Wednesday, January 19

The “surprising and wise” Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, the matriarch of the Vikings who colonized America more than a thousand years ago


  • Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough *
  • For BBC HistoryExtra magazine

'Thorfin and Gudrida on the Vineland Shore', (1877).  The explorers led an expedition to the coast of North America visited by the Norse Vikings.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption,

‘Thorfin and Gudrid on the Vineland Shore’, (1877). The explorers led an expedition to the coast of North America visited by the Norse Vikings.

The cartoon stereotype of the Viking age is decidedly masculine: bearded blond men on ships raiding the shores of Western Europe, discovering and colonizing new lands.

Yet from the Valkyries of Norse mythology to prime ministers and presidents, and from the legendary maidens to other pioneers of socially progressive gender politics, the Norse world has a long history of extraordinary women.

No one personifies this heritage better than Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, a Norse explorer known as the ‘far traveler’, born on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland in the late 10th century.

What we know of his life stems from two ancient Norse legends, “The Saga of Erik the Red” and “The Saga of the Greenlanders.” Together they are known as the “Vinland Sagas” because they describe journeys to the peripheries of North America around the year 1,000.


www.bbc.com

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