The men paid her no mind of course. Freydis did try to join the men at this point but she was pregnant, and could not keep up with them. Why the men did not try to defend her is perplexing, but she now found herself alone with the Skraelings closing in on her. On the ground in front of her was a dead Viking with his sword lying beside him. She grabbed the sword and prepared to defend herself. As the Skraelings came rushing at her she pulled out one of her breasts, and slapped it with the sword. This terrified the Skraelings so much that they ran back to their boats, and paddled away as fast as they could.
After this incident, and others, Karlsefni realized that although this land was plentiful in timber, furs, and plantable farmland, it was too dangerous for them to stay, and set up a colony. Karlsefni and the other settlers than went back to Greenland. Freydis comes off as a hero in this voyage who saved the settlers from the uncivilized savages who were going to wipe out the settlers. Later we will see a that Freydis has a " savage " in herself as well !
During the summer that Karsefni returned from Vinland a ship arrived in Greenland from Norway which was led by two brothers, Helgi and Finnbogi. They were Icelanders by birth and spent the winter in Greenland. Freydis Eiriksdottir, who had been putting an expedition together to go back to Vinland, traveled to visit with the brothers, and ask if they would join in her expedition. ( Notice that her husband Thorvard is never mentioned in these proceedings ) They made an agreement to share equally all profits that were made from the Vinland settlement. Freydis went to her brother Leif next and asked him to give her the houses that he had built in Vinland at the settlement site, but as he had answered others before he agreed to loan her the houses, but not give them away to her.
Freydis started to deceive the Icelandic brothers even before the expedition set sail. The two parties had made an agreement that each of the ships would be manned by only 30 able - bodied men . Freydis, however, hid 5 extra men on board each ship, which the brothers did not find out about until they reached Vinland. Five extra men may not sound like a big deal but in the days of hand to hand combat, single combat, it tipped the balance of power greatly in her favor.
Although they all left at the same time, and sailed together as a convoy, the brothers arrived in Vinland before Freydis, and unloaded their goods into Leif's houses. Freydis, who landed shortly thereafter unloaded her cargo, and had it carried up to the now occupied houses. When Freydis confronted the brothers about why they had put their things in the houses they replied that, " We thought that the whole of our agreement would be honored. " They believed that everything would be shared equally. Freydis shot back, " My brother Leif lent these houses to me, not to you ! " Helgi and Finnbogi now understood how it would be with Freydis and Helgi replied, " We brothers could never be a match for you in wickedness ! " The brothers at this point of course had noticed the extra men that Freydis had brought along with her.
Helgi and Finnbogi were forced to take all their possessions, and find another location to stay. On the bank of a large lake, further inland, they built themselves a longhouse, and setled in for the winter. At first things were amiable between the two now separated parties. They held games, and other forms of entertainment. Over time, however, there was ill feelings that arose between them, and from time to time squabbles turned into fights. For most of the winter they stayed apart with little contact. That, however, would soon change.One morning Freydis put on her husband's cloak, and walked barefoot over to the brother's house. The door was opened slightly and she went inside. Finnbogi was lying on the bed furthest from the door. When he noticed Freydis standing there he said, " What do you want here Freydis ? " She replied that she wanted to speak to him alone outside . Once alone she asked him how they were doing, and Finnbogi answered that he liked this land, but did not like the ill feelings that had developed between them. She agreed, but said that the reason she had come to see him was that she wanted to exchange ships with theirs because they were bigger, and could hold more cargo. She went on to say that she wanted to leave the Vinland settlement soon. Finnbogi did not like the idea and told her so.
When she returned to her bed, her husband Thorvard awoke, and asked why her feet were wet and cold. She answered him in an angry tone, telling him that she had gone over to speak to the brothers about buying their ships. She then lied claiming that they had become angered, struck her, and treated her roughly. Then she angrily taunted her husband by telling him that he would never avenge her humiliation. She ended by telling him that if he did not avenge her honor she would divorce him once they got back to Greenland. ( Yes, women had that right in Scandinavia back then ) She taunted him until he could not take it any longer !
Thorvard, dressed himself, then commanded his men to get up at once and arm themselves for battle. They immediately marched over to the brothers longhouse and dragged them out of their beds, and tied them up. As they were brought outside Freydis had her men put each one of them to death. She probably was eager to silence them so that they could not protest their innocence too much. When all the men had been killed, she commanded that the women be killed as well. No one in Freydis' camp, however, was willing to commit so horrific an act, and all refused. Freydis then demanded that she be given an axe. When her wishes were met she used the axe to kill each of the five women that the brothers had brought along with them to the settlement. There is no record of what her people thought of this incident but they must have been terrified by this crazy woman.
Realizing that what she did was hideous she commanded all the settlers from her camp not to breathe a word of this when they got back to Greenland. She further told them that if anyone did say anything she would have them killed as well. She told the settlers that if anyone asks about the brothers people, that they should say that they decided to stay on at the Vinland Settlement, and would come back at a later date.
In the spring they gathered up everything that they, and the brothers had amassed, and loaded as much of it as they could onto the ships. They put to sea at once and had an easy voyage back to Greenland. Their voyage was so quick in fact that they reached Eiriksfjord in early summer. I have always wondered if at this point Freydis was worried that her dirty little secret would get out, or if she thought she would be held accountable. But I guess when your father started the colony you live in, and your brother is now the leader, you don't have to worry too much.
As with most secrets this one did not stay silent for long. Some of the story, though the Vinland Sagas don't say how much, reached Leif about the atrocities that his sister had committed in the Vinland colony. Leif was horrified, and if anyone else other than his sister had done such things he would have put them to death or exiled them. Tormented by the situation, all he said was, " I do not have the heart to punish my sister Freydis as she deserves. But I predict that her descendants will never prosper. "
Leif seems to be saying that his sisters actions would curse her family for generations. And though the story ends there it goes without saying that no one in Greenland, after hearing the tale of what happened in Vinland, would ever trust Freydis, or for that matter her husband Thorvald again. I am sure that most kept their distance from this evil and wicked woman. As Odin said in Havamal a man's reputation will last forever. The same is true for someone like Freydis who has marked her legacy with evil and murder. The Vinland Sagas have recorded her treachery for 1000 years now, and I believe that she will always be remembered for her evil ways !
- Glenn Bergen
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor's protection !