THE SAGA OF EGIL SKALLAGRIMSSON (Egil's Saga)
THE SAGA OF EGIL SKALLAGRIMSSON or Egil's Saga
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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.
33% of the net profit from the sale of this book will be donated to charities.
Excerpt from THE SAGA OF EGIL SKALLAGRIMSSON or Egil's Saga
CHAPTER LXXXII HACON'S WARS AND DEATH - POEM ON ARINBJORN
Long time did Egil dwell at Borg, and became an old man. But it is not told that he had lawsuits with any here in the land; nor is there a word of single combats, or war and slaughter of his after he settled down here in Iceland. They say that Egil never went abroad out of Iceland after the events already related. And for this the main cause was that Egil might not be in Norway, by reason of the charges which (as has been told before) the kings there deemed they had against him. He kept house in munificent style, for there was no lack of money, and his disposition led him to munificence.
King Hacon, Athelstan's foster-son, long ruled over Norway; but in the latter part of his life Eric's sons came to Norway and strove with him for the kingdom; and they had battles together, wherein Hacon ever won the victory. The last battle was fought in Hordaland, on Stord-island, at Fitjar: there king Hacon won the victory, but also got his death-wound. After that Egil's sons took the kingdom in Norway.
Lord Arinbjorn was with Harold Eric's son, and was made his counsellor, and had of him great honours. He was commander of his forces and defender of the land. A great warrior was Arinbjorn, and a victorious. He was governor of the Firth folk. Egil Skallagrimsson heard these tidings of the change of kings in Norway, and therewith how Arinbjorn had returned to his estates in Norway, and was there in great honour. Then Egil composed a poem about Arinbjorn, whereof this is the beginning:
ARINBJORN'S EPIC, or a PART THEREOF.
'For generous prince
Swift praise I find,
But stint my words
To stingy churl.
Openly sing I
Of king's true deeds,
But silence keep
On slander's lies.
'For fabling braggarts
Full am I of scorn,
But willing speak I
Of worthy friends:
Courts I of monarchs
A many have sought,
A gallant minstrel
Of guileless mood.
'Erewhile the anger
Of Yngling's son
I bore, prince royal
Of race divine.
With hood of daring
O'er dark locks drawn
A lord right noble
I rode to seek.
'There sate in might
The monarch strong,
With helm of terror
High-throned and dread;
A king unbending
With bloody blade
Within York city
Wielded he power.
'That moon-like brightness
Might none behold,
Nor brook undaunted
Great Eric's brow:
As fiery serpent
His flashing eyes
Shot starry radiance
Stern and keen.
'Yet I to this ruler
Of fishful seas
My bolster-mate's ransom
Made bold to bear,
Of Odin's goblet
Each listening ear-mouth
'Not beauteous in seeming
My bardic fee
To ranks of heroes
In royal hall:
When I my hood-knoll
Wolf-gray of hue
For mead of Odin
From monarch gat.
'Thankful I took it,
The pit-holes black
Of my beetling brows;
Yea and that mouth
That for me bare
The poem of praise
To princely knees.
'Tooth-fence took I,
And tongue likewise,
Ears' sounding chambers
And sheltering eaves.
And better deemed I
Than brightest gold
The gift then given
By glorious king.
'There a staunch stay
Stood by my side,
One man worth many
Of meaner wights,
Mine own true friend
Whom trusty I found,
In counsels bold.
Alone us saved
Foremost of champions
From fury of king;
Friend of the monarch
He framed no lies
Within that palace
Of warlike prince.
'Of the stay of our house
Still spake he truth,
(While much he honoured
Of the son of Kveldulf,
Whom fair-haired king
Slew for a slander,
But honoured slain.
'Wrong were it if he
Who wrought me good,
Such gifts had cast
To the wasteful tract
Of the wild sea-mew,
To the surge rough-ridden
By sea-kings' steeds.
