Egill Skallagrímsson

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Egill with his dead son Böðvar on his lap, monument in Skallagrímsgarður in Borgarnes

Egill Skallagrímsson (also Egill Skalla-Grímsson ; * 910 in Iceland , † around 990 ) was a skald , chief and Viking . His existence is mentioned in the historical land register , some of his poems have been preserved in manuscripts, but his life can only be deduced from a literary source, which is why he has to be regarded as a semi-literary figure.

Egill was born in Iceland as the son of a Goden , d. H. of a clan chief, whose name is also mentioned in the land register, the most important Icelandic source for the settlement of the island in the 9th and 10th centuries (see History of Iceland ). Accordingly, Egill is the son of Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson and Bera Yngvarsdóttir and the grandson of Kveld-Úlfr (in English evening wolf).

To the saga of Egill

The Egils saga is one of the Icelandic sagas (isl. Íslendingasögur), which are among the most important works of medieval European literature. They depict the life of Icelanders from the 9th to the 11th century, but were only put into writing about 200 years later.

The saga of Egill , written by an anonymous author and attributed by some researchers to Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241), tells of Egill's actions. It extends over a long period of time. The story begins in Norway with the life of Egil's grandfather Úlfur called Kveld-Úlfur, includes the life of his father Skalla-Grímur, Egill's childhood, his travels to Scandinavia and England , his struggles, his old age and the further history of his family.

Egill is still very popular in Iceland.

Important life stages according to the saga of Egill

The main source of the poet's life is this literary work. As is common with such sources, the data must be viewed with caution. Much is certainly an invention.

When Egill's father, Skallagrímur, arrived in Iceland, he settled in Borg (probably Borg á Mýrum ) near Borgarnes , at the place where his father's coffin was driven ashore. Skallagrímur was a famous warrior of the Vikings and an enemy of King Harald Fairhair of Norway ( Haraldur konungur hinn hárfagri ).

If the saga is to be believed, Egill turned out to be an early genius and wrote his first poem at the age of three.

Egill also appeared to be extraordinarily aggressive even for Viking sons early on. The saga reports that he committed his first murder at the age of 7. Another boy had unfairly let him lose what he thought was a ball game. Egill went home, came back with an ax, and killed the other boy.

However, his father was similarly irascible and vengeful. He almost killed his own son when he lost to him at the ball game. The boy owed his life only to the courageous maid Brák intervening. The maid, on the other hand, died immediately after her father chased her into the Borgarfjörður fjord and threw a stone at her.

As a young adult, Egill went to Norway, as custom required of the sons of wealthy Icelandic families (roughly comparable to the squire of German aristocratic society). The king valued him for his bravery and poetry. After several adventures there, Egill makes Queen Gunnhildr an enemy. When King Harald Fairhair dies, Egill is declared an outlaw by his successor in Norway and returns to Iceland after defeating several persecutors.

He fought victoriously in the battle of Brunanburh in 937 in the ranks of the English king Æthelstans .

In Iceland, Egill has five children with his wife Ásgerðr Björnsdóttir. When two of his sons die in quick succession (Gunnar and Böðvar), Egill falls into a depression and has suicidal thoughts. It is only thanks to the clever intervention of his daughter Þorgerðr that he ultimately rather processed his grief in a poem called Sonatorrek (The Mourning for the Sons) and carried on with his life. A monument by Ásmundur Sveinsson stands at the Borg í Mýrum farm near Borgarnes, which still exists today .

The saga also reports that Egill reached an old age and finally lived with his niece Þórdís, the daughter of Egill's brother Þórólfur, and her husband Grim in Mosfellsbær near what is now Reykjavík . One day he was traveling with 2 slaves, climbed a mountain, there he is said to have buried a silver treasure in a ravine, which many have searched in vain because he killed both slaves.

Theory of Egill's possible illness

American scientist Jesse L. Byock published a theory that Egill Skallagrímsson suffered from osteodystrophia deformans , a disease that led to excessive bone growth on the skull. This was reported in the March 1995 issue of Spectrum of Science . The large Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið used this report for their April Fool's joke that year .

Egil's children with Ásgerður Björnsdóttir

  • Þorgerður Egilsdóttir
  • Bera Egilsdóttir
  • Böðvar Egilsson
  • Gunnar Egilsson
  • Þorsteinn Egilsson


Web links

Commons : Egill Skallagrímsson  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files