Biography of Leif Eriksson

Biography of Leif Eriksson

Who is Leif Eriksson? What are they works?

Leif Eriksson was born in Iceland occasionally around 970 AD, Eriksson was the son Erik the red. In care with the Viking traditional, when Leif attained boyhood, he was sent away from his family to live and learn the ways of his community.

At about eight years of age, a man named Thyrker – whom Erik the red had brought from Germany – was given the responsibility of teaching Erik about Viking customs and livelihood.

Under the keen eye of Thyrker, Erik Learnt to speak the Celtic and Russian language as well as write and  read runes, besides listening to ancient tales of Norse gods, Goddesses and heroes. More importantly, Thyrker taught Erik the Viking techniques of warfare and the use of weapons.

An important part of these growing up years was the love of seafaring and nautical adventure that young Leif developed; not only as a result of all the Old Norse mythological stories but also because of the sailors and their lore that Leif came to listen to during his apprenticeship at Thyrker’s house.

When young  Leif  turned twelve, he was ordered to return to his father’ s house and very soon a dramatic incident took place which changed the course of Leif’s life and brought him nearer to  his destiny.

The spring after Leif’s return, his father Erik was asked to attend the Thingvellior or an assembly of leaders which made laws for the Viking community. There Erik got into a fight with a long – time enemy and soon thing escalated to a point where Erik was accused of murder and banished from the community.

As a result, Leif along with other family member, slaves and limited provisions accompanied his father as the latter set sail to find the lands rumored to lie to the west of Iceland. Since Erik was in trouble with authorities in Norway too, he steered his, journey further towards the west in search of a land where he could settle and live in peace.

This voyage from Iceland on the western waters marked the first time young Leif was been exposed to deep-sea sailing and found that his boyhood desire of sailing into the open ocean had some true in the most unexpected way.

Appearance in Greenland                                            

Banished from Iceland for three years, Erik sailed westward till he arrived on the shores of Greenland. While the land seemed inhospitable at first, eventually, Erik and his dependents settled down to a quite but fruitful way of life. For young Leif, this time was again one of learning and adapting to new geographical conditions, a lesson that would come in very useful in his future expeditions.

Ones Erik’s stipulated of banishment were over, he decided to go make a trip back to Iceland and when there, he told people all about the new life in Greenland. Because economic condition had resulted in loss of vegetation cover and food – many people listened to Erik’s accounts with interest and decided to follow Erik to Greenland.

Leif in the meantime was on the doorstep of manhood and his potential for bravery and adventure was increasing becoming evident. One such incident that gave indication of great promise was when Leif managed to capture a live polar bear, all by himself.

From the shore, Leif saw the huge animal standing on the ice flow but the presence of a strong current between the ice flow and land made any attempt at venturing out into the waters rather dangerous.

Leif however brought to use his inherent knowledge of the sea currents, sailed upstream from the polar bear and then while allowing his boat to be guided by the current into the ice- flow, managed to get his prey. This incident not only impressed men much older to him in his community but marked him out for great things to come.

Destiny soon came calling. One day Leif spotted an old, weather-beaten boat sailing very slowly into the harbor. When Leif enquired about it, he realized that the boat belonged to the expedition of the renowned sea Captain Bjarni Hergelfson who had set sail for the lands on the western d learn all absolute the mysterious lands that lay to the west of Greenland.

Bjarni’s recounted hoe the crew had been facing navigational problems because of the cloud over that diminished the possibility of finding their way about on the seas with the help of the North star.

Even then the crew kept on sailing and finally reached a shore which unlike Greenland was not covered with ice but green, flat and forested. However, there was no time to get ashore and explore the new land since Bjarni’s expedition was already behind schedule and he wanted to get to Greenland as quickly as possible.

The account of this voyage had a powerful impact on Leif who was now convinced that rich, fertile land lay much west of Greenland and the discovery would be beneficial if only he could find a way to reach it.

Initial Journey

With all these thought of expeditions germinating in his mind, Leif grew increasingly restless to embark on a voyage all on his own. At around twenty-four year of age, Leif’s wish was granted and he was allowed to captain a ship with a crew of fourteen members but which would also be guided by Thyrker’s long sea-faring knowledge and experience.

The immediate purpose of the voyage was to take gifts to the ruler of Norway, King Olaf; however in the heart of his hearts, Leif ardently wished that he in the course of his journey would be able to find out something about the unknown lands that lay to the west.

At the beginning, the voyage was helped by favorable winds but after two days, the wings dropped down to only a slight breeze which meant that Leif’s boat cold not sail as fast as he would have liked them to. While a nautical journey to Iceland would have taken only two days under the usual circumstances, the time took Leif’s boat around five days to touch the shore of Iceland.

In order to make up for lost time, Leif forbade his crew to go ashore which in why there was no restocking as provisions. Leif would eventually go no to fret over this decision since after leaving the vicinity of Iceland, the expedition seemed to a lose its way and continued to sail for many days.

In the end, just when Leif though the ship would run out of food, he received news that land was in sight. However this was not the destination Leif had been sailing toward and when we found that he come upon the Hebrides Island, he realized that the ship had travelled much more towards south than would have been necessary to reach Norway.

After Leif’s arrival upon the Hebrides Island, a long and fierce storm swept over the place. There was no question of setting sail then and Leif’s found himself as his crew stuck on the island for around a month as the storm raged on. According to some historical anecdotes, during this time, Leif was met by a young woman named Thorgunna who was the daughter of the chief of the islands.

