Leifur Eiríkson was the first European to set foot in
the New World. The Vikings only made a few voyages to the New World after
Leifur. Unfortunately, this caused his discovery to remain unknown to nearly
all of Europe for centuries.
Leif was born in Iceland in about 960 AD, son of Eiríkur
the Red and Þjóðhildur Jörundardóttir.
In childhood he was fostered by a German called Tyrkir. Tyrkir taught Leif
everything he needed to know.
Eiríkur the red decided to investigate rumors of lands to the
west. So, Eiríkur took his wife and kids, some slaves, and ample
supplies and travelled west. A few days later they landed on a new land,
which he named Greenland and
started to build a camp.
the age of 24, Leifur was asked to captain his first voyage. This was to
bring gifts to King Olaf in Norway. Finally, after a long trip, they sighted
some small islands, the Hebrides, and then they realized they had sailed
farther south than they had intended. During the stay in the Hebrides
Leifur stayed in the house of the lord of the island. There lived the lordís
daughter who was named Thorgunna. She was believed to be learned in witchcraft.
Before Leifur left for Norway, Thorgunna told him she was going to have
his baby and she foresaw that it would be a boy. She had her child and
named him Thorgils. Later he travelled to Greenland and Leifur accepted
him as his son. This is the only child known to be Leifur´s.
[This picture of Leifur and Thorgunna was made by Karín
Leifur set off for Norway. The wind was good and they got there in a
The king was so impressed with Leifur that he invited him to
stay in Norway. Leifur decided there was no reason to rush back home to
Greenland, so he accepted the offer.
In Norway Leifur became very interested in Christianity. He finally
agreed to be baptized and accept this new faith. On his return voyage,
he brought along a priest to spread the Christian faith to Greenland.
Later he decided to find the lands of the west of which Bjarni had spoke.
Bjarni had told the story of how mist had covered the North Star so they
couldnít navigate. They sailed for many days and finally spotted a land,
but it wasnít Greenland, where they had been heading. So Leifur bought
Bjarni´s boat and set off with Tyrkir and some men towards the north,
following Bjarni´s course. After sailing up the western coast of
Greenland, he sailed west for 600 miles and found a land with high glaciers
and rock. They landed, but were disappointed because the land seemed to
be one huge slab of rock. Because of this he named it Helluland,
which is now believed to be Baffin Island.
Leifur then sailed south and found another land. He found it to be flat
with white beaches and some trees. He named this land Markland
that today is believed to be the eastern coast of Canada. Then Leifur sailed
southeast for two days and came to an island with a mainland behind it.
On this land the dew on the grass seemed as sweet as honey. Here Leifur
had some shelters built.
sent out an exploration group to explore the land. After one of these expeditions,
Tyrkir didnít return. The men searched for him all day and finally found
him the next morning. When they found him he was very excited and blabbering
in German. After he calmed down he explained to the men that he had found
grapes on this land. Leifur ordered his men to load grapes and timber onto
the boat, and then they settled in for the winter. But the winter here
was very peculiar. They also noticed that the days and nights were of more
equal length here than back home in Greenland.
[The picture of Tyrkir was made by Berglind
Leifur gave this land a name, Vinland.
We now know Leifur´s Vinland to be L´Anse aux Meadows
Surprisingly few people ever returned to Vinland. Because of
this, Europe remained almost totally in the dark about the discovery of
this New World.