Home History & Archaeology From Exile to Exploration: The Saga of Erik the Pink

From Exile to Exploration: The Saga of Erik the Pink

From Exile to Exploration: The Saga of Erik the Pink


Erik the Pink is likely one of the most fascinating figures in Norse historical past. Epitomizing the Viking spirit of journey and conquest, Erik is extensively (and mistakenly) remembered as the primary European to find and colonize Greenland. His go to did, nonetheless, lay the inspiration for Norse growth into North America, by Erik’s son no much less. However Erik was no conventional hero. He was a banished warrior, exiled from Iceland after being charged with homicide and manslaughter (greater than as soon as). His story, informed in a number of sagas, is one among management, resilience, and no small quantity of redemption.

Erik the Pink- From Exile to Pioneer

Erik the Pink began life generally known as Erik Thorvaldsson. His later moniker is believed to have been all the way down to both his red-colored hair or penchant for violence. In line with a number of Icelandic sagas, he was born in 950 AD in Jaeren, a part of Rogaland, Norway. Whereas nothing is understood about his mom we all know his father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, was a person of some observe.

This isn’t to say Thorvald was recognized for something good. He’s primarily remembered as a result of when Erik was round ten years previous, he was banished from Norway after committing manslaughter. Thorvald selected to start out afresh and take his household west from Norway and settle in Iceland.

This was a difficult endeavor. Iceland had already been completely settled by this level, which means one of the best land had already been taken. Including to this, whereas Thorvald might have been somebody again house, on this new frontier he was a no one. 

Finally, Thorvald and his younger son settled on Drangar, a little bit of land in Hornstrandir, northwestern Iceland. It wasn’t perfect; the land was chilly and onerous and fewer than perfect for farming. Nonetheless, it was higher than nothing and Thorvald and his son lived there till Thorvald died round 970 AD, when Erik was twenty years previous.

Statue of Erik the Red in Qassiarsuk, Greenland. (Rüdiger Wenzel/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

Statue of Erik the Pink in Qassiarsuk, Greenland. (Rüdiger Wenzel/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

Marrying Into Wealth

Following his father’s dying Erik determined it was about time he made one thing of himself. Within the Norse world, top-of-the-line (and most secure) methods to do that was by marrying up, which is strictly what Erik did. Not lengthy after his father died Erik met and married Thjodhild, the daughter of Jorundur Ulfsson and Thorbjorg Gilsdottir.

In line with Medieval Icelandic custom, Thjodhild’s household was moderately wealthy and after the wedding Erik and his spouse moved to Iceland’s extra nice Breidafjordur area to be close to her household. Whereas residing there Thjodhild’s stepfather gave the couple a slice of his land and Erik constructed his personal farm, Eiríksstaðir.

Reconstructed longhouse at Eiríksstaðir. It was the birthplace of his son Leif, the first known European discoverer of the Americas. (Wolfgang Sauber/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Reconstructed longhouse at Eiríksstaðir. It was the birthplace of his son Leif, the first recognized European discoverer of the Americas. (Wolfgang Sauber/CC BY-SA 3.0)

For some time life was good and the Saga of Erik the Pink tells how Erik and his spouse had 4 children- their daughter Freydis and three sons, explorer Leif Erikson, Thorvald, and Thorstein. Of those Leif Erikson is well probably the most well-known as he’s believed to have been one among, if not the primary European to land in America, (take that Columbus). 

Twice Exiled

Erik took after his father. Round 980 AD he discovered himself in bother after falling out with one among his neighbors. The story goes that a few of Erik’s thralls (aka slaves) by chance prompted a landslide on his neighbor’s land, damaging his farm. In retaliation the neighbor, Valthjof, and his good friend, Eyjolf the Foul, took it upon themselves to kill Erik’s thralls.

This was a foul thought. Erik responded poorly to the homicide of his property and escalated issues by killing Eyjolf in addition to one other man who had acquired concerned, Hrfan the Dueller. Their households had been none too joyful about all of the bloodshed and appeared for authorized prosecution. Two years later, in 982 AD, Erik was discovered responsible of homicide/ manslaughter and banished from Haukaladr.

This led to Erik transferring as soon as once more, this time to Iceland’s Brokey and Öxney Island. Earlier than leaving he requested one among his mates, Thorgest, to take care of his household’s  setstokkr. These had been decorative beams handed down by the generations that had been believed to have mystical powers. 

After finishing his new house Erik briefly returned to retrieve his setstokkr. Sadly, his previous good friend had different concepts and refused to present them again. Erik then took issues into his personal palms and traveled to Breidabolstadr to take the pillars again by drive. Thorgest in flip rounded up a few of his males and chased after Erik. Within the combat that adopted, Erik took out a number of of Thorgest’s sons in addition to a number of others. 

