In Search of a Founding Mother: The Case of Auðr djúpauðga in Sturlubók

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Abstract

This article presents an analysis of the tale of Auðr djúpauðga Ketilsdóttir and her family in Sturlubók—a masterful piece of storytelling praising an exemplary female settler and founding mother. Sturlubók preserves a unique representation of Auðr djúpauðga. What emerges from Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnámabók is not only an unambiguous depiction of Auðr djúpauðga but also a portrait that differs significantly from the one found in Laxdæla saga.

Abstract

This article presents an analysis of the tale of Auðr djúpauðga Ketilsdóttir and her family in Sturlubók—a masterful piece of storytelling praising an exemplary female settler and founding mother. Sturlubók preserves a unique representation of Auðr djúpauðga. What emerges from Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnámabók is not only an unambiguous depiction of Auðr djúpauðga but also a portrait that differs significantly from the one found in Laxdæla saga.

1 Introduction

On August 8, 1965, on the occasion of the commemoration of Auðr djúpauðga on Krosshólaborg in the Dales district of Breiðafjörður in western Iceland, Janet Ingibergsson gave a speech to honour the memory of Auðr, opening with the words:

Þegar ég stend hér á Krosshólaborg og lít yfir Hvammsfjörð og á fjallahringinn allt í kring, þá verður mér hugsað til Auður, sem hér stóð á undan mér—og var ef til vill formóðir okkar allra. Það er sannarlega einkennileg tilviljun, að meira en þúsend árum eftir að Auður fer frá Írlandi til að setjast að á Íslandi—að þá skyldi ég fara frá Írlandi og setjast að í sama dalnum og Auður reisti bæ sinn í.

ingibergsson 1965, 3881

[When I stand on Krosshólaborg and look over Hvammsfjörður and the mountains all around, then I think about Auður, who stood here before me—and was perhaps the foremother of us all. It truly is a strange coincidence that more than a thousand years after Auður travelled from Ireland to settle in Iceland—that I would leave Ireland and settle down in the same valley where Auður built her farm.]

In her address, on behalf of the Kvenfélagið Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir, the local women’s association named after the heroine Guðrún Ósvífrsdóttir from Laxdæla saga, Janet Ingibergsson establishes a clear connection between her audience and Auðr djúpauðga by commemorating their relationship to this Viking Age woman, “sem hér stóð á undan mér—og var ef til vill formóðir okkar allra” [who stood here before me—and was perhaps the foremother of us all] (Ingibergsson 1965, 388). Janet further identifies with the Auðr figure and measures herself against this historical and notable foremother:

Ætli Auður hafi ekki líka haft heimþrá til Írlands? Ef til vill hefur hún fundið huga sínum svölun í fegurðinni umhverfis sig og valið þennan stað sem hið fullkomna svið til bænahalds. Og það eigum við Auður báðar sameiginlegt að við höfum báðar fengið okkar kristnu trú í arf frá Írlandi. Auður reisti kross fyrir sitt eigið bænahald til vitnisburðar um trú sína meðal frænda sinna og fylgdarliðs.

ingibergsson 1965, 388

[Did Auður also feel homesick for Ireland? Perhaps she had found relief in her mind in the beauty around her and choose this place as the perfect site to say her prayers. And we both have in common, Auður and I, that we have inherited our Christian faith from Ireland. Auður had a cross erected for her own praying as a witness to her faith among her family and followers.]

By comparing herself to Auðr, Janet leads her audience through Auðr’s narrative and evokes parallels between the past and the present. This particular image of Auðr djúpauðga is not new in the sense that it was not formed or came into being in the twentieth century. This memory of Auðr as a Christian foremother is an assimilation of two figures of memory that have been transmitted and mediated over time into Icelandic cultural memory through oral as well as written media.

That same day, a cross was erected in memory of Auðr djúpauðga and her Christian followers. The stone monument was engraved with a quote from Landnámabók. The engraving on the cross reads:

Auðr djúpúðga bjó í Hvammi ‖ Hon hafði bænahald sitt á Krossholum ‖ Þar lét hon reisa krossa ‖ Því at hon var skírð ok vel trúuð.2

[Auðr of a Deep Mind lived at Hvammur. She held her prayers at Krosshólar. There she had crosses erected. Because she was baptized and a true believer.]

Here, the cross-monument acts as a storage site for cultural memory—a historical memorial site of Auðr djúpauðga and her Christian faith. This memorial site is a clear example of what Pierre Nora called lieux de mémoire (‘sites of memory’), or, of his description of these “places of memory” as “vestiges, the ultimate embodiments of a commemorative consciousness” (Nora 1996, 6).

In light of the recent focus on the cultural memory approach in Old Norse-Icelandic studies,3 the premise here will be to understand how the figure of Auðr djúpauðga is stored and transformed in Sturla Þórðarson’s version of Landnámabók. In his groundbreaking work Moses the Egyptian, the German Egyptologist Jan Assmann proposes a mnemohistorical analysis of the past; in other words, a study of the past that “is concerned not with the past as such, but only with the past as it is remembered” (Assmann 1998, 9). As a figure of memory, Auðr djúpauðga in Landnámabók came to represent the Christian and female settler. In a newspaper article reporting on the commemoration of Auðr in 1965, for example, Auðr is remembered as “hinni fyrstu og einu landnámskonu” [the first and only female settler], even though the Landnáma text does mention twelve other female settlers (Ólafsson 1965, 12). What makes Auðr the only one worth remembering? Who, in Sturla Þórðarson’s view, was this woman? What did he deem important enough to include and to preserve about her in his narrative? What did he want his audience to remember about her?

2 Auðr in Old Norse-Icelandic Literature

Everyone in Iceland knows the account of how Auðr djúpauðga travelled from Caithness in the North of Scotland, via the Orkney and Faroe Islands, to Iceland. She is said to have settled in the Breiðafjörður area of the West of Iceland at the end of the ninth century. Various Old Norse-Icelandic literary sources from the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries remember her as the female ancestor of many noble families from West and North Iceland. In Íslendingabók, a concise family and ecclesiastical history of Iceland composed between 1120 and 1133 (Benediktsson 1986, xvii-xviii), the historian Ari Þorgilsson (1068–1148) claims a direct descent from Auðr, “þaðan eru Breiðfirðingar komnir” [from her the people of Breiðafjörður are descended] and lists the third bishop of Iceland, Þorlákr Runólfsson (1086–1133), among her most prominent descendants (Benediktsson 1986, 6, 26).

This landnámskona (‘female settler’), who appears for the first time in Íslendingabók, is briefly mentioned in a couple of sagas and described more fully in Laxdæla saga and Landnámabók. Various texts—Eiríks saga rauða (Ch. 1); Eyrbyggja saga (Chs. 1, 5–6); Grettis saga (Chs. 10 and 26), Haralds saga hárfagra (Ch. 23) in Snorri Sturluson’s ‘Heimskringla’; Njáls saga (Ch. 1); and various chapters of Óláfs saga Tryggvasonar en mesta—mention her as “mother of …” or “foremother of …”.4 This discursive set of texts offers us a rich variety of memories of a Viking Age woman named Auðr or Unnr djúp(a)úðga and certainly adds to the meaning of a cultural figure in Iceland over a longue durée period.

Laxdæla saga stands at the cradle of the myth of Auðr. According to Laxdæla saga, she was not only the main settler of the Dalir district, but she also founded dynasties on the Orkney and Faroe Islands. Laxdæla presents her as a heathen matriarch, an exceptional Viking-age woman and a paragon amongst women. Here, she is called Unnr (‘wave’) and is described as having been interred in a ship in a burial mound, highlighting her association with the sea. Auðr—or Unnr—is portrayed as a wise woman and a provider of sound counsel in her epithet djúpúðga (‘of a deep mind’).