Believed to be well-versed in the magical arts, Thorgunna apparently predicted that she would have a son by Leif who would be named Thorgils. Years later Thorgils would visit Leif in Greenland and receive recognition as his son. Though more details are hard come by’ Thorgils seems to be the only offspring of Leif that exists in historical anecdotes.

Norway Voyage

After the storm passed on, Leif and his crew were able to set sail from the Hebrides Islands. This time they were amply aided by favorable winds and they were able to arrive at the shores of Norway without delay.

In the royal court of Norway, Leif was greeted with great cordiality by King Olaf Tryggvason who not only remarked that he knew Leif’s father well but also agree to hear Leif’s adventures with great interest.

After Leif finished the account of his voyages, the king was highly pleased with the young name’s bravery and courage and he strongly exhorted Leif to spend some time at the court. The kingdom of Norway was then a place of affluence and at the royal court, Leif found himself partaking of every kind of luxury.

One day however during a game of chess between King Olaf and Leif, the discussion turned to more serious subjects. The king told Leif that trough earlier he too had worshiped Norse gods and goddesses, now he was a follower of Christianity. 

Apparently, the king had converted in the wake of a disastrous plague that left thousands of people in his country dead. One the king along with other countrymen was baptized, the plague disappeared and since then the king has been an ardent believer in Christianity.

Leif became curious about this new religion and followed himself to be baptized as well. It is believed that soon after he returned to Greenland and even brought back a priest who would spread the new faith in the country. 

Journey to The New World

Through Leif had returned to Greenland to much fame and recognition, deep inside he still felt that he had not really achieved all that he was meant to do. Bjarni’s accounts of a new land with lush green forests and flat terrain kept echoing in his mind until he decided to set off on a new voyage in search of this mysteries land in the far west.

For this Leif purchased Bjarni’s boat and then assembled a small but qualified crew which again included the much knowledgeable and experienced Thyrker. Leif decided to follow Bjarni’s course as far as possible; thus after keeping to the western coast of Greenland, he sailed further west for around 600 miles and eventually came up to a land marked by high mountains of ice and rock.

Leif named this place Helluland which translates as Flat Rock land or Slab Land and perhaps corresponds to modern-day Baffin Island. The arrive of the boat on this barren land with only rocks of ice was something of disappointment to both Leif and his crew since they had been hoping to arrive upon a more pleasant coast with vegetation and good weather.

Disappointed but not daunted, Leif continued to sail southwards and eventually arrived at a coast with white beaches and few trees. He named his place Markland which is now believed to be the modern-day equivalent of eastern coast of Canada. From this point, Leif continued to sail in south-easterly direction and eventually arrived at a most fertile-looking place.

This was an island with a mainland behind it-here the grass smelled sweet and fresh while waters off the island was teeming with salmon far bigger than the crew had ever seen before. Also there were green fields ideas the crew pastureland for their cattle while the forests beyond proved to be rich sources of timber, fruit and other necessities. 

Leif next ordered his men to stock a much of the fruits and timber on the boats was possible so that they may have enough to eat through the winter. However, when the cold season came, Leif and his crew were amazed to find that they were not to be snowed in or cut off by icy sleet. There was no frost to damage plants or endless days of fog and darkness.

The experience of this milder winter was an entirely new thing for the crew who were used to harsh, icy, dark and lengthy winters. Because of the fertile and pleasing of the land, Leif named this place Vin Land-after the grapes which were discovered glowing wild here which historians believe corresponds to modern-day L’ Anseaux Meadows in the Newfoundland province of Canada. In the early 1960s, archeological excavations turned up evidence of what is generally believed to be the base came of the 11th –century Viking exploration.


Curiously, despite coming upon such a bountiful land off the eastern of Canada, Leif and his crew did not settle down permanently. With the arrival of the warm season, they left for their home in Greenland again.

It is believed that only Leif’s brother Thorvald and a handful of would-be settles returned to the Canadian coast but even they were killed by the Indian tribes soon after their arrival. Leif himself spent the last days of life promoting Christianity.

Though his father proved unreceptive to the Christian faith, Leif was able to convert his mother, Thjodhild, who had Greenland’s first Christian church built at Brattahild.   When Erik the Red died, Leif Eriksson took over as Chief of the Greenland settlement.

Though Thorgill, Leif’s son by Thorgunna was accepted by Leif’ the young man could never be popular in the community and could not aspire to follow in his father’s footsteps. After Leif’s death in 1025, the Chiefdom apparently passed on to another son Thorkel Leifsson, after which nothing more is known about Leif’s descendants.

The only references to this great Scandinavian explorer remained buried in the old Nurse sagas which have always narrated the feats of Viking gods and heroes.  One of these was the Icelandic saga, the Groenlendinga saga or, “Saga of the Greenlanders”, and another was the 13th-0century Icelandic Eiriks saga or, “Saga of Erik the red”, which eulogized the victories of Erik the Red and his son, including Leif Eriksson.  

No wonder then that for a long time, the majority of the world remained oblivious to the fact that Leif Eriksson had been among the first people from Europe to arrive upon the Canadian coast, nearly five centuries before Christopher Columbus would arrive in 1492.

It was only in the 20th century that the world started paying true homage to the Norse explorer, an example of which was the announcement of US President Calvin Coolidge in 1925, at the `100th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of the first official group of Norwegian immigration in the United States, that the Eriksson had actually been the first European to discover America.           


The notion that Earth was a round globe rather than a flat surface was known to the Ancient Greek among whom explorer like Pytheas (C.380 BC) set out to discover the lands that lay far north and near the Arctic Circle.

lt to any more explorations to the west. It would be at least another thousand years that Viking named Leif Eriksson would not only push the north-western limits of the known world but possibly became the first European to set foot in the New World.