January 28, 2023

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

Eric the Red was a vagabond explorer and in Greenland he was the first European. In 982 he traveled through the water from Iceland and he was the leader of the first group of colonists to settle in Greenland.

Eric the Red was called by different names such as Erik Thorvaldson or Erik Raude. He was born in Norway. When his father was expelled for murder, his family settled in Western Iceland. Later Eric murdered two men and he was also expelled from Iceland because of that for three years. Eric the Red is known as one of the most famous early world travelers since he traveled across the world that was known in his time.

During his exile Eric made up his mind to sail to some islands when he heard about the discovery of some islands by Gunnbjorn Olfsson. He traveled from Snaefellsnes Peninsula along with a crew. He found the islands of Gunnbjorn and landed on eastern Greenland. He called the place Midjokull, the meaning of which is “middle glacier”.

After that Eric traveled south and rounded the tip of south Greenland. Then he landed again on the southwestern coast of Greenland. It was there he spent his winter on the island now called, Erik’s Island. He spent his two winters at the southern tip of Greenland and explored the surrounding area.

Resources about Eric the Red
Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky
The Saga of Icelanders

Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga
Historical Atlas of the Vikings
The Norse Discovery of America

Eric’s exile was over in 985, so he came back to Breidafjord, Iceland. When Erik returned to Iceland after his exile had expired, he is said to have brought with him stories of “Greenland”. Erik deliberately gave the land a more appealing name than “Iceland” in order to lure potential settlers. He explained, “people would be attracted to go there if it had a favorable name”. In addition to being the first colonist in North American Greenland, he was the first American marketer apparently. He was in conflict with many people on Iceland and he wanted to start a new settlement. Around 500 settlers and Eric arrived to settle Greenland in 14 ships and they settled in Brattahlid which is now called Julianehab.

The settlements suffered abnormal cold weather in the place and due to this some of the settlers returned to Iceland and the rest of them disappeared. It is thought that they were attacked and killed by Inuits or they died from disease and starvation.

Eric’s son Leif (Leif Ericson) is credited with the first European to step on the mainland continent of North America.

Got a favorite vagabond you want to write about? Go ahead! Write a guest post about vagabonds who have inspired you and submit it to us today.

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