The voyages of Icelandic saga heroine Gudrid, said to have accompanied Leif Eirikson on his journey to Vinland.
In July 2005, Brown (A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse, 2001, etc.) joined an archaeology crew from UCLA at a dig in Glaumbaer, Iceland, where legendary Gudrid might have lived later in life. It hasn’t actually been proven that the longhouse at “Farm of Merry Noise” actually belonged to Gudrid, but the author, who has hungrily sought archeological confirmation of the Icelandic legends for several decades, was thoroughly convinced. Here, she sets out to unravel her subject’s fascinating travels, recounted with slight differences in The Saga of the Greenlanders and The Saga of Eirik the Red. In Brown’s retelling, Gudrid sailed for Greenland on her father’s prosperous ship, got knocked around at sea and was eventually welcomed into Eirik the Red’s settlement at Brattahlid, where he had lived since being banished from Iceland 15 years before for murdering his neighbors. With her husband, Thorfinn Karlsefni, Gudrid accompanied Eirik’s son Leif to the fabulous Vinland (Newfoundland), where she bore a son, Snorri. After three years, the ferocious native Skraelings ran off the Vikings; Gudrid settled with her family at Glaumbaer, then later made a Christian pilgrimage to Rome. Into this saga Brown inserts a wealth of cultural history gleaned from archaeological finds at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and elsewhere. She displays an impressive, detailed knowledge of shipbuilding, longhouse construction, language (words like ransack and brag come from Norse), cloth-making, farming practices and gender roles. All this rich material accumulates to create a marvelously sneaky history of the Viking mind.
A nimble synthesis of the literary and the scientific that will charm even readers who didn’t know they were interested.