Aud the Deep-Minded (Ketilsdóttir)

Aud the deep minded also known as Aud or Unn the deep thinker. She is known as the first champion matriarch of Viking nobility in Iceland.

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 sailing 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 six daughters and one son. He also became a fierce warrior king, conquering in northern Scotland; however, he was slaughtered in battle after being betrayed by his own people.

Hvammur í Dölum, Dalabyggð

Upon learning of the death of Thorstein, Aud, who was then at Caithness, authorized a construction of a knarr, a Viking era ship built for Atlantic voyages. She had the ship built privately in the woods, for unexplained intentions. After its completion, Aud was the Captain of the ship to Orkney. There she married off one of her granddaughters, Groa, the daughter of Thorstein the Red, and then Aud captained the ship on its sail to the area of Breiðafjörður in Iceland.


On her ship she was the Captain of twenty sailors, proving that she was well esteemed.  In extension to the crew, there were other sailors on her ship, prisoners from Viking raids near and around the British Isles. Aud granted these men their freedom once they were in Iceland, making them freed-folk, a class between slave and free, where they were not owned but did not have all the rights of a free-born person. She also gifted them land to farm and upon which they could support themselves.  Vifil, was one of the gifted sailors who was given Vifilsdal, part of Hvammur í Skeggjadal, the area in which Aud settled. When Aud arrived in the western region of Iceland, she claimed all the land in Dalasýsla between the rivers Dagverdara and Skraumuhlaupsa for her family.  

The cause of Aud’s journeys has been discussed. Other tales say that Olaf the White (aka Olaf of Dublin and Olaf Guthfrithsson of Vestfold) was not killed in Ireland, and returned to Norway in 871 to regain control of his father’s kingdom. Icelandic tradition states that Ketil Flatnose died in the Scottish Isles, and the collapse of his family’s fortune was complete with the slaying of Ketil’s grandson, Thorstein the Red.

Aud was an influential person due to her various accomplishments as a woman and as well as her uncommon division of work, reversal of the gender roles in Iceland. Aud’s progeny wrote the tales of the sagas, marking her as a chief protagonist of immense change in the sagas.

viking woman warrior




Sources and Reference: 

“Chapter 5 – Unn goes to Iceland, A.D. 895″. The Laxdale Saga 1880, English, transl

Warlords and Holy Men by Alfred P. Smith, Edinburgh University Press 2010, first published in 1984 by Edward Arnold Publishers, Ltd.


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