Eiríkr Þórvaldsson or Eiríkr hinn rauði
A pilgrimage to the home of Eiríkr hinn rauði at Eiríksstaðir in Haukadalr, Iceland
During my first visit to Iceland I went to visit the site where Eiríkr hinn rauði lived in Iceland before his exile and subsequent move to Greenland.
Eiríkr Þórvaldsson was the son of Þórvaldr Ásvaldsson and was born in Rogaland, Norway in c. 950 AD. Þórvaldr Ásvaldsson was banished from Norway for manslaughter when Eiríkr was about 10 years old and settled with his family in Hornstrandir in north-western Iceland.
Eiríkr married Þjódhild Jorundsdottir and settle at Eiríksstaðir in Haukadalr (see location). Eiríkr and Þjódhild had four children – a daudgter, Freydís and three sons Leifr, known as Leifr hinn Heppni (Leifr the lucky), Þórvaldr and Þórsteinn.
Eirík’s thralls had caused a landslide on a neighbour’s land. For this, Eyjólfr saurr and Hólmgǫngu-Hrafn killed Eirík’s thralls and were in turn killed by Eiríkr. The kinsmen of Eyjólfr saurr demanded that Eiríkr should leave Haukadalr and Eiríkr moved to the island of Öxney. The situation worsened when Eiríkr tried to retrieve his setstokkr (high seat pillars) which he had left with Þórgest. Þórgest refused to hand them over, so Eiríkr took them. Þórgest gave chase and in the ensuing fight Eiríkr killed both of Þórgest’s sons and several other men. After this both parties retained a considerable number of men in case or attack. The situation was resolved at the Þing in 982 when Eiríkr was sentenced to the lesser outlawry (fjörbaugsgarður) and had to leave Iceland for three years.
During his exile, Eiríkr sailed to a land that Snæbjörn galti Hólmsteinsson had unsuccessfully attempted to settle four years earlier. According to the sagas, he spent the years of his exile exploring the area and returned to Iceland with stories of this new country.
In 985 Eiríkr returned to Green land with a large number of colonists in 25 ships. Of these, only 14 ships reached Greenland, the rest being lost at sea.
Eirík’s son, Leifr, was the first European to settle in continental North America. A statue at Eiríksstaðir celebrates his achievement.
Site of the excavation of the house at Eiríksstaðir, Haukadalr
image: David Beard (click on the images to enlarge)