'False to my friend
Were I fairly called,
An untrue steward
Of Odin's cup;
Of praise unworthy,
If I for such good
Gave nought again.
'Now better seeth
The bard to climb
With feet poetic
The frowning steep,
And set forth open
In sight of all
The laud and honour
Of high-born chief.
'Now shall my voice-plane
Shape into song
Virtues full many
Of valiant friend.
Ready on tongue
Twofold they lie,
Yea, threefold praises
Of Thorir's son.
'First tell I forth
What far is known,
In ears of all;
How generous of mood
Men deem this lord,
Bjorn of the hearth-fire
The birchwood's bane.
'Folk bear witness
With wond'ring praise,
How to all guests
Good gifts he gives:
For Bjorn of the hearth-stone
Is blest with store
Freely and fully
By Frey and Njord.
'To him, high scion
Of Hroald's tree,
Fulness of riches
Flowing hath come;
And friends ride thither
In thronging crowd
By all wide ways
'Neath windy heaven.
'Above his ears
Around his brow
A coronal fair,
As a king, he wore.
Beloved of gods,
Beloved of men,
The warrior's friend,
The weakling's aid.
'That mark he hitteth
That most men miss;
Though money they gather,
This many lack:
For few be the bounteous
And far between,
Nor easily shafted
Are all men's spears.
'Out of the mansion
When guested and rested
In generous wise,
None with hard jest,
None with rude jeer,
None with his axe-hand
'Hater of money
Is he of the Firths,
A foe to the gold-drops
Of Draupnir born.
. . . . .
'Rings he scatters,
Riches he squanders,
Of avarice thievish
An enemy still.
. . . . .
'Long course of life
His lot hath been,
By battles broken,
Bereft of peace.
. . . . .
'Early waked I,
Word I gathered,
Toiled each morning
With speech-moulding tongue.
A proud pile built I
Of praise long-lasting
To stand unbroken
In Bragi's town.'
Table of Contents for THE SAGA OF EGIL SKALLAGRIMSSON or Egil's Saga
|Chronological Table of the Chief Events in the Saga or Connected With it|
|CHAPTER I Of Kveldulf and his sons|
|CHAPTER II Of Aulvir Hnuf|
|CHAPTER III The beginning of the rule of Harold Fairhair|
|CHAPTER IV Battle of king Harold and Audbjorn|
|CHAPTER V The king's message to Kveldulf|
|CHAPTER VI Thorolf resolves to serve the king|
|CHAPTER VII Of Bjorgolf, Brynjolf, Bard, and Hildirida|
|CHAPTER VIII Of Bard and Thorolf|
|CHAPTER IX Battle in Hafr's Firth|
|CHAPTER X Thorolf in Finmark|
|CHAPTER XI The king feasts with Thorolf|
|CHAPTER XII Hildirida's sons talk with Harold|
|CHAPTER XIII Thorgils goes to the king|
|CHAPTER XIV Thorolf again in Finmark|
|CHAPTER XV King Harold and Harek|
|CHAPTER XVI Thorolf and the king.|
|CHAPTER XVII Hildirida's sons in Finmark and at Harold's court|
|CHAPTER XVIII Thorolf's ship is taken|
|CHAPTER XIX Thorolf retaliates|
|CHAPTER XX Skallagrim's marriage|
|CHAPTER XXI Hallvard and his brother go after Thorolf|
|CHAPTER XXII Death of Thorolf Kveldulfsson|
|CHAPTER XXIII The slaying of Hildirida's sons|
|CHAPTER XXIV Kveldulf's grief|
