"With bloody brand on-striding
My bird of bane hath followed;
My hurtling spear hath sounded
In the swift Vikings' charge.
Raged wrathfully our battle,
Ran fire o'er foemen's rooftrees;
Sound sleepeth many a warrior
Slain in the city gate."
Egil Skallagrimsson was an unstoppable Viking warrior and Skald unmatched in physical strength, skill in combat, and eloquence of verse. He spent his life sailing the seas, plundering towns, slaying his enemies, and having the sorts of adventures that would make him one of the most famous anti-heroes in Viking history.
As his name would suggest, Egil was the son of a man named Skallagrim, who was a prominent landowner and nobleman in Norway. Well shit started getting hairy for Skallagrim in Norway under King Harald, so he left and set up shop in Iceland, where Egil and his older brother Thorolf were born. Egil was strong, talkative, words-wise, and incredibly ill-tempered. His large body, broad shoulders, and thick neck were made all the more imposing by the fact that he had a large, weird-shaped head (it has been theorized that he had Paget's Disease). He first started showing signs of his sunny disposition at age 7, when he was out on the playground and some 11 year-old neighborhood bully beat the shit out of him. Rather than run away with his tail between his legs like a pussy, Egil picked up a nearby axe and dropped the fucker with one swing, setting off a family feud that ended up killing half a dozen people. Survey says: Don't fuck with Egil Skallagrimsson.
When he became old enough, Egil did what any respectable 10th century Icelandic man worth his bearskins would do and joined up with a badass Viking raiding party. One of his first destinations was a nearby island where the party was put up by a dude named Bard who was a good friend and servant of King Eric Bloodaxe of Norway. They had a big-ass keg party fiesta, and everybody got more wasted than an alcoholic Irishman on St. Patrick's Day. To Bard's surprise, after everybody was stumbling around like uncoordinated drunk celebrity debutantes, Egil was still asking for more booze. By all accounts, he had drank more than any man Bard had ever seen, and was still claiming to be thirsty. Finally, Bard decided that the only way to keep Egil from drinking him out of house and home was to poison some of his mead. Well Egil figured out what Bard was up to and decided it would be a good idea to stick the pointy part of his sword all the way into Bard's gut. This didn't sit well with Eric Bloodaxe, and if there's one thing common sense should teach you it's that you should never, ever fuck with a guy named "Bloodaxe". That same night Eric sent his goons after Egil, and Skallagrimsson had to run into the woods to avoid being captured and executed for murder.
Egil couldn't get back to his ship, as Eric had already stationed guards there to wait for him. So Egil jumped into the fucking cold-ass ocean and swam to another nearby island. He looked around for a ship, but found none. All of a sudden, he noticed that a ship full of Eric's men was headed to the island he was on. Egil wisely hid behind some bushes. The twelve men on board left three behind to guard the boat and then the rest split up into search parties to comb the island for any signs of the outlaw. As soon as the search parties had left, Egil sprung into action against the men on the boat:
"They who guarded the boat were not aware of it till Egil was upon them. He at once smote one with a death-blow; but another took to his heels, and he had to leap up something of a bank. Egil followed him with a blow cutting off his foot. The third man leapt out into the boat, and pushed off with the pole. Egil drew the boat to him with the rope, and leapt out into it. Few blows were exchanged ere Egil slew him, and pushed him overboard. Then he took oars and rowed the boat away. He went all that night and the day after, nor stayed till he came to lord Thorir's."
He had managed to avoid Bloodaxe's wrath for the time-being, but this was the beginning of a very unpleasant relationship.
The next summer, Egil headed out with his brother Thorolf and they sailed up and down the European coastline sacking cities and plundering merchant vessels. At one point, while in the kingdom of Courland, Egil and his men were ambushed by a large force and imprisoned in a dungeon. Egil's hands and feet were bound to a large pole, and his captors informed him that they would all be tortured to death the following day. That night, while the Courlanders were partying and drinking in a large dining hall, Egil managed to break free by wrenching the pole out of the ground and chewing through his bindings. He freed his comerades, broke through the door of his cell, and found the Courlanders' armory. The Vikings looted the armory, found and looted the palace's treasury, and then made their way stealtily outside with armfuls of gold and silver. However, Egil didn't feel right about this. He told his companions to wait for him as he headed back inside the palace. Once inside, he barred all the exits to the dining hall except one, and then lit the fucking place on fire. When his captors called out, "who the fuck is responsible for this goddamned fire?!", Egil responded:
'He has now the care of the fire whom you yester-even had thought least likely; nor will you wish to bake you hotter than I shall kindle; you shall have soft bath before soft bed, such as you meant to give to me and my comrades. Here now is that same Egil whom you bound hand and foot to the post in that room you shut so carefully. I will repay you your hospitality as you deserve.'
The Courlanders stupid enough to try to escape the fire were cut down by Egil as they came through the door. Everyone else burned to death. THAT'S what happens when you try to fuck a stranger in the ass, Larry.
Do you see? Do you see what happens?
So the Vikings continued to sail around looting, sacking, and hitting on babes. At one point, Eric Bloodaxe's wife, Queen Gunnhilda, sent two of her brothers out to kill Egil and his brother Thorolf. When Egil heard about this plot, he didn't do what any sensible person would and simply watch his back - he changed course, found Gunnhilda's brothers, ambushed their camp, killed every single person he found, burned their ships and stole all their plunder.
Well now the Skallagrimsson brothers realized they were in deep shit in Norway, so they sailed their crew over to England and offered their services to King Athelstan of the Britons. Athelstan was obviously pretty psyched about having an army of about 300 Vikings at his disposal and let them join up.
