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What about Guðríður?

Guðríður who???

A very good day to you!

The majority of the people who left Iceland for America did so because the story traveled from fiord to fiord, from valley to valley, that the tales of the promised land were real. In America, they would find “gold and green forests.” In America, there was food for everyone, the children would not be dying from starvation, and everyone would have a house to live in, not just a simile of a house piled up of lava blocks, soil, and turf as was done in their treeless land.

So people, our forefathers left the island for the promised land. We know the story of the early settlers from Iceland. Most of them met with hardships before things began to be better.

The first settlers in Iceland, the people who sailed over to the island in the north, lived a good life. The climate was more hospitable than it later became; there was abundant food in the ocean, the beaches were filled with driftwood, and at that time, the country was not treeless, so life was good in Iceland. A Viking and explorer, Hrafna Flóki (Raven Flóki), had heard stories of that island and sailed north to have a look. He stayed for the summer at Breiðafjörður (the Broadfjord), “which was filled with fish, birds, seals, and whales,” so there was abundant food.

He didn´t gather hay for the coming winter; the high winds and hail hit the land, so his crew and animals starved, and many perished. Flóki decided he would name the land Iceland so no one would ever think of settling there. One of his crew, Þórólfur, told another story. His story was of a wonderful country where “butter was dripping from each blade of grass.” (I have to add here that Flóki did move back to Iceland in his later years and lived out his life there, in the North-East of Iceland).

Iceland was inhabited; there were good times and there were bad times. The bad times seemed never to be ending. The bad times may be explained by what Nature was doing and how human authorities behaved toward the people on that island.

What kept the people on this “god-forsaken island” alive? Scholars and people who study the human spirit (psychologists) maintain that the memory of our past, stories of the heroes, and the Nordic gods were remembered and kept alive, and that helped people to persevere. People took pride in tracing their ancestry back to the early settlers, heroes like Gunnar on Hlíðarendi, Njáll on Bergþórshvoll, and outstanding persons such as Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir (IR # I133852) and her husband, Þorfinnur Karlsefni. - By the way, have you ever looked -in at your relationship with Guðríður? I promise you that most of you will discover that she is your ancestral grandmother!

I wanted to talk to you about Guðríður. She is one of the outstanding people who helped our fore-parents, our ancestors, to survive. People remembered her courage, her love of life which gave them courage. Guðríður was and is remembered because parents, grandparents, and other adults in the homes told the children the story of Guðríður.

One of the paths from which our children adopt ideas and patterns of behavior is through the stories we, the adults, tell them. There is much fierce competition raging to get control over the minds of our children. What they hear and see matters.

Last February, Icelandic Roots published a book, Guðríður's Saga. I wrote the story and Gay Strandemo illustrated the book.

The illustrated story

We hope many children and their families will get to know Guðríður, as we know that the estimated number of people of Icelandic descent in North America is about 360.000. The reality, however, is that only 360 books have sold. In other words, in a group of 1000, there is only 1 (one) book!

The coloring book

How about helping to change this?

Our children benefit from hearing/reading about courageous and good people just like the children and people of previous generations did. Guðríður had courage; she crossed the oceans in open boats eight times. The Atlantic Ocean is huge and the boats of the Viking age seemed small once they were out on the sea. Guðríður and Þorfinnur heard about Vinland the good from Leif Ericson while they were all staying in Brattahlíð, Greenland, with Eric the Red, Leif's father. They were determined to sail to that country-and they did. They stayed in Vinland (N-America), on the east coast for three years, and Guðríður bore a child during those years, a boy they named Snorri.

Snorri is the first child of European descent, known to be born in America. These Icelanders, Guðríður, most likely your ancestral grandmother, her husband Þorfinnur, and their crew lived in North America 500 years before Columbus “found” that country. Guðríður and Þorfinnur moved back to Iceland and made their home in Skagafjörður, where many of your ancestors and relatives also lived and may still be living. In her later years, Guðríður went on a pilgrimage to Rome. She sailed once more across the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Europe and walked all the way south to Rome. The pilgrims were obliged to walk and not ride while on the pilgrimage to Rome.

You will read about Guðríður's life in the book I am telling you about and asking you to share with your children and grandchildren and, in fact, with the children around you. It simply matters to tell our children of people who had and have dreams and the courage to pursue them.

How about giving Gudrídur´s Saga and the coloring book built on the story as Christmas gifts this year?

Thank you for reading my letter to the end.

With all good wishes,

Bryndís Víglundsdóttir


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