Although Icelanders don’t like to admit it, Eirík the Red and his father were actually Norwegian. According to the Book of Settlements, Landnámabók, they left Norway to settle in the Hornstrandir region of the West Fjords, where they lived until Eirík’s father died. It’s believed that Eirík moved to Haukadalur from Drangar in Hornstrandir after marrying Þjóðhildur, whose parents already lived at nearby Vatn in Haukadalur. However, he was an unruly man, and, after getting into a row and murdering several of his neighbours, he was driven out of the valley having lived there for ten to twenty years. Eirík then set up home on Suðurey (part of Brokey) and Öxney, two islands east of Stykkishólmur in Breiðafjörður, where he once again fell out with his neighbours and was outlawed as a result – it was then, with a ship full of friends, that he set sail, charting a course south of Snæfellsnes, for new land and adventure. He eventually discovered land in 985 and, according to the sagas, promptly named it Greenland, “because it would encourage people to go there if the land had a good name”. He settled at Brattahlíð in a fjord he named after himself, Eiríksfjörður, near present day Narsarsuaq. No doubt inspired by his father, Leifur set out to the west from his new home, Greenland, first reaching barren, rocky land that he named Helluland (Baffin Island), from where he continued south to an area of flat wooded land he named Markland (Labrador), in 1000 AD. After another two days at sea he reached more land, where, the sagas have us believe, grapes grew in abundance. Leifur named this land Vínland, which some experts believe could mean “Wineland”. However, since two days’ sailing from Labrador would only take him as far south as current-day New England, not exactly known for its wines, speculation remains as to where Viking Vínland is.

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