Leif Erikson was born to Erik the Red
and Thjodhild Jorundsdottir in Iceland. Leif had two brothers Thorvald and Thorstein and a sister Freydis.
Leif’s grandfather, Torvald, died in Iceland.
Leif’s father, Erik, was exiled for killing his neighbour, Eyiolf the Foul. He left Iceland and sailed west with his family. He found the land previously discovered by Gunnbjorn Ulfsson. He sailed along the coast until he found an area free from ice and settled there for his period of exile.
Erik the Red returned to Iceland from exile and told people about the green land he had found. He wanted people to return with him and establish a settlement. He left his family in the care of Tyrker, one of his trusted slaves.
25 ships left Iceland bound for Greenland. However, many were lost on the journey and only 14 reached Greenland. Two settlements were established, one in the east named Brattahlid (Qassiarsuk) and one in the west near Nuuk.
The Norwegian merchant, Bjarni Herjolfsson, left Norway to sail to Greenland. However, his ship was blown off course and he discovered a land filled with trees to the west of Greenland. When he reached Greenland he spoke of his discovery.
Leif Erikson, decided to sail to Norway and find employment in the service of King Olaf Tryggvason.
999 (late Summer)
Leif’s ship was blown off course and he landed in the Hebrides, north of Scotland. There he had a relationship with a lady named Thorgunna. Their son, Thorgils was born after Leif left the Hebrides.
Leif Erikson reached the court of King Olaf Tryggvason. While in Norway, Leif and his party converted to Christianity.
Leif returned to Greenland determined to make Greenland a Christian land. He brought with him a number of Christian missionaries.
Leif planned a journey west to discover new lands. Erik agreed to accompany his son but after a fall from his horse he decided to remain in Greenland.
Leif Erikson left Greenland to voyage further west to try to find the land described by Bjarni Herjolfsson. He first discovered a forested land which he named Markland (possibly Labrador). He continued south and found a land which he named Vinland (Newfoundland) because of the grapes that grew there. It is unlikely that the berries found were grapes as it is too far north for them to grow. They are more likely to have been gooseberries or some other berries. Leif and his party established a settlement at Vinland.
After spending the winter in Vinland, Leif returned to Greenland with a cargo of wood and ‘grapes’. After discovering Vinland, Leif Erikson never returned, instead he made it his mission to convert the population of Greenland to Christianity. Other, including his siblings, did visit Vinland.
A party of Icelanders arrived in Greenland. They had unwittingly brought disease and many people died.
Leif’s father, Erik the Red died in Greenland from the disease settlers brought from Iceland. Leif took over the position of chief.
Battle of Vinland
Leif Erikson’s brother Thorvald Erikson had travelled to Vinland and come into contact with the native peoples. The encounter became hostile and Thorvald was struck an arrow. He died from the injury.
On hearing of the death of Thorvald, Leif’s other brother Thorstein Erikson set out to recover his body. However, his ship hit bad weather and they were forced to return to Greenland. Shortly afterwards, Thorstein succumbed to the epidemic and died.
According to legend, Leif’s sister Freydis Eriksdottir also made a journey to Vinland. After making a deal with brothers Helgi and Finnbogi to split any profits 50-50, they set off on their journey. Soon after reaching Vinland there were disagreements between Freydis and her husband and the brothers Helgi and Finnbogi. Freydis then falsely accused the brothers of beating her. She persuaded her husband to kill the two men in retaliation. Freydis then killed a number of women.
According to legend, Freydis and her husband returned home to Greenland and gave Leif their story. However, Leif Erikson tortured some of her crew who revealed the true story. Freydis fell from favour and was shunned by the locals.
Leif Erikson’s son, Thorgils, was sent to his father in Greenland.
Leif Erikson died in Greenland. He was succeeded as chief by his second son, Thorkell.
‘Published Feb 08 2022 @ 3.16 p.m. – Updated – [last-modified]