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Norwegian Vikings in Greenland
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The Icelandic Viking Erik the Red was the first Norse settler in Greenland. He had acquired his nickname because of his red hair and beard, perhaps also because of his bad temper. The Saga of Erik the Red recounts that about 960, Erik's father had to flee Norway because of "some killings", and the family settled in a Norse colony on the coast of Iceland. 

Like father, like son: the Icelanders exiled Erik for several murders around the year 982. According to The Saga of Eric the Red, his neighbor Thorgest borrowed a few wooden bench-boards and when they did not come back to Erik, he sought an explanation. When Thorgest refused to return them, Erik stole them back. In the following chase, he killed Thorgest's two sons. A second crime laid at Erik's door occurred when Erik insisted upon revenge for the deaths of his slaves who had "accidentally started a landslide" on Valthjof's farm. Valthjof murderously punished the slaves for this misfortune. 

Erik did not take kindly to this and so slew Valthjof. The Icelanders eventually convicted Erik of these murders and banished him from Iceland. 

This event led him and a group of followers to travel to the lands nearly 500 miles west of Iceland, and in 982 he landed in the settlement of Julianehaab, located on the west coast close to the southern tip of Greenland. 

Greenland 1982. During the period 1982-1985 Greenland issued a series of stamps dedicated to 1000 years of evolution in Greenland.

  • Greenland 1982. During the period 1982-1985 Greenland issued a series of stamps dedicated to 1000 years of evolution in Greenland. The first stamp in this set commemorates Erik the Red's first landing in Julianehaab in 982. The surcharge is for the benefit of the Cultural House, Julianehaab. 

Erik, his wife Thjodhild, and their followers established a new life in Brattahlid, at the bottom of Eriksfiord (named after him), well protected from the arctic storms, and with small spots of arable land allowing for a small sheep station. Erik's wife adopted Christian faith, and let build a small church (or rather chapel), probably the first church in the New World, of which the ruins still remain. This church is shown on the below sheet in the bottom row (right). Erik himself did not profess Christianity, but according to legend his wife converted him on his deathbed. 

Later in History Brattahlíð hosted the first Greenlandic "thing" (parliament), based on the Icelandic Althing at Thingvellir. Its exact location remains unknown. 

Greenland 1999. Souvenir sheet containing a set of four stamps in the series named "Arctic Vikings". 

  • Greenland 1999. Souvenir sheet containing a set of four stamps in the series named "Arctic Vikings". 

    • Viking ship on the way to Greenland (4,50 kr.) 

    • Man on drift wood fleet (4,75 kr.)

    • Arrowhead and coins (5,75 kr.) 

    • Tjodhilde's church in Brattahlid (8,00 kr.) 

Greenland 2000. Souvenir sheet containing a set of our stamps in the series named "Arctic Vikings". 

  • Greenland 2000. Souvenir sheet containing a set of our stamps in the series named "Arctic Vikings". 

    • Enjoying Life (walrus) (0,25 kr.) 

    • Story Teller (3,00 kr.) 

    • Reindeer Hunt (5,50 kr.)

    • Natural resources (polar bear, sledge, and hunter with falcon) (21,00 kr.) 

Brattahlíð still has some of the very best farmland in Greenland, owing to its location at the inner end of Eriksfjord, which protects it from the cold foggy weather and arctic waters of the outer coast. 

 The saga of the Norwegian Vikings in 
Norway     Faeroe Islands     Iceland     Greenland     Canada     Isle of Man

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Copyrighted © 14th January 2007. All Rights Reserved
Revised 15-feb-2007

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Contact me: Ann Mette Heindorff