Qui est Erik Le Rouge ?

Who is Erik Le Rouge?

Erik Le Rouge is one of the Viking figures who undoubtedly marked the period of the Nordic warriors the most. And for good reason, it was he who, with his troops, set foot on Greenland to found the very first European colony there. The one who is actually called Erik Thorvaldsson takes his nickname from the red color of his hair and his beard .

Who is Erik Le Rouge really?

Erik Le Rouge, whose real name is Erik Thorvaldsson, is a Norwegian explorer born between the year 940 and 950 . He is the son of Thorvald Asvaldson. When he was born in what is now southwestern Norway, he was by no means intended to become one of the greatest Viking figures. And yet...

Banished from Norway, Erik the Red moves to Iceland

Erik the red boat

Her life takes a real turn when her father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, is accused of murder . The latter is then banished from Norway , and leaves to settle with his family in the north of Iceland, when the young Erik is only twenty years old.

A few years later, when his father died, Erik - now Erik the Red - married his first wife, Thjodhild Jörundsdottir , and moved to a nearby village.

Again, the Norwegian's life changes. One of his servants accidentally destroys the neighbour's house, who, in revenge, ends up killing Erik the Red's slave. The latter takes revenge in turn by murdering the murderer of his servant, as well as one of his relatives.

After being banished from Norway as a child, Erik the Red is now banished from Iceland . And that's where the legend of Erik the Red begins...

Erik the Red discovering and conquering Greenland

Erik the Red in Greenland

Erik Le Rouge arrives with his small family on the island of Oxeney , in the United Kingdom. We are then in the year 982. But there again, Erik Le Rouge will encounter some problems with a neighbor and ends up killing the latter's two sons . Here he is once again banished from the lands that adopted him.

Erik the Red then takes the opportunity to explore the lands of the North , which he has already heard of many times. The Norwegian sets foot on Greenland barely four days after going to sea. He stays there for three years , the time of his forced exile, and explores it more each day before returning to Iceland.

During his second expedition, Erik Le Rouge reached Greenland this time with several hundred men and women , spread over 25 ships. Unfortunately, 11 of these boats were sunk during the crossing, otherwise forced to turn back.

Those who finally arrive safely settle there and impose their way of life, under the orders of Erik Le Rouge. His wife, who was passionate about Christianity , commanded the first Christian church in Greenland. Nearly 600 farms were created on the territory and, for five centuries, the Vikings worked the land there and traded their crops and their animals . They are nearly 2000 settlers , in total, to have taken possession of the northern land.

The end of the "Erik the Red" era in Greenland

The end of the Vikings in Greenland

If Erik the Red dies around the year 1000 , a priori in Greenland, the Vikings lived there until the 15th century.

According to the researchers, the disappearance of the latter from Greenland can be explained in different ways.

  1. First by the overexploitation of walrus hunting , which until then had allowed them to trade and import wheat, wood and even iron from the continent.
  2. Their difficulty in adapting to climatic conditions is also raised when discussing their extinction.
  3. And finally, possible conflicts with the Inuits who, when the climate cooled, descended towards the south and therefore towards the Viking villages.

See our article on the disappearance of the vikings to find out more.

So if many Vikings must have died on the spot, others certainly left Greenland by means of boats, in order to reach the European continent and settle in Norway or elsewhere.

Was Erik Le Rouge really the first to have discovered Greenland?

Greenland discovery

If popular history attributes the discovery of Greenland to Erik the Red, the Icelandic Sagas suggest that the Nordic Gunnbjörn Ultfsson had already observed it long before him, nearly a century earlier.

It was winds that would have driven him at the time to the Cold Lands , which he then called the Skerries of Gunnbjörn .

After him, Snabjörn Galti also set foot there , and wanted to develop his colonies there. In vain.

In reality, Erik Le Rouge was therefore the first European to have permanently colonized Greenland .

How did Erik the Red die?

The date and circumstances of Erik the Red's death are not entirely clear. The explorer would have died around the year 1000 , a priori in Greenland , shortly after his son Leif returned from his exploration in North America. Some say he died victim of a pandemic that would have hit the region.

Erik the Red: a descendant of explorers

viking explorers

The texts give Erik Le Rouge four children : three sons and a daughter.

He first has his three boys with a first wife:

  • Leifr
  • Thorvald
  • Thorsteinn

Then his daughter with his second wife:

  • Freydis

The three brothers participate together in the discovery of Vinland . And it is also said that their sister, Freydis, also takes part in the excursion, as well as in the fight which breaks out between the colonists and the natives.

But the best known of all his children remains Leifr , for having followed in his father's footsteps and for having also become a great explorer. Leifr Erikson is considered the first European to have discovered North America according to some experts.

With the help of his brothers, therefore, he would first have established his first colonies in Canada . In Labrador and Newfoundland more precisely. Then the son of Erik the Red would then have explored the surrounding areas.

Several archaeological excavation sites tend to show that the Vikings were indeed the first Europeans to have walked on American soil , well before Christopher Columbus.

Erik Le Rouge in the Vikings series

Erik the red series Vikings

The character of Erik Le Rouge, largely inspired by the great explorer , is played by actor Eric Johnson in the series Vikings.

See also: The cast of the Vikings series .

The character appears in season 6. He is then a young outlaw who saves the life of Bjorn , when King Harald's men come to kill him. Erik Le Rouge then becomes Bjorn's ally for the rest of the season.

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