The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

Adventures, explorations, and a dose of luck are just a few of the things comprising the fascinating life of one of the most famous Norsemen, Leif Eiriksson.

We have many names for the things we love, which is probably why there are several variations of the infamous Norseman’s surname – he goes by Eiriksson, Erikson, and Eriksson in today’s world. In his time, it is thought that his Norse name was Leifr Eiríksson.

The explorer, nicknamed “Leif the Lucky” (or “Leif den hepne” in Norse), is most famous for sailing from Greenland to North America around the year 1000.

With this, Eiriksson and his crew were probably the first Europeans to set foot in America – yes, way before the infamous Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. Take that, history!

Early life

Leif Eiriksson was born in Iceland around the year 973 AD to a Norwegian father and an Icelandic mother. 

His father, Eirik Raude (translating to Eirik the Red), was originally from Jæren in Norway. Eirik’s father, ​​Thorvald Asvaldsson, was convicted of murder in Norway, which ultimately resulted in the family fleeing to Iceland.

Eirik Raude was described as a lover of combat, and his young son Leif Eiriksson reportedly had to be placed with a foster father in Iceland named Tyrke. It wasn’t until the age of twelve that Leif was old enough to move back to his father’s farm.

Eirik Raude was then expelled from Iceland after committing manslaughter around the year 980, and thus became the first colonizer of Greenland. Despite being born elsewhere, both Eiriksson and his father called Greenland home for the rest of their lives.

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

Greenland today. Eirik Raude apparently chose to name the country Greenland in hope of attracting more people. Photo: Visit Greenland on Unsplash

Eiriksson’s journey to Norway

At the age of twenty, Leif Eiriksson was given his own ship and crew to sail to Norway.

According to myth, a storm forced Eiriksson to take cover at the Hebrides, an archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland. He ended up spending a whole summer here, supposedly due to meeting a woman who went by the name Torgunna.

The young couple quickly developed an intimate relationship. As Eiriksson was finally getting ready to set sail for Norway, Torgunna revealed a secret: She was with child.

The saga then reports that Eiriksson suspected her of being involved with witchcraft – something that seems, in hindsight, more like a ploy to leave her alone with the child without being looked down upon for his decision.

Torgunna then promised that his son would be sent after him to Greenland, where Eiriksson resided. According to the saga, his son did arrive eventually, carrying the name of Torgils. Torgunna, on the other hand, was never mentioned again.

In the autumn of 999 AD, Eiriksson finally reached Norway. Olaf Tryggvason was the current king, and due to his Christian belief, Eriksson agreed to be christened and underwent a baptism. 

Christianity spreads

Eiriksson stayed in Norway throughout the winter, but in the spring of the year 1000 AD, he was ready to return to Greenland. The Norwegian king, however, had a special mission bestowed upon the young man – he was to bring a priest with him and make sure that the people of Greenland were christened. 

The mission was successful, and most people agreed to adopt Christianity into their lives. An exception to the rule, however, was Eriksson’s father Eirik Raude, who was reportedly refused to consider converting to the newer religion.

Eiriksson’s mother, however, was successfully converted and went on to build the first church in Greenland, at Brattahild.

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

Rocky cliffs belonging to Baffin Island, Canada. Eiriksson is thought to have first reached Cape Aston, a part of Baffin Island. Photo: Photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen on Unsplash

Exploring beyond Greenland

There are two different works both outlining the supposed life of Leif Eiriksson: The Saga of Eirik Raude and The Saga of the Greenlanders. In some areas, the details differ slightly, such as how Eiriksson came to visit Newfoundland.

While Eirik Raude’s saga claims that Leif lost his course while sailing back from Norway and thus ended up stumbling upon the land, The Saga of the Greenlanders claims that Eiriksson intentionally traveled westbound because a man named Bjarne Herjolvsson had previously spotted land in that direction.

The Saga of the Greenlanders further claims that after having sailed North for 955 kilometers following the route of Bjarne Herjolvsson, Eiriksson reached a land covered in glaciers and flat boulders. He named the place “Helleland,” which roughly translates to “Land of Flat Rocks.” Today it is thought that this place is actually Cape Aston, located on Baffin Island in Canada.

