Eric the Red

Sketch of Eric the Red
Eric the Red

Eric the Red - Introduction

Eric Thorvaldsson known as Eric the Red (or Erik the Red) was a famous ancient Viking explorer who was the founder of the first Norse settlement in Greenland. He is the father of perhaps the most famous Norseman Leif Ericsson , who discovered America. Erik the Red, nicknamed for his red hair, was born in Norway in 950 AD. When Eric's father, Thorvald, was convicted of manslaughter the family left Norway and sailed to Iceland. They settled in Hornstrandir in West Iceland.

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Eric the Red Sails for Greenland

Around 982 AD Eric was exiled from Iceland for three years for the murder of two men. During this time he decided to sail to islands that had been spotted west of Iceland by a Norseman named Gunnbjorn Olfsson. He sailed for what he called Greenland and explored the southern regions. According to the Norse Saga of Erik the Red he spent the three years he was in exile exploring this new land. He sailed to the island of Eiriksey where he spent the first winter of his exile, the second winter he spent in Eiriksholmar which is near Hvarfsgnipa. He later explored as far north as Snaefell and Hrafnsfjord.

Eric the Red Establishes Settlements in Greenland

After his exile he returned to Iceland. He had many enemies there and wanted to start a new settlement in Greenland. He convinced about 350 Vikings that great opportunities existed in Greenland. In 985 AD these Vikings sailed to Greenland with Eric. They established two settlements on the southwest coast.

Eric held the title of paramount chieftain of Greenland; he became respected and very wealthy. The Greenland settlements flourished. Many immigrants fled overcrowding on Iceland and sailed to the settlements in Greenland. Soon there were about five thousand settlers there. In 1002, shortly after Erik's son Leif Ericsson sailed for North America, a group of immigrants brought an epidemic that killed many in the colony, including Erik.