Gudrid Thorbjarnardaughter in "Eirik the Red’s Saga"

Chapter 3


[...] Thorbjorn Vifilsson [...] was given land at Laugarbrekka, at Hellisvellir. Thorbjorn moved his household there and became a man of great worth. He ran a prosperous farm and lived in grand style. Gudrid was the name of Thorbjorn's daughter. She was the most attractive of women and one to be reckoned with in all her dealings.

A man named Orm farmed at Arnarstapi. His wife was named Halldis. Orm was a good farmer and a great friend of Thorbjorn's. The couple fostered Gudrid, who spent long periods of time there.

A man named Thorgeir [...] was very rich in livestock and was a freed slave. He had a son named Einar, a handsome and capable man, with a liking for fine dress. [...]


[...] It is said that one autumn, when Einar was in Iceland, he [...] came to Arnarstapi [...]. While they were occupied with the goods a woman passed in front of the shed doorway.

Einar asked Orm who this beautiful woman was who had passed in front of the doorway - 'I haven't seen her here before.'

Orm said, 'That is Gudrid, my foster-daughter, the daughter of the farmer Thorbjorn of Laugarbrekka.'

Einar spoke: 'She'd make a fine match. Or has anyone already turned up to ask for her hand?'

Orm answered, 'She's been asked for right enough, my friend, but is no easy prize. As it turns out, she is choosy about her husband, as is her father as well.'

'Be that as it may,' Einar spoke, 'she's the woman I intend to propose to, and I would like you to put my proposal to her father, and if you do your best to support my suit I'll repay you with the truest of friendship. Farmer Thorbjorn [...] has a good farm, but I'm told his means have been much depleted. My father and I lack neither land nor means, so we'd be a considerable support to Thorbjorn if the match were concluded.' [...]

Some time later Thorbjorn held an autumn feast, as was his custom, for he lived in high style. [...]

Orm managed to speak privately to Thorbjorn and told him of the recent visit by Einar of Thorgeirsfell, who was becoming a man of promise. Orm then put Einar's proposal to Thorbjorn [...]


Thorbjorn answered, ‘I never expected to hear such words from you, telling me to marry my daughter to the son of a slave, as you suggest now, since you think I am running short of money. She’ll not go back with you, since you think her worthy of such a lowly match.’

Chapter 4


This was a very lean time in Greenland. [...]

In the district there lived a woman named Thorbjorg, a seeress who was called the 'Little Prophetess'.

It was Thorbjorg's custom to spend the winter visiting, one after another, farms to which she had been invited, mostly by people curious to learn of their own future or what was in store for the coming year. [...]


[...] She asked for women who knew the chants required for carrying out magic rites, which are called ward songs. But such women were not to be found. Then the people of the household were asked if there was anyone with such knowledge.

Gudrid answered, 'I have neither magical powers nor the gift of prophecy, but in Iceland my foster-mother, Halldis, taught me chants she called ward songs.'

Thorbjorg answered, 'Then you know more than I expected.'

Gudrid said, 'These are the sort of actions in which I intend to take no part, because I am a Christian woman.'

Thorbjorg answered: 'It could be that you could help the people here by so doing, and you'd be no worse a woman for that. But I expect Thorkel to provide me with what I need.'

Thorkel then urged Gudrid, who said she would do as he wished. The women formed a warding ring around the platform raised for sorcery, with Thorbjorg perched atop it. Gudrid spoke the chant so well and so beautifully that people there said they had never heard anyone recite in a fairer voice.

The seeress thanked her for her chant. She said many spirits had been attracted who thought the chant fair to hear - 'though earlier they wished to turn their backs on us and refused to do our bidding. Many things are now clear to me which were earlier concealed from both me and others. And I can tell you that this spell of hardship will last no longer, and times will improve as the spring advances. The bout of illness which has long plagued you will also improve sooner than you expect. And you, Gudrid, I will reward on the spot for the help we have received, since your fate is now very clear to me. You will make the most honourable of matches here in Greenland, though you won't be putting down roots here, as your path leads to Iceland and from you will be descended a long and worthy line. Over all the branches of that family a bright ray will shine. May you fare well, now, my child.' [...]

