The Saga

The first European in America!
Leif the Lucky sails to America long before Christopher Columbus

 

Most evidence suggest that Eirik the Red´s son Leifur Ericsson, “Leif the Lucky”, was born at Eirkisstadir in West Iceland. Leading an expedition from his home in Greenland, Leifur became the first European to set foot in North America, which he named Vinland, in the year 1000.

Leifur was probably born at Eiriksstadir about 970-980. As a child he moved with his parents to Greenland and grew up on the farm at Brattahlid, the settlement his father founded. Following the custom common among the sons of prominent Icelandic families of the time, he made a voyage to Norway as a young man. According to the account in the Saga of Erik the Red, his ship was blown to the Hebrides, and he spent most of a summer there, during which time he had a child with a woman named Thórgunnua.

He arrived in Norway in the autumn. The king of Norway at the time was Ólarfur Tryggvason, who ruled from 995-1000. The king had been making great efforts to convert Norway and the countries which Norwegians had settled to Christianity. Leifur met the king, converted soon after and then spent the winter with him. In the spring, the king sent Leifur to Iceland on his behalf to convince the Icelanders to convert. He was successful and the Icelanders adopted Christianity at the Althing (Parliament) the same summer.

Leifur was driven off course in on his homeward voyage, and found lands whose existence no European had previously known of. In one place there were fields of self-sown wheat and grapevines. Leifur named the country Vinland (Wineland). On the way back to Greenland, he found shipwrecked men and rescued them. These shipwrecked men were merchants whoe rewarded him handsomely, which may be the origins of his nickname of “Leif the Lucky”. After this, he returned to his father’s home in Brattahlid, Greenland. According to Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, these events took place in the year 1000.