For a time, it appeared like there can be extra bloodshed as the previous mates started to muster up giant numbers of allies. In the long run, a council was held known as the Throsnes Factor. It was determined that Erik and his followers can be exiled for 3 years. A lot of them would later comply with Erik to Greenland

Erik the Red from Arngrímur Jónsson's Grönlandia (Greenland). (Public Domain)

Erik the Pink from Arngrímur Jónsson’s Grönlandia (Greenland). (Public Area)

Setting Out for Greenland

Opposite to widespread perception not all Nords had been violent Vikings. The type of folks Erik had spent most of his life round had been comparatively peaceable farmer sorts who principally needed to stay a quiet life. Most disputes had been settled on the type of “Factor” that had seen Erik exiled. 

Having been exiled, once more, Erik now discovered himself at a crossroads. His poor mood, penchant for stepping into bother, and two exiles meant it was unlikely he’d be welcomed wherever in Nordic-held lands. Most exiles merely hid away for some time, ready for his or her time to return however that wasn’t actually Erik’s model. So, Erik determined to try to restore his broken title by hanging out and occurring an journey.

That is the place many individuals confuse the historic file. It has been mistakenly repeated through the years that Erik was the primary European to find Greenland. He wasn’t. In line with the Icelandic sagas, that honor ought to go to Gunnbjörn Ulfsson. Round 100 years earlier than Erik’s expedition he was blown off target and noticed Greenland however by no means landed there. 

Eighty years after Gunnbjörn had gotten misplaced, an outlaw, Snæbjörn Galti, traveled to Greenland and tried to settle it. Harsh circumstances and in-fighting led to Snæbjörn’s homicide and the colony’s fast collapse. Since Gunnbjörn was misplaced, and Galti failed, their efforts have been largely forgotten, resulting in the misnomer that Erik found Greenland. 

Gunnbjörn Ulfsson attempted to land in Greenland 100 years before Erik the Red’s expedition. Summer in the Greenland coast circa the year 1000 by Carl Rasmussen. (Public Domain)

Gunnbjörn Ulfsson tried to land in Greenland 100 years earlier than Erik the Pink’s expedition. Summer time within the Greenland coast circa the 12 months 1000 by Carl Rasmussen. (Public Area)

Upon being banished Erik and his males sailed westwards in search of the mysterious land Snæbjörn Galti had tried to settle. Upon arriving they sailed round Greenland’s southern tip (Cape Farewell at the moment) and up the western coast. Finally, they discovered an space that wasn’t all ice and made camp on the mouth of a fjord which grew to become generally known as Eriksfjord after which later generally known as Tunulliarfik Fjord.

The Saga of Erik the Pink tells how Erik then spent the following three years exploring the huge landmass of Greenland. He spent the primary winter on the island of Eiriksey, the second in Eiriksholmar, and spent his last summer season exploring the north, particularly the areas generally known as Snaffles and Hafrsfjord.

From Pioneer to Colonizing Entrepreneur

Erik was no idiot and as his time in exile grew to a detailed, he realized he may make a fortune out of his discovery. He returned to Iceland and informed anybody who would pay attention tales of the bountiful land of “Greenland ”. He known as it this understanding that “folks can be interested in go there if it had a good title”. To make the potential settlement sound engaging he informed the Icelanders how Greenland was stuffed with animals for looking and plush landscapes able to be farmed. All of it uninhabited and prepared for settling.

To be honest, Erik wasn’t exaggerating. There’s no historic proof that in his three years exploring Greenland Erik ever ran into any native folks. Whereas we all know that Innuits had settled in Greenland sooner or later round 2500 BC, that they had left once more lengthy earlier than Erik and his crew turned up. The Thule folks alternatively (ancestors of contemporary Greenland’s Innuits) in all probability hadn’t arrived fairly but. 

Moreover, Erik had landed in Greenland throughout a time generally known as the medieval heat interval (between 800 and 1200 AD). This was a time of warming throughout which common temperatures had been just a few levels increased than regular. This implies even contemplating fashionable world warming, a lot of Greenland would have been extra hospitable than it’s at the moment. 

An image of Erik Thorvaldsson, also known as Erik the Red. (fandom/CC-BY-SA)

A picture of Erik Thorvaldsson, also referred to as Erik the Pink. (fandom/CC-BY-SA)

Settling Greenland

Erik spent the winter in Iceland spreading information of his discovery, hoping to draw as many potential settlers as attainable. Sufficient had been that by the summer season of 985 AD, Erik had attracted 25 ships price of individuals already to set sail and comply with him.

Sadly, the preliminary journey didn’t precisely go to plan. The convoy hit heavy climate and out of the 25 ships, eleven sank. The fourteen remaining ships ferried roughly 350 folks to Greenland. Erik and his household led the cost.

