Monday, 12 August 2013

Freaky Freydís

It is generally assumed that all Viking raiders and warriors were men (lazy archaeology?), but that's not actually the case - quite a large percentage (up to half in some cases) were actually women, Freydís Eiríksdóttir being one of the more notable (and absolutely mental) ones, as the following picture accurately conveys:

Here is a lovely wax figure of the woman herself in Reykjavik. Smashing stuff.

Daughter of Erik the Red, who was a (most likely) Norwegian fella who founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland (who the hell would want to live there is what I ask), Freydís is generally known to have been involved in the Norse exploration of North America around 1,000AD or so (quite a bit before 1492 I may add) along with her brother Leifr. 

Freydís appears in two sagas; the Saga of Erik the Red, and the Grœnlendinga Saga, both believed to be composed in the 13th century. Events from an expedition to Vinland (in North America) are described in the first of these sagas - during this visit to America, the Vikings traded with what they called the Skrælingjar, the peoples from around North America and Greenland. 

Vinland on the left. This map is reputedly pre-Colombian, although possibly a forge

    As the story goes, trading all went well until the Vikings ran out of everything except cow's milk. The Skrælingjar turned out to be lactose intolerant, of course, and thought they were being poisoned. This, along with a rather uneasy encounter with a bull ("what in god's name is that devil-beast?"), made, as one can imagine, things a bit tense, and the shit hit the fan.
    Freydís, who was heavily pregnant at this time, and therefore less agile than a hippo on stilts, found herself abandoned by her spineless crew, who were starting to set sail. Seeing them flee she shouted after them: "Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout men that ye are [...] Let me but have a weapon, I think I could fight better than any of you." And so, she proceeded to find the sword of one of her dead companions, and when the Skrælingjar came upon her, she bared her breasts and beat the sword against them, letting out a battle-cry. Needless to say, they fled in terror, and so would you, had you encountered that wax figure above or this orangutan below:

So, she sounds cool, right?! I'm sorry, but your dreams of a new idol are about to be smashed into tiny pieces. Read on.

Obviously thrilled by this exhilarating experience (who doesn't like to act out King Kong?), Freydís decided to make a deal with some poor Icelandic feckers, Helgi and Finnbogi, and returned to Vinland, after agreeing to split the goods half and half with the brothers. Being the snake in the grass that she was, Freydís snuck a few extra men onto her ship (she also convinced the two brothers to let her take the bigger of the ships). Due to differences of opinion, by the time they arrived in Vinland, two camps were set up. Later on, Freydís told her husband that the two lads had assaulted her, and ordered them and their crew killed. The orders were followed, but her men refused to kill the unarmed women - Freydís saw to them herself, chopping off the five of their heads, no bother at all to her. 

Not wanting to be seen as batshit crazy back home, she ordered silence on the matter for their return to Greenland. Her brother Leifr, obviously being a bit suspicious that the crew has magically shrunk by bloody half, resorted to torturing the truth out of some of the men. Being the just man that he was, he did....absolutely nothing, and Freydís got away with it all. I suffer more repercussions if I forget to hang the godanm washing out!

Leif Erikson, an all too forgiving brother

So, unfortunately, Freydis turned out to be a pretty horrible, greedy, merciless, thundering bitch, but either way, she is an interesting figure - a strong willed, courageous woman, but certainly not one to look up to or follow after - unless you fancy being secured in a psychiatric ward of a prison.

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