Leif Ericson (old Icelandic: Leifr Eiríksson) was an explorer popularly thought of as the first European to discover North America and more specifically, the region that would become Canada. He was the son of Eric the Red (Eiríkr rauđi), a Norwegian outlaw, who was the son of another Norwegian outlaw, Ţorvaldr Ásvaldsson. His mother was Ţjođhildr. His father had started two Norse colonies, the Western Settlement and the Eastern Settlement, in Greenland which he had named.
During a stay in Norway, Leif was converted to Christianity (like many Norse around that time). When he returned to Greenland, he bought the boat of Bjarni Herjólfsson and set out to explore the land that Bjarni had found.
The saga of the Greenlanders tells that Leif set out about 1000 to follow Bjarni's route in the opposite direction. The first land he met was covered with flat rock slabs (Icelandic:hellur). He therefore called it Helluland (land of the flat stones), which is probably the present day Baffin Island. Next he came to a land that was flat and wooded, with white sandy beaches, which he called Markland (woodland), which is assumed to have been Labrador. When they found land again, Leif and his men landed and built some houses. They found the land pleasant: There was plenty of salmon in the river, and the climate was mild, with little frost in the winter and the grass remaining green. They remained at the place over the winter. The sagas mention that one of Leif's men, Tyrkir, arguably a German, found grapes. Leif named the country Vínland after it. On the return voyage, Leif rescued a Norse castaway, which earned him the nickname 'Leif the Lucky' (Old Norse "Leifr hinn heppni").
There is discussion as to the location of Leif's Vinland. Many believe that the Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows was Leif's colony, but others argue that it must have been more southernly, since grapes do not grow as far north as Newfoundland. In this case the name Vinland might come from the Old Norse word vin, meaning a natural meadow.
Another saga, The Saga of Eric the Red tells that it was actually Leif who discovered the American mainland, while returning from Norway to Greenland in 1000 or thereabouts, but does not state an attempt of his to settle there. However, the saga of the Greenlanders is nowadays considered to be the more reliable of the two.
As far as known, Leif Ericson had two brothers, Ţorvaldur and Ţorsteinn , and one sister, Freydís. He married Ţórgunna and had one son, named Ţorkell Leifsson.
Last updated: 10-14-2005 16:34:48