Leif Ericsson

Leif Ericsson

Leif Ericsson (lēf ĕr´Ĭksən), Old Norse Leifr Eiriksson, fl. AD 999–1000, Norse discoverer of America, b. probably in Iceland; son of Eric the Red. He spent his youth in Greenland and in 999 visited Norway, where he was converted to Christianity and commissioned by King Olaf I to carry the faith to Greenland. According to the "Saga of Eric the Red" in the collection of sagas known as Hauksbok, it was on the return voyage from Norway to Greenland in 1000 that Leif Ericsson, blown off his course, discovered hitherto unknown lands in which he found grapes, self-sown wheat, and a species of trees called "mausur." He landed, secured specimens, and continued to Greenland, where he was successful in introducing Christianity. In another version of the story, interpolated in the "Saga of Olaf Tryggvason" in the Flateyjarbok, Leif completed his mission to Greenland, set out from there c.1002 on a voyage to western lands, discovered several places, and settled for a winter in Vinland. This account is much more detailed, but the account in the "Saga of Eric the Red" is more widely accepted. Many scholars believe that Leif Ericsson landed on some part of the North American coast, but there has been no agreement on the modern identity of Vinland. Various sites have been nominated, from Newfoundland to Virginia, with Nova Scotia and New England as favorites. For the sources, see A. M. Reeves, The Finding of Wineland (1895, repr. 1973).

See also E. F. Gray, Leif Eriksson (1930, repr. 1972); M. Thordarson, The Vinland Voyages (1930); E. Reman, The Norse Discoveries and Explorations in America (1949).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Leif Ericsson: Selected full-text books and articles

Explorations in America before Columbus By Hjalmar R. Holand Twayne Publishers, 1956
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IV "Leif Erikson Discovers America" and Chap. V "Where Was Leif Erikson's Vinland?"
Early Voyages and Northern Approaches, 1000-1632 By Tryggvi J. Oleson McClelland and Stewart, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Elements of Fact In The Icelandic Sagas"
The Explorers: Great Adventurers Tell Their Own Stories of Discovery By G. R. Crone; G. R. Crone Thomas Y. Crowell, 1962
Librarian’s tip: "Leif Erickson" begins on p. 149
The Vinland Voyages By Matthias Thórdarson; Thorstina Jackson Walters American Geographical Society, 1930
Librarian’s tip: "Leif Ericsson's Voyage in the Year 1000" begins on p. 5
North American Exploration By John Logan Allen University of Nebraska Press, vol.1, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Pre-Columbian Discoveries and Exploration of North America"
FREE! The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503: The Voyages of the Northmen By Julius E. Olson; Edward Gaylord Bourne Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Saga of Eric the Red" and Chap. 2 "The Vinland History of the Flat Island Book"
Eirik the Red: And Other Icelandic Sagas By Gwyn Jones Oxford University Press, 1975
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Leif Ericsson begins on p. 137
The Vikings in History By F. Donald Logan Routledge, 1991 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Leif Ericsson begins on p. 87
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