Leifur Eiríksson – Son of Iceland – Grandson of Norway

Updated: Jul 26


Each year on the 9th of October, we celebrate Leif Eiríksson Day.


Christian Krohg Painting

No …. That Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, was not the first European to discover America as we were taught in school. It was actually the Vikings and we attribute the discovery to Leifur Eiríksson and his crew. It was not just by a few years, either but about 500 years before Christopher Columbus started his sailing.

In Icelandic, we spell his name Leifur Eiríksson. He is considered “The son of Iceland, the grandson of Norway, and the discoverer of North America.” His nickname is “Leif the Lucky.”

Leifur was born at Eiríksstaðir in Iceland. His father, Eirík the Red, is a famous Viking. Eirík and his father fled to Iceland from Norway after killing some of the King's men. Eirík is credited with discovering Greenland after being outlawed in Iceland after he killed again. Eirík did not go with Leifur on the adventure to discover the New World because he fell of his horse on the way to the ship and thought this was a sign that he should not go on the mission.

Leif became a Christian during a visit to Norway. King Ólaf was converting people to Christianity at the time. Leif’s father never gave up his Pagan beliefs but Leif’s mother, Þjóðhildur Jörundardóttir, became a steadfast Christian and had a small church called Þjóðhildarkirka (Þjóðhild´s church) built in their Greenland settlement at the estate called Brattahlíð.


Þjóðhildkirkja Greenland

The actual date of October 9th chosen for Leifur Eiríksson Day is because on this day in 1825, the Emigrant Ship, ‘’Restauration’’ landed in New York from Norway starting the wave of emigration from Norway.


restaurationNorwayemigration1825

The first photo below is taken at Eiríksstaðir, the home of Eirík the Red in Iceland and the birthplace of Leifur Eiríksson. You can see this replica of their home by visiting this beautiful spot. Also in Iceland nearby is the Leifssafn Museum and the Vineland Exhibit of Leifur Eiríksson. You can see tools and artifacts from the Viking Age.

The upper right photo is a statue of Leifur Eiríksson in front of the beautiful Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík. In 1929, the U.S. Congress authorized a statue of Leifur Eiríksson be given to the people of Iceland on the 1000th anniversary of the Alþingi. The statue was placed in Reykjavik on 03 May 1932.

Bottom left is the Leifur Eiríksson statue at the Scandinavian Park in Minot, North Dakota.

Bottom middle is a photo taken of the replica Leifur Eiríksson statue from Iceland that was at the 1939 World´s Fair. You can read more about this statue HERE.