Erik the Red in "Eirik the Red’s Saga"

Chapter 2


There was a man named Thorvald, the son of Asvald Ulfsson, son of Ox-Thorir. His son was named Erik the Red. Father and son left Jaeren [a province in southwestern Norway] and sailed to Iceland because (they had been involved in) slayings. They claimed land on the west coast of Hornstrandir and settled at Drangar. There Thorvald died.

As his wife Eirik took Thjodhild, the daughter of Jorun Atlason. Her mother, Thorbjorg Ship-breast, was married to Thorbjorn of Haukadal then. Eirik then moved south, cleared land in Haukadal and built a farm at Eiriksstadir by Vatnshorn.

Eirik’s slaves then caused a landslide to fall on the farm at Valthjof at Valthjofsstadir. His kinsman Filth-Eyolf killed the slaves near Skeidsbrekkur above Vatnshorn. For this, Eirik slew Filth-Eyolf. He also killed Hrafn the Dueller at Leikskalar. Geirstein and Odd of Jorvi, Eyolf’s kinsmen, sought redress for his killings.

After this Eirik was outlawed from Haukadal. He claimed the islands Brokey and Oxney and farmed at Tradir on Sudurey island the first winter. It was then Eirik lent Thorgest bedstead boards. Later on he moved to Oxney where he farmed at Eiriksstadir. He then asked for the bedstead boards back without success. Eirik went to Breidabolstad and took the boards, and Thorgest came after him. They fought not far from the farm at Drangar, where two of Thorgest’s sons were killed, along with several other men.

After that both of them kept a large following. Eirik had the support of Styr and Eyolf of Sviney, Thorbjorn Vifilsson and the sons of Thorbrand of Alftafjord, while Thord Bellower and Thorgeir of Hitardal, Aslak of Langadal and his son Illugi gave their support to Thorgest. Erik and his companions were sentenced to outlawrey at the Thorsnes Assembly. He made his ship ready in Eiriksvog and Eyolf hid him in Dimunarvog while Thorgest and his men searched the islands for him. Thorbjorn, Eyolf and Styr accompanied Eirik through the islands. Eirik said he intended to seek out the land that Gunnbjorn, the son of Ulf Crow, had seen when he was


driven off course westward and discovered Gunnbjarnarsker (Gunnbjorn's skerry). If he found the land he promised to return to his friends and they parted with great warmth. Eirik promised to support them in any way he could if they should need his help.

Eirik sailed seaward from Snaefellsnes and approached land [in Greenland] under the glacier called Hvitserk (White shift). From there he sailed southwards, seeking suitable land for settlement.

He spent the first winter on Eiriksey island, near the middle of the eastern settlement.* The following spring he travelled to Eiriksfjord where he settled. That summer he travelled around the [then] uninhabited western settlement, giving names to a number of sites. The second winter he spent in Eiriksholmar near Hvarfsgnipa, and the third summer he sailed as far north as Snaefell and into Hrafhsfjord. There he thought he had reached the head of Eiriksfjord. He then returned to spend the third winter in Eiriksey, at the mouth of Eiriksfjord.

The following summer he sailed to Iceland and made land in Breidafjord. He spent the winter with Ingolf at Holmlatur. The following spring he fought with Thorgest and lost, after which they made their peace.

In the summer Eirik left to settle in the country he had found, which he called Greenland, as he said people would be attracted there if it had a favourable name.


Chapter 5


Eirik had a wife named Thjodhild, and two sons, Thorstein and Leif. Both of them were promising young men.[...]


[...]Leif [...] began to advocate Christianity and the true catholic faith throughout the country,[...] Eirik was reluctant to give up his faith, [...]


[...] Eirik was also urged to go [to Vinland], as people valued most his good fortune and leadership. For a long time he was against going, but when his friends urged him he did not refuse.

They made ready the ship on which Thorbjorn had sailed to Greenland, with twenty men to go on the journey. They took few trading goods, but all the more weapons and provisions.

The morning that he left, Eirik took a small chest containing gold and silver. He hid the money and then went on his way. After going only a short way he fell from his horse, breaking several ribs and injuring his shoulder, so that he cried out, 'Ow, ow!' Because of his mishap he sent word to his wife to retrieve the money he had hidden, saying he had been punished for having hidden it.

Chapter 7


[...] Eirik rode to the ships, along with other Greenlanders, and busy trading commenced. The skippers of the vessels invited Eirik to take his pick of their wares, and Eirik repaid them generously, as he invited both crews home to stay the winter with him in Brattahlid. This the merchants accepted and went home with him. Their goods were later transported to Brattahlid, where there was no lack of good and ample outbuildings to store them in. The merchants were highly pleased with their winter stay with Eirik.

But as Yule approached, Eirik grew sadder than was his wont. On one occasion Karlsefni spoke to him privately and asked, 'Is something troubling you, Eirik? You seem to me to be more silent than before. You have treated us very generously, and we owe it to you to repay you by any means we can. Tell me what is causing your sadness.'

Eirik answered, 'You have also accepted with gratitude and respect, and I don't feel that your contribution to our exchange has been lacking in any way. But I'll regret it if word gets round that you've spent here a Yuletide as lean as the one now approaching.'

Karlsefni answered, 'It won't be that at all. We've malt and flour and grain aboard our ships, and you may help yourself to them as you will, to prepare a feast worthy of your generous hospitality.'

Eirik accepted this. Preparations for a Yule feast began, which proved to be so bountiful that men could scarcely recall having seen its like.


That winter there was much merrymaking in Brattahlid; many board games were played, there was storytelling and plenty of other entertainment to brighten the life of the household.

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Erik the Red in] Eirik the Red's Saga" in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, (New York, London, Victoria (Australia), Toronto, Auckland: The Penguin Group, 2000), 653-674. Notes: Translations first published in The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd, Iceland 1997.

Return to parent page