volnard.

The two white beasts are together again.  They sit around a fire at night.  Before sunlight Volnard walks away.  A native shoots an arrow that goes all the way through Volnard.  Orn sees this and runs at the Indian.  He throws his ax at him and hits him in the chest.  The native goes down hard.  Volnard is still standing.  He lifts his sword high into the air and then falls to the ground.  Orn takes his sword and then retrieves his ax from the chest of the native American.  He picks up the huge Volnard and carries him back to the campsite.  

Orn starts felling trees again.  He makes a small raft for Volnard's corpse.  He then piles wood over the body.  He puts the raft in the water and lights the fire.  The raft floats downstream as the raft fire blazes away. 


It is winter time and Volnard walks through heavy snows in the woods.  He slides down hills and crosses streams and heads uphill again just to repeat the cycle.  He tires and drops to his knees.  He rests for awhile and then goes on his way.  He tires again and this time he falls into the snow.  There he freezes to death. 


What a crazy film.  It's has only a little history and the story is very iffy.  I calls films like this artsy-fartsy.  There is very little dialogue.  Often the shots are so close to the character that you can't see what's going on.  I just didn't like it.  It was pretty much a waste of time.  I probably shouldn't have even selected this film for the table of contents.  But since I've watch the damn film, I may as well leave the summary here so people can avoid the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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