‘Freydis’ tells an epic tale

Jan Jones

For those of us who grew up surrounded by the forests of Wisconsin, it is hard to imagine the harsh, nearly treeless landscape that is Iceland and Greenland. But Gunhild Haugnes makes it all come alive in “Freydis,” the first of her Daughters of Freya saga.

Historically, Viking raider Eirik Raude (aka, “Eirik the Red”) discovered Greenland and founded a colony there. He now lives there with his wife, Tjodhild, sons Leif, Torvald and Torstein, and his illegitimate daughter, Freydis.

As the story opens, we find short-tempered and impulsive 17-year-old Freydis on one of her early morning rambles. Today Freydis meets the old crone, Trojborg Lillevolen. The woman is feared as a witch because she can predict the future.

She tells Freydis that her half-brother Leif is returning from a great journey to the west. They have rescued several Icelanders from a shipwreck. Among them is a beautiful young woman, Gudrud, and a handsome young man, Sverre.

Freydis is immediately smitten by Sverre, and soon the two are in a heated love affair. Leif has found a new land with a mild climate, lush pastureland and thick forests. He has named it Vinland. Many want to accompany Leif to the new land, but he explains that he can’t leave until he has converted all of Greenland to Christianity.

While Eirik and Freydis remain true to the old Norse gods, Tjodhild and many others embrace the new faith, causing friction in Brattalid. About the time Freydis discovers she is pregnant, Sverre announces that he is returning to Iceland without her.

In her fury, Freydis summons her “goddess” and curses Sverre. She then reluctantly agrees to marry Torvard of Gardar. He’s always loved her, but she’s indifferent toward him. She gives birth to Einar but sees Sverre in his eyes and cannot love him, so when the opportunity to travel to Vinland comes, she convinces Torvard to leave the child with his parents and join the group.

Vinland is all they’d hoped for. Soon Freydis has taken a lover and becomes pregnant. When the native people attack, it is Freydis, breasts bared and screaming, who chases them off. After one of the Icelanders steals their ship to explore further south, Freydis tries to convince their leader to lend them their ship so they can return to Greenland, but a terrible fight ensues.

Enraged, Freydis smashes the skull of Sverre’s sister, locks the Icelanders in the longhouse and sets sail for Greenland. She is in labor but a huge storm washes all their trade goods, her lover and her newborn baby overboard.

Once Freydis was hailed for driving off the natives, but now she is despised for her violent behavior. She continues to take visiting sailors as lovers, but to her surprise, Torvard still loves her and they have a daughter, Brita, whom she adores.

When Torvard dies, Einar throws Freydis out of Gardar, so she asks to live in what was Tjodhild’s house. When Brita marries and leaves for Iceland, Freydis is summoned to Trojborg’s deathbed. She reveals information about Freydis’s mother and entrusts her with a satchel where she confines an evil serpent. It must never be freed.

She tells Freydis that she must make amends for her wrongdoing before she can find peace. Then she will endure another 30 years alone. Freydis does her best to right the many wrongs she has done.

By then she is well into her nineties and ready to journey into the next realm, so she shares her life story and secrets with a young girl. That girl is to go to Iceland and tell everything to Brita. With that finished, Freydis steps onto an ice floe and embarks on her final journey of exploration.

Life is an adventure. Go exploring through your public library. This is the perfect time to drop in and check it out.


Book: “Freydis” (Daughters of Freya, Book 1)

Author: Gunhild Haugnes

Publisher: Vikinga Media

Year published: 2019

Number of pages: 350