Bitten by the same bug – A song of Aud and Unn

It is quite fair to say that my Norwegian friend Tone Holte has been bitten by the same Auðr bug as both my Icelandic friend Vilborg Davíðsdóttir and I. It is this same bug that has brought the three of us together over the years. Each of us residing in a different European country: Norway, Iceland and Belgium. Each of us working on Auðr, yet by using a slightly different medium: literature (fictional writing for Vilborg and academic writing for me) and the performing arts (music and theatre for Tone). As so many did before us in centuries gone by, the three of us each in our own unique way put this grand old lady of the Viking Age in the limelight.

Photo of Tone Holte by Espen Winpics Winther.

In 2013, Tone performed a piece entitled Aud den djuptenkte (‘Aud the Deep-Minded’). This performance from 2013 was made specifically for an adult audience. It consisted of a monologue that was accompanied with singing and music performed by Tone playing the lyre and flute. The piece was further animated with photographs of Iceland and Norway by Wigdis Haugaas.

The piece is centred around the life history of Auðr. Or, as summarized in Tone’s own words:

“Aud den djuptenkte” er en av de mest kjente norske kvinnene som utvandret til Island og tok land der på slutten av 800-tallet. Hun levde et dramatisk liv, som flyktning opp til flere ganger, som dronning av Dublin og til slutt som rik landbesitter på Island. Som ung kvinne ble hun – heller ikke ulikt andre rike kvinner – giftet bort som brikke i et spill om land og makt, – da hun døde var det som selvstendig og innflytelsesrik landnåmskvinne på Island. En fri kvinne, med stor ære, en omfangsrik ætt og med store kunnskaper. Så store at den sikret henne et ettermæle med litt av en hedersbetegnelse av et navn:“Aud den djuptenkte”!

“Aud den djuptenkte” is one of the most famous Norwegian women, who emigrated to Iceland and took land there at the end of the 9th century. She lived a dramatic life, repeatedly as a refugee, as queen of Dublin, and, finally, as a rich landowner in Iceland. As a young woman she was – not unlike other rich women – married off as a pawn in a game about land and power, – when she died, it was as an independent and influential female land-claimant in Iceland. A free woman, with great honour, a large family and with great knowledge. So famous that it secured her legacy with a bit of a badge of honor in her (by)name : ‘Auðr the Deep-Minded’!

More recently, Tone is working together with Rolf Agaton and John Vedde. Under the name Lyra fra Nord or ‘The Lyre from the North,’ they form a group of musicians based in Norway. Together they perform new songs as well as interpret old Viking songs. Their sound is pure as it involves only voice accompanied by the lyre.

Photo by Wigdis Haugaas.

In 2014 and 2015, they delivered a piece entitled Unn den djuptenkte — Den lange reisen (‘Unn the Deep-Minded — the long journey’). Through songs and music, they trace Auðr’s journey west from Norway, over the British Isles, all the way to Iceland.


They recorded the songs on the album Det som bølger uti havet (‘What waves might bring’). Tone takes on the role of Auðr, called Unn here as in Laxdæla saga. One of the songs is dedicated to and centres around Auðr, namely Auds sang (‘Auðr’s Song’).

Aud’s life (all texts about Aud are inspired from the stories about her authentic life) turns out to be quite hazardous. Moving very early in her life to the Hebrides, due to lack of mutual confidence between her father and King Harald the Fairhaired, she then experiences a broken marriage with the King of Dublin, Olav Hvite. Finally, she gather’s all her kin and thralls, builds a ship during autumn and winter, and eventually moves to Iceland.


You can listen to or download Auds Sang on Spotify. Enjoy!





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