Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Katherine B. Shippen’s Leif Eriksson: First Voyager to America is a romanticized account of the Norse explorer’s life and times drawn primarily from the Karlsefni Saga of medieval Iceland. In twenty-six short chapters plus an introduction, Shippen chronologically traces Eriksson’s family from Norway (where his father, Erik, was proclaimed an outlaw for manslaughter) to Iceland, where Eriksson was born.

In her account of the Norse colony in Iceland, Shippen introduces a number of interesting characters from the pages of the Karlsefni saga, including Bjarni Herjolfsson, who related to a young Eriksson his sighting of an unknown land to the west of Greenland many years before. Shippen also records many of the unique customs of the Norse people of that age in areas such as childbirth, education, politics, and commerce. Shippen then tells the story of Erik’s second exile for manslaughter and his subsequent colonization of Greenland, where Eriksson grew to adulthood.

One of the most interesting sections of the book is Shippen’s account of Eriksson’s voyage to Norway and the court of King Olaf Tryggvason. The reader learns much about the early nature of Christianity in Scandinavia and about the life-style of the Norse nobility. The author credits Eriksson with establishing Christianity in Greenland upon his return, as the priest who accompanied him eventually converted most of the Greenlanders, including Eriksson’s...

(The entire section is 448 words.)