Egil was born in Iceland around 910 A.D., the son of Skalla-Grimir Kveldulfsson and Bera Yngvarsdottir. At the age of three it is said he composed his first poem. At the tender age of six he killed the boy Grim Helgsson, the first of many. In Norway, as a young man, he married his cousin Asgerd. After that his adventures lead him just about everywhere in the Scandinavian world. He goes with Thorolf on a Viking expedition in the Baltic, fights in Sweden, England, Saxony and Friesland. He was so vicious that the King of Norway declared him an outlaw. One of my favorite moments in his saga is when he kills the beserker, Ljot the Pale - Face, in a one on one battle to the death. Egil, "stood in", for Fidgeir, who Ljot deemed,"less then worthy", as an opponent.
From Egil's Saga:
The foul wolf - feeder
Fell flat on the ground
The leg of Ljot
Lanced off by the bard.
This poet gave Fidgeir peace
But seeks no payment,
This play with the Pale - Face
Was a pleasure to men.
After years of fighting Egil returned to his family in Iceland, (He had five children, though I wonder how he found the time), where he remained a powerful and respected man. Before dying in his mid - eighties he buried his treasure near Mossfellbaer, then killed his servant in a last act of violence.
One disturbing fact is that Egil's bones were said to have been re-buried at a Catholic church at Mosfell. Under the altar they found some human bones , much bigger than ordinary bones, and the people were confident that these belonged to Egil Skallagrimsson. If this is true it would be a disgrace to the memory of a man who believed only in the old Gods. Many of his poems contain references to Them including this angry rage:
May the Gods get rid
Of this ruling robber,
Let the heavens hang him
for highway robbery !
May Odin and the others,
Frey and Njord, show Their anger
To this enemy of ease
And order at assemblies.
Tommorrow I will honor him for the great warrior and poet that he was. With axe and sword and shield upon my altar I will call out strong words of praise for this great Beserker of the Viking age. I will ask the Gods and Goddesses to look after this warrior - poet, for he was the best of the best of his age. Then I will toast him again and again for his mighty exploits and deeds.
To those who have never read Egil's Saga I implore you to obtain a copy and sit down for quite a wild ride ! It is one of the longer Sagas but well worth the time and effort. Reading his saga is also another wonderful way to honor this great warrior - poet of the Viking Age. I raise my horn to you Egil Skallagrimsson. Skal great warrior !
*Note: I use the single," L " spelling of his name found in the Penguin Classic edition, translated by Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards. Some prefer," Egill with two "LL's". Neither spelling changes the great deeds of a great man so use which ever you prefer.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !