Thorstein the Red

Thorstein the Red

Thorstein the Red or Thorstein Olafsson was a viking chieftain who flourished in late ninth-century Scotland. He was born around 850 CE and was the son of Olaf the White, King of Dublin, and Aud the Deep-minded, who was the daughter of Ketil Flatnose. ["Eirik the Red's Saga" § 1 (Jones 126); Laxdaela Saga § 4 (Magnusson 51).] After the death of Olaf, Aud and Thorstein went to live in the Hebrides, then under Ketil's rule. [According to some, Olaf repudiated Aud and sent her back to her father's court c. 857. Forte 86.] Thorstein eventually became a warlord and allied with the Jarl of Orkney, Sigurd Eysteinsson. ["Eirik the Red's Saga" § 1 (Jones 126); Laxdaela Saga § 4 (Magnusson 51).] Together Thorstein and Sigurd waged a series of campaigns in Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, Moray, and a number of other regions, eventually receiving tribute from half of Scotland. ["Id."; "Harald Finehair's Saga" § 22 (Snorri 22); "Orkneyinga Saga" § 9 (Palsson 27).] However, the Scottish chieftains plotted against Thorstein, and he was killed; the exact nature of his death is unknown but it probably took place around 880 or 890. After Thorstein's death Aud left Caithness, sojourning for a while in Orkney before settling with other members of her clan in Iceland. [Laxdaela Saga § 4 (Magnusson 51-52).]

Thorstein married Thurid, the daughter of Eyvind the Easterner. Thorstein and Thurid had a son, Olaf Feilan, and a number of daughters, including Groa, Thorgerd, Olof, Osk, Thorhild, and Vigdis. ["Eirik the Red's Saga" § 1 (Jones 127); Laxdaela Saga § 4 (Magnusson 52); Njal's Saga § 1 (Cook 3); "Grettir's Saga § 26 (Thorsson 62); "Landnámabók" "passim".] A woman named Unn, wife of Thorolf Mostur-beard, claimed to be the daughter of Thorstein, but this claim was viewed by other Icelanders with skepticism. ["Eyrbyggja Saga § 7 (Palsson 32).]



*Ari the Learned. "The Book of the Settlement of Iceland" "(Landnámabók)". Ellwood, T., transl. Kendal: T. Wilson, Printer and Publisher, 1898.
*Cook, Robert, transl. "Njal's Saga". Penguin Classics, 2002.
*Forte, Angelo, Richard Oram and Frederik Pedersen. "Viking Empires". Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005.
*Jones, Gwyn, transl. "Eirik the Red and other Icelandic Sagas." Oxford Univ. Press, USA, 1999.
*Magnusson, Magnus and Hermann Palsson, transl. "Laxdaela Saga." Penguin Classics, 1969.
*Palsson, Hermann, et al., transl. "Eyrbyggja Saga". Penguin Classics, 1989.
*Palsson, Hermann, et al., transl. "Orkneyinga Saga: The History of the Earls of Orkney". Penguin Classics, 1981.
*Snorri Sturluson. "Heimskringla, or the Chronicle of the Kings of Norway." Hard Press, 2006.
*Thorsson, Ornolfur, et al., transl. "The Saga of Grettir the Strong." Penguin Classics, 2005.

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