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Freydís Eiríksdóttir

Freydís Eiríksdóttir was a Viking woman who sailed to Vínland in the early 11th century. She was an illegitimate daughter of Erik the Red and half sister to Leifur Eiríksson. She was married to a man named Þorvarður.

Note: the following is from the sagas, and is therefore questionable

Freydís was a member of the expedition led by Þorfinnur Karlsefni Þórðarson which, after the discovery of Vínland, attempted to make the first European colony there. A year after this expedition she and her husband traveled there again, with Icelanders Helgi and Finnbogi.

Upon arrival in Vínland, the alliance dissolved, and Helgi and Finnbogi built their own separate settlement there. Following a meeting in their camp, Freydís told her husband that she had been raped there, and asked him to avenge her. þorvarður took his men to the camp and killed the men there; five women survived. Freydís, however, was not satisfied, and killed the women with an axe.

Following the incident Þorvarður and Freydís returned to Greenland, and were exiled on account of their actions in Vínland.

Freydis was said to have worn men's clothes because she wanted to show courage.

The Saga of the Greenlanders (written in Greenland) and Erik's Saga (written in Iceland) differ on the details of Freydis Eriksdottir. According to the Icelandic account, Freydis was married to Thornfinn Karlsefni, however the Greenland account names a man called Thorvald as her husband. What is clear is that Freydis participated in two voyages to Vinland.

The first was as a member of Thornfinn Karlsefni's expedition. During that expedition, which lasted three years, she was pregnant. The Vikings had a disagreement over trade goods with the natives of Vinland, whom they called Skraelings, and the natives attacked them, at which time she was late in her pregnancy. Outnumbered, the Vikings ran for their ships. As they approached the beach, Freydis tripped and fell, but the men continued on to their ships which were in sight. She was left to fend for herself. She picked up a dropped sword and stood to face the attackers. According to the account of the incident, she bared her breasts, beat her chest with her fist, and screamed a battle cry, ready to fight them. It is said that the natives stopped in their tracks upon seeing this, turned and ran back inland out of fright that a pregnant woman of their enemy would face them in that manner. A few weeks later, she gave birth to a son, the first child of European origin born in North America.

The second expidition was about a year later. Freydis co-sponsored it with Helgi and Finnbogi and they left Greenland in two ships. The second ship went down, but no hands were lost. After the survivors were recovered, it was discovered they did not have enough supplies to get them to Vinland with everyone on board and they had traveled more than half the distance. Freydis ordered that all the men of the downed ship be killed, which the men of her crew carried out. There were a number of women from the second ship as well and when ordered to kill them as well, Freydis' men refused. Freydis picked up an axe, killed the women of the second ship herself and threw their bodies overboard.

Last updated: 05-21-2005 23:55:50
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