In the Viking miniseries running this month on the History Channel, I truly hope some of the most powerful, influential members of Viking society are portrayed correctly: the women.
When I researched my Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, I kept running into powerful women in the sagas.
Women like the pagan volva, who acted as tribal high priestesses and soothsayers. They also wielded the power of life and death.
Women like Thjodhild, who embraced Christianity and had a chapel built for her family. Never mind that her hubby–the powerful, famous, Eirik the Red–refused to convert.
Women like the pregnant Freydis, who sailed to the new world (North America). In the midst of a violent battle, she slapped her sword on her breast and scared off a whole passel of Native Americans who were bent on killing the Viking squatters.
And finally, women like my Gudrid. I call her my Gudrid, because I read so much about her, she’s truly come to life for me. I wanted to do her justice with my novel, since she’s the main character in it.
Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir married three times, and sailed long distances with all three of her husbands. She joined her third husband, Thorfinn Karlsefni, on a journey across the ocean to the new world. She gave birth to her son in North America. It was the first recorded European birth on this continent–long before the famous baby Virginia Dare made her entrance on the scene.
Embracing Christianity in the midst of a mostly-male crew of pagans wasn’t easy, but the sagas record that Gudrid did it. She was known for her kindness and beauty, as well as her determination to stick to her Christian beliefs.
Yes, the Viking women were stoic, but they weren’t emotionless. Viking wives struggled with the same things modern women face: depression, loss of family, sickness, absentee husbands, lust…many of these topics are covered in The Sagas of Icelanders, a book I used as my “reference guide” for my novel.
I wanted my book to bring these tough, yet loving, Viking women to life for readers. After all, historical fiction should do just that—blend the truth and the fiction together so seamlessly, the characters become well-rounded and practically walk off the page.
Viking lore is definitely trickling into the mainstream, appealing to many of us who share Nordic roots. In history books, why shouldn’t children learn of a people that came to this land long before Columbus? About a Viking woman who gave birth to a child on this soil?
As you watch the Vikings miniseries, or read the sagas, remember that Viking women were every bit as important as their plundering husbands. And they were every bit as human as you and I—willing to sacrifice for a better life for their families. Just like Gudrid.
–Speaking of families and marriages, Heather is thrilled to announce a soon-to-launch group blog she’s part of. On April first, the blog “Married…With Fiction” will kick-off, complete with some remarkable giveaways. The blog is a gathering place for discussing marriage, writing, and everything in-between. Bridging the gap between agents and authors, newly-marrieds and those with years of marriage behind them, it’s a spot where mentoring will happen naturally. Hope you can join us. Please follow Heather’s website at http://www.heatherdaygilbert.blogspot.com for updates!
Heather Day Gilbert writes stories about authentic, believable marriages. Fifteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as nine years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator. Her historical fiction novel, God’s Daughter, is rooted in the Icelandic sagas. She has also completed an Appalachian-set mystery novel titled Miranda Warning.