Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. — John Adams

Eric the Red - George Upton




Freydisa's, Helge's, and Finnboge's
Expedition to Vineland

In the Summer of 1011, the year in which Karlsefne returned from Vineland, two vessels came to Greenland from Norway, commanded by two brothers from Austfjord in Iceland, named Helge and Finnboge. In the following Winter, Freydisa came from Gardar and made them a proposition for an expedition to Vineland, the profits of which should be jointly shared among them. It was arranged that the brothers, as well as herself, should have thirty fighting men on board the ships, besides some of the wives. Then she went to her brother Leif and asked him to give her the houses he had built in Vineland. Leif would not consent but offered to lend them to her. Freydisa then took her thirty men on board besides five more whom she hid away so that the brothers should not know they were there until they arrived. Thus Freydisa had already violated the agreement.

It was also arranged to go together, but the brothers reached Vineland first and had already taken their effects to Leif's houses when Freydisa arrived. After her vessel was unloaded and her goods brought to the houses she said to the brothers: "Why have you brought your goods to these houses?"

They replied: "Because we thought that was a part of the agreement."

But she answered: "Leif lent them to me, not to you."

"You are trying to cheat us," said Helge. They then removed their goods and built a house for themselves, and surrounded it with palisades. Then Freydisa had timber felled to be in readiness for shipment. As Winter came on, the brothers arranged sports as a diversion for their people. Things went well for some time but at last dissensions and quarrels arose. The sports were abandoned and all communication between them was broken off. This lasted during the most of the Winter.

At last the storm broke. At the instigation of Freydisa, the two brothers and all their men were murdered, and Freydisa herself seized a knife and slew five women in the brothers' house.

After this horrible deed was committed, she said to her men: "If we are fortunate enough to get back to Greenland, I will kill that man who says anything about this affair. We will say that they stayed here when we sailed away." Thereupon she loaded the brothers' vessels with all they could carry and after a favorable voyage they reached Eriksfjord in Greenland in the Summer of 1013.

Freydisa went at once to her house, which had been left uninjured. In the meantime she lavished gifts upon those who had been with her so that they should not expose her evil deeds. But at last rumors of her cruelty reached the ears of her brother Leif and gave him deep concern. He seized three of her men and under torture obtained from them a confession of what she had done. Then he said: "I cannot inflict upon my sister Freydisa what she deserves but I prophesy that her posterity will not meet with good fortune." And so it happened, for from that time she was dishonored among the people.

It should be noted here that Freydisa, after her arrival in Greenland, met Karlsefne who had come there with his vessel completely equipped for a voyage to Norway and awaiting a favorable wind for his departure. It was the universal belief that no vessel had ever left the coast of Greenland with a richer cargo. He sailed to Norway, where he arrived that winter, and sold his cargo. When in the following spring he was about to sail for Iceland, a Saxon came from Bremen and bought a weather cock he had brought from Vineland, made of maple, paying him a half gold mark.

Karlsefne next went to the northern part of Iceland in the following year and bought the property of Glombyland, or Glaumboe, where he remained the rest of his days with his son Snorri, who was born in Vineland. When Snorri, after his father's death married, his mother, Gudrida, made a pilgrimage to Rome, returning shortly after to Glaumboe, where her son had built a church. She entered the cloister and at last died as a nun. The descendants of Karlsefne were numerous and famous. The learned Bishop, Thorlak Runolfson, son of Hafdride, daughter of Snorri, was born in 1085. To him we are indebted for the oldest church codex in Iceland, which contains accounts of these voyages of discovery, probably written by him. A later bishop was Brandus of the Snorri family, whose father was Ingevoldis, son of Thorgeis, himself a son of Snorri. A third bishop was Biorno, whose mother was a daughter of Biorno, son of Karlsefne.