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All Sagas Start Somewhere....

...but more started here at Eiríksstaðir than most viking age farms. The family that built the original longhouse feature in not one, but four separate Icelandic Sagas, with two dedicated entirely to their own adventures. 

Eiríks saga rauða (The Saga of Eirik the Red)

Exactly where Eirik was born is uncertain - one account claims he came to Iceland from Norway when he was very young, while others suggest that he was born here, just to Norwegian parents.  Either way, he grew up in the West of Iceland, where he met his future wife, Thjodhildr. Luckily for them, her parents owned a large parcel of land in Haukadal, which meant that they were able to gift the new couple a small patch of land on which to found their own farm. They would call this farm Eiríksstaðir, which translates to 'Eirik's Places.'

The couple lived on the farm for a few years, having two sons together around 970-980. They also had slaves living with the family too, which was the catalyst for all of the dramatic happenings which turned the family's exploits into not one, but two famous sagas. These slaves were accused of causing a landslide which landed right on the neighbouring farm of Valþjófsstaðir, causing a great deal of damage. Normally, matters such as this would have been settled by a local council of landowners, and compensation would be calculated and charged to Eirik - that is, if the slaves were even to blame. Instead of going about it in a legal way, the neighbour would kill the slaves instead of coming over to demand payment from Eirik. Of course, a deadly fight ensued.

Given that both farmers had ignored the law in the argument, the local council demanded that Eirik left the valley and abandon his farm - a decision which forced him to pack up his belongings, including the house, and move onto an island the fjord some kilometers west. It was not too long before he ended up in another violent argument though, and this time his punishment was to leave all of Iceland for 3 whole years.

Not wanting to abandon the country forever, he and his family decided to look for islands off the coast of Iceland where they could wait out the banishment. What they found was far better than a rocky island though, as they instead ended up being the first Europeans to permanently settle Greenland, a land which was far more hospitable than it is today. They found warm climates, pasture lands, timber and abundant fish, but best of all they found ivory. Not from elephants of course, but from the tusks of walruses and the horns of narwhal. Both of these discoveries led to him becoming an incredibly rich and important man when he was finally able to return to Iceland and tell people about the resource rich new land further to the west.

Eirik would spend the rest of his life in Greenland as a chieftain of the new settlement, and his house - Brattahlíð - can even be visited today for anyone adventurous enough to go and visit it.

The longhouse is lush with grass growing on the roof, protecting the turf and timber from which it is constructed.

Grænlendinga saga (Saga of the Greenlanders)

Most evidence suggests that Eirik the Red´s son Leifur Eriksson, "Leif the Lucky", was born at Eirkisstadir in West Iceland. Leading an expedition from his home in Greenland, Leifur became the first European to set foot in North America, which he named Vinland, in the year 1000.

Leifur was probably born at Eiriksstadir about 970-980. As a child he moved with his parents to Greenland and grew up on the farm at Brattahlid, the settlement his father founded. Following the custom common among the sons of prominent Icelandic families of the time, he made a voyage to Norway as a young man. According to the account in the Saga of Erik the Red, his ship was blown to the Hebrides, and he spent most of a summer there, during which time he had a child with a woman named Thórgunnur.

He arrived in Norway in the autumn. The king of

Norway at the time was Ólafur Tryggvason, who

ruled from 995-1000. The king had been making

great efforts to convert Norway and the countries

which Norwegians had settled to Christianity.

Leifur met the king, converted soon after and then

spent the winter with him. In the spring, the king

sent Leifur to Iceland on his behalf to convince

the Icelanders to convert. He was successful and

the Icelanders adopted Christianity at the Althing

(Parliament) the same summer.

Leifur was driven off course in on his homeward

voyage, and found lands whose existence no

European had previously known of. In one place there were fields of self-sown wheat and grapevines. Leifur named the country Vinland (Wineland). On the way back to Greenland, he found shipwrecked men and rescued them. These shipwrecked men were merchants who rewarded him handsomely, which may be the origins of his nickname of “Leif the Lucky”. After this, he returned to his father’s home in Brattahlid, Greenland. According to Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, these events took place in the year 1000.

The statue of Leif Eiriksson looks out across the snowdusted valley of Haukurdalur
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