Chapter 6



The next thing to be told of is the proposal made by Thorstein Eiriksson to Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir. He was given a favourable answer by both Gudrid and her father, and so Thorstein married Gudrid and their wedding was held at Brattahlid that autumn. The wedding feast was a grand one and the guests were many.[...]

Thorstein had a farm and livestock in the western settlement at a place called Lysufjord. A man there named Thorstein owned a half-share in this farm; his wife was named Sigrid. Thorstein and Gudrid went to his namesake


in Lysufjord that autumn where they were received warmly. They spent the winter there.


Thorstein Eiriksson died near sundown. Thorstein told Gudrid to lie down and sleep; he would keep watch over the bodies that night, he said. Gudrid did so and soon fell asleep.

Only a little of the night had passed when Thorstein rose up, saying that he wished Gudrid to be summoned and wanted to speak to her: 'It is God's will that I be granted an exception for this brief time to improve my prospects.'

Thorstein went to Gudrid, woke her and told her to cross herself and ask the Lord for help - 'Thorstein Eiriksson has spoken to me and said he wanted to see you. It is your decision; I will not advise you either way.'

She answered, 'It may be that there is a purpose for this strange occurrence, and it will have consequences long to be remembered. I expect that God


will grant me his protection. I will take the chance, with God's mercy, of speaking to him, as I cannot escape any threat to myself. I would rather he need not look farther, and I suspect that would be the alternative.'

Gudrid then went to see Thorstein, and he seemed to her to shed tears. He spoke several words in her ear in a low voice, so that she alone heard, and said that those men rejoiced who kept their faith well and it brought mercy and salvation. Yet he said many kept their faith poorly.

'These practices will not do which have been followed here in Greenland after the coming of Christianity: burying people in unconsecrated ground with little if any service said over them. I want to have my corpse taken to a church, along with those of the other people who have died here. But Gardi should be burned on a pyre straight away, as he has caused all the hauntings which have occurred here this winter.'

He also spoke of his situation and declared that her future held great things in store, but he warned her against marrying a Greenlander. He also asked her to donate their money to a church or to poor people, and then he sank down for the second time.


After this Thorbjorn died. All of his money went to Gudrid. Eirik invited her to live with them and saw that she was well provided for.

Chapter 11



Freydis [this is in all likelihood a case of confused identity; the section describes Gudrid who at this time was pregnant with her son Snorri] came out of the camp as they were fleeing. She called, 'Why do you flee such miserable opponents, men like you who look to me to be capable of killing them off like sheep? Had I a weapon I'm sure I would fight better than any of you.' They paid no attention to what she said. Freydis


wanted to go with them, but moved somewhat slowly, as she was with child. She followed them into the forest, but the natives reached her. She came across a slain man, Thorbrand Snorrason, who had been struck in the head by a slab of stone. His sword lay beside him, and this she snatched up and prepared to defend herself with it as the natives approached her. Freeing one of her breasts from her shift, she smacked the sword with it. This frightened the natives, who turned and ran back to their boats and rowed away.

Karlsefni and his men came back to her and praised her luck.

Chapter 14


The following summer Karlsefni sailed for Iceland and Gudrid with him. He came home to his farm at Reynisnes.

His mother thought his match hardly worthy, and Gudrid did not stay on the farm the first winter. But when she learned what an outstanding woman Gudrid was, Gudrid moved to the farm and the two women got along well.

Karlsefni's son Snorri had a daughter, Hallfrid, who was the mother of Bishop Thorlak Runolfsson.

Karlsefni and Gudrid had a son named Thorbjorn, whose daughter Thorunn was the mother of Bishop Bjorn.

Thorgeir, Snorri Karlsefni's son, was the father of Yngvild, the mother of the first Bishop Brand.

And here ends this saga.

Source: Keneva Kunz, trans., "[Gudrid Thorbjarnardaughter in] Eirik the Red's Saga" in The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, preface by Jane Smiley, introduction by Robert Kellogg, (New York, London, Victoria (Australia), Toronto, Auckland: The Penguin Group, 2000), 653-674. Notes: Translations first published in "The Complete Sagas of Icelanders," volumes I-V (forty-nine tales), Leifur Eiriksson Publishing, Ltd., Iceland, 1997.

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