By Heather Day Gilbert
Let me preface this by saying that although I’ve done tons of research, I’m no Viking expert. I’m a historical fiction author. I fill in the blanks history leaves me…in particular, in relation to Vikings.
My novel, God’s Daughter, tells the story of Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir. I know you Viking-o-philes know exactly who I’m talking about, but I’ll elaborate a bit. She’s the first documented European woman to have a baby on North American shores. She traveled here with her sailor husband, Thorfinn Karlsefni (“Finn” in my novel). She was a Christian. She was wise and beautiful. And she was the ward of Eirik the Red.
I wanted to base my novel as closely as possible on the Icelandic Sagas. Even though the sagas are sparse, you get a really good feel for the Viking women who lived around AD 1000.
Gudrid must’ve been daring, or at least quite loyal, because she shipped out with not one, but all three of her husbands (the first two died). Can you imagine sailing to the New World with a gang of Viking men? Yup, even married, I figure the lovely Gudrid got noticed.
And Gudrid’s sister-in-law, Freydis–Eirik the Red’s daughter…well, we know she was bold. Possibly a bit unhinged. But still protective of her people. She’ll be the main character in my next book, Forest Child, and she figures prominently in God’s Daughter.
I really wanted to show readers that Viking women weren’t so different from us. The men respected their women, leaving their keys behind with them, to show they were in charge of their possessions while they were out plundering. The fact that the men let wives travel with them tells me a lot. And according to the sagas, Freydis jumped right into a fight with the Native Americans (Skraelings).
What I pieced together from the bare bones of the sagas is that Viking women were loving, protective, and fought when they had to. I tried to work in other archaeological details, such as that Vikings took care of themselves (had tweezers, ear cleaners, etc). Basically, I don’t think they were all that different from us in their core motivations–love of family, love of their gods (or, in Gudrid’s case, God) and a desire to have a place to call their own. They even loved stories, like we do.
I hope my story, told from Gudrid’s point-of-view, shows Viking women in a whole new light. Forget horned helmets and funky braids. Viking women weren’t that different from us. And they’re worth learning more about.
Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Sixteen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as ten years spent homeschooling her three children. Heather is the ACFW West Virginia Area Coordinator.
You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert–Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God’s Daughter, is here on Amazon and Smashwords, with a soft-cover version slated for release later in November.