On November 5 1970 Led Zeppelin released the “Immigrant Song” on Atlantic Records, written during Led Zeppelin’s tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany in the summer of 1970.
The song’s lyrics are written as if by Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands. These lyrics would seemingly make the Vikings “immigrants” in a new land, and that land would be Canada. References to Viking conquests and the Old Norse were confirmed in a 1970 radio interview when Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin jokingly recalled, “We went to Iceland, and it made you think of Vikings and big ships ..”
Between 1961 to 1968 the Norwegian archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad investigated sites on the northern tip of Newfoundland and determined that the curious site once thought to be of “native origin” was actually of Norse origin because of definitive similarities between the characteristics of structures and artifacts found at the site compared to sites in Greenland and Iceland from around 1000 CE. The land of “ice and snow”. The Norse settlers had once made their way from Iceland to Greenland, and then furthermore to Canada around 1000AD. It is now the only proven Viking settlement in North America and a National Historic Site.
On the album Led Zeppelin III, the “Immigrant Song” features an intense lyrical ballad by Robert Plant about the Norse discovery of a “new land”.. an interpretation is below in italics:
We come from the land of the ice and snow, (Scandinavia, Iceland)
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. (Iceland)
Hammer of the gods, will drive our ships to new land. (Norse god Thor used a hammer, taking the ships to a new land..Canada)
To fight the hordes, and sing and cry. (The Norse upon reaching Canada called the indigenous people they encountered, skraelings)
Valhalla I am coming. (In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”is a majestic, enormous hall for the war dead located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin.)
Always sweep with, with threshing oar. (The Viking longships used oars to propel them through the water)
Our only goal will be the western shore. (The Western shore would be Vinland, the fabled new land discovered in Canada by Norse explorer Leif Erikson in 1000AD)
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun (The sun is visible in Iceland at midnight during certain months) where the hot springs flow.
How soft your fields so green. (Vinland, as described by the Vikings in Canada was described to have meadows of green grass)
Can whisper tales of gore. (The sagas of the Vikings told of the Norse settlement of Vinland being brutally attacked by the indigenous people, and vice versa.)
Of how we calmed the tides of war. We are your over Lords.
Always sweep with threshing oar, Our only goal will be the western shore. (Canada)
So now you’d better stop, and rebuild all your ruins. (The Vinland settlement was abandoned in Canada, leaving only ruins)
For peace and trust can win the day, despite of all your losing. (The Norse settlers lost their battle with the indigenous people of Canada who forced them to return back to the land of the ice and snow despite the initial trust the two parties once had for each other.)
With the “Immigrant Song” being released in 1970, it was written during the same time the Ingstads announced their discovery of the Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. The Norse were the immigrants, and the new land was Canada. Perhaps a coincidence, but it seems the lyrics are a telling clue as to the origin of the Led Zeppelin song we are all familiar with. The complete song on YOUTUBE is posted here.
Andrew King September 25, 2016