In line with the Twelfth-century guide,  Íslendingabók, or  Guide of the Icelanders, the Icelandic settlers shortly discovered proof of earlier habitation. They put this all the way down to Skraeling (indigenous folks) however discovered no proof anybody was nonetheless there. This meant the land was nonetheless up for grabs and Erik started working dividing it up between settlers. 

The settlers started to unfold throughout the southwest coast. To the east, they constructed Eystribyggð (Jap Settlement) and to the west, they constructed one other settlement (the Western Settlement) in what’s Nuuk at the moment. Over time the 2 settlements expanded and a 3rd, Center Settlement, grew. 

For some time life was comparatively good and the three settlements’ mixed inhabitants reached between 2,000 to three,000 folks. Erik might have oversold how inexperienced the land was (the settlers quickly realized solely the southwest coast may assist farmland) however there was sufficient to go round. In the summertime, the settlements despatched armies of hunters to hunt Disko Bay, north of the Arctic Circle. They introduced again with them riches like seals (which could possibly be used for rope), walrus ivory, and beached whales.

These riches made the Greenlanders comparatively affluent. For his half, Erik constructed the property of Brattahlíð, close to present-day Narsarsuaq in Eystribyggð. He was generally known as the land’s “paramount chieftain” and have become extremely well-respected and rich. His unhealthy mood additionally appeared to have lastly calmed down. 

Throughout these peaceable preliminary years, Erik’s solely downside appears to have been his household’s conversion to Christianity. All through this era Viking raids throughout Europe meant rising numbers of individuals had been uncovered to the faith and notable Norse leaders like Haakon the Good of Norway and Denmark’s Harald Bluetooth had begun changing their folks to Christianity. 

 Painting of Haakon the Good of Norway 1860 by Peter Nicolai Arbo. (Public Domain)

 Portray of Haakon the Good of Norway 1860 by Peter Nicolai Arbo. (Public Area)

It appears Erik’s son, Leif, transformed after spending a while on the court docket of Norway’s king, Olaf. When Leif returned to Greenland he introduced Christianity with him, changing his mom. She then constructed Greenland’s first church and shortly others started popping up. The sagas say this prompted a little bit of a rift between Erik and his spouse and he or she started withholding sexual favors from her heathen husband.

One Final Journey

There are two predominant sagas that inform the story of Erik and the settling of Greenland, these are the Saga of Erik the Pink and the Greenland Saga. Whereas they share many similarities, in addition they contradict one another fairly a bit. One of many predominant methods they accomplish that is of their telling of how Vinland (regarded as close to modern-day Canada) was found.

In line with the Greenland Saga, Vinland was found by a Norse service provider, Thorfinn Karlsefni, whereas Erik’s folks had been settling in Greenland. Erik’s saga, alternatively, tells how Leif found Vinland after listening to of a misplaced traveler who had sighted it (very like the story of Greenland). 

In the most well-liked model of the story, after listening to of Vinland Leif asks his father to hitch him on an expedition. Having achieved every thing he had needed to in Greenland the getting older Erik is alleged to have agreed. Nonetheless, whereas using to their boats Erik’s horse stumbled. The superstitious previous man took this as an omen and determined he was too previous to make the journey. Leif went with out his father and, in keeping with many, grew to become one of many first Europeans to go to North America.

Erik’s son, Leif, landing in Vinland, modern-day Canada, by Hans Dahl (1849-1937) (Public Domain)

Erik’s son, Leif, touchdown in Vinland, modern-day Canada, by Hans Dahl (1849-1937) (Public Area)

Erik’s Loss of life and the Fall of Norse Greenland

In Leif’s absence, the colonies in Greenland continued to develop. Iceland was changing into more and more overpopulated, and teams of immigrants left the nation searching for a brand new life in Greenland. Quickly the inhabitants had swelled to round 5000 settlers.

Sadly, this immigration growth spelled the start of the top. In 1002 AD a brand new group of immigrants introduced an epidemic with them. This sickness unfold by the settlers at an alarming price and killed a lot of their leaders, together with Erik. 

The colony as a complete survived however finally collapsed. It is believed the Little Ice Age of the fifteenth century was partly accountable for this because it made farming tough for the settlers. This led to a lot of them giving up and going house or dying off. Add to this pirate raids and assaults from the newly arrived Innuits and finally Norway deserted its assist for the colony, resulting in its whole collapse. 


Erik the Pink embodies all the constructive elements of the Viking ethos – daring, unyielding, and pushed by the decision of journey. If the sagas are to be believed it’s massively spectacular how in just some quick years he went from exiled thug to revered pioneer. It was fairly a turnaround.

By way of his management and exploration, he paved the best way for future generations of Norse adventurers and colonizers, shaping the course of European growth into new lands. Along with his fearless spirit, he not solely left his mark on the map but in addition on the hearts and minds of all who hear his story.

Prime picture: Illustration of Erik the Pink. Supply: Gelpi/Adobe Inventory

By Robbie Mitchell



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here