Olaf the White

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Olaf the White was a viking sea-king who lived in the latter half of the 9th century.

Olaf was born around 820, in Ireland. His father was the Hiberno-Norse warlord Ingjald Helgasson. Olaf is described in some sources as a descendent of Ragnar Lodbrok (according to the Eyrbyggja Saga, his father's mother Thora was the daughter of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, one of Ragnar's sons). This is problematic given that Ragnar likely lived until the 860s.

Olaf was named King of Dublin around 853; during part of his reign he may have ruled together with his kinsman Ivar the Boneless (according to Irish sources only). Olaf married Aud the Deep-minded (Auðr), daughter of Ketil Flatnose, the ruler of the Hebrides, according to Icelandic traditions only (Landnámabók, Laxdæla saga). Irish fragments provide a different genealogy (Godfred, Ragnall, Godfred, Godfred, Fragm. 127, 195), and his wife was the daughter of King Aedh.[1]

Auðr and Olaf had a son, Thorstein the Red (Þorsteinn rauðr), who attempted to conquer Scotland in the 870s. At some point Olaf had a falling-out with the clan of Ketil and sent Auðr and their son back to her father's house. According to Landnámabók, Olaf and Þorsteinn rauðr were both killed in the British Isles.

Thorstein the Red was married to Þuriðr Eyvindardóttir austmann, and they had several children: Gróa, Álof, Þorgerðr, Þórhildr, Vigdís, Ósk, Ólafr feilan, ancestor of Ari Fróði, author of Landnámabók.[2] The family was related to the Vinland explorers and the Sturlung family.[3]

Olaf may be identical with the Viking warlord Amlaíb Conung, who according to Irish sources was killed in 871/2 by Causantín mac Cináeda, king of Alba. However, both Gwyn Jones and Peter Hunter Blair dispute this identification.

It has also been suggested that Olafr inn hvíti is the same person as Jaun Zuria ("the White Lord"), the mythical first Lord of Biscay, who is supposed to have lived in the second half of the 9th century. According to Basque mythology, Jaun Zuria came from the British Isles and was the son of Sugaar ("the male snake"), identified by Jon Bilbao with Ivarr inn beinlausi (Ivar the Boneless or Ivar the snake), another Viking-Irish king.



  1. ^ Fragm. 151, S. 175; Steenstrup, p. 120-121.
  2. ^ see ÍF, 1, genealogy IXa
  3. ^ Gísli Sigurðsson 262.


  • Steenstrup, Johannes C.H.R. Normannerne, vol. 2. Kjøbenhavn, 1878: Vikingetogene mod Vest. pp. 119 ff.
  • Forte, Angelo, Richard Oram and Frederik Pedersen. Viking Empires. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-521-82992-5.
  • Jones, Gwyn. A History of the Vikings. 2nd ed. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1984.
  • Gísli Sigurðsson. The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition: A Discourse on Method. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U.P., 2004.
  • Bilbao, Jon. “Sobre la leyenda de Jaun Zuria, primer señor de Vizcaya” in Amigos del País, hoy, Real Sociedad Vascongada de Amigos del País (Comisión de Vizcaya), Bilbao, 1982, pp. 235–263.

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