One way the author has shown the lack of education in the Greenlanders is the discussion they have over the efficacy of the relic of Saint Olaf in the cathedral at Garðar. All they have is the last finger joint of the least finger on the hand of a saint, who is not as revered as St. Nicholas. The cathedral could not compare to the cathedrals of Europe being rather small and surrounded with turf for warmth but it was built of stone and the ruins can be seen today at Igaliku. (as Gardar is known today) Bishop Alf, who is a character in the novel, was the last bishop of Greenland.
One character, Einar, declares that St. Olaf was good for curing scrofula and other skin ills while others say he was good for curing madness. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time would know that I find mentions of scrofula highly amusing. It was the French and English kings who were said to be able to cure scrofula by touch, a power which they received from St. Marcoul at whose shrine people were said to be cured.
There is an excellent article on the history of the disease in The English Historical Review, published by the Oxford University Press called "The King's Evil" by Frank Barlow. In it, he writes that Marcoul could have been chosen because his name, broken down to mar cou, could be understood as 'bad neck'.
The church at Garðar was called St. Nicholas but, if it ever carried any saint's relics, I have not been able to find out. It should have had relics because any cathedral must carry them. As Garðar was the seat of the bishop of Greenland, St. Olaf would be a good choice in spite of the name, since his relics might be readily available to the archbishop. The name St. Nicholas was chosen because he was the patron saint of sailors This is an ironic choice because once Greenland became part of the kingdom of Norway only the king's ships could trade there. As the king only very rarely sent ships to Greenland, this contributed to their isolation and the degradation of the country as well as eliminating any new migrations to the land. The private ships that traded there had to out of necessity, having been blown off course trying to reach Iceland.
Anyway, in my long and rambling way, I wanted to point out this mention of scrofula and to wonder why nobody ever gets it any more. Not that I want anyone to have it.