|CHAPTER XXV Skallagrim's journey to the king|
|CHAPTER XXVI Of Guttorm|
|CHAPTER XXVII Slaying of Hallvard and Sigtrygg|
|CHAPTER XXVIII Of Skallagrim's land-taking|
|CHAPTER XXIX Of Skallagrim's industry|
|CHAPTER XXX Of the coming out of Yngvar, and of Skallagrim's iron-forging|
|CHAPTER XXXI Of Skallagrim's children|
|CHAPTER XXXII Of lord Brynjolf and Bjorn, his son|
|CHAPTER XXXIII Bjorn goes to Iceland|
|CHAPTER XXXIV Of Skallagrim and Bjorn|
|CHAPTER XXXV Thorolf goes abroad|
|CHAPTER XXXVI Of Eric Bloodaxe and Thorolf|
|CHAPTER XXXVII The journey to Bjarmaland|
|CHAPTER XXXVIII Thorolf comes out to Iceland|
|CHAPTER XXXIX Kettle Blund comes out to Iceland|
|CHAPTER XL Of Egil's and Skallagrim's games|
|CHAPTER XLI Of Bjorn|
|CHAPTER XLII Thorolf asks Asgerdr to wife|
|CHAPTER XLIII Of Aulvir and Egil|
|CHAPTER XLIV The slaying of Bard|
|CHAPTER XLV Flight of Egil|
|CHAPTER XLVI Of Thorolf's and Egil's harrying|
|CHAPTER XLVII Of the further harrying of Thorolf and Egil|
|CHAPTER XLVIII Of the banquet at earl Arnfid's|
|CHAPTER XLIX Slaying of Thorvald Proud|
|CHAPTER L Of Athelstan king of the English|
|CHAPTER LI Of Olaf King of Scots|
|CHAPTER LII Of the gathering of the host|
|CHAPTER LIII Of the fight|
|CHAPTER LIV The fall of Thorolf|
|CHAPTER LV Egil buries Thorolf|
|CHAPTER LVI Marriage of Egil|
|CHAPTER LVII Suit between Egil and Onund|
|CHAPTER LVIII Of king Eric and Egil|
|CHAPTER LIX King Eric slays his brothers|
|CHAPTER LX The slaying of Bergonund and Rognvald the king's son|
|CHAPTER LXI Death of Skallagrim|
|CHAPTER LXII Egil's voyage to England|
|CHAPTER LXIII Egil recites the poem|
|CHAPTER LXIV Egil's life is given him|
|CHAPTER LXV Egil goes to Norway|
|CHAPTER LXVI Egil and Thorstein go before the King|
|CHAPTER LXVII Egil slays Ljot the Pale|
|CHAPTER LXVIII Of Egil's journeyings|
|CHAPTER LXIX Egil comes out to Iceland|
|CHAPTER LXX Egil goes abroad|
|CHAPTER LXXI Egil's sadness|
|CHAPTER LXXII Of Arinbjorn's harrying|
|CHAPTER LXXIII Mission to Vermaland|
|CHAPTER LXXIV Journey to Vermaland|
|CHAPTER LXXV Parting of Egil and Armod|
|CHAPTER LXXVI Egil comes to landowner Alf|
|CHAPTER LXXVII Egil gathers tribute|
|CHAPTER LXXVIII Egil and his band slay twenty-five men|
|CHAPTER LXXIX Egil comes to Thorfinn's. The harrying of King Hacon|
|CHAPTER LXXX Of the marriages of Egil's daughters|
|CHAPTER LXXXI Death of Bodvar: Egil's poem thereon|
|CHAPTER LXXXII Hacon's wars and death Poem on Arinbjorn|
|CHAPTER LXXXIII Of Einar Helgi's son and Egil|
|CHAPTER LXXXIV Of Thorstein Egil's son|
|CHAPTER LXXXV Of Aunund Sjoni and Steinar his son|
|CHAPTER LXXXVI Slaying of Thrand|
|CHAPTER LXXXVII Of Egil and Aunund Sjoni|
|CHAPTER LXXXVIII Of Thorgeir|
|CHAPTER LXXXIX Thorstein goes to a feast|
|CHAPTER XC Death of Egil Skallagrim's son|
|CHAPTER XCI Grim takes the Christian faith|
|CHAPTER XCII Of Thorstein's descendants|
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