EGILL SKALLAGRÍMSSON (ca. 910AD ca. 990AD) was a Viking Age poet, warrior and farmer and the protagonist of Egil's Saga. Born in Iceland, the son of Skalla-Grímr Kveldúlfsson, a respected chieftan, and Bera Yngvarsdóttir. Egill composed his first poem aged three years and exhibited berserk behaviour (a bloody theme which continues throughout the saga), and this, together with the description of his large and unattractive head, has led to the theory that he might have suffered from Paget's disease. This is corroborated by an archaeological find of a head from the Viking era which is thought to be Egill's.

At the age of seven, Egill was cheated in a game with local boys. Enraged, he procured an axe, and returning to the boys, split the skull of the boy who cheated him. Later in life, after being grievously insulted, Egill killed Bárðr of Atley, a retainer of King Eirik Bloodaxe and kinsman of Queen Gunnhildr, both of whom spent the remainder of their lives trying to take vengeance. Seething with hatred, Gunnhildr ordered her two brothers to assassinate Egill and his brother Þórólfr. However, Egill slew the Queen's brothers when they attempted to confront him.

Declared an outlaw by Eirik Bloodaxe, Berg-Önundr gathered a company of men to capture Egill, but was killed in his attempt to do so. Before escaping from Norway, Egill also slew Rögnvaldr, the son of King Eirik and Queen Gunnhildr. He then cursed the King and Queen, setting a horse's head on a Nithing pole. He later fought at the Battle of Brunanburh in the service of King Athelstan.

Ultimately, Egill returned to his family farm in Iceland, where he remained a power to be reckoned with in local politics. He lived into his eighties and, blind, died shortly before Iceland converted to Catholicism. Before Egill died he buried his silver treasure near Mosfellsbær. In his last act of violence he murdered the servant who helped him bury his treasure.

Even though Christianity took sway in Scandinavia around the time the story is set, it is not suggested that Norsemen led wholly pious lives, filled with spiritual observances. Egil Skallagrímsson's poem Sonatorrek (Ch. 81), composed on the death of two of his sons, goes some way to clarifying the relationship between the pagan Norseman and the old Norse gods better, perhaps, than any other surviving Norse or Icelandic literature. As a poet and a warrior, Egil believed in Odin's gifts above most other deities.

Egill remains a very popular figure in Iceland, with a beer brewery, TV show, songs and an annual S.C.A. Memorial Tournament named after him.

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