DISCOVERY OF AMERICA: LEIF ERIKSSON
When a Viking named Thorvald committed voluntary manslaughter and was banished from Norway, little did he know that he had ushered in an unprecedented era of overseas discovery. He settled in Iceland, where he started a family, but like father like son – his son Erik Thorvaldsson committed double murder. He could have redeemed himself from this grave sin by exile, but where to go from the last outpost of the Viking world?
The outlaw decided to venture into the unknown and, as a result, discovered Greenland. Three sons accompanied Erik into exile. Impressed by their father’s voyage of discovery, they decided to follow in his footsteps. The second-born, Leif Eriksson, ventured even further west, and eventually fortune smiled on him. He named the unknown landmass Helluland. It was most likely Baffin Island in northern Canada. Not content with the barren wasteland, the ambitious Leif continued to navigate his vessel south to what is now the Labrador Peninsula. The Greenland-born Northerners, who knew the coniferous forests only from stories, called the new place with its deep woods Markland – Forest Land. Eventually they arrived at what is now Newfoundland, which they named Vinland – the Land of Wine or the Land of Pasture. Only there did Leif, called Happy, leave the ship and become the first European to reach America.
Surprised by the richness of the local countryside, the Vikings established a settlement, wintered there, and the following year set out for home to tell the wonderful news of a rich promised land. Erik did not live to see his son’s triumphant return. Leif took over the throne of Greenland from him and made no further ocean voyages. But his two brothers continued to explore the new world. The elder Thorvald met the local natives for the first time and lost his life in a violent quarrel. The younger Thorstein got ill on the way and died. It was Thorstein’s wife Guthrith who eventually made it to Leif’s settlement. With her new husband she had a boy named Snorri – the first European to be born in the future America.
The work of the medal maker Mgr. Petr Horák, presents a profile portrait of Leif Eriksson. The coin’s surface is filled with waves on which two Viking drakkars are cradled. The waves surrounding North and South America can also be found on the obverse side, which is common to the entire series of discovery coins.
The package includes a spectacular booklet that describes in words and pictures the Vikings’ journey to America.
Coming soon, ‘Christopher Columbus’. Coming October, ‘Amerigo Vespucci’.