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Erik the Red

This article concerns the Viking explorer. For the comic book character, see Erik the Red (comics).

Erik the Red (9501003; old Icelandic: EirÝkr Rau­i; Norwegian; Eirik Raude; sometimes Eric the Red), so-called because of his red hair, was the founder of the first Nordic settlement in Greenland (long before it had been named Greenland, it had perhaps been inhabited by the Dorset people) and father of Leif Ericson (Leiv Eiriksson). Born in Norway, he was the son of Ůorvaldur (spelt with a thorn) ┴svaldsson (Thorvald Asvaldsson), and was therefore also called, patronymically, Erik Torvaldsson (or EirÝkur Ůorvaldsson).

In about 960, Erik's father was forced to flee Norway because of a murder. The family settled in Iceland, but in 982, Erik was outlawed there too because of another murder. He decided to search for a land further west of Iceland which had been spotted earlier by a discoverer named Gunnbj÷rn, who gave it the name "Gunnbjarnarsker" ("Gunnbj÷rn's skerries").

According to The Saga of Eric the Red, he spent three years in outlawry (his period of banishment) exploring the coast of Greenland, and then returned to Iceland with tall stories about this new-found land. With a large number of colonists, he returned to Greenland in 985 and established two colonies on its west coast: the eastern settlement (near the south point), which he named Eystribygg­ and the western settlement, Vestribygg­ (around Nuuk). In Eystribygg­, he built the estate BrattahlÝ­, near what is now Narssarssuaq, for himself. His title was that of paramount chieftain of Greenland. The settlement venture involved twenty-five ships, fourteen of which made the journey successfully; of the other eleven, some turned back, while others were lost at sea.

The settlement flourished, growing to over 3000 inhabitants; the original party was joined by groups of immigrants escaping overcrowding in Iceland. However, one group of immigrants that arrived in 1002 brought with it an epidemic that decimated the colony, killing many of its leading citizens, including Erik in the winter of 1003. Nevertheless, the colony was able to bounce back and survived until the Little Ice Age finally wiped it out in the 15th century, shortly before Christopher Columbus made his fateful journey.

As far as is known, Erik had four children. He had a daughter, FreydÝs, as well as three sons, the explorer Leifur EirÝksson, Ůorvald, and Ůorsteinn . He was a pagan, unlike his son Leifur.

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