Erik Thorvaldsson (950 – 1006) (better known as Erik the Red, Eiríkr Þorvaldsson in Old Norse) is remembered in medieval saga as having founded the first Nordic settlement in Greenland. He was born in the Jæren district of Rogaland, Norway as the son of Thorvald Asvaldsson. According to Icelandic historians the appellation "the Red" refers to his hair color, which also happened to be a distinctive trait in his children Freydis, Leif, Thorvald, Thorsteinn and their descendants.
Life and exileEdit
Erik's parents left Norway for Hornstrandir in Western Iceland after his father was exiled on account of manslaughter, where he would also spend most of his early life. He married Thorhild, daughter of Jorund Atlisson, and as part of her dowry received land in Haukadalur, where he built a farm.
The newlyweds were able to live in relative peace until the late 970s, when Erik's thralls (slaves) accidentally started a landslide on a neighboring farm while working on his land. As a result, Eyiolf the Foul, a kinsman of the neighbor, murdered the thraller. In retaliation Erik killed Eyiolf and his comrade Holmgang-Hrafn and is banished from Haukadale as a result.
Erik and Thorhild then moved to the island Öxney, off the Icelandic coast. Erik asked his friend Thorgest to keep his Setstokkar (ornamented wooden beams of significant religious and political value) his father had brought from Norway. After finishing his house on the island and traveling to Iceland to retrieve the beams, Thorgest refused to return them and Erik stole Thorgest's own Setstokkr instead. Knowing he would be pursued, he prepared an ambush in which Thorgest's sons and several others were killed. However, Erik did end up in court and was exiled from both Iceland and Norway for three years.
Exploring and settling on GreenlandEdit
Already having purchased a boat for such a contingency, Erik decided upon a typical Viking voyage of plunder. He had heard about small, unprotected Irish settlements in Greenland, so in the spring of 981 he traveled westward. Erik's party landed near Julianehaab, but upon their arrival they were greeted by mere arctic desolation and no signs of inhabitation.
The first winter was spent on an island Erik named Eriksey or Erik's Island near the annually inhabited eastern settlements and the next spring the party proceeded to Eriksfjord, where they made camp. Subsequent summers explorations were made on the western side of the island as far north as the Snæfells region; the Hrid Sund was crossed almost to Helluland. Erik was convinced that Greenland, more clement than now, was better adapted for stock raising than Iceland. When he returned to Iceland in 985, he brought with him stories of a "green land". He deliberately gave the land a more appealing name than "Iceland" in order to lure potential settlers. Ultimately, though, he did this to gain favor among people, as he knew that the success of any settlement in Greenland would need the support of as many people as possible. His salesmanship proved successful, as many people (especially "those Vikings living on poor land in Iceland" and those that had suffered a "recent famine") became convinced that Greenland held great opportunity.
The next year Erik set out to found a settlement in Greenland. Fourteen ships out of the original fleet of twenty-five arrived with about 350 colonists (including Bjarni Herjolfsson's parents), plus livestock and basic gear. Each sea captain got to claim a fjord to which he gave his name, Erik of course settled down in Eriksfjord. Here he lived like a Jarl (lord) with his wife and four children. During the summers, when the weather conditions favored travel more, each fjord-based settlement would send an army of men to hunt in Iss Vagr above the Arctic Circle for food and other valuable commodities such as seals (whose skins were used for rope), ivory from Walrus tusks and meat from beached whales (if they had good luck). In these expeditions, they first encountered the Inuit people or Skraelings, who had not yet moved southwards.
Later life and deathEdit
Although his son Leif had brought Christianity to Greenland in 998, Erik remained true to his pagan gods. He became estranged from his immediate family, who all had accepted the new faith and were actively exercising it. In 1006, at odds with both wife and son Leif, Erik agreed to accompany Thorsteinn and his men on a voyage to Vinland to retrieve the body of Thorvald. They failed to reach the "Ommerike" however, due to miserable weather conditions. According to the well-preserved sagas, he passed away that same year in the presence of his wife and children on his farm in southwest Greenland.
|This has been written by NFSreloaded. Please contact this user before editing this article.|