In the footsteps of the Greenland Vikings – Saga Museum, Reykjavik

In the footsteps of the Greenland Vikings – Saga Museum, Reykjavik
Photo: Gunhild Haugnes

In the summer of 2014 I travelled west in search of the trail of Eirik the Red and his children, Freydis and Leif, and other members of the first Viking expedition to Greenland.

My intention was to present as accurate a picture as possible of the location on Greenland where the Norwegian-Icelandic chieftain Eirik the Red established a settlement, what the place looked like, its climate, landscape and wildlife.

The farm, which Eirik called Brattalid, was situated in a locality known today as Qassiarsuk. It lies at the innermost heart of Tunulliarfik fjord, (formerly known as Eiriksfjord), in the far south-west of Greenland. This I found out by some googling.

Landing strip at Eirik Raude’s fjord

The question was how to get there. There are of course a number of cruises that cost the earth. For a while I pondered the possiblity go on a boat sailing from Iceland to Greenland following the route taken by Eirik the Red.

But then it turned out there was a landing strip for light aircraft on the other side of the fjord, Narsarsuaq airport.

And I discovered there were direct flights from both Reykjavik and Copenhagen.

I chose Reykjavik, because I had never visited the Icelandic capital before. So then I just had to board a regular flight from Oslo to Reykjavik. My grown-up son accompanied me.

The history of the sagas in wax

In preparation for our trip to Greenland we visited the little Saga Museum near the harbour in Reykjavik – a charming small museum or wax cabinet which comprises 17 mini-exhibits featuring seminal figures from the sagas.

Here we find Leif Eiriksson, Snorre Sturlasson, Eigil Skallagrimsson and many more famous figures from saga literature.

It was especially gratifying to note that there are about as many women as men.

Freydis and Torbjorg

Two of these women played a central role in the first Viking settlement in Greenland (and in my book first book in The Daughters of Freya – Series) – Freydis Eiriksdatter and Torbjorg Lillevolven.

Freydis is Eirik the Red’s warlike daughter. In the museum you can see a scene from the sagas where she is depicted rubbing a sword between her breasts. A dead man lies at her feet, and warriors are rushing up behind her. She has a savage and ferocious air.

But in reality this scene portrays her in a heroic light – she is aged about 20, and heavily pregnant. I decided to make her more attractive in my book than she appears in the museum.

Torbjorg is a mysterious soothsayer, a volva, who can see into the future and also probably possesses magical powers. People fear her, but they also have a deep respect for her wisdom and skill. I would recommend to anyone hoping for a valuable insight into saga history to visit this museum.

As for myself, I was inspired by my visit. I could not wait to visit the site where these two strong women had lived a thousand years ago.

Google also helped me find a Danish travel agency who arranged both my return flights from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq, overnight hotel accommodation, a boattrip to Quassiarsuq, an ice fjord cruise, etc.

More about my trip to Greenland in the next blog. You can follow the blogs by:

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