LEIF was a bold Norseman, and was called "Lucky" because he came safely through so many dangers. He was the bravest seaman of his race, and the sailors believed that whatever boat carried him would come safely into port, no matter how fierce the storm.
When voyagers from the far seas brought word to Iceland that fair lands covered with forests lay to the west, for they had seen them, Leif the Lucky called for thirty-five strong and true men. "Let us sail to this country, and get wood for our ships, and perhaps gold and silver to sell to the kings of Europe," he said. The men came forward and the ship set sail in the summer.
They went by way of Greenland, where they stopped for more news of the strange lands, and then sailed southwest for many days. The first place they saw was a land of ice and mountains. This was probably Newfoundland. Then they reached a level country covered with trees. This was probably Nova Scotia. Still sailing onward, the little ships with their brave crews came to a beautiful country abounding in trees, grass, and flowers. Here they landed, and carried all their baggage ashore with them. The place was so beautiful, they resolved to spend the winter there, and at once set about building houses. This was probably somewhere in Rhode Island.
When the Norsemen had built their houses, Leif said to his men, "Let us explore the land; some of us will stay to guard the houses, and the rest will find out what there is to see." So they set forth into the interior.
Soon they came upon an abundance of grapevines hanging from trees and covered with luscious fruit. Leif was delighted, and at once named the country Vinland, or the Land of Vines. So they gathered grapes, and cut wood for their ships, and built more houses, and settled down to spend the winter in this delightful spot. The cold came on, but the Norsemen did not mind it, for they had plenty of food and great fires; besides which, they were accustomed to cold weather.
In the spring they loaded their ships with timber, and sailed for home. Here they narrated their marvelous story of the new land. Leif offered his ship to his brother, Thorwald, and told him he might go and spend a winter in Vinland. So Thorwald fitted himself out and started for the new country, but he was not as lucky as his brother. He found the homes that had been built by those who had been before him; but the Indians attacked his party one night, and killed Thorwald with a poisoned arrow. He was buried on the shore, and his men set sail for home as soon as the weather allowed them to leave.
About eight hundred years after this, a skeleton clothed in armor was found buried in the earth at the head of Narragansett Bay. No one knew who it was; but we have every reason to believe that it was the remains of the brave old Norse warrior, Thorwald, or, maybe, of one of his followers. At any rate, the Skeleton in Armor has been the subject of much romance and poetry, and the traditions of the Norsemen have been handed down to us as sagas in the writing of the seafaring Icelanders.