Freydis Eiriksdottir: Evil Woman or A Brave Shieldmaiden?

Posted by Ms Elly on

Freydis Eiriksdottir: Evil Woman or A Brave Shieldmaiden?

Leif Erikson who happened to discover North America prior to the Spanish had a sister whose name was Freydis Eiriksdottir. Born in a family with the desire of exploring running in the DNA, Freydis Eiriksdottir quickly took part in the crew to explore the vast ocean. 

Her visit to North America left nothing but horror to the natives and the future generation who read about her. 


There was no clear account telling the birthday of Freydis Eiriksdottir. But she might have been born around 970 AD. She was the daughter of Erik the Red who was famous for colonizing Greenland. He was also the sister or half-sister of Leif Erikson who according to Norse sagas was the first to discover North America before Columbus. 

Her name seemed to carry the origin of her family. Freydis in Old Norse means "noblewoman" with the two compounds "Frej" and "dis". Eiriksdottir was not the surname, in fact. It was much like the noun referring the family route rather than the surname. It combines the "Eirik" referring to Erik the Red and "dottir" means "daughter".

Viking shieldmaiden Freydis Eiriksdottir

Depiction of Freydis Eiriksdottir who according to the Viking saga was the hot-tempered woman

Freydis appeared in only two Viking sagas and both of them depicted her as the hot-tempered and violent woman who tore down the social barriers set for the women. 

She was a kind of woman that feared nothing, even death. This was a common Viking spirit and especially in the noble family like Erik the Red. She also favoured gold and good. 

Freydis got married to Torvard and this marriage was believed to be a political marriage that benefited both families. 


The year was around 1004 that Freydis joined the crew of Thorfinn Karlsefni to travel to Vinland. This first journey was doomed with the fighting with the native American. The Vikings called the natives in North America "Skræling" meaning "weakling". 

As the night fell, the Skræling attacked the camp of the Viking by shotting from the catapults. The Vikings had never seen such a weapon in their real life fled. The only one stayed and not gave up fighting was Freydis Eiriksdottir. 

When the fighting broke out, she had been pregnant for 8 months. But the physical condition couldn't prevent her from wielding the sword to slay the enemies. She called for her warriors:

Why run you away from such worthless creatures, stout men that ye are, when, as seems to me likely you might slaughter them like so many cattle? Give me a weapon! I know I could fight better than any of you.

But no one replied to this pregnant commander. They just fled. 

What Freydis did terrified the natives. She wielded the sword encountering the natives. Then she showed her bare chest to the natives beating it with her sword. She screamed but more like howled. 

Facing the natives who wanted to kill her, she showed no signs of fear. 

The Native American Indians were so sacred not only because of the pregnant woman but also the foreign weapon they had never seen before. They ran away. 


After the adventure from Vinland, she came home and heard Leif Erikson had completed his successful adventure. She wanted herself to be one part of the Viking exploration. 

She persuaded two brothers to go on a private voyage with her and the treasure would be shared half-half. But the woman played a trick on them. She then beat herself to make the false signs that she was mistreated. 

Coming back home, she asked her husband to seek revenge and killed the brothers and their families. But her husband spared the lives of the women. This made Freydis hit the ceiling and she set out to kill them by herself. Freydis threatened the witness to kill them if they said anything about the incident. 

Her brother, Leif Erikson, tortured the men of his sister and learned about her evil deeds. He wanted to punish her severely but after all, she was his sister. 

Later life of Freydis was not mentioned in any other sagas or might not survive the test of time. But according to the surviving materials, she was not a pleasant Viking woman. 

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1 comment

  • Actually she killed 5 icelander family simply because they settled on a piece of land she wanted for herself. It was a serious crime from jealousy with grave consequences to her brother. They had to abandon the Vinland colony and silence the whole things. The problem was according to viking law killing women was punishable by death but killing someone from the royal family so either way it was bad. The only brave thing she did was rally the troops during a night attack from the natives thus turning the battle.

    Cyp on

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