The next land Eiriksson reportedly saw was flat and covered in forest, with white, sandy beaches but no pasture. He named the place “Markland,” translated to “Land of Forests,” and this place is most likely today’s Labrador in Eastern Canada.

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

An abandoned shed pictured in Newfoundland, Canada. Eiriksson and his crew eventually made their way to this part of the country. Photo: Julie Fader on Unsplash

The Land of Wine

Following this, Eiriksson and his crew sailed south for two days and again found new land. This place was apparently quite appealing, with trout swimming in the rivers and cod in the sea, allowing for sustainable meals. The climate was described as mild with grass that was green year-round, and subsequently, the travelers built simple houses and stayed the winter.

During their stay, they explored the land during the day. One day, Eiriksson’s foster father Tyrke had everyone worried when he did not return from his explorations upon the agreed time. However, Tyrke eventually showed up, and carried great news: He had found vines and grapes. The land was thus named “Vinland,” or “The Land of Wine.”

Later archeological finds confirm that the settlement was in the northern part of the Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador, in a place today called L’Anse aux Meadows. 

A significant discrepancy in the story of Eiriksson and Vinland is the fact that no grapes actually grow there. It is therefore theorized that the Saga of the Greenlanders, which is the only saga to mention this course of events, added the explanation at a later point.

In fact, it is even theorized that Tyrke never actually existed and that he was added to the saga at a later point in order to give credibility to the story claiming that the travelers had found grapes.

Several experts including Helge Ingstad, the famous Norwegian explorer who first found archeological traces from Eiriksson and his crew in North America, believe that the vines and grapes are actually a reference to something else. They argue that the word “vin” is, in fact, not a reference to wine – instead, it refers to “natural, open grasslands.” 

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

Reconstruction of Viking structures in L’Anse aux Meadows. Photo: Richard Droker on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leif the Lucky

Eiriksson famously went by the catchy nickname of “Leif the Lucky” (in Norse: “Leif den hepne”). While one might assume that the nickname derives from his successful trip to North America, The Saga of the Greenlanders has a different explanation.

In the saga, it is claimed that as Eiriksson and his crew traveled back to Greenland from Vinland, he saw something that the rest of the crew didn’t – a ship full of Norsemen that had capsized.

They reportedly saved 15 men in the dramatic incident, and after this event, people started referring to Eiriksson as “Leif the Lucky.”

The aftermath

After Eiriksson’s expedition to Vinland, he never returned to the shores of North America. When his father Eirik Raude died, Eiriksson took on the role of chief of the Greenland settlement.

Very few actually traveled the same route after Eiriksson’s voyage. His brother Torvald, together with a small group of people, reportedly attempted to settle down there – however, they clashed with the indigenous peoples and thus eventually headed back to Greenland.

Eiriksson’s other brother, Torstein, died in an attempt to reach Vinland. However, Torstein’s widow Gudrid eventually made her way there together with her second husband, Torfinn Karlsevne. She went on to become the first woman to give birth to a European child on the American continent.

The rest of Europe was thus unfamiliar with Eiriksson’s journey and only learned about this promising new land when Christopher Columbus arrived at the continent nearly 500 years later.

The incredible story of Leif Eiriksson and his journey to North America

The statue reads: “Leifr Eirícsson, Son of Iceland, Discoverer of Vinland” Photo: mightymightymatze on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Eiriksson reportedly died sometime around 1025, and his son Thorkel Leifsson took over as the chief of Eiriksfjord in Greenland. His other son Thorgils, who was conceived at the Hebrides on Eiriksson’s way to Norway and later moved to Greenland, stayed there as well but was, according to the sagas, rather unpopular.

The Norse settlement in Greenland did not last long and allegedly died out in the 1400s due to the climate worsening. 

Eiriksson’s legacy

In Boston, a statue was raised in 1887 to honor Eiriksson’s memory. Several statues projecting the Norseman have since been erected, among other places in Seattle, in Trondheim, and in Reykjavik.

In September 1964, then-US President Lyndon B. Johnson declared October 9 as “Leif Eiriksson Day.” As it was thought that the Norse explorer arrived in America sometime in the fall, the date when the first immigration boat from Norway arrived in America in 1825 was chosen for the occasion.

