Gušrķšur Žorbjarnardóttir

born: at Laugarbrekka at Hellisvellir in Iceland
died: at Glaumbęr in Skagafjöršur in Iceland
married: Žorfinnur karlsefni

Gušrķšur sailed to North America with her husband on a voyage of settlement. The Icelanders and Greenlanders sailed from Greenland with the expectation of staying permanently in their new home at Vķnland. While there, Gušrķšur gave birth to a son, Snorri, thought to be the first European born in the new world.

Earlier, while living in Iceland, Gušrķšur's father ran into financial difficulties and decided to sell his farm and travel with his family to Greenland to begin again. In Greenland, Gušrķšur married one of the sons of Eirķkur rauši, but her husband died soon after during an epidemic. Eirķkur took her in, and Žorfinnur karlsefni, a merchant staying with Eirķkur over the winter, asked for Gušrķšur's hand in marriage. The offer was accepted.

At that time, there was much discussion of the new lands that had been found and explored to the west, and Žorfinnur decided to go there to settle there permanently if he could. Three ships and 160 people traveled with him, including his wife Gušrķšur. They stayed one winter in the houses built by Leifur on his earlier voyage and then traveled onward until they found suitable land for a settlement.

Gudridur and Snorri

Karlsefni next had a sturdy palisade built around his farm, where they prepared to defend themselves. At this time, Gudrid, Karlsefni's wife, gave birth to a boy, who was named Snorri. Near the beginning of their second winter the natives visited them again, in much greater numbers than before and with the same goods as before. Karlsefni then spoke to the women: "Bring out whatever food was most in demand last time, and nothing else."

When the natives saw this they threw their packs in over the palisade. Gudrid sat inside, in the doorway, with the cradle of her son, Snorri.

Gręnlendinga saga, ch. 6
translation: Keneva Kunz, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

While relations with the native people began peacefully, they ended with attacks that only increased in intensity. Žorfinnur realized that, while the land was excellent, they could not live there safely because they were so outmatched in numbers. They loaded their gear into the ships and sailed back to Greenland.

Two years later, Žorfinnur, Gušrķšur, and their son Snorri moved back to Iceland, buying land at Glaumbęr. After Snorri married and took over the farm, Gušrķšur traveled on a pilgrimage to Rome. When she returned, she had a church build on the site and stayed there as a nun, the first in Iceland. She must surely have been the most well-traveled European of the early 11th century.


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