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Gudrid the Far Traveller

Updated on December 18, 2017

Gudrid the Far Traveller

Her name was Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir.

She was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a farmer, a pilgrim and a VIKING. She was born in Iceland (985 CE), married in Greenland, gave birth to her son in North America, went on a pilgrimage to Rome and died in her home country of Iceland (1050 CE)

Her name is also made famous in the Icelandic saga's. These were the oral history stories that the Vikings and Scandinavians passed down to younger generations. These stories plus the archaeological discoveries have all been brought together into one book - called The Far Traveller. Gudrid is considered to be the most travelled medieval woman ever.

Image source - The Far Traveler - Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown

Gudrid and her son Snorri - statue in Iceland
Gudrid and her son Snorri - statue in Iceland

Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir

Gudrid was born roughly in the year 980 to 985 CE in Iceland. She and her father lived on a farm. At one point she wanted to marry the son of a slave and her father refused to give permission. Shortly after, Gudrid and her father left on a voyage with Erik the Red to Greenland. She had married a man named Thorir who died at sea. Gudrid then married Erik the Red's younger son, Thorstein Eriksson.

Thorstein was a Viking and he and his wife undertook several journeys. One of these was to find VINLAND. This was said to be in what we now call North America. It was described as a land of grapes and wine (hence the name Vinland). But Vin also means Meadow and pastures and this fits more with what is now L'anse aux Meadows. Thorstein died of illness on the return voyage to Greenland.

After Thorstein's death. Gudrid then married a merchant named Thorfinn Karlsefni. In the year 1010 CE (1001 years prior to this current year of 2011) these two led an expedition to Vinland with 2 ships and 160 settlers. The settlers attempted to live there in Vinland for several years.

During their time in Vinland, Gudrid gave birth to a son, named Snorri Thorfinsson. He is believed to be the first European child born on the North American continent. Sometime later the family traveled back to Greenland. This may have occurred after the Vinland settlement failed to thrive for whatever reason. Thorfinn died at some point and Snorri inherited his fathers farm in Greenland.

After Snorri grew up and married, Gudrid became a catholic christian and later went on a pilgrimage. She visited Rome, and spoke to the Pope. Upon her return from her pilgrimage, she settled down in Iceland and became a hermit. Gudrid died around the year 1050 CE.

Gudrid's life story has been told in detail in the novel - The Sea Road - by Margaret Elphinstone.

Image source - Gudrid the Far Traveller

Viking Voyages

Viking Voyages
Viking Voyages

The Lost Vikings of Greenland

This program asks the question - Why did the Viking settlements on Greenland fail?

The answers are two fold - one reason was the changing climate - there was a mini ice age.

The second reason was the catholic church which refused to allow the Viking people to adapt their life style to that of the Inuit in order to survive.

L'Anse Aux Meadows - The First Norse Viking Site in North America

Western Coast of Newfoundland - showing L'Anse Aux Meadows
Western Coast of Newfoundland - showing L'Anse Aux Meadows

In 1960, a Norwegian writer and explorer Helge Ingstad, was looking for the site of the mysterious Vinland, mentioned in the old Norse sagas. The sagas had led him to North America and he was investigating Newfoundland. He found some artifacts and building outlines that look remarkably similar to Viking settlements in Iceland. His wife Anne Stine, who was a professional archaeologist, was called in to investigate this site.

She excavated the site for several years (1961-1968), and eventually made a determination that would CHANGE world history. She said that the artifacts and buildings found in this location were similar to Viking artifacts and buildings found in Iceland and Greenland, therefore she had determined that this site had also once been a Viking village. This was proof that the Vikings had discovered North America - 500 years before Columbus.

The next question to be determined was - Was this the site of Vinland? How long had the Vikings stayed in Newfoundland? Why had they not stayed and founded colonies and villages? Because if they had done that - the face of the world would be quite different from what it is today.

Some of the answers can be found in the Old Norse Sagas. The Vikings had a rich oral history - they passed their stories down the generations by storytelling. The most well known are the Orkney sagas and the Icelandic sagas.


The original French name for L'anse aux Meadows is L'Anse-aux-Méduses or Jellyfish Cove

Map source - Zollitsch Canoe Adventures

Viking Life and L'Anse aux Meadows

Click thumbnail to view full-size
L"anse aux Meadows - Restored Viking house - Wikipedia Commons LicenseFaeroe Islands Stamp
L"anse aux Meadows - Restored Viking house - Wikipedia Commons License
L"anse aux Meadows - Restored Viking house - Wikipedia Commons License
Faeroe Islands Stamp
Faeroe Islands Stamp

The Far Traveller - by Nancy Marie Brown

A reading of the Far Traveller by Nancy Marie Brown

Cornell University, Ithaca, New York State, USA

Video uploaded to Youtube in June 2009

Don't you wish you were a Viking? - What did you think of the Vikings?

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    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I'm a great fan of Gudrid's and it's a real thrill to find someone else who appreciates her. In the Saga of the Greenlanders she is described more than once as being of striking good looks. I have always imagined her as tall and very, very strong

    • traveller27 profile image


      8 years ago

      Not really....but I like your lens anyway -- very nice Serenia!


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