Source: #NorwayTodayTravel

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related


Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister Huitfeldt comments on military takeover in Sudan: “Extremely serious”

“Norway is deeply alarmed at the serious development of the current situation in Sudan where General al-Burhan, the leader of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, has dissolved the institutions of the state ... Read more »

Rotting trees and wine distilleries: The six smelliest cities in Europe

The people of our continent’s history were noted to have had sub-par hygiene standards – any literature on Medieval England or the Great Stink of Paris will tell you that. ... Read more »

The height of several hundred Norwegian mountains might be recorded wrong

According to a new book by Sveinung Engeland, numerous mountains in Norway might need their height remeasured. A few of Norway’s highest mountains, such as Glittertind and Store Skagastøltind, have ... Read more »

King Harald to attend celebration of 50 years of Pakistani labor immigration to Oslo

On Friday, October 29, Oslo Municipality will mark 50 years of labor immigration from Pakistan. King Harald is among those who will participate in the event. For 50 years, working ... Read more »

European Medicines Agency gives green light to third dose of Moderna's corona vaccine

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) says the third dose of Moderna’s corona vaccine can be given to people over 18 years of age at least six months after the second ... Read more »

Amsterdam court's ruling on Scythian gold politically motivated and disputable — expert

Ivan Kuzmin reminded that the gold had been discovered in Crimea in 1964, what meant that it belonged to the former Soviet Union Read more »

Russian Historic Society calls handover of Scythian gold to Ukraine ‘robbery'

Russian Historic Society board chairman Konstantin Mogilevsky underscored that the ruling is not final, "there is an appeal and further disputes ahead that have not been complete" Read more »

Lyon hosts new exhibition by Evaristo Estivill, a Spanish exile turned painter

A retrospective of the Spanish painter Evaristo Estivill has been inaugurated in the French city of Lyon, featuring oils, drawings, and paintings by the self-taught artist. Forced into exile in ... Read more »

Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to Sudan

The Foreign Ministry tightened its travel advice for Sudan. It now advises against all travel to the country, where the military seized power in a coup on Monday night. “Norwegian ... Read more »

Smells like witch spirit: Ancient myths and their scented sorceresses

Most perfume ads suggest that the right scent can make you sexy, alluring and successful. A blend by Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, meanwhile, offers to make you smell like Hecate, ... Read more »

Verdict in Scythian Gold case shatters trust towards international courts — legislator

According to Viktor Vodolatsky, the decision made in Amsterdam does not match a single article of international legislation Read more »

PHOTOS: See the opening of Oslo's new MUNCH museum

On Friday, October 22, the new Munch museum – rebranded as MUNCH – in Oslo’s Bjørvika was officially opened by King Harald and Queen Sonja. Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess ... Read more »

New report: Weaker housing price growth expected in Norway in the next few years

On a national basis, house prices will rise 6.9% between 2022 and 2024, according to a report from Samfunnsøkonomisk analyse. That is far weaker than the growth in the previous ... Read more »

The El Gouna Film Festival - An evolution of Arab Cinema

The El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) pulled off an incredible two-week programme of film screenings, masterclasses and workshops for their 5th edition. The fortnight of films culminated in a glamourous ... Read more »

Moscow is hosting meeting of WW II veterans from allied countries

In the Alexander Garden at the foot of the Kremlin wall the veterans laid flowers at the memorable stele of Hero City Leningrad, the Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Read more »

Aker Group invests in battery production in Narvik

Aker Horizon has bought two plots in Narvik – it is investing in a company with plans to start battery production. The goal is to create a green industrial hub ... Read more »

Tell us about winter camping, glamping and cabins in the UK – you could win a holiday prize

Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian Winter might be around the corner – but that doesn’t mean hiding away inside. We want to know about your favourite places to stay for an ... Read more »

Black History by boat: Cruise along the Thames celebrates Britain's hidden culture

Any cruise along the Thames will take you past some of London’s most famous landmarks, but the Black History River Cruise and its group of historians will take you on ... Read more »

Luxury Watches: How brand strength rather than brand size can win the day at GPHG

The world’s most recognisable luxury companies have once again put some of their best watches forward in the hope of securing one of the coveted prizes at the Geneva Watchmaking ... Read more »

