Thorfinn Karlsefni

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Thorfinn Karlsefni

(thôr`fĭn kärl`sĕvnē), fl. 1002–15, Norse leader of an attempt to colonize North America. He appeared in Greenland in 1002 and married Gudrid, widow of one of the sons of Eric the RedEric the Red,
fl. 10th cent., Norse chieftain, discoverer and colonizer of Greenland according to the sagas. He left (c.950) Norway with his exiled father and settled in Iceland. A feud resulting in manslaughter led to his banishment (c.981) from Iceland for three years.
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. He set out c.1010 with an expedition consisting of three ships and 160 men to settle in VinlandVinland
or Wineland,
section of North America discovered by Leif Ericsson in the 11th cent. The sources for the knowledge of Leif Ericsson's exploration differ as to whether it was planned or accidental, but it is definitely known that he found a land containing grapes
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, which Leif EricssonLeif Ericsson
, Old Norse Leifr Eiriksson, fl. A.D. 999–1000, Norse discoverer of America, b. probably in Iceland; son of Eric the Red. He spent his youth in Greenland and in 999 visited Norway, where he was converted to Christianity and commissioned by King Olaf I
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 had discovered a few years before.

Thorfinn's expedition is recorded in the "Saga of Eric the Red" in the collection of sagas known as Hauksbok, and in a narrative interpolated in the "Saga of Olaf Tryggvason" in the Flateyjarbok. According to the former, which has been favored by most scholars, the expedition came first to a region they called Helluland. Then they passed on to a wooded country which they named Markland, sailed by sandy, desolate beaches called Furdustrands, and settled for the winter in a bay called Straumfjord.

Still seeking the land of grapes, they proceeded southward the next spring until they reached a place called Hop. There they found vines, and there they settled for the next winter, selecting a spot up a river that widened into a lake. Several encounters with the natives, however, in which two of their number were killed, induced them to abandon Hop in the spring and return to Straumfjord, where they spent the third winter. One of the ships, commanded by Thorhall, had deserted the first year after a disagreement and had met disaster in Ireland. With the prospect of attack, plus growing dissension, it was decided to abandon the whole attempt. Returning by Markland, Thorfinn's ship reached Greenland safely; the other was wrecked in the Irish Sea and part of its crew saved.

Much effort has been spent in attempts to identify the lands visited by Thorfinn and to discover his wintering sites, but no theory has won general acceptance. Places from Labrador to New England have been suggested, but such identifications are little more than guesses; evidence of Norse settlement has been found in Newfoundland. There is also divergence on the dates assigned to Thorfinn's expedition.


See bibliography under Leif Ericsson and Vinland.

Karlsefni, Thorfinn:

see Thorfinn KarlsefniThorfinn Karlsefni
, fl. 1002–15, Norse leader of an attempt to colonize North America. He appeared in Greenland in 1002 and married Gudrid, widow of one of the sons of Eric the Red. He set out c.
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3 Thorfinn Karlsefni Thorfinn Karlsefni, an Icelandic explorer, attempted to found a settlement in North America;
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