Aud the Deep-Minded

Today I start a new job – by the time you’re reading this I’ll be half way through my day!  The new job is regular hours, so it shouldn’t affect my ability to do this blog too much.  I won’t be able to do research at work anymore, but that’s about it, and with regular hours I’ll be able to budget my time to keep this up regularly.  I’m really excited to start this new job and I think that will help create excitement throughout the rest of my activities. 🙂

Today’s subject is another in our Icelandic mini-series (possibly the last entry, I’m not sure yet).  We have a woman this week, but there isn’t a whole lot of real information about her, so this will be relatively short.  Also, not really any images…  I found one picture related, but that’s it.  She is mentioned in a number of Sagas though, so you can always read about her more in those.

Auður djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir, also known as Aud the Deep Minded, Unn, Aud Ketilsdatter, or Unnur Ketilsdottir, was a ninth century settler of Iceland.  Her marks are still visible in Iceland, which will be mentioned later.  Other than ninth century, we’re not exactly sure when she lived.  The only concrete date I found was that she settled in Iceland around 892 (1); we don’t know exactly how old she was then, but she had adult grandchildren by then, so she had to be fairly old.  Before this, though, she had quite a life.

Aud was the second daughter of Ketill Flatnose, a Norwegian Viking military commander.  Ketill fled “Norway for Scotland to escape the tyranny of King Harald Fairhair” (2).  Aud married Olaf (or Oleif) the White, a son of King Ingjald, the self-proclaimed King of Dublin.  Aud and Olaf were the parents of Thorstein the Red.  Olaf was likely killed in battle; at any rate, Aud and Thorstein went to the Hebrides.  Thorstein conquered most of Northern Scotland and became a Viking chieftain.  Other chieftains plotted against Thorstein, though, and betrayed him and killed him in battle.

When Aud heard about Thorstein’s death, she secretly commissioned a Knarr to be built – a ship generally used for Atlantic crossings.  When the ship was completed, Aud sailed to Orkney and then on to Iceland.  She commanded twenty to thirty men on the ship, and was “respected, capable, independent and strong-willed” (3).  In addition to Aud and the men, the ship also helps prisoners.  When they arrived in Iceland, Aud freed these men; these freed-men had a status between slave and free-born and had limited rights and abilities.  Aud gave these men land to farm, though.

Aud mostly claimed areas in Western Iceland for her and those with her, especially around Búðardalur. Many places in this area still have the names that relate to Aud.  Breiðafjörður, Breakfast Headland, is where Aud stopped to eat breakfast.  Kambsnes, Comb Headland, is where she once lost a comb.  Krosshólaborg is a large, prominent hill where Aud erected crosses, and where a modern cross is today. (4)  Krosshólaborg is important in Aud’s story.  Aud was a baptized Christian and is credited with bringing Christianity to Iceland.


Aud was one of the first great Viking matriarchs.  When all her male relatives died, she didn’t let this stop her; she did what she wanted to do and was successful at it.  Because of her wise actions she got the moniker “Deep minded”.  Her descendants gave us her stories through the sagas, making her an important and relevant woman.  Aud is featured in the Landnámabók, Njáls Saga, Laxdæla Saga, Eyrbyggja Saga, Eiríks Saga Rauða, and Grettis Saga.

1, 2, 4 – Dalir – The Valley and Aud the Deep-Minded

3 – Aud the Deep-Minded


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