A man named Gaut was in the entourage of a certain Thorir “Flap” Ketilsson, who decided to move to Iceland during a period of time known as the Age of Settlement (c. 860-930). During their voyage to the island, Thorir and his crew were reportedly harassed by a ship of Vikings, who wanted all the goods that the Iceland-bound settlers were carrying. It was during the ensuing tense standoff that Gaut made his mark. According to the Icelandic Book of Settlements, “[the] vikings came at them intending to rob them, but Gaut struck the forecastleman with a rudder, so the vikings sailed off” (Landnámabók, Stulubók manuscript, chapter 237).
Gaut apparently clobbered his Viking opponent to such an extent with the rudder that the remaining Vikings decided that the goods on Thorir’s ship were no longer worth the risk if they had to face Gaut; therefore, the pirates promptly sailed away. Gaut’s feat greatly impressed his comrades among Thorir’s crew, and they all began calling him Rudder-Gaut from that time onward. Further details about the life of Rudder-Gaut are vague, but he presumably remained in the entourage of Thorir Flap, who successfully settled in the Eyjafjörður region of Iceland.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Illustration till Herrauds och Bosa Saga, by Pehr Hörberg (c. 1746-1816), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum of Stockholm Sweden).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.