There is also speculation if she even existed, as she was only portrayed in two of the Icelandic sagas, "Saga of the Greenlanders" and "Saga of Erik the Red."
Freydis Eiríksdóttir is said to be the daughter of Erik the Red, who was known for his explorations of North America and the colonization of Vinland, the coastal area around Newfoundland.
Freydis Eiríksdóttir's brother, Leif Erikson, who also played an important role in this settlement, was the figure that influenced the experiences Freydis had in Vinland. This story is described in the "Saga of the Greenlanders."
Freydis Eiríksdóttir in the "Saga of the Greenlanders"
This saga depicts Freydis as a cunning and rather nasty woman who married for money – Freydis Eiríksdóttir's husband was Thorvard, owner of Gardar, one of the richest estates in Greenland.
Also, her hunger for more wealth pushed her to join her brother in the new territories in North America. After arranging the voyage to America with two brothers from Iceland, Helgi and Finnbogi, she allegedly played them so that she could benefit from the situation.
First, she smuggled more men than previously agreed to the ship, then created tensions among the three of them, and finally falsely accused them of beating her.
Freydis Eiríksdóttir told this story to her husband, asked him to avenge her, and threatened to leave him if he refused to do so. Her husband killed the men and their crew. However, he refused to kill the women in the brothers' camp. The saga says that Freydis herself took an ax and killed the women.
Wanting to conceal her treachery, she threatened to kill anyone who would reveal the secret. However, the secret leaked and reached her brother Leif Erikson.
Leif refused to punish Freydis by killing her, but he said Freydis' descendants would be facing a grim future. Also, the saga ends with the conclusion that everyone thought ill of Freydis Eiríksdóttir and her descendants after the gruesome event and her attempt to hide it.
According to some historians, this depiction of Freydis Eiríksdóttir as a ruthless murderess is a sort of Christian propaganda – an attempt to portray her as a woman who wouldn't obey the rules of the new religion, Christianity, a kind of a Norse version of the Biblical Jezebel.
Leif Erikson's statue in front of Reykjavik church, Iceland. Photo: Rafael Garcin / Unsplash
Freydis Eiríksdóttir in the "Saga of Erik the Red"
This saga was written after the "Saga of the Greenlanders," and it portrays Freydis Eiríksdóttir in a much more positive light.
In the saga, she is depicted as a fearless warrior who joined the expedition to Vinland, where she played one of the key roles when the natives attacked the camp.
Freydis was eight months pregnant at that time, but still, she took part in the battle – she took the sword of one of the fallen men, Thorbrand Snorisson, took off her garment and started beating her bare breasts with the blade of her sword, screaming fiercely at the natives, who fled in fear of the extraordinarily brave woman. Her bold and brave move left everyone in awe and was highly praised afterward.
Freydis Eiríksdóttir in popular culture
Frida Gustavsson, a Swedish model and actress, portrayed Freydis in the series "Vikings: Valhalla."
Her role contributed to the stereotypical depiction of Norse women being fearless and strong - as the on-screen Freydis Eiríksdóttir definitely fit into the image of a "Norse shield maiden."
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