Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why Leif Eriksson is My Hero

When we decided to name our son Leif, we didn't know much about Leif Eriksson at all--except that he probably discovered America before Columbus, around 1000 A.D. We were slightly concerned that we might be naming our son after a bloodthirsty Viking raper and pillager, so we decided to research the man a bit.

What we found absolutely convinced us to name him Leif! Leif Eriksson was really an amazingly brave and good man in the very early days of Nordic Christianity. We've read several historical accounts, and even own the "Sagas of the Greenlanders"--some Nordic tales that should be way more widely read.

Leif's father, Erik the Red, was banished from Iceland around the year 1000 A.D. He had killed a man, possibly on accident, so he left with his family and a fleet of ships to the west. There were rumors of more land that direction, so they went. All but only a handful of ships either turned back or were lost at sea when Erik the Red finally discovered Greenland. They settled there and built homes and farms.

Leif was Erik's second son (he had both an older and younger brother), and so was not poised to inherit any land. He sailed back east to Norway to serve in the guard of King Olaf (later known as Saint Olaf). Olaf had just converted to Christianity, as did the majority of the Scandinavians. Leif served Olaf for several years, and also converted to Christianity. After Leif's time of service was over, Olaf sent him home to Greenland to tell his family "how the White Christ had defeated Thor and all the gods."

On Leif's journey home his boat was caught in a storm and driven off course. He landed in a place he called Vinland, because of the grapes growing everywhere. This was in what is now Newfoundland, Canada. His crew landed and built homes and a small village, which became known as "Leif's Booths." They farmed the fertile land over the winter, hunted, and logged (Greenland has nearly no trees). They saw natives a couple of times, and traded with them. After a couple of years they restocked their boats and went back to find Greenland. On the return trip they also rescued sailors in two other ships who were stranded in the icy waters. When they arrived back at the colony Leif earned the nickname "Leif the Lucky." While he was gone they thought he had been lost at sea, but he returned, with his entire crew, and rescued the crew of two other ships!

Leif shared the gospel with all the Vikings living in the region. They converted, all of them except his father Erik. In fact, Leif's mother, Thorjild, refused to sleep with him again until he repented (which still didn't work)! Leif built a church for his mother, Thorjild's Chapel. He also shared with the villagers the incredibly abundant and rich land just to the west of them. He mapped out how to get there and where his "booths" were. His two brothers sailed off to find the new land--one wrecked his ship and the other was lost at sea, leaving Leif in charge of the Greenland colony.

Legend has it that Erik the Red finally converted on his death bed, and archeologists have found Thorjild's Chapel. There is a churchyard that surrounds it, but three bodies were buried just under the church's wall; which they say are those of Erik, Thorjild, and Leif.

October 9th is Leif Eriksson's Day, which is conspicuously close to October 14th--Columbus Day--and although we like the guy and all (Columbus, that is), we like the Nordic story better.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Good Day for Sarcasm

Just when I thought that there was nothing to blog about Obama up and wins the Nobel Peace Prize of all things. Thank you, Captain Obvious, for your observations from the media. Sometimes it's so easy to make a joke that it's better to just chuckle and watch it pass on by. My favorite part is that he won because of the plans he intends on implementing, not on anything he's actually done. Poor Alfred Nobel he must be rolling over in his grave, but the man did invent dynamite, which is not exactly a tool of peace.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Where's the New Post?

I keep trying to think of blog posts, but when I sit down to write the mind is blank. It's probably that way because I've enjoyed thinking about nothing and zoning out for the precious few minutes a day that's become possible. This fall Leif is in kindergarten, Ryle is in preschool (which I teach), Ryle takes gymnastics, Leif is in soccer (practice and games each week), and I'm coaching junior high basketball. Yep, that's it, we're now one of those families.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

She's Done!

Our lovely friend Jessica has finished some lovely pictures for us!