Landnámabók, by contrast, presented her as Auðr (‘wealth’) and gave her the analogous epithet djúpauðga (‘deep in wealth’). Moreover, in Landnámabók, she is represented as a devout Christian. According to this account, not only did she have crosses raised on a hill and went there to pray, she also “var grafinn i flædar mꜳli […] þuiat hun villdi eigi ʟiɢia i ovigdri molldu er hun var skird” [was buried at the floodmark (…), because she did not want to lie in unconsecrated earth, since she had been baptised] (Ch. 110). Stefán Karlsson (1976, 481–488) argues that Auðr’s burial, while not according to a Christian tradition, shows analogies with a sermon in the Homíliu-bók [Homily Book]. The marginal position of her grave site, “at the floodmark”, is indicative of the liminal role accorded to her in Landnámabók.

This article seeks to contribute to the study of the various, opposing memories about Auðr, which were transmitted in textual form through the medieval era and beyond, by exploring one particular way of remembering her. The study presents a close reading of the uncharacteristically liminal role ascribed to her in Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnámabók, better known under the name ‘Sturlubók’.

3 Sturla Þórðarson and His Eponymous Book

Apart from Laxdæla saga, one of the most elaborate medieval sources on Auðr is Landnámabók. Landnámabók, often shortened to Landnáma, is a record documenting in detail the landnám, ‘the taking of land’, or colonization of Iceland between roughly 870 and 930. There are five extant versions or redactions of this text. There are three medieval redactions: Sturlubók, Hauksbók and Melabók (Rafnsson 1974, 13). In addition to these, two later versions from the seventeenth century survive: Skarðsárbók and Þórðarbók (Rafnsson 1974, 13).

Of the extant versions, Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnáma is the earliest to interpolate a longer narrative section about the first settlers of Iceland that includes Auðr djúpauðga and her retinue. While we cannot know for sure that Sturla was the first to add this extended section about Iceland’s founding mother—one of only a couple of female settlers—to Landnáma, his is the most influential of the preserved redactions. Sturlubók is the most complete account of the landnáma and largely responsible for shaping and disseminating the literary memory of Icelanders’ great narration of migration and settlement.

Sturlubók was compiled by Sturla Þórðarson (1214–1284) between 1275 and 1280 (Rafnsson 1974, 24–26). Around the middle of the seventeenth century, bishop Brynjólfur Sveinsson (1605–1675) commissioned a copy of a vellum manuscript nicknamed Sturlubók by Jón Erlendsson (d. 1672) (Kålund 1888, 1:72; Rafnsson 1974, 28). P. H. Resen borrowed this vellum manuscript from bishop Brynjólfur and shortly after the codex was moved to the collection of the Royal Library of Denmark, where it was destroyed in the Great Fire of Copenhagen in 1728 (Kålund 1888, 1:72; Rafnsson 1974, 21–22). Erlendsson’s copy, am 107 fol., is the main source for Sturlubók and the basis for the edition by Finnur Jónsson (1900, 127–231).

Sturla Þórðarson (1214–1284) was not just an Icelandic politician and lawman, he was also a poet and saga-writer. He was a member of the famous family of the Sturlungs, a powerful family of goðar (‘chieftains’) in Iceland which lends its name to the brief Sturlungaöld (‘Age of the Sturlungs’)—a period of turmoil and transition around the middle of the thirteenth century (roughly 1220–1264). The Sturlung family controlled a vast area consisting of Western Iceland, the Westfjords and Northeast Iceland. The family residence was located in Hvammur, in the Dalir district.

Sturla was born in 1214 out of the relationship between his father Þórður Sturluson and his mistress Þóra. The couple had one other son, a poet and scholar named Ólafur hvítaskáld (‘the white skald’). Both Sturla and his brother were raised at Reykholt, by their paternal uncle, the eminent saga-writer Snorri Sturluson. The brutal murder of Snorri at his home in Reykholt in September 1241 set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the end of the Old Icelandic Commonwealth, twenty years later. The events of that tumultuous time are described in a collection of contemporary sagas known as Sturlunga saga, the first of which is called Íslendinga saga and which is generally attributed to Sturla Þórðarson (Ólason 1948, 4:357).

Sturla was elected a lögsögumaður (‘lawspeaker’) of the Alþingi in 1251, and a few years later, in 1259, he became an ardent follower of Gissur Þorvaldsson jarl (‘earl’), Snorri’s killer (Ólason 1948, iv, 357). After years of intense civil strife, the Icelanders gave their allegiance to the king of Norway in 1262, during the peak years of the Golden Age of saga-writing. The following year, Sturla travelled to Norway to meet King Magnús Hákonarson lagabætir (‘law-mender’) and swore allegiance to him (Ólason 1948, iv, 357). It is believed that Sturla, together with Þorvarður Þórarinsson, introduced the legal codex Járnsíða in 1271 at the instigation of King Magnús, which was established as the law of Iceland the following year (Ólason 1948, iv, 357). Sturla served as a lögmaður (‘lawman’) of the entire country during the period 1272 to 1276, and, as lawman in the north and west of Iceland from 1277 until 1282 (Ólason 1948, iv, 357). He lived most of his life at Staðarhóll and died of old age in 1284 (Ólason 1948, iv, 357).

Sturla’s name is forever connected with the eponymous redaction of Landnámabók. Landnáma is divided into five parts. The first part consists of a prologue dealing with early references to Iceland, its discovery and its very first permanent settlers, Ingjólfr and Hjǫrleifr. The later parts of the book are organized around the four Quarters of Iceland. Sturla’s redaction of Landnáma starts with the settlements in the West Quarter and continues clockwise around the country. This clockwise arrangement can differ from one redaction to the next.5 In foregrounding the settlement of the West and North of Iceland, Sturla gives prominence to his own ancestors (Rafnsson 1974, 181–188). His text includes five instances where a settler’s lineage leads up to Sturla’s grandfather Sturla “í Hvammi” [of Hvammur] (Chs. 71, 106, 124, 229, 233) and another five to his grandmother Guðný “móður Sturlusona” [mother of Sturla’s sons] Böðvarsdóttir (Chs. 41, 208, 305, 310, 329). Sturla was also related to Auðr’s family, through his paternal grandfather, his namesake Sturla í Hvammi. Hvamm-Sturla was a direct descendant of Auðr’s sister Þórunn hyrna (‘the horned’) and her husband Helgi magri (‘the lean’) (Ch. 233). Sturla’s wife, Helga Þórðardóttir, was a direct descendant of Auðr’s grandson Óláfr feilan (‘little wolf’) through the maternal line (Chs. 85 and 109). Furthermore, Auðr’s settlement home Hvammur was the family estate of the Sturlungs, from which place Hvamm-Sturla derived his epithet of í Hvammi and where his son Snorri Sturluson had been born (Ólason 1948, iv, 357). Consequently, Sveinbjörn Rafnsson (1974) argues that the various redactions of Landnáma are a carefully crafted work aimed to ensure and legitimise the claims of certain chieftains to landownership in the thirteenth century. Recently, Chris Callow (2011) has shown that stories of female settlers in the text, in particular the chapters featuring Auðr djúpauðga and other female colonists connected with the male settler Skallagrímr, most often occur in the southern and western regions of Iceland, “where political dynasties can be seen to have strengthened in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries” (Callow 2011, 24–26).

Each part of Landnáma traces important events and family history from the Settlement Age well into the twelfth century. For each settler, at least a brief genealogy is provided as well as the place where they had settled. Some of these brief genealogies were expanded further into shorter narratives.

The settlement narratives dealt with in Landnámabók, as well as in Íslendingabók [The Book of Icelanders] and several Íslendingasögur [Sagas of Icelanders] have traditionally been interpreted as male-dominated narratives (Clover 1988, 182). In the actual migration to Iceland, however, Gaelic women appear to have played a significant role, as recent genetic research has shown (Helgason 2001, 733). Be that as it may, acquiring information on the estates settled by women or on the number of women involved in the settlement of Iceland is hindered by the fact that Landnáma is rather silent on this subject. As Judith Jesch (2015, 100) wrote of Landnáma, “13 of its 400 land-claimants are said to have been female [… and o]f the approximately 3,500 people named in the text; only about 13 per cent are women […].”6 The lines below are the closing remarks to the first part of Landnámabók, a chapter dealing with the settlement of the West Quarter of Iceland, as recorded in Sturlubók:

Þesser landnamsmenn eru gaufgastir i Vestfirdinga fiordungi. Hroskell Skallagrimir. Selþorir. Biorn eɴ ᴀustræni. Þorolfr ᴍostrar skeɢ. Audr ᴅiupaudga Geirmundr ʜeliarskiɴ. Vlfr skialgi Þordor Vikingss(on). þott langfedr halldist stærra i sumum ættum. Eɴ þa er bændr voru taldir ꜳ Islandi þa voru ᴅ.ᴄᴄᴄᴄ bonda i þessum fiordungi.

