Leif Eriksson in "Eirik the Red’s Saga"

Chapter 5



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

Leif had sailed to Norway where he was one of King Olaf Tryggvason's men.

But when Leif sailed from Greenland that summer the ship was driven off course to land in the Hebrides. From there they failed to get a favourable wind and had to stay in the islands for much of the summer.

Leif fell in love with a woman named Thorgunna. She was of very good family, and Leif realized that she knew a thing or two.

When Leif was leaving Thorgunna asked to go with him. Leif asked whether her kinsmen were of any mind to agree to this, and she declared she did not care. Leif said he was reluctant to abduct a woman of such high birth from a foreign country — 'there are so few of us'.

Thorgunna spoke: 'I'm not sure you'll like the alternative better.'

'I'll take my chances on that,' Leif said.

'Then I will tell you,' Thorgunna said, 'that I am with child, and that this child is yours. It's my guess that I will give birth to a boy, in due course. And even though you ignore him, I will raise the boy and send him to you in Greenland as soon as he is of an age to travel with others. But it's my guess that he will serve you as well as you have served me now with your departure. I intend to come to Greenland myself before it's all over.'

He gave her a gold ring, a Greenland cape and a belt of ivory.

The boy, who was named Thorgils, did come to Greenland and Leif recognized him as his son. — Some men say that this Thorgils came to Iceland before the hauntings at Froda in the summer. — Thorgils stayed in


Greenland after that, and before it was all over he was also thought to have something preternatural about him.

Leif and his men left the Hebrides and made land in Norway in the autumn. Leif became one of the king's men, and King Olaf Tryggvason showed him much honour, as Leif appeared to him to be a man of good breeding.

On one occasion the king spoke to Leif privately and asked, 'Do you intend to sail to Greenland this summer?'

Leif answered, 'I would like to do so, if it is your wish.'

The king answered, 'It could well be so; you will go as my envoy and convert Greenland to Christianity.'

Leif said the king should decide that, but added that he feared this message would meet with a harsh reception in Greenland. The king said he saw no man more suitable for the job than Leif- 'and you'll have the good fortune that's needed'.

'If that's so,' Leif declared, 'then only because I enjoy yours as well.'

Once he had made ready, Leif set sail. After being tossed about at sea for a long time he chanced upon land where he had not expected any to be found. Fields of self-sown wheat and vines were growing there; also, there were trees known as maple, and they took specimens of all of them.

Leif also chanced upon men clinging to a ship's wreck, whom he brought home and found shelter for over the winter. In so doing he showed his strong character and kindness. He converted the country to Christianity. Afterwards he became known as Leif the Lucky.

Leif made land in Eiriksfjord and went home to the farm at Brattahlid. There he was received warmly. He soon began to advocate Christianity and the true catholic faith throughout the country, revealing the messages of King Olaf Tryggvason to the people, and telling them how excellent and glorious this faith was.


Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Leif Eriksson 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.

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