A Great Exhibition with a Viking twist, the ‘Story of Unnur, the Deep Minded’.
This is a photo of Meg Rodger wearing a replica of a Viking cloak, or vararfelder, she has woven, using a range of wools from breeds of authentically ancient sheep. She has mounted a striking exhibition of local women she has photographed, each wearing the vararfelder in their own landscapes. (Gallery 2 at Taigh Chearsabhagh.) The history and the myth lying within Meg’s extraordinary research is inspiring. Whilst in Iceland, she heard about Vilborg Davíõsdóttir, the writer of a series of novels about a woman of great power in ninth century Iceland, known variously as Aud, Audrun, Unnur or Unn, the Deep Minded. (Women in Iceland then had two names.) On Monday night’s Bookweek’s Zoom, hosted by Pauline Prior Pitt, we were privileged to listen to a dynamic conversation between Meg and Vilborg, with readings by Vilborg. (One of her novels about Unn, or Aud, has been translated into English, but Vilborg is still looking for a British publisher? It was exciting to discover Aud’s Hebridean connection and the extent of her initiative, intelligence and power. (Aud appears in many of the Icelandic sagas, such as Laxdaelia saga and Eiriks saga rauōa.)
Aud was the daughter of a king, Eric Flatnose and married the king of Dublin, Olaf the White, who conquered and held sway over land in Scotland. Their son, Thorstein the Red, who lived with Aud in, and ‘owned’, the Hebrides, was killed in battle at the same time as his father, and they lost all their land. Aud escaped and hid in a Caithness forest with her six grandchildren, and built a knarr, a Viking longboat, in which, rowed by twenty slaves, they set sail. Aud married off one granddaughter in Orkney, and one in the Faroe Islands, on her way to Iceland. There she acquired large portions of land, being an early settler, and freed her slaves, giving them land to farm. next setting about finding noble partners for her brood. She died, sitting upright in her bed at her home, Hvann, the night after she had hosted a wedding feast for her last grandchild, Olaf, and she was buried, traditionally, at sea.
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