Ch. 170, 1807

[These were the leading settlers of the West Quarter: Hroskell, Skalla-Grímr, Sel-Þórir, Bjǫrn the Easterner, Þórólfr Mostur-Beard, Auðr the Deeply Wealthy, Geirmundr Hell-Skin, Ulfr the Squit-Eyed and Þórðr Vikingsson. Although, there were still nobler agnate-forefathers in some families. And when the farmers were counted in Iceland, there were about 1080 farmers in this Quarter.]

Here, the author mentions the most prominent settlers of that particular area of Iceland; only one woman, Auðr djúpauðga (‘deeply wealthy’), is listed among them. None of the other female settlers’ stories in Landnáma are as extensive as that of Auðr (see also Jesch 1991, 82; Callow 2011, 13–14) and none of them are mentioned in any other literary text, which only further stresses her unique position among women in the Viking Age. As a result, Auðr’s story is more complex than that of other female settlers in Landnámabók. A close reading of specific episodes in Landnáma reveals that there is much more to her story than simply being the daughter of the famous hersir Ketill flatnefr (‘flatnose’).

4 Auðr in Sturlubók—Telling Her Story ‘Other’-wise

As a character Auðr stands out in Landnámabók: she is one of only a handful of female settlers among hundreds of men, and she appears by name in no fewer than sixteen different episodes (Chs. 13, 95–103, 107–110, 170, 399). In addition there are three passages in which Auðr’s presence is presupposed (Chs. 104–106).

In its historical context, this abundance of textual material on Auðr in Sturlubók tells us something about this woman, her genealogical background, and her place in the settlement of Iceland. Apart from that, these episodes not only reveal how even a woman in Auðr’s position may be marginalized, but also tell us something about the place and the role of women in general in the settlement narrative.

4.1 The Ancestors of Auðr

Before discussing Auðr’s portrayal in Landnáma, we must first look at her ancestors. The tenth chapter of the prologue, entitled “Hier seiger fra Birne ʙunu” [Here is told of Bjǫrn buna], introduces Auðr’s paternal grandfather, a Norwegian hersir named Bjǫrn buna (‘ungartered’).

Biorn ʙvna het heser ꜳgætr i Noregi son Vedrar-Grims hesis or Sogni. modir Grims var Hervor dottir Þorgerdar Eylaugs dottur. hesis or Sogni. Fra Birni er nær allt stórmenni komit ꜳ Islandi. hann atte Velaugu. þau attu þria sonu. eiɴ var Ketill flatnefr. aɴar Hrapr. Þridi Helgi. Þeir voru ꜳgætir menn. ok er frá þeira ᴀfkvæmi margt sagt i þessi bók.

Ch. 10, 134

[Bjǫrn the Ungartered was the name of a great lord in Norway. He was the son of Veðrar-Grímr, lord of Sogn. The mother of Grímr was Hervǫr, daughter of Þorgerðr, the daughter of Eylaug, lord of Sogn. From Bjǫrn nearly all the great men of Iceland are descended. He married Velaug. They had three sons: one was Ketill Flatnose, another Hrapp, the third Helgi. They were prominent men and about their descendants a lot will be said in this book.]

In Sturlubók, this episode follows immediately after the settlement story of Ingjólfr. Although the text identifies Ingjólfr as the founding father of Iceland, Sturlubók directly states that Bjǫrn buna is the forefather of “almost all great men who came to Iceland”. Choosing the matrilineal descent from Veðrar-Grímr to Eylaug seems to attribute prominence to the family line. Both Veðrar-Grímr and Eylaug are said to be hersir of Sogn and may be considered members of the Norwegian aristocracy. In other words, this family clearly had a certain standing in the community.

Oddly enough, although Sturla’s own grandparents Hvamm-Sturla and his wife Guðný are repeatedly mentioned in the lineage of the Icelandic settlers (see above), in this section he foregrounds his wife’s ancestors. In the thirteenth century, Helga Þórðardóttir’s family, the Skarðverjar and Staðarhólsmenn, were among the most powerful and influential in Breiðafjörður and Sturla enjoyed their support (Bragason 2011). Furthermore, together with his wife, Sturla spent much of his life at Staðarhóll in the Dalir district, her family’s ancestral seat (Bragason 2011). As such, his version of Landnáma might be a way to enhance the standing and prospects of his wife’s family, and, to a certain extent his own, within contemporary Icelandic society. This point is corroborated by some recent work on the representation of female settlers in Landnámabók and the historiographical status and validity of Landnámabók more generally (cf. Callow 2011, 7–28; Friðriksson and Vésteinsson 2003, 139–161). With regard to this same passage, let us further note, that whereas Laxdæla traces Auðr’s lineage back only to her grandfather Bjǫrn buna (Ch.1, 3), Sturla adds the ambilinial line of descent back to her fourth great-grandfather Eylaug including two of her female ancestors, namely her great-grandmother Hervǫr and her second great-grandmother Þorgerðr. Since female ancestors are largely absent from genealogies in the Landnáma text, the inclusion of these two in Auðr’s genealogy is a manifestation of her exceptionality and the status of her family.

Auðr herself is mentioned only once in the prologue of Landnáma, as the daughter of Ketill flatnefr, oldest son of Bjǫrn buna:

Ketill atti Yngvelldi dottur Ketils vedrs hesis af Hringa ʀiki. þeira synir voru þeir Biorn eɴ ᴀustræni ok Helgi ʙiola. Audr en ᴅiupaudga ok Þoʀun ʜyrna voru dætr þeira. Ketill fór vestr [… ok] hann lagdi vndir sik allar Sudreyiar ok giaurdizt haufdingi yfir.

Ch. 13, 135

[Ketill married Yngvildr, the daughter of Ketill Wether, lord of Hringarík. Their sons were Bjǫrn the Easterner and Helgi Little Mouth. Auðr the Deeply Wealthy and Þórunn the Horned were their daughters. Ketill sailed westwards […] and he conquered the entire Hebrides, and made himself chieftain over it.]

At first glance, this passage seemingly does not tell us much about Auðr, apart from the fact that she is listed as one of Ketill flatnefr’s children.

The citation above indicates that Auðr is the daughter of a Norwegian höfðingi, a chieftain who ruled over all of the Suðreyjar or the Hebrides. Her maternal grandfather Ketill veðr (‘wether’) is the hersir of Hringarík; her paternal ancestors, as noted above, were hersar of Sogn. Though the title of hersir is exclusively held by men, Judith Jesch (2014, 283) argues that this title includes women “because it designates a class of people that intermarried, and that maintained its status in Iceland, even though the role was probably no longer relevant there”. Thus, Auðr, much like her kin, can be considered a person of high social standing.

Even so, Auðr’s direct family features less prominently in the Landnáma text than in Laxdæla. For instance, the name of her father’s estate is never mentioned in Landnáma. His name is intrinsically connected to the Suðreyjar (see in particular Chs. 14, 84 and 320). By contrast, Laxdæla places him at “Raumsdal í Raumsdœlafylki; þat er milli Sunnmœrar ok Norðmœrar” [Raumsdal in the Raumsdal district; that is between South More and North More] (Ch. 1, 3) in Norway. His connection with the Suðreyjar in Sturlubók puts him in a liminal, marginal position between the old country (i.e. Norway) and the new (i.e. Iceland), not belonging to one or the other. Thus, Ketill provides a bridge between the past and the future history of his relatives, and indeed Auðr.

