Who was Thorvald Eiriksson and What Did He Do?

He was Erik The Red’s son and Leif Erikson’s brother, but what did Thorvald Eriksson do? A Viking explorer who’s believed to have been one of the first Europeans to land in North America, read on to learn his tale of exploration and adventure.

3 January 2023

Thorvald Eiriksson was a Viking explorer who’s believed to have been among the first Europeans to explore the New World. Sometimes referred to as Thorvald Eriksson, he was the subject of part of the 13th and 14th century Vinland Sagas.

Almost nothing is known about Eriksson’s early life, but it’s likely he was born around 975 AD in Iceland. What we do know is that he came from a famous Viking family. He was Erik The Red’s son and Leif Erikson’s brother. Both his brother and father were famous in their own right, Erik the Red as founder of the first settlement in Greenland and Leif as the founder of the North American settlement of Vinland.

So, what did Thorvald Eriksson do? What follows is Thorvald Eriksson’s story, as written several centuries afterwards in the famous Vinland Sagas.

Who Were Erik The Red’s Children?

A Norse village (Photo: Murphy_Shewchuk via Getty Images)

Erik Thorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red, founded the first permanent European settlement in Greenland. He and his wife Thjodhild Jörundsdóttir had four children, a daughter and three sons. Of the three of Erik The Red’s sons, Leif was a legendary explorer, possibly the first European to set foot on North American soil. There he established a Norse settlement known as Vinland. Daughter Freydis is said to have travelled to the New World where she betrayed and massacred her companions. Almost nothing is known of youngest son Thorstein, aside from the story that, on Thorvald’s death, he also died trying to retrieve his brother’s body.

Who Was Erik the Red’s Son Thorvald?

Old engraved illustration of Leif Ericson off the coast of Vineland (Photo: mikroman6 via Getty Images)

Like Leif Eriksson, his brother Thorvald wanted to explore the New World. So Leif offered him a ship and, in 1002, he sailed there with a crew of thirty. They arrived safely and set up camp at the small collection of houses built by Leif at Leifsbudir, remaining there for the winter. The following spring, Thorvald Eriksson sailed west to explore. By all accounts his crew found nothing aside from a single wooden shed and returned.

The following summer, they went east. They made landfall at a point covered with wood to which Thorvald allegedly said: ‘Here is beautiful. Here I would like to make [or raise] my dwelling.’

But it wasn’t to be. Thorvald Eiriksson and his men were attacked by native people. Eiriksson and his men fought them off but they came back with a larger, more heavily armed force.

Thorvald the Viking Eriksson’s Demise

Old engraved illustration of burial place of Thorvald (Photo: mikroman6 via Getty Images)

As the local warriors were retreating, one of them fired an arrow towards Eriksson which hit him in the ribcage. Recognising his wound was fatal, he asked his men if they would bury him in the very place he had hoped to settle. His instructions were for them to place crosses at his head and feet and call the place Krossaness. No-one knows the location of Krossaness or what it’s called today. The only clue is that the Vinland Sagas mention a headland between the mouth of two fjords.


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