Issue has been taken with the inclusion on this website of Leif Ericson as a "Great Norwegian."

"I was wondering why you consider a person born and raised in Iceland to be a great Norwegian," Einar G. Einarsson asks, echoing a query previously made by a Canadian professor, Ed Jackson.

Garrison Keillor and Walter Mondale were both born in Minnesota. Yet, no one has questioned their inclusion in the category of great Norwegians. They were Americans of Norwegian heritage. So was Eric Sevareid.

Liv Ullmann was born in Japan. Does that mean that she, the daughter of Norwegians away from home, is Japanese, and not Norwegian?


Yes, Leif was -- so far as is known -- born in Iceland. (There is uncertainty as to the year of his birth, and, to a lesser extent, the place.) It is undoubted, however, that he was the son of Eric Thorvaldson ("Eric the Red"), a Norwegian, banished from Norway.

It could be said that just as Eric Sevareid was a Norwegian-American, Leif was a Norwegian-Icelander. That would be enough to warrant his inclusion on this website.

It could also be argued, however, that Leif was a Norwegian who simply happened to live his earliest years in Iceland. (From a young age, he was a denizen of Greenland, which his father explored and colonized.)

Iceland was largely settled by Norwegians. In 870, Norwegian Ingólfr Arnarson became its first permanent settler, and others from Norge forayed there. It did develop a governmental structure -- enough of a one to banish Eric the Red from the soils of Iceland for three years (resulting in his move to Greenland). But the governmental structure Iceland had was merely a council, the Thingvellir, with no executive powers. It is debatable whether Iceland at the time of Leif's birth in about 970 was truly a "nation," or whether it was more a Norwegian settlement with a council possessed of limited governmental powers.

If U.S. astronauts set up a colony of Americans on Venus, and a child were born there, that child surely would be regarded as an American, not a Venutian. Similarly, if the Iceland of 970 is to be viewed as a sparcely populated Norwegian settlement not constituting a nation, Eric the Red's habitation in that settlement did not effect an alteration of his status as a Norwegian. And his son, Leif, acquired that Norwegian nationality.

Certainly, it must be inferred that Leif felt a sense of fidelity to the monarchy of Norge; he adhered unquestioningly to the directive of the king that he spread Christianity to Greenland.

It might thus be concluded that Leif, son of a Norwegian dwelling in Iceland when Leif was born, was not a Norwegian-Icelander but was a Norwegian, whose parents were simply away from the homeland.

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