In Laxdæla, which had been composed a couple of decades earlier, Auðr was known as Unnr djúpúðga (‘of a deep mind’). However, Sturla calls her Auðr djúpauðga. The name Auðr is derived from the masculine noun auðr meaning ‘wealth’ or ‘riches’ (Cleasby and Vigfússon 1957, s.v. auðr; Fellows-Jensen 1968, 342; Haraldsson 1977, 8; onp, s.v. auðr); the adjective djúpauðga, which has become her epithet here, should be translated as ‘deep in wealth’ (cf. Cleasby and Vigfússon 1957, s.v. djúpauðigr; Lind 1920–1921, s.v. Diúpúðga; Jónsson 1907, s.v. djúpúðga; onp, s.v. djúpauðigr). The associations of her given name and byname highlight some key aspects of her depiction in this text, such as social status and wealth. Despite her high social status, however, Auðr has no agency and no voice in this passage. Gender is not at play here, as her brothers also appear described to the same extent and with the same lack of voice.

However, Sturlubók does not only define Auðr in terms of family and status, as we will see below.

4.2 Auðr djúpauðga, Wife and Mother

The second mention of Auðr in Sturlubók can be found in Chapter 95, belonging to the first part of the book on “landnam i Vestfirdinga fiordungi” [the settlement of the West Quarter] (Chs. 42–170):

Oʟeifr eɴ ʜviti het herkonungr hann var son Ingialldz konungs Helgas(onar) Olafssonar Gudraudarsonar. Haldanars(onar) ʜvitbeins Vpplendinga konungs. Olafr eɴ ʜviti heriadi i vestrviking. ok vaɴ Dyflini ꜳ Iʀlandi ok Dyfliɴ skidi. ok giordizt þar konungr yfir. Hann fekk Audar eɴar ᴅiupaudgu dottur Ketils ꜰlatnefs. Þorsteiɴ ʀaudi het son þeira.

Ch. 95, 156–157

[Óláfr the White was a warrior king. He was the son of King Ingjaldr, son of Helgi, son of Óláfr, son of Guðrøðr, son of Hálfdan Whiteleg, king of the Upplanders. Óláfr the White raided in the West (i.e. the British Isles) and won Dublin in Ireland and the region around Dublin. And made himself king over it. He married Auðr the Deeply Wealthy, daughter of Ketill Flatnose. Their son was called Þorstein the Red.]

Here, once again, this passage reaffirms the dominant position and authority of the social class to which Auðr belonged. She is the wife of Óláfr hvíti (‘the white’), who could boast a lineage of noble kings. After conquering Dublin and the greater Dublin area, Óláfr made himself king over it. In the Laxdæla text, by contrast, Óláfr had been relatively absent, having been mentioned only once in passing, as her husband (Ch. 1). With this considerable shift in focus, Sturla provides a male-centred reading of Auðr’s story in Landnáma. Thus, even though the passage speaks well of Auðr’s husband, she herself is pushed to the margins of the narrative.

Óláfr’s reign did not last and he was killed in battle. After the death of her husband, “Audr ok Þoʀsteiɴ foru þa i Sudreyiar” [Auðr and Þorstein travelled to the Suðreyjar] (Ch. 95, 157). The next passage seems to mirror the quoted passage above. After Þorstein rauði (‘the red’) marries Þuriðr, in a similar fashion to his father, he becomes a “ʜerkonungr” [warrior king], conquering Caithness and more than half of Scotland, proclaiming himself king (Ch. 95, 157). This mirroring episode seems only to confirm further the marginal and passive role ascribed to Auðr, noted above. Generally the Landnáma text portrays women as wives and mothers, but in many instances these women are only implied in the text (see also Jesch 2014, 272). In that sense, Auðr’s role as wife and mother, though a marginal one, stands out since it is made explicit, indicating that the author deemed her important enough to record in writing.

Similar to her husband’s demise, her son was soon killed in battle. This turn of events allows Auðr to rise to the occasion.

4.3 The Empowered Widow

After her only son’s death, Auðr finds herself in a precarious situation, surrounded by a group of resentful Scots. This situation demands that she acts:

Audr var þa ꜳ Katanese er hun spurdi fall Þorsteins. Hun let þa giora ᴋnaur i skogi ꜳ laun. Eɴ er hann var buiɴ hellt hun ut i Orkneyiar.

Ch. 95, 157

[Auðr was at Caithness when she learned of Þorsteins death. She had a ship built in the forest in secret. And when it was ready, she started out to the Orkneys.]

As a widow, Auðr plays an active role in the narrative. In the absence of any male relatives, she is forced to make decisions that would shape the destinies of her grandchildren and her large following. Here, she finally emerges as the empowered woman we know so well from Laxdæla. Unlike the Laxdæla author (Ch. 4, 7), Sturla does not embellish the superiority and exploits of Auðr. In his matter-of-fact style, Sturla seems to attempt to reproduce a more realistic depiction of Auðr.

As Jenny Jochens (1995, 61–64) so clearly illustrated in her seminal work, Women in Old Norse Society, the powerful and independent widow is a common figure in the Sagas of Icelanders. According to Jochens (1995, 63), the powerful widow, though far less common in contemporary sagas (for example, Sturla Þórðarson’s Íslendingasaga), “continued as a social phenomenon into Christian times”. Drawing on Sturla Þórðarson’s Sturlunga saga, Jochens (1995, 63) further states that Guðný Böðvarsdóttir, Sturla’s paternal grandmother, and Jóreiðr Hallsdóttir, his wife’s maternal grandmother, can be seen as real-life examples of this particular literary type in later twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Iceland (see also Magnúsdóttir 2017, 180–191).

Of the other female settlers mentioned in Sturlubók, only three of these women are said to be widows, namely Geirriðr (Ch. 86), Þorgerðr (Ch. 316) and Ásgerðr (Ch. 341). None of these women come close to the example Auðr sets as an empowered widow. Auðr is the single most important female land-taker with significant land-claims that rival those of male settlers (Friðriksson and Vésteinsson 2011, 148–149; Clunies Ross 1998, 175–177), which cannot be said of these three women. Unlike Auðr, these women did not travel with a large retinue, nor does the text indicate that they were actively involved in marriage politics.

The story of Auðr’s journey to Iceland is comparable to that found in Laxdæla, but with some differences. The text agrees closely with Laxdæla on her journey westwards to Iceland. She is said to be accompanied by “xx. karla frialsa” [twenty free-born men] (Ch. 95) and to have married off two of her granddaughters on her way to her new country, Gróa in the Orkney Islands and Álǫf in the Faroe Islands (Ch. 95 and 97). Unlike Laxdæla, however, Landnáma’s text elaborates on one of Auðr’s freedmen Erpr and reveals other aspects of her personality left unexplored in Laxdæla.

Erpr het ʟeysingi Audar. hann var son Mellduns iarls af Skotlandi þess er fell fyri Sigurdi iarli enum ʀika. Moder Erps var Myrgiol d(ottir) Gliomals Iʀa konungs. Sigurdr iarl tok þau at herfangi ok þiadi. Myrgiol var ambatt konu iarls ok þionadi heɴi truliga. […] Siþan keypti Audr hana dyrtt ok het heɴi frelsi ef hun þionadi suo Þuridi konu Þorsteins ʀauds sem ᴅʀottningu. þau Myrgiol ok Erpr s(on) heɴar foru til Islands med Audi.

Ch. 96, 157

[A freedman of Auðr was called Erpr. He was the son of Earl Meldun of Scotland, who had been killed by Earl Sigurðr the Mighty. Erpr’s mother was Myrgjol, daughter of King Gljomal of Ireland. Earl Sigurðr took them captive and enslaved them. Myrgjol was the handmaid of the earl’s wife and served her faithfully. (…) Afterwards Auðr bought her for a high price and offered her freedom if she would serve Þuriðr, the wife of Þorsteinn the Red just like the queen. Then Myrgjol and her son Erpr travelled to Iceland with Auðr.]

In the passage above, Auðr is presented as a wealthy woman, paying a considerable sum of money for Myrgjol and her son Erpr. As such, the text retains the motif of wealth in its depiction of Auðr.

