We Come from the Land of Ice and Snow

Viking. Woman. Explorer.
The Far Traveler Book JacketWhen you think of Vikings, perhaps you envision a grim-faced man in a horned helmet, wielding an axe as he stands at the prow of a longship, long hair streaming in the cold wind, mind set on pillage and plunder. But how accurate is this image? What about Viking women - did any of them go along with the men on these voyages? And what did Vikings do when they weren’t raiding or exploring?

My interest in all things northern recently led me to read The Far Traveler by Nancy Marie Brown, which answers these questions and more. It’s a fascinating look at the life of Gudrid, an Icelandic woman who traveled far indeed, from Iceland to Greenland on a harrowing voyage in which half the crew died, then further to the distant continent of Vinland, and in later life to Rome. The book jumps from describing modern-day excavations in Iceland to bits of the ancient sagas (I loved hearing about the brothers, known for their tight pants, who took over as the local ruffians after Eirik the Red got kicked out of Iceland). By combining archaeology with literary evidence, a compelling case emerges that Vinland was in North America, and that Gudrid was there.  As she follows Gudrid’s story, Brown also reveals much about life in Iceland and Greenland around the year 1000. If you ever wanted to know how to build a turf house that will stand up to an Arctic winter, this is the book for you. Some of my favorite parts were details about Viking food, such as bone jelly soup and bog butter. How tasty! I also enjoyed the description of the fuzzy tufted cloaks the Icelanders were fond of for their warmth and rain-shedding abilities, and which they liked to dye… purple?

For more fact and fiction about Iceland and Greenland in the times of the sagas, take a look at the list below.

Add new comment