Publicada por Arith Härger / 2:51 PM /
Because history isn't always made by men and great women have also helped shaping the course of events so we might live their legacy.
In this post I will write about Freydís Eiríksdóttir. Yes, you are correct, the daughter of the famous viking, Erik the Red. But let us put Mr. Red behind us; we have all listen about his tales. In fact, we are well aware of the Viking heroes, Chieftains, Jarls and Kings which have placed their markings on the world and forged their own fates. But seldom do we hear about women and how important their roles in society have been, are, and always will be.
In the Sagas of the Greenlanders (Grœnlendinga Saga), Freydís Eiríksdóttir is described as being Leif Eriksson's own sister. However, in the very Saga of their Father (Eiríks Rauða Saga) she is Leif's half sister. One thing is clear, she had strong family bonds with these historical characters. It isn't known when she was born, or where, but we can be certain it was arround the late X century.
She once lived at Gardar (Garðar - Greenland). This fearless woman joined two trips to Vinland (North America) during her early years, probably at the beginning of the XI century. During one of these voyages, and after a failed attempt to trade with the North American natives - which the Norse called Skraelings (Skrælingjar) - a dispute arose between the two groups.
Not every viking is bold, brave and fearless. This particular conflict had the vikings on the run. During the night the North American Natives ambushed the viking camp. Throwing arrows, spears and other such weapons, the Skraelings frightned the viking explorers. This upheaval drew Freydís' attention and she ran towards the conflict. While others were fleeing, she was going on the opposite direction to face the Skraelings. It is said she was weaponless, and so she took a sword from a fallen brother-in-arms; in some accounts it is written that she was eight mounths pregnant and even so she fought. When the Skrælingjar came upon her, or vs versa, she let down her sark so that one of her breasts was exposed and struck it with the flat of her sword, letting out a furious battle cry. Perhaps the attackers did not expect any resistance, since their plan had work so well and the invaders were on the run, but when they saw this woman, shouting and with sword in hand, the Skrælingjar were rightly frightened and stormed off back to their lands.
There was a second trip to Vinland. Freydís wanted the prestige and wealth that was associated with a Vinland journey, so she planned in returning and make profit with it. It wasn't easy to make these journeys, you have to understand it was a new sea route to an unknown land, and there was clearly resistance from the natives which turned things even more dangerous. So Freydís had to make it count this time.
Helgi and Finnbogi, norse explorers going to Vinland, had arrived to Greenland. Freydís made a deal with the two men, porposing that they should go together to Vinland and share all the profits half-and-half. She then asked her brother Leif if they could use the homes he had built in Vinland so they might take shelter and have a base of operations. He agreed to that. Helgi and Finnbogi also agreed that they would bring a good number of men and supplies, but the two men went alone without her. She ended up leaving afterwards, with her own ship and her own crew. The two men arrived at Vinland first, and took refuge in Leif's houses. Freydís appeared and ordered the brothers to move out. The houses belonged to her brother and she had the right to use them as befitted her. The two men left and camped elsewhere.
In Vinland the tension between the two groups grew as Helgi and Finnbogi set up a settlement separate from Freydis and her crew. She went to where they were camped to make peace. They made peace eventually and to the two men all seemed right. Until Freydis went away and beat herself so that it would appear as if she had been mistreated and beaten. She returned to her husband in her brother's houses, and as a good husband he asked who had beaten her. Freydis claimed Helgi and Finnbogi had done the deed while calling her husband a coward, demanding that he had the right of revenge on her behalf, or else she would divorce him. He gathered his men and killed Helgi and Finnbogi as well as the men in their camp while they were sleeping (well, killing a sleeping enemy is indeed an act of cowardice). When he refused to kill the five women, Freydis picked up an ax and massacred the five women herself. She was bloodthirsty and clearly begrudged. The two men went without her to Vinland and she was upset about it. She took her time, patience and schemed about the best way to have her vengeance. Such a petty thing to want vengeance for. I dare not imagine how she would act if a deed against her had serious consequences.
Freydís wanted to conceal her treachery on the brothers and threatened death to anyone who would tell of the killings. She went back to Greenland after a year’s stay and told her brother Leif Eiriksson that Helgi and Finnbogi had decided to stay in Vinland. However, word of the killings eventually reached the ears of Leif. He had three men from Freydís’s expedition tortured until they confessed the whole occurrence. Thinking ill of her deeds, Leif still did not want to imprison her, or convict her to death for manslaughter. After all, she was his sister.
Unfortunately, nothing else is known about Freydís. It is clear that she put the men around her on their heels. She cast fear upon friends and foes alike, and I believe she could easily make enemies rather than friends, and people would follow her out of fear and not loyalty. Both terrible and an incredible woman; full of mischief, bravery, leadership and a mixture of lunacy, which are the perfect ingredients to survive the world of ruthless cold-blooded men of her time. To thrive among such people, she had to be equal to them or even worse. Enough to cause both respect and fear.