Eirik Thorvaldson, Eirik the Red (Eiríkr Ţórvaldsson, nick-named Eiríkr Rauđi)

Eirik’s nickname was derived from his red hair and beard. According to The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red’s Saga, Eirik was born in southwestern Norway but emigrated to Iceland as a child or young man with his father “because of some killings.” They settled at Drangar in northwestern Iceland, on a farm with rather poor land. If one reads between the lines Eirik was somewhat of a social climber. He married Thjodhild, a wealthy girl, who was given a piece of her stepfather’s estate in Haukadal at Breidafjord where the couple lived until Eirik was banished from Iceland for three years c. 991-994. The banishment was for the murder of a neighbour who had killed a couple of Eirik’s slaves. Eirik used these years to explore Greenland, presumably in the company of some trusted servants such as Thorhall the Hunter. Eirik found that the land had great potential, and he gave a name to the land, calling it Greenland. On his return to Iceland he let it be known that he intended to set up a colony in Greenland, and in 985 or 986 a fleet of twenty-five ships with households set out from Iceland. Only fourteen reached their goal. The others may have turned back to try another year.

Eirik set himself up as paramount chief of Greenland. Choosing one of the best and largest pieces of land for himself, he distributed the rest among his compatriots. He named his estate Brattahlid, Steep Slope.

Eirik had three sons and one daughter: Thorsten, Leif, Thorvald, and Freydis. His wife Thjodhild was the mother of Thorsten and Leif. She was not the mother of Freydis, who was born outside the marriage, a situation that was fully acceptable in Norse society. Thorvald may also have had a mother other than Thjodhild. Eirik died in an epidemic which hit Greenland shortly after the year 1000.


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