Qui est Leif Erikson ?

Who is Leif Erikson?

Leif Erikson, also known as Lucky Leif , is an Icelandic explorer . He is best known for having reigned over the Scandinavian colony of Greenland, and for being the son of the very famous Erik the Red . But the greatest success that sticks to his skin is undoubtedly the discovery of the American continent , nearly five centuries before Christopher Columbus. In the United States, Leif Erikson is commemorated every October 9 as the "discoverer" of North America.

Who is Leif Erikson, son of the famous Erik the Red?

Leif Erikson Statue Iceland

Leif Erikson is the son of Erik the Red, a very great Norwegian explorer known for having discovered Greenland and having founded the very first European colony there. Leif Erikson was born around the year 970 in Ireland , where his father took refuge after being banished from Norway where he was accused of murder. Leif Erikson takes his first steps in this northern land alongside his mother while his father is banished from the country, for the same reasons as he was from Norway. When Erik the Red returns to Iceland after three years spent at sea and in Greenland, which he discovered, he manages to persuade hundreds of men and women to accompany him to this new land. He therefore left there with about twenty boats and his family to form the first European colony there . Leif Erikson therefore grew up in Greenland until the day when he too began to crave adventure.

Leif Erikson, also known as Lucky Leif: where does this nickname come from?

Lucky Leif Erikson

According to The Saga of the Greenlanders, Leif Erikson is "tall and strong, impressive in appearance, shrewd as well as modest and wise in every way". In short, he has all the qualities of a perfect Scandinavian leader. Leif's other asset, and not the least important: his eyesight. While Leif and his men are heading back to sea towards Greenland after exploring the western lands, Leif sees 15 castaways clinging to a reef in the distance . Thanks to his sight much better than that of all his men, the explorer saves the unfortunates and offers them hospitality. It was after this episode that Leif Erikson was nicknamed Lucky Leif.

But that is not the one and only reason. Indeed, in the Scandinavian mentality, a hero is necessarily a lucky man. What Leif ultimately was, thanks to his intelligence, strength, skill at arms, success, wealth, and power .

Leif Erikson's Early Explorations in North America

Leif Erikson discovery America

Barely of age, Leif Erikson left for his first exploration accompanied by 35 men . He sets course west and sails to America . He first encounters a land of ice, which he names "Helluland" (current region in northern Quebec ). Then he heads further south. He then discovered a flat and wooded territory which he named “Markland” (current region of Labrador ). After having cut down a few trees to bring them back to Greenland, which had no trees, Leif Erikson set sail the following summer to return home.

As soon as he has set foot again on his father's icy lands, Leif Erikson hastens to ask him to put himself at the head of one of his ships to leave. Unfortunately, the age of Erik the Red will never have allowed him to explore other territories than Greenland , where he ends up dying.

Leif Erikson embarks again with his 35 men and returns to Helluland . They then follow the coast towards the south and discover a welcoming land where they decide to settle. Leif calls this land “Vinland,” which is arguably present -day Newfoundland . There are wild vines and rivers full of salmon. Explorers built their houses there and stayed for several months to explore the area. Then they return again to Greenland. Many other expeditions followed for Leif Erikson as for his brothers.

Leif Erikson, his attempts at colonization and his confrontations with the natives

Leif Erikson Map America

In some sagas, Leif Erikson's travels are accompanied by attempts to establish a more lasting settlement in the lands visited . But very often, the explorer and his men find themselves confronted with the native population .

In the texts, these natives whom Leif calls "Skraelingjar" are described as short, black, ugly, with large eyes and a broad face . Initially, relations between the two peoples seemed relatively peaceful. The natives come to offer furs to the colonists, in exchange for sheets or milk. Then, over time, the natives seem to get scared and start attacking. Which then pushes Leif's men to flee and go back to sea.

Leif Erikson, leader of the Greenlandic colony after his father

Unfortunately for him, Leif Erikson will never have been colony leader on the American continent , which he had discovered some time before the death of his father, Erik the Red. Otherwise, he imposed himself as the natural leader of the Greenlandic colony on the death of his father, around the year 1010. According to the writings, Leif died between 1019 and 1025, in Greenland .

Thorvald Erikson, Leif's brother, to conquer America in turn

After the death of his father, Leif Erikson must in turn reign over Greenland and cannot leave to sail to new lands. On the other hand, his brother, Thorvald, gets it into his head to explore the new world in turn . Surely a little jealous of Leif, Thorvald is also keen to build his own colony in America. What he does with about thirty men. Like Leif before, Thorvald spent an entire winter there before coming face to face with natives . During a fight with the latter, Thorvald dies , hit by an arrow, and will never return to Greenland.

What do we know about the personal life of Leif Erikson?

Leif Erikson his life

The sagas ultimately mention very little of Leif Erikson's family members, and don't really talk about his personal life outside of his travels. His wife is not mentioned anywhere and her first name is not known . On the other hand, we are able to affirm that Leif had two sons . One of them, Thorgils , is said to have been conceived out of wedlock during Leif's first trip to Norway. The explorer recognizes his son, but refuses to marry the boy's mother. His second son is named Thorkell , and is reputed to be the rightful heir.

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