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The Vínland Sagas as Propaganda for the Christian Church

Freydís and Gudríd as Paradigms for Eve and the Virgin Mary

By Claire Cavaleri

Introduction: Over the last two centuries, the Vínland Sagas have become some of the most discussed of Medieval Nordic documents. There are arguments about every aspect of the sagas: What the name Vínland means, if Vínland existed, where it would have been geographically, and how much of their content is historically accurate. However, very few arguments have taken into account the strong Christian influence on written works of this period, and the interest the Church may have had in adapting popular tales to teach the populace about Christian values. While I believe that there certainly are aspects of the sagas that are factual, it is difficult, if not impossible, to single these elements out from the rest of the content. I suggest in my thesis that not only were the stories of the Vínland voyages adapted by the Church to reflect its values, but that many of the smaller scenes throughout the sagas came directly from common myths and folklore found across Europe. With reference to the first point, I shall in particular make a comparison of two primary female characters in the sagas, Freydís and Gudríd, to the Biblical characters of Eve and Mary, respectively. I hope to show by the end of this dissertation how the historical facts of the Vínland journeys could have been rearranged and added to in order to better serve Church needs during a crucial period in the implementation of Church authority across Europe, particularly in Scandinavia.

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