Le Méridien Lav, Split - hotel review

(Le Meridien Lav) If your definition of an ideal holiday is to sit back, relax by the sea and walk no more than 10 minutes to access food and drink, ... Read more »

That's a wrap for the 5th edition of El Gouna Film Festival

The fifth edition of the El Gouna Film Festival came to an exciting final burst as a host of stars graced the red carpet. After a week of celebrating Arab ... Read more »

Infection increase in Oslo: 285 new corona cases registered in the last 24 hours

A total of 285 new corona infection cases have been registered in Oslo in the last 24 hours. That is 165 more than the day before and 166 more than ... Read more »

Why Paul McCartney is giving up on signing fan autographs after six decades

After six decades in the music industry, Sir Paul McCartney has announced he will no longer sign autographs for fans. The Beatles legend doesn’t see the point in fans having ... Read more »

Cassation of Amsterdam court's decision over Scythian gold will be filed soon

On October 26, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal has ruled that the Scythian Gold collection, which was on view at the Allard Pierson Museum in 2014, should be handed over to Ukraine Read more »

Prince Philip designed the Queen's magical engagement ring - with one heartfelt detail

Her Majesty the Queen married the late Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, after her love presented her with the most impressive engagement ring. The dazzling jewel has a special connection ... Read more »

Island-hopping in Germany is an unexpected delight

Mainau Island, Germany – Getty In autumn, bobbing in the middle of Lake Constance, where the sun arcs from the foothills of western Austria and vineyards of southern Germany into ... Read more »

Fewer students in Norway dropped out of upper secondary school during the pandemic

3% of students in upper secondary school in Norway dropped out during the previous school year, a decrease from previous years.  According to the Norwegian Directorate of Education, the proportion ... Read more »

BEAC countries adopt 2025 Plan of Action on Climate Change — Lavrov

As the Russian foreign minister noted, the Plan covers the period from this year to 2025 Read more »

Businesses in Thailand urge government to reverse alcohol ban

Photograph: Jack Taylor/AFP/Getty Images Businesses in Thailand have urged the government to lift restrictions on alcohol sales as the country reopens to tourists, warning the measures are destroying its famous ... Read more »

The Mirror and the Light cuts its run amid fears over Covid ‘risk'

(©Tristram Kenton) The producers of the critically-acclaimed The Mirror and the Light have cancelled plans to extend its run saying “the risk” is too great. The play, the last in ... Read more »

Afghan general: People related to the Taliban were flown to Norway during the evacuation

People with ties to the Taliban were flown to Norway, while many who should have been evacuated here remained in Kabul, an Afghan general said on Tuesday. The Norwegian Armed ... Read more »

Crimean senior official slams Amsterdam court's decision as ‘illegal'

The Amsterdam Court of Appeal has ruled that the Scythian Gold collection should be handed over to Ukraine Read more »

Strictly Come Dancing Halloween Special Songs And Dances Revealed

The Strictly Come Dancing Halloween special returns this weekend (Photo: BBC) After a year off owing to the pandemic, the Strictly Come Dancing Halloween special is back this Saturday, and ... Read more »

All Russian regions engulfed in COVID epidemic — health minister

To date, 8,316,019 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia Read more »

A €4 million piece of paper: Why the world's first postal stamp is worth it

The world’s first-ever stamp will go up for auction in a few weeks’ time. An unused Penny Black is part of a document that’s expected to sell for between €4 ... Read more »

Crimean museums can file appeal against court's decision over Scythian gold — lawyer

The Amsterdam Court of Appeal has ruled that the Scythian Gold collection should be handed over to Ukrain Read more »

Russian government allocates over $807 mln to support healthcare system — PM

According to Mikhail Mishustin, funds will flow to regions in the first instance for provision of medical aid to COVID patients and citizens with suspected infection Read more »

Hilary Mantel play to close amid Covid uncertainty

Photograph: John Snelling/Getty Images The Royal Shakespeare Company has cancelled a planned extension of its West End stage production of Hilary Mantel’s novel The Mirror and the Light citing uncertainty ... Read more »

NTB: Several fully vaccinated people infected with corona in Trondheim

In the last week, Trondheim Municipality has registered a marked increase in corona infection figures. Several people among the infected are fully vaccinated. “In the last week, we have seen ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic