Aud the Deep-Minded

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Aud the Deep-Minded (Old Norse: Auðr djúpúðga Ketilsdóttir; Norwegian: Aud den djuptenkte, also known as Unn, Aud Ketilsdatter or Unnur Ketilsdottir[1]) (834–900 AD) was an early settler in Iceland.[2]


Aud was the second daughter of Ketill Flatnose, a Norwegian hersir, and Yngvid Ketilsdóttir, daughter of Ketill Wether, a hersir from Ringerike. Aud married Olaf the White (Oleif), son of King Ingjald, who had named himself King of Dublin after going on voyages to Britain and then conquering the shire of Dublin. They had a son named Thorstein the Red. After Oleif was killed in battle in Ireland, Aud and Thorstein journeyed to the Hebrides. Thorstein married there and had many children; he also became a great warrior king, conquering over half of Scotland; however, he was killed in battle after being betrayed by his people. After this happened Aud, who was at Caithness, learned of her son’s death and built a Knarr, a Viking era ship commonly built for Atlantic voyages. She did this secretly in the forest possibly because women were not allowed to be in possession of these ships, or because she did not want anyone to know that she was building one. After its completion, Aud sailed to Orkney. There she married off one of her granddaughters, Groa, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. Aud then set off for Iceland.[3]

On her ship were twenty men, all of whom were free, but she was still the leader of them, proving that she was respected, but also that she was strong-willed enough to command a ship alone without the help of a man. In addition to the crew, there many other men on her ship, prisoners from Viking raids near and around Britain. They all came from good families, and were called bondsmen. Aud gave these men their freedom once they were in Iceland, making them freed-men, a class between slave and free, where they were not owned, but did not have all the rights of a free man. She also gave them all a great deal of land to farm on and make a living. One of these men was Vifil, who was given Vifilsdal, part of Hvammur í Skeggjadal (commonly translated as "Hvamm"), the area in which Aud settled. When she arrived in Iceland, she claimed all the land in the Dales (Dalasýsla) between the Dagverdara and Skraumuhlaupsa. [4]

Unlike most other Icelandic settlers Aud was a baptized and devout Christian. Aud put up crosses on her land and prayed regularly at Krossholar hill, now known as Krosshólaborg.[5]

Primary sources[edit]

Aud figures in several Norse sagas, including; Landnámabók, Njáls saga, Laxdæla saga, Eyrbyggja saga, Eiríks saga rauða and Grettis saga.

In popular culture[edit]

The original name of the character Anya Jenkins in Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Aud. Writer Drew Goddard said that this name was inspired by Aud the Deep-Minded.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


Other sources[edit]

  • León, Vicki Outrageous Women of the Middle Ages ( John Wiley & Sons, 1998) ISBN 0-471-17004-6
  • Jones, Gwyn A History of the Vikings (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984)
  • Sigurðsson, Gísli The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 2004)
  • Jochens, Jenny Women in Old Norse Society (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995)