A few months later, King Olaf of Scotland decided to invade England, and Egil once again tasted battle. Egil and Thorolf got embroiled in combat with two Scottish Earls, and despite being outnumbered their force was able to defeat a much larger Scotch force on the battlefield; the turning point being when Thorolf impaled an Earl of Scotland on a spear and planted the end of it in the ground, causing the Earl to die in plain sight of all his men.
The next morning the main force of Olaf and Athelstan met in combat. Thorolf and Egil commanded different units, and Thorolf was flanked and killed by the Scots. Egil pulled his sword, Adder (stolen from the Courlanders) and charged forward in a crazy ass berzerker rage. He charged the nearest Scottish division, slaughtering the Earl, his color guard and anyone else who crossed him. The Earl's unit fell into a full retreat, and Egil's men gave chase, cutting down the routed Scots forces. The Scottish lines subsequently broke and King Olaf was killed in battle. Though the battle was over, Egil and his men continued pursuing the broken Scottish forces for several days before finally returning to bury Thorolf.
At the victory banquet, Egil was given two chests full of silver by the King, as well as a bunch of other sweet swag. He returned home to Norway for the winter to mourn his brother and break the news to his brother's wife Asgerdr. During the winter, Egil and Asgerdr fell in love and were married, which is actually sort of gross when you think about it.
Now Asgerdr was the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Norway. After the wedding, her and Egil moved back to Iceland to be with Skallagrim for a few years. During that time, Asgerdr's father died, and her brother-in-law had snatched up all of what (Egil believed) was her rightful inheritance. So her and Egil headed back to Norway to deal with it. Unfortunately, the brother-in-law was a dude named Bergonund, who was tight with Queen Gunnhilda, Egil's mortal enemy. So of course the court sided with Bergonund.
Now if you've been paying attention to this epic saga so far, Egil Skallagrimsson isn't the kind of guy who's going to sit back when he thinks he's being wronged. First, he sailed out to Bergonund's island and defeated him and two of his bodyguards in hand-to-hand combat. Then he got in his boat and set sail, only to notice that a ship carrying the King's son was heading towards the island. Egil crashed his boat into the King's son's ship, leapt onto the deck and took out out all thirteen men on board. He then sailed to Herdia, plundered Bergonund's household of all the inheritance he believed was his, and placed a curse on the entire ruling family of Norway before finally heading back home to Iceland.
Over the years, Egil had many other crazy fucking adventures. One day a feared berserker bastard named Ljot the Pale came to Egil's best friend's nephew and demanded to be married to his sister. The nephew refused and was challenged to a duel he had absolutely no chance of winning. Egil went along to watch the duel, and when Ljot started hulking up and bit a fucking piece off his wooden shield with his teeth, Egil started singing a song to taunt him. Ljot forgot about the nephew and challenged Egil instead. Egil stepped forward, Adder at his side, shield in hand, and his brother's sword, Dragvandill, in his other hand. They dueled, and Egil continued to sing taunting songs at him. Only about a minute or so into the battle, Egil hacked the dudes' leg off, causing him to bleed out and die like a bitch.
Another time he went after Atli the Short, the brother of Bergonund, who had taken Asgerdr's lands as inheritance from Bergonund. Well Egil was still pretty pissed off about the whole thing, so they decided to have a Pay-Per-View duel to settle the thing. They had a fierce battle at Caesar's Palace in Vegas, and Egil eventually managed to destroy Atli's shield with his sword. He then was able to strike Atli several times but couldn't pierce his armor and deal a mortal wound. The fight raged on, and Atli was actually able to break Egil's shield. Well Egil got SUPER FUCKING PISSED, threw his sword and shield down, tackled Atli like his name was fucking Brian Urlacher, bit the guy in the goddamned throat and then broke his fucking neck. This cemented his claim on Asgerdr's lands for good, since nobody would have ever fucking wanted to cross Egil after having seen that shit.
One story has Egil raiding through Saxland plundering towns wherever he could find them. At one point he was pursuing a fleeing enemy who managed to cross a rather large river and destroy the bridge behind them. Well Egil was so caught up in the chase that he leaped the dyke in one jump, but unfortunately the gap was so huge that none of his men could follow him across, and Egil was stranded on the wrong side of the river. Seeing this, the enemy turned and attacked him all at once, but Egil took out eleven warriors all by himself by strategically fighting with his back to the river.
Another tale has him heading back through a dense, treacherous rocky forest in Vermaland after a mission collecting tribute for his king when Egil and his men were ambushed by about fifteen brigands. Egil ran up and hacks eight of them up single-handedly in about fifteen seconds, and then he started hurling rocks Orel Hershiser-style at the other seven guys, killing three of them. The survivors ran off and returned with even more of their buddies. In the ensuing battle, Egil was jumped by eleven guys at once and managed to hack them all to pieces. All in all, Egil and his Viking warriors took out twenty-five brigands without losing a single man.
After his many years of adventuring, drinking, and singing, he returned to Iceland to raise his four children, share his wisdom with travelers, heal the sick and settle the occasional disputes. He accumulated massive amounts of wealth and property in his life and lived as royalty until he died of illness at the age of 80.
Egil Skallagrimsson had an epic life as a Viking warrior and poet of unrivaled badassitude. He was strong, he was ugly, his songs and poems are today considered to be among the best and most eloquent of the medieval Scandanavian verses, and his deeds and actions unparalleled among other warriors from his time. He kicked ass, he took names, he didn't take shit from anybody for any reason ever, and he lived to tell the tale. He's deserving of a spot in the Halls of Valhalla as well as the Hall of Badassitude.
"One with eight I battled
Eleven faced I twice,
Made for wolf a meal,
Myself the bane of all.
Shields shook by sword-strokes
Smitten fast and furious;
Angry fire forth-flashing
Flew my ashen spear.
Egil Skallagrimsson and the Viking Ideal
The Complete Text of Egil's Saga
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