What truly sets Auðr apart from the other settlers in Sturlubók is the fact that she sets her male slaves free and, as the Landnáma text shows later, even gives them land. It is quite telling to compare, for example, the marginal status of the aristocratic Irish woman Myrgjol with the shift in status of her son Erpr. Myrgjol’s situation is specifically stated to be of the same nature before and after, so Auðr has not freed her from servitude as such. While her son Erpr’s status changes from slave to freeman: “Eʀpi syni Mellduns ialls er fyrr var getet gaf Audr frelsi ok Saudafells laund” [Auðr gave Erpr, the son of Earl Meldun, mentioned earlier, his freedom and Saudafellsland] (Ch. 103, 158). When Myrgjol was taken captive, she lost her original high status and was never able to regain it even if she is “offered her freedom.” (Ch. 96, 157) Hence, gender and, to a certain extent, ethnicity may lead to the marginalization of certain individuals in Landnámabók.

4.4 Auðr’s Settlement

As soon as Auðr sets foot on Iceland, she pays a visit first to her brother Helgi bjólan (‘little mouth’), then to her other brother Bjǫrn austræni (‘the Easterner’).

for hun þa ꜳ Kialarnes til Helga ʙiólu brodur sins. hann baud heɴi þar med helming lids sins. eɴ heɴi þotti þad varbodit ok kuad hun hann lengi mundu ʟitilmenni vera. Hun for þa vestr i Breidafiord til Biarnar bródur sins. ʜann gekk mót heɴi med huskarla sína ok letst kuɴa veglyndi systur sinnar. baud hann heɴi þar med alla sina menn.

Ch. 97, 157

[Then she went to Kjalarnes to her brother Helgi Little Mouth. He offered her to stay with half of her company, but she thought this a poor offer and she said that he would always be mean-minded. She then travelled west to Breiðafjörður to her brother Bjǫrn. He went out to meet her with his servants. He knew what a high-minded woman his sister was. He offered her to stay with all her men.]

Sturla skillfully contrasts the character traits of two siblings; one who is “lítillmenni” [mean-minded] with another who is “veglyndi” [high-minded]. Here, Auðr, a generous woman, is contrasted with Helgi, a miser, who only wants to host half of his sister’s retinue. Helgi’s miserly disposition is readily reflected in his facial features that underly his nickname bjólan, an epithet derived from the Gaelic word beólán meaning ‘little mouth’ (Lind 1920–1921, 24–25). By juxtaposing these two characters, this episode underlines Auðr’s generosity.

The narrative continues to map Auðr’s voyage across Iceland from one place to the next, while pointing out specific places such as Dögurðarnes (‘Breakfast-ness’)—where she ate breakfast—and Kambsnes (‘Comb-ness’)—where she lost her comb, as she is nearing her destination (Ch. 97, 157–158). The passage reads as follows:

Audr nam aull Dalalaund i iɴannverdum firdinum fra Daugurdar ꜳ́ til Skramuhlaups ꜳ́r. hun bio i Hvammi vid Aurrida ꜳ́r ós þar heita Audartopter. hun hafdi ʙænahalld sitt ꜳ Krosshólum. þar let hun reisa ᴋrosa þviat hun var skird ok vel truud.

Ch. 97, 1588

Auðr took all the land around the Dales to the inner fjord from Dögurðará until Skrámuhlaupsá. She lived at Hvammur along the mouth of Aurriðaá; there it is now called Auðartóftir. She held her prayers at Krosshólar. There she had crosses raised, because she was baptised and was a true believer [i.e. a Christian].

Auðr’s large land-claim settlement itself is remarkable enough, even compared with those of male settlers. Hers is the fifth largest land-claim mentioned in Landnámabók, matched only by one other woman—Steinunn gamla (‘the old’), a kinswoman of the first permanent settler of Iceland Ingólfr Arnason (Friðriksson and Vésteinsson 2003, 150). It is even more remarkable that she is portrayed here as a Christian, especially in comparison with her depiction in Laxdæla in which she is described as a heathen matriarch. Landnáma recounts that she sets up crosses at Krosshólar, where she prays.

After Auðr had secured a piece of land, she distributed pieces of the land among her “skipverium” [crew members] and “ʟeysingium” [freedmen] (Ch. 98, 158) and strategically married off her remaining four granddaughters to high-ranking men from her retinue or the sons of local chieftains (Ch. 98–108, 158–160). In Laxdæla, the saga-author represents Auðr as the matriarch and founding mother of the Breiðafjörður region, foregrounding her active role in the distribution of land. However, the redactor of Landnáma only makes explicit her role in the donation of land parcels to her freed slaves. For instance, Laxdæla reports with reference to the marriage of Dala-Kollr and her granddaughter Þorgerðr that “hon [lætr] Þorgerði heiman fylgja Laxárdal allan […]” [she gave Þorgerðr all of Laxardal as a dowry] (Ch. 5, 9). A completely different picture appears in Landnáma. The powerful matriarch becomes a passive bystander shrouded in darkness: “[Kollr nam Laxꜳr]dal allt til Haukadals ꜳ” [Kollr took possession of Laxardal as far as Haukadalsá] (Ch. 105, 159). The text documents how Auðr is pushed to the sidelines even though she plays a dominant role in the storyline.

4.5 Last Days and Death of Auðr djúpauðga

Auðr continues to play a passive role in Landnáma, as the narrative is silent about her part in the marriage arrangement and the organisation of the wedding feast of her only grandson Óláfr feilan. In Laxdæla, by contrast, Auðr does continue to play an active role in her grandson’s life until her death by arranging his marriage to Álfdis of Barra, thus highlighting the varying representations of Auðr in both works.

Grown weary with old age, Auðr still manages to organise one last grand feast, but the splendid feast in Sturlubók is held in honour of Auðr herself and not to celebrate the marriage of her only grandson.

Audr var vegs kona mikil. Þa er hun var elli mód baud hun til sin frændum sinum ok mꜳgum ok bio dyrliga veislu. Eɴ er þriar nætr hafde veizlan stadit þa valdi hun giafir vinum sinum ok red þeim heilrædi. sagde hun at þa skylldi standa veizlan enn iij. nætr. hun kuad þat vera skylldu erbi sitt.

Ch. 110, 160

[Auðr was a woman of great honour. When she was weary with old age, she invited her kinsmen and her relatives by marriage to a splendid feast. And when the feast had been going on for three nights, she chose gifts for her friends and offered them sound counsel. She said that the feast would go on for three more nights. She told that it would be her wake.]

Auðr is described as giving gifts and providing sound counsel to her guests, whereas in Laxdæla saga it is her grandson Óláfr who, following Auðr’s burial—at the end of the festivities, gives them fine gifts (Ch. 7, 13). It may further be noted that here in Sturlubók the feast is said to have lasted three nights and will go on to last another three nights, while Laxdæla states that she has passed away during the night of the wedding feast without any clear indication of how long the celebration had lasted (Ch. 7, 13).

Much like in Laxdæla, Auðr foreshadows her own death. The feast itself (“veizla”) becomes Auðr’s erfi, a term usually referring to the funeral feast and the transfer of inheritance. The latter inheritance scene is made more explicit in Laxdæla saga, which depicts Auðr addressing her guests and naming Óláfr as heir to her estate (Ch. 7, 12–13). Apart from Auðr declaring the feast as her erfi, the text is silent about the erfi ceremony or what this ceremony might have entailed. In this particular instance, Auðr seems to have more agency in the Landnáma text than in Laxdæla.

As she had foretold, Auðr passed away during the night:

þa nott epter andadizt hun ok var graffin i flædar mꜳli sem hun hafdi fyrer sagt. þuiat hun villdi eigi ʟiɢia i ovigdri molldu er hun var skird.

Ch. 110, 160

[The night after (the feast) she passed away and was buried at the floodmark, as she had instructed before. Because she did not want to lie in unconsecrated earth, as she was baptised.]

Her burial ritual here stands in stark contrast to the lavish boat burial described in Laxdæla (Ch. 7, 13), which is a heathen practice. In the Landnáma text, instead, her last wishes to be buried at the seashore are fulfilled. Even though this is not a Christian tradition, the text implies that this particular place is preferred over “ovigdri molldu” [unconsecrated earth] for someone who had been baptised. Stefán Karlsson (1976, 481–488) has pointed out that the Old Icelandic Homíliu-bók [Book of Homilies], composed around 1200, teaches that all the water in the world was consecrated when John the Baptist baptised Jesus in the river Jordan:

A þessom dege lét váʀ drótteɴ iohan baptista skíra sik í iordon. til þess at hann helgaþe ꜵll votn sva at til skírnar være hǽf hvarge er meɴ ero skírþer i heimenom.

