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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - Vikings - Leif Eriksson - #TidbitThursday

This week I'm exploring the legendary Leif Eriksson, the person and the Viking myths. Hope you enjoy!

Leif Eriksson was born in Iceland (between 975 and 985), to Tjodhilde and Erik the Red (possibly so-named from his hot temper or his red beard). The name Eriksson is a combination of "Erik's" plus "son". Leif had a step-sister, Freydis, and two brothers, Torstein and Torvald.

Leif went to live with a teacher, Thyrker, at age eight, to increase his education (similar to fostering in the Middle Ages). Thyrker was a German that Erik had captured and brought to Iceland. By age 12, Leif was considered an adult and left his teacher's house and returned home. Between 980 and 982, Erik the Red was accused of murder and the victim's family refused blood money payment to make admends so Erik was banished from Iceland. He set out for a land he'd heard about from Gunnbjorn Ulfsson. After some searching, he finally found a promising place to settle and he named it Greenland. He founded two settlements, Eystribyggd (Eastern Settlement) and Vestribyggd (Western Settlement). In the Eastern Settlement, Erik built an estate called Brattahlid (today's Quassussuaq/Qassiarsuk).

When Leif reached age twenty-four, he headed to Norway to pay homage to the king. On the way, Leif and his men sailed too far south and got stuck in the Hebrides to wait out the storms. Here, he met and fell in love with a young lady, Thorgunna who later gave birth to their son (his only known son), Thorkell Leifsson. When he landed in Norway, he brought gifts to King Olaf Tryggvason. The king convinced Leif to turn away from Pagan gods. Leif was converted to Christianity circa 999 CE.

Leif returned to Greenland with a Christian priest. He later converted his mother, Tjodhilde, and she built a church in Brattahlid (the first Christian church in Greenland) and eventually converted her husband, Erik the Red. It was still common practice to adopt Christianity but to worship pagan gods (like Odin) alongside.

Eventually, resources became scarce especially timber. After hearing stories of new lands years earlier from Bjarni Herjulfsson, Leif decided he might be able to gather resources from those lands.

After year 1000 CE, Leif set out to explore. The first land he hit was barren and full of glacial ice which he named "Helluland" ("Flat Rock Land") on what is today's Baffin Island. Since the land lacked much-needed resources, he continued his journey.

He then sojourned south and landed at a forested spot he named "Markland" ("Forest Land"). Leif and his men sailed on toward the southeast and established a camp in a green, lush place which he called "Leifsbudir" ("Leif's Camp"). They sheltered there during the winter in a longhouse. Upon exploration of the area, they found plenty of fish and wild grapes (which didn't grow in Greenland). Leif called the new settlement "Vinland" ("Vine Land" or "Wine Land"). This is the first Viking settlement in North America. By Spring, Leif and his men returned to Greenland with stacks of timber and the precious grapes. On his way home, he rescued a group that had become shipwrecked who later rewarded him with their ship's cargo. People began calling Leif, "Leif the Lucky".

When Erik the Red passed away of illness, around 1003, Leif inherited his father's role as leader of Greenland and his estate of Brattahlid. The official title "Paramount Chief of Greenland" meant Leif had to take over as chieftain and run his estates including Vinland.

Picture References:
Leif Eriksson Statue - https://exploration.marinersmuseum.org/subject/leif-eriksson/
Leif status in Chicago - https://www.leiferikson.org/Timeline.htm


The Mariner's Museum - https://exploration.marinersmuseum.org/subject/leif-eriksson/
"Everyday Life in Viking Times" by Michael Gibson, ISBN#0-7500-1472-5

Leif Eriksson: Viking Explorer of the New World (Great Explorers of the World) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings (Oxford Illustrated Histories)
The World of the Vikings Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age
The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (General Military) The Vikings (Journey into civilization)
Vikings, a Dark History Vikings: Warriors, Raiders, and Masters of the Sea (Oxford People)
The Vikings  

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