Erik the Red – The Viking who founded the first European settlement

Erik Thorvaldsson was born in 950. But his family had been exiled from Norway and moved to Iceland in c. 960 as a result of the numerous murders committed by Erik’s father, Þorvald Ásvaldsson.

Erik the Red.

Erik the Red.

People called him “Erik the Red” because he had a red beard and red hair. In Iceland, Erik married Tjodhilde (Þjóðhildr). He had four children- a daughter, Freydis and three sons, Leif Eiriksson, Thorvald, and Thorstein.

Erik, like his father, committed murder and was exiled from Iceland.

Eiríksstaðir, the homestead of the Erik the Red in Haukadalur.

Eiríksstaðir, the homestead of the Erik the Red in Haukadalur. Photo Credit

But this wasn’t the ending. Leaving Iceland he set on a journey to the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic ocean and during his voyage he discovered Greenland. According to the sagas, Erik spent three years exploring this unknown land, full of lush green pastures.

During his first winter there, he spent his time on the island of Eiriksey. His second winter was in Eiriksholmar and his final summer was spent as far north as Snaefell and into Hrafnsfjord.

Map of the northern region (including some fantasy islands) by Abraham Ortelius, ca. 1570.

Map of the northern region (including some fantasy islands) by Abraham Ortelius, ca. 1570.

When Erik Thorvaldsson returned to Iceland after the exile expired, he brought a little gift full of stories. Every great explorer has them.

Thorvaldsson story promised green land with fertile soil, so he easily convinced the people of Iceland, for many of them had a terrible and poor land from which they had to scratch out a living.

Leif Erikson by John K. Daniels, 1948-49.

Leif Erikson by John K. Daniels, 1948-49.

Erik returned to Greenland in 985 and brought with him a large number of colonists. These pilgrims settled and created two colonies, the Eastern called Eystribyggð and the Western called Vestribyggð.

Finally, Erik settled in Greenland where he lived as a real gentleman with his four children and his wife.

 

Erik the Red was a Norwegian Viking.Erik the Red was a Norwegian Viking.

As history turns to legend, it is believed that Erik died as a result of an injury that he got after falling from a horse.

Leiv Eiriksson Discovers America by Christian Krohg (1893).Leiv Eiriksson Discovers America by Christian Krohg (1893).

His passion for exploring was passed onto his son Leif Eiriksson who continued exploration and according to some evidence, had discovered America.

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