ED. Wisén 1872, 60

[On this day our Lord had John the Baptist baptize him (i.e. Christ) in (the river) Jordan, so that he consecrated all waters so that they would be eligible for baptism anywhere in the world where men are baptised.]

The parallelism between the image of the baptism and Auðr’s gravesite at the seashore may suggest that the author of the latter might have alluded to this particular sermon in the Homíliu-bók. The washing motion of the ocean tide over the burial ground of Auðr could imply that her gravesite is purified or consecrated every time the water washes over it.

The phrase grafa í flǿðarmál occurs, apart from here in Sturlubók, in five passages in Old Norse Christian law codices dating to the second half of the thirteenth century.9 In all of these instances, the phrase describes “i flꝍðar male. þar ſem ſærr mꝍteſc oc grꝍn torva” [on the shore where the tide meets the green turf] (Keyser and Munch 1846, i, 13) as the most suitable place to bury outlaws banned from Christian burial. Göngu-Hrólfs saga, for example, describes the devilish Grímr Ægir as being found in the flæðarmál. (s.v. flǿðarmál in onp; Rafn 1830, 241) This would suggest flæðarmál is a marginal, but also a negative and problematic place. (see also Riisøy 2015, 73 and 75)

Given the legal connotations of the phrase grafa í flǿðarmál, it is relevant to note that Sturla Þórðarson was a lawman. According to Sturla þáttur, Sturla had been invited to the court of Magnús lagabætir where he soon gained the king’s favour and friendship (Thorsson et al. 1988, ii, 767). Furthermore, Sturla þáttur (Thorsson et al. 1988, ii, 767) relates that Sturla collaborated with King Magnús in the writing of his father’s and his own biography based on letters and the king’s advice, and so we can assume that he was familiar with a whole body of texts including the law codices that King Magnús and his father, King Hákon gamli (‘the old’), had been revising. As such, Sturla may have used the particular phrase grafa í flǿðarmál, despite of—or because of—his familiarity with the law codes. Whatever the case may be, Sturla justifies Auðr’s choice of burial ground by supplying some additional information: “Because she did not want to lie in unconsecrated earth, since she had been baptised.”

Another remarkable feature of Auðr’s choice of burial ground in Sturlubók is that the flæðarmál (‘floodmark’) or seashore represents a liminal space, the boundary between low and high water, or, between land and sea. Sturla uses the notion of a liminal space here to symbolize that the early Christian community in Iceland was between two worlds. Just like Auðr’s gravesite is located in the margin between land and sea, the early Christian settlers were peripheral members of this new society.

The text does not specify when and where Auðr had been baptised, but we can assume that this baptism, i.e. the transition from heathen to the ‘true’ belief (read as meaning Christianity), must have occurred when Auðr resided in the British Isles. According to the account in Sturlubók, she remained a Christian until her death. Culturally marginal within her newly adopted home country, she lived between two worlds. The text clearly acknowledges her as one of the first and prominent settlers on Iceland. However, because she was a Christian, she had to retreat permanently to the boundaries of the newly established society in Iceland. In the narrative, this is explicitly symbolised by the location of her gravesite. However, as an early Icelandic Christian, for example, she would not be considered a marginal character with respect to the vast majority of the later Christian population of Iceland, including the medieval scribes, commissioners and audience of Sturlubók. Thus, the author bridges the ages between his audience and the early Icelandic Christian settlers, displaying close ties between past and present.

4.6 Epilogue

Finally, Sturla Þórðarson repeats the theme of liminality in his epilogue to Landnámabók:

Svo segia vitrer menn at naukkurir landnams men hafi skirder verit þeir er bygt hafa Island. flester þeir er kvomu vestann vm haf. Er til þess nefndr Helgi ᴍagri ok Aurlygr eɴ gamli. Helgi ʙióla. Iorundr ᴋristni. Audr ᴅiupaudga. Ketill eɴ fiflski. ok eɴ fleiri men er kvomu vestann vmm haf. ok helldu þeir sumer vel ᴋristni til daudadags eɴ þat gekk ovida i ætter.

Ch. 399, 231

[So say wise men that some settlers were baptised before they settled in Iceland. The majority of them came from West-over-Sea (i.e. the British Isles). Belonging to them are Helgi the Lean and Aurlygr the Old, Helgi Little Mouth, Jorundr the Christian, Auðr the Deeply Wealthy, Ketill the Foolish and more men who came from West-over-Sea. And some kept their Christian faith until their dying day, but it went out of use in coming generations.]

In the closing chapter of his work, Sturla makes a clear connection between Christianity and the liminal space of “vestann vm haf” [West-over-Sea]. This country West-over-Sea lies literally between the old country (i.e. Norway) and the new (i.e. Iceland), being not part of one or the other. This particular liminal space is clearly associated with the Christian settlers in Iceland. Throughout Landnáma, Sturla repeatedly links Christian settlers with a place described as West-over-sea, a vast area comprising the British Isles including the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Scottish Highlands and northern and eastern Ireland.

The following episode on Auðr’s brother Bjǫrn austræni is a good illustration of the tight-knit relation between place and faith, in this case between West-over-Sea and Christianity:

þa for Biorn vestr vm haf ok villdi þar ekki stadfestast. þui var hann kalladr Biorn eɴ ᴀustræni. […] Biorn enn ᴀustræni for til Islandz ok nam land ꜳ milli Hraunsfiardar ok Stafꜳ́r. […] hann do i Biarnarhaufn ok er heygdr vid Biargarlæk þviat hann eiɴ var oskirdr barna Ketils flatnefs.

Ch. 84, 152

[Then Bjǫrn sailed west over the sea and did not want to settle there. For this reason he was called Bjǫrn the Easterner. (…) Bjǫrn the Easterner sailed to Iceland and took all the land between Hraunsfjörður and Stafá. (…) He died at Bjarnarhöfn and was laid in a burial mound at Bjargarlækur because he was the only one of Ketill Flatnose’s children not baptised.]

Like many of his countrymen, Bjǫrn remains heathen and migrated from Norway to Iceland after a brief stopover in the British Isles. As the passage above shows, there is a close relationship between religion (i.e. Christianity) and locality (i.e. vestann vm haf and, in particular, the Suðreyar). This tight-knit connection is further corroborated by the fact that most of the Christian settlers are connected to and emigrated from the Suðreyar, including Örlygr gamli (‘the old’) (Ch. 15, 135–136) and Ketill fíflski (‘the foolish’) (Ch. 320, 220).

Throughout her narrative, Auðr experiences place as a liminal space, in-between the here and there. She could be said to represent the internal conflict of the settlers between a sense of belonging to the new place and a feeling of estrangement. In a certain sense, Auðr is perpetually ‘othered’, used here specifically as a verb to denote being an ‘other’ inside society. The foremother Auðr djúpauðga is a marginal figure—in a twofold manner, a woman and a Christian—but also a unique woman who became an empowered widow and a highly regarded female land-taker.

5 Closing Remarks

In Sturlubók, Auðr can still be recognized as the strong matriarch, the foremother figure known from Laxdæla saga. In Sturla’s text, too, she is depicted as a highly regarded and respected woman, who has to step up in times of trouble. This portrayal is in a way similar to that of Laxdæla, though in Sturlubók it is stripped bare of embellishments and overt appraisal. Moreover, in the later text, Sturla Þórðarson also conceptualises Auðr as a marginal character—a woman betwixt and between the limited roles assigned to women in the narrative of migration to and settlement in Iceland.

In contrast to Laxdæla where she played a centre-stage role in the narrative, her unique position among women and among the first settlers is expressed in a more subtle way in Sturlubók. She is one of only thirteen female settlers mentioned and the only one of these women with such an extensive narrative. Although Auðr is identified as one of the settlers, she appears to be the odd one out because of her gender. She is a marginal character, which is reflected in the shift between the passive and active role that she assumes in the narrative. In the absence of adult male relatives, she decides to take matters into her own hands and, as such, Auðr emerges as the matriarch, familiar to us from Laxdæla saga. In doing so, Auðr steps out of the passive role of wife and mother into that of active empowered widow. Here, she finally reaches her full potential and stands out among both female and male settlers. As her story progresses, it becomes apparent why she is remembered as “hinni fyrstu og einu landnámskonu” [the first and only female settler] (Ólafsson 1965, 12).

