In search of Eyður on the Faroe Islands

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Street in Gøta named after Aud the Deep-Minded.

Little is known about Aud or Unn the Deep-Minded’s brief stopover on the Faroe Islands on her way to Iceland from the North of Scotland. And yet, she is named in several sources as the foremother of the most important family on the Faroe Islands. 

Eyð hin Djúphugaða fór til Íslands og legði inn í Føroyum og gifti har Óluvu, dóttur Torstein Reyða, og haðani er komin hin mætasta ættin í Føroyum, sum tey kalla Gøtuskeggjar, ið búðu í Eysturoynni. (Føroyingasøga, tr. Eivind Weyhe)

Aud the Deep-Minded sailed to Iceland and came near the Faroe Islands. There she married off Ólöf, daughter of Thorstein the Red. From her are descended the greatest Faroese lineage, which is called the Götuskeggja (‘Gatebeards’) who lived on Eysturoy (‘East Island’).

Did she leave any traces behind? As can be seen in the quote above, she is mentioned in the opening chapter of Færeyinga saga. In Faroese, her name and epithet are spelled Eyður hin Djúphugaða (Aud the Deep-Minded) or Eyður hin Findarríka (Aud the Profoundly Wealthy). According to the text, she is the foremother of the famous Götuskeggja family, who lived in Gøta on Eysturoy.

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Street in Gøta named after Aud’s granddaughter Ólöf.

The town of Gøta was named after Torbjørn Gøtuskegg, who is said to have descended from Ólöf, the daughter of Thorstein the Red and granddaughter of Aud the Deep-Minded. Torbjørn was the father of the famous Tróndur í Gøtu, who is the central character of Færeyinga saga. Today, the town of Gøta consists of four smaller villages: Norðragøta, Syðrugøta, Gøtueiði and Gøtugjógv. Some street names in Norðragøta still remind us of the central figures of this saga: Tróndargøta (Tróndur í Gøta), Óluvugøta (Ólöf, granddaughter of Aud) and Eyðargøta (Aud herself).

Did Aud leave another mark somewhere else? There is a runestone now housed in the National Museum of the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn. This runestone, known as the Kirkjubøur stone, was found under the farmhouse, what used to be the Eastern wing of the bishop’s residence in the Middle Ages. The stone was discovered in 1823 and named after the small village of Kirkjubøur, on Streymoy. On it are several runic inscriptions which are dated from the ninth to the twelfth century. In his book Runamo og runerne (1841), Finnur Magnússon argued that one of the inscriptions could be read as Kin Unnar á kufl viþ arvok, which translates toUnnur’s family has gravemound(s) at Arvok.” Finnur believed Arvok or Arvog to be an old name for Kirkjubøur or the name of a nearby cove. However, his reading has been contested by later scholars. Marie Ingerslev Simonsen (1956) read it as follows: i : uikuf(i) : uni : ruo, i.e. in standardized Old Norse Vigulfi unni ró (“… may grant peace to Vígulf”).

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Kirkjubøur stone.

Another Faroese reference to Aud can be found in folklore tradition. At the end of the seventeenth century, the Icelandic historian Thormodus Torfæus cites Lucas Debes, a Danish priest on the Faroe Islands, on a Faroese folk tradition that the Faroese were descended from a Scottish king and his daughter. In two of his works, Torfæus identified this Scottish king as Aud’s only son, Thorstein the Red. This tradition may have been based on and inspired by Laxdæla saga, on which the later Faroese ballad Kjartans tættir was based. Apart from this single reference, this particular folktale has never been committed to paper. As late as the nineteenth century, a folktale entitled Kongadóttirin í Nólsoy was copied for the first time by Jakob Jakobsen. This folktale tells of a Scottish princess who settled on Nólsoy. On Nólsoy, you can still visit the ruins of the house where this princess is said to have lived. Although it is uncertain whether there is a link between the folk tradition mentioned by Debes and the recorded folktale Kongadótttirin í Nólsoy, between these two stories lie many similarities. For instance, both of these stories claim that the Faroese descended from a Scottish princess, who was forced to flee Scotland.

Even though her stay on the Faroe Islands was brief, Aud left an everlasting mark on the Faroese folk culture.

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