Leif Ericsson (lēf ĕrˈĭksən) [key], Old Norse Leifr Eiriksson, fl. A.D. 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 Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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