Contrary to older sources, such as for example Íslendingabók and Laxdæla saga, Auðr is depicted in Sturlubók as a Christian and her faith separates her from the rest of the newly established Icelandic community that remained pagan. With the unique and unusual burial ascribed to her, the author further stresses this aspect of her identity and indicates that, as a Christian, she was somehow outside ‘normal’ society. Moreover, by linking the Christian faith with a specific place, namely West-over-Sea, her marginality in the narrative is stressed even further. Paradoxically, Auðr is pictured here as being part of a society, while not really belonging to it.

Further, we can see an analogy between Sturla’s position and that of the figure of Auðr, inasmuch as she is described as the ‘other’ inside society or a marginal person. Sturla stood between the past (i.e. the Icelandic Commonwealth) and the present (the Norwegian rule), between the old and the new country. He appears to be an individual who lived in two different and antagonistic cultures without really belonging to any of them.

Sverrir Tómasson (2006, 87) argues that Sturla seems to have taken the side of his relatives in the conflicts during the Sturlungaöld; yet, strangely enough, he reconciles with his uncle’s murder Gissur Þorvaldsson and swears allegiance to King Magnús of Norway. Furthermore, Tómasson (2006, 87–88) adds that Sturla was both sly and loyal in painting a more ambiguous picture of the monarchy, which showed that he favoured the monarchy, but simultaneously was very critical about it. As such, Sturla Þórðarson might himself be called a marginal man.

As Tómasson (2006, 82) further notes, Sturlubók is not only a work of genealogy, but also of independent historiography. Sturla’s historiography was written at a time when Iceland fell under Norwegian rule (roughly 1262–1380). Even though the Icelanders belonged to the Norwegian kingdom, they quite literally lived on the periphery of the Norwegian realm and might not have felt like they belonged. As such the Icelanders could have certainly identified with the figure of Auðr as presented in Sturlubók, who was much like them: an outsider within society.

Footnotes

* This article is based on work in my doctoral thesis on “Auðr/Unnr djúp(a)uðga Ketilsdóttir. Tracing the life and legacy of the foremother figure through texts” (Ghent University, forthcoming); the arguments in this essay are elaborated more fully there.

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  • Haraldsson 1977: Geirr Bassi Haraldsson, The Old Norse Name, Studia Marklandica 1, Olney.

  • Helgason 2001: Agnar Helgason et al. , “mtDNA and the Islands of the North Atlantic: Estimating the Propositions of Norse and Gaelic Ancestry,” in: American Journal of Human Genetics 68: 723737.

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  • Hermann and Mitchell 2013: Pernille Hermann and Stephen Mitchell, eds., “Memory and Remembering: Past Awareness in the Medieval North,” Special issue, Scandinavian Studies 85/3.

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  • Hermann, Mitchell and Arnórsdóttir 2014: Pernille Hermann, Stephen Mitchell and Agnes A. Arnórsdóttir, eds., Minni and Muninn. Memory in Medieval Nordic Culture, Acta Scandinavica 4, Turnhout.

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  • Ingibergsson 1965: Janet Ingibergsson, “Þegar ég stend á Krosshólaborg,” in: Sunnudagur fylgirit Þjóðviljans 5/32: 388.

  • Jesch 1991: Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age, Woodbridge.

  • Jesch 2014: Judith Jesch, “Women and Identities,” in: Kvinner i Vikingtid. Vikingatidens kvinnor, eds. Nancy Coleman and Nanna Løkka, Oslo: 269286.

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  • Jesch 2015: Judith Jesch, The Viking Diaspora, The Medieval World Series, Oxon.

  • Jochens 1995: Jeny Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, Ithaca and London.

  • Jónsson 1900: Finnur Jónsson, ed., Landnámabók. i–iii, Hauksbók.

  • Jónsson 1907: Finnur Jónsson, Tilnavne i den islandske oldlitteratur, Kjøbenhavn.

  • Kålund 1889–1894: Kristian Kålund, Katalog over den Arnamagnæanske håndskriftsamling, 2 vols., København.

  • Karlsson 1976: Stefán Karlsson, “Greftrun Auðar djúpúðgu,” in: Minjar og menntir: afmælisrit helgað Kristjáni Eldjárn 6. desember 1976, ed. Guðni Kolbeinsson, Reykjavík: 481488.

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  • Keyser and Munch 1846–1895: R. Keyser and P. A. Munch, eds., Norges gamle love indtil 1387, 5 vols., Christiania.

  • Lind 1920–1921: Erik Henrik Lind, Norsk-isländska personbinamn från medeltiden, Uppsala.

  • Magnúsdóttir 2017: Auður Magnúsdóttir, “Becoming visible. Viewing women in Íslendinga saga,” in: Sturla Þórðarson. Skald, Chieftain and Lawman, eds. Jón Viðar Sigurðsson and Sverrir Jakobsson, Leiden: 180191.

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  • Nora 1996: Pierre Nora, Conflict and Divisions, vol. 1 of Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, trans. A. Goldhammer, New York.

  • Nordvig and Torfing 2012: A. Mathias Valentin Nordvig and Lisbeth H. Torfing, eds., The 15th International Saga Conference: Sagas and the Use of the Past. 5th–11th August 2012, Aarhus University. Preprint of abstracts, Aarhus, http://sagaconference.au.dk/fileadmin/sagaconference/Pre-print.pdf.

  • Ólafsson 1965: Eggert Ólafsson, “Auðarminni. Steinkross reistur á helgistað Auðar djúpúðgu til minningar um landnámskonuna í Dölum,” in: Morgunblaðið 52/198: 12 and 19.

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  • Ólason 1948–1976: Páll Eggert Ólason, ed., Íslenzkar æviskrár frá landnámstímum til ársloka 1940, 6 vols., Reykjavík.

  • onp = Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog/ Dictionary of Old Norse Prose, Copenhagen, 1983–.

  • Rafn 1830: C. C. Rafn, ed., “Gaungu-Hrolfs saga,” in: Fornaldar sögur Nordrlanda, Kaupmannahöfn: II, 235364.

  • Rafnsson 1974: Sveinbjörn Rafnsson, Studier i Landnámabók. Kritiska bidrag till den isländska fristatstidens historia, Bibliotheca Historica Lundensis; 31, Lund.

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  • Riisøy 2015: Anne Irene Riisøy, “Deviant Burials: Societal Exclusion of Dead Outlaws in Medieval Norway,” in: Collegium: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 18: Cultures of Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, eds. Mia Korpiola and Anu Lahtinen, Helsinki: 4981.

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  • Sturlubók. Melabók m.m. udgiven af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-Selskab, København.

  • Sveinsson 1934: Einar Ól. Sveinsson, ed., Laxdæla saga. Halldórs þættir Snorrasonar. Stúfs þáttr, Íslenzk Fornrit V, Reykjavík.

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  • Thorsson et al. 1988: Örnólfur Thorsson, et al. , eds., Sturlunga saga, 3 vols., Reykjavík.

  • Tómasson 2006: Sverrir Tómasson, “Old Icelandic Prose,” in: A History of Icelandic Literature, ed. and trans. Daisy L. Neijmann, Histories of Scandinavian Literature 5, London: 64173.

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  • Wisén 1872: Theodor Wisén, ed., Homíliu-bók, Lund.

1

Translations are my own except where otherwise noted.

2

The corresponding passage in Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnámabók is Jónsson 1900, 158.

3

Consider, for example, the papers on cultural memory delivered at the Saga Conference in Nordvig and Torfing 2012. The 2012 Radcliffe Seminar, “The Ambiguities of Memory Construction in Medieval Texts: The Nordic Case,” inspired a series of theoretically-oriented essays, which have appeared in a special issue of Scandinavian Studies, see Hermann and Mitchell 2013. In 2014, the monograph Minni and Muninn was published, which builds further on and applies the theoretical methods developed in the previously mentioned special issue of Scandinavian Studies, see Hermann, Mitchell and Arnórsdóttir, 2014.

