Freydis Eiriksdottir

You’re probably familiar with the man who discovered North America way before Christopher Columbus. His name was Leif Erikson. He also had a sister named Freydis Eiriksdottir. Their father was Erik the Red who was famous for colonizing Greenland back in the day. 

Since their family had a passion and desire for adventure, it wasn’t surprising that Freydis (married to Torvard) also took part in explorations to explore the vast ocean just like her brother Leif. 

Meaning of her name      

Freydis with the two compounds "Frej" and "dis", means "noblewoman"  in Old Norse language.  

On the other hand, Eiriksdottir was actually derived from:

Eirik - Erik the Red

Dottir - means daughter      

So Eiriksdottir basically means Erik the Red’s daughter. However, keep in mind though that it wasn't a surname and was just referring to a family route.       

Freydis in sagas            

Even though she only appeared in two Viking sagas, readers could take away that she was a violent, brutal, and hot-tempered woman just like her father. This bad attitude made her tore down the social barriers set for women at that time. She was also depicted as a very brave and fearless woman who wasn’t afraid of death. This was actually common for members of noble families at that time.    

The adventures of Freydis 

Image by Mara Louise Pratt-Chadwick (1900)

When Freydis (believed to have been born around 970 AD) explored and visited Vinland (Newfoundland, North America), it was said that natives were horrified by her.      

She joined Thorfinn Karlsefni’s crew who were headed to Vinland in 1004. During their journey, they encountered Vinland natives whom they called "skræling" or "weaklings." They also had an agreement with Vinland natives. Unfortunately, the peace was short-lived and didn't last long when one of the bulls of the VIkings ran and screamed near the location of the locals.  

So one night, the skrælings attacked their camp by shooting weapons using catapults. Sadly, not every Viking stayed when the attack happened. The only one who stayed was Freydis who was 8 months pregnant at that time.                  

Freydis was such a fearless woman for not letting her physical condition get in the way. She took advantage of her sword. She also howled and showed them her bare breast or chest while beating it with a sword. She did all that without showing any signs of fear on her face. This terrified the natives so they ran away from her.             

After what she encountered and went through in Vinland, she went home and found out that her brother Leif had successfully finished his adventure. This made her want to be part of another Viking exploration again. So she persuaded two brothers to go on an adventure (private voyage) with her. She then told them she would split the treasures they would find in half when they go with her. However, she knew deep down that she was just trying to play tricks on them. So she beat herself and told people she was mistreated.         

When she came home one night, she requested her husband to kill the two brothers and their families. But he didn’t kill all of them and spared the women. This made Freydis extremely angry. So she killed them by herself. But there were people who witnessed that savage incident and they threatened to kill all of them as well if they told anyone what happened. 

When Leif Erikson eventually found out about her evil deeds, he wanted to punish her. After that, there wasn’t anything mentioned in any other sagas about what happened during her later years. Some believed that there were other sagas that mentioned her but probably didn’t survive. But based on surviving materials, we can tell that Freydis wasn’t a pleasant Viking woman and that’s for sure!     


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