4

Chapters are marked and labeled in accordance to the Íslenzk fornrit-edition of these particular sagas.

5

In Melabók and Þórðarbók, the list of settlements begins with the Southern Quarter and continues clockwise around the country.

6

Judith Jesch (1991, 81–82) briefly touches upon these 13 female colonists in Landnáma.

7

Quotations from Sturla Þórðarson’s redaction of Landnámabók—also known as Sturlubók—are from Jónsson 1900.

8

Note here that, by the time of Sturlubók’s composition, Auðr’s farm already lay in ruins, since it refers to the site as “Audartopter” (‘Auðr’s ruins’).

9

There are three law codes from before 1264, during the reign of Hákon gamli, Gulaþingslög hin fornu (Keyser and Munch 1846, i, 13), Kristinréttur úr Eiðsivaþingslögum fornu (Keyser and Munch 1846, i, 392) and Kristinréttur Sverris konungs (Keyser and Munch 1846, i, 431), and two law texts from during the reign of Magnús lagabætir (1264–1280), namely Borgarþings-kristinréttur hinn nýi (Keyser and Munch 1848, ii, 296) and Gulaþings-kristinréttur hinn nýi (Keyser and Munch 1848, ii, 314). See also onp, s.vv. flóðarmál and flǿðarmál.

  • Assmann 1998: Jan Assmann, Moses the Egyptian: The memory of Egypt in western monotheism, Cambridge.

  • Benediktsson 1986: Jakob Benediktsson, ed., Íslendingabók. Landnámabók, Íslenzk Fornrit I, Reykjavík.

  • Bragason 2011: Úlfar Bragason, “Hver var Sturla Þórðarson og hvað gerði hann merkilegt?” in: Vísindavefurinn, http://visindavefur.is/svar.php?id=60305.

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  • Callow 2011: Chris Callow, “Putting Women in Their Place? Gender, Landscape, and the Construction of Landnámabók,” in: Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 7: 728.

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  • Cleasby and Vigfússon 1957: Richard Cleasby and Guðbrandur Vigfússon, An Icelandic-English Dictionary, 2nd ed., Oxford.

  • Clover 1988: Carol Clover, “The Politics of Scarcity: Notes on the Sex Ratio in Early Scandinavia,” in: Scandinavian Studies 63/2: 147188.

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  • Clunies Ross 1998: Margaret Clunies Ross, “Land-Taking and Text-Making in Medieval Iceland,” in: Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the Euroean Middle Ages, eds. Sylvia Tomasch and Sealy Gilles, Philadelphia: 159184.

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  • Fellows-Jensen 1968: Gillian Fellows-Jensen, Scandinavian Personal Names in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, Copenhagen.

  • Friðriksson and Vésteinsson 2003: Adolf Friðriksson and Orri Vésteinsson, “Creating a Past: A Historiography of the Settlement of Iceland,” in: Contact, Continuity, and Collapse: The Norse Colonization of the North Atlantic, ed. James H. Barrett, Turnhout: 139161.

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  • Haraldsson 1977: Geirr Bassi Haraldsson, The Old Norse Name, Studia Marklandica 1, Olney.

  • Helgason 2001: Agnar Helgason et al. , “mtDNA and the Islands of the North Atlantic: Estimating the Propositions of Norse and Gaelic Ancestry,” in: American Journal of Human Genetics 68: 723737.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hermann and Mitchell 2013: Pernille Hermann and Stephen Mitchell, eds., “Memory and Remembering: Past Awareness in the Medieval North,” Special issue, Scandinavian Studies 85/3.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hermann, Mitchell and Arnórsdóttir 2014: Pernille Hermann, Stephen Mitchell and Agnes A. Arnórsdóttir, eds., Minni and Muninn. Memory in Medieval Nordic Culture, Acta Scandinavica 4, Turnhout.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ingibergsson 1965: Janet Ingibergsson, “Þegar ég stend á Krosshólaborg,” in: Sunnudagur fylgirit Þjóðviljans 5/32: 388.

  • Jesch 1991: Judith Jesch, Women in the Viking Age, Woodbridge.

  • Jesch 2014: Judith Jesch, “Women and Identities,” in: Kvinner i Vikingtid. Vikingatidens kvinnor, eds. Nancy Coleman and Nanna Løkka, Oslo: 269286.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Jesch 2015: Judith Jesch, The Viking Diaspora, The Medieval World Series, Oxon.

  • Jochens 1995: Jeny Jochens, Women in Old Norse Society, Ithaca and London.

  • Jónsson 1900: Finnur Jónsson, ed., Landnámabók. i–iii, Hauksbók.

  • Jónsson 1907: Finnur Jónsson, Tilnavne i den islandske oldlitteratur, Kjøbenhavn.

  • Kålund 1889–1894: Kristian Kålund, Katalog over den Arnamagnæanske håndskriftsamling, 2 vols., København.

  • Karlsson 1976: Stefán Karlsson, “Greftrun Auðar djúpúðgu,” in: Minjar og menntir: afmælisrit helgað Kristjáni Eldjárn 6. desember 1976, ed. Guðni Kolbeinsson, Reykjavík: 481488.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keyser and Munch 1846–1895: R. Keyser and P. A. Munch, eds., Norges gamle love indtil 1387, 5 vols., Christiania.

  • Lind 1920–1921: Erik Henrik Lind, Norsk-isländska personbinamn från medeltiden, Uppsala.

  • Magnúsdóttir 2017: Auður Magnúsdóttir, “Becoming visible. Viewing women in Íslendinga saga,” in: Sturla Þórðarson. Skald, Chieftain and Lawman, eds. Jón Viðar Sigurðsson and Sverrir Jakobsson, Leiden: 180191.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nora 1996: Pierre Nora, Conflict and Divisions, vol. 1 of Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past, trans. A. Goldhammer, New York.

  • Nordvig and Torfing 2012: A. Mathias Valentin Nordvig and Lisbeth H. Torfing, eds., The 15th International Saga Conference: Sagas and the Use of the Past. 5th–11th August 2012, Aarhus University. Preprint of abstracts, Aarhus, http://sagaconference.au.dk/fileadmin/sagaconference/Pre-print.pdf.

  • Ólafsson 1965: Eggert Ólafsson, “Auðarminni. Steinkross reistur á helgistað Auðar djúpúðgu til minningar um landnámskonuna í Dölum,” in: Morgunblaðið 52/198: 12 and 19.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ólason 1948–1976: Páll Eggert Ólason, ed., Íslenzkar æviskrár frá landnámstímum til ársloka 1940, 6 vols., Reykjavík.

  • onp = Ordbog over det norrøne prosasprog/ Dictionary of Old Norse Prose, Copenhagen, 1983–.

  • Rafn 1830: C. C. Rafn, ed., “Gaungu-Hrolfs saga,” in: Fornaldar sögur Nordrlanda, Kaupmannahöfn: II, 235364.

  • Rafnsson 1974: Sveinbjörn Rafnsson, Studier i Landnámabók. Kritiska bidrag till den isländska fristatstidens historia, Bibliotheca Historica Lundensis; 31, Lund.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Riisøy 2015: Anne Irene Riisøy, “Deviant Burials: Societal Exclusion of Dead Outlaws in Medieval Norway,” in: Collegium: Studies across Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences, 18: Cultures of Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, eds. Mia Korpiola and Anu Lahtinen, Helsinki: 4981.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sturlubók. Melabók m.m. udgiven af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-Selskab, København.

  • Sveinsson 1934: Einar Ól. Sveinsson, ed., Laxdæla saga. Halldórs þættir Snorrasonar. Stúfs þáttr, Íslenzk Fornrit V, Reykjavík.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Thorsson et al. 1988: Örnólfur Thorsson, et al. , eds., Sturlunga saga, 3 vols., Reykjavík.

  • Tómasson 2006: Sverrir Tómasson, “Old Icelandic Prose,” in: A History of Icelandic Literature, ed. and trans. Daisy L. Neijmann, Histories of Scandinavian Literature 5, London: 64173.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wisén 1872: Theodor Wisén, ed., Homíliu-bók, Lund.

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