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Egil Skallagrimsson, the subject of this saga, is Exhibit A. At the age of 7 or 6 , while playing a game of Viking ball whatever that is , Egil gets knocked aside by a 12 year old. Egil then goes home, gets a battle axe, returns to the game, and then buries that axe in the offending 12 year old's head. Kind of like coming in off the sidelines to make a tackle -- Viking style. A Viking scrum of sorts erupts, with bodies, blood, etc. But Poets, Viking ones at least, could be genuine bad asses.

But after things settle down, Mom sees that her son has real potential as a Viking! Actually I jumped ahead a bit. Egil's Saga spans the years - AD. Egil himself doesn't show up until about a third of the way or more into the story. What precedes Egil arrival is a complicated story about Harald the Fair-hair's conquest of Norway, and the resulting fall out that leads to various dissidents establishing themselves in Iceland.

At times this can be hard to follow, as endless Thorfinns, Thorwolfs, Thorwhatevers, come and go. That can be a drag on your reading, but only if you let it. Murder, revenge, house burnings, heads chopped, eyes ripped out. It's like Deadwood with broad swords.

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Jacking things up considerably is the compressed, laconic prose. There is more going on in these brief chapters than sometimes happens in novels. Personally, I find the sagas to be some of the most demanding -- but also rewarding reading out there. And Egil's Saga is considered to be among the very best of the sagas. Egil himself is a paradox. When you first meet him, you have to wonder if he's insane see above. From early on age 3 he's tagged as a poet a good thing in Viking culture. He's often prone to deep depressions, so deep that it had me wondering if he wasn't bi-polar.

As it turns out, he's not insane though he does have a temper. He's well liked by many. He's also huge, a bear of a man, and ugly as hell. Honor is a big deal for Egil, especially when it comes to property disputes. On that Egil often will place himself in great personal danger in order to argue his case before the King who has branded him an outlaw.

You never feel Egil is greedy in these legal wranglings. He simply feels he's been wronged which, when it comes to these disputes, is true. Egil can also be extremely cruel, killing a host for not being forthcoming with his ale, and later a child of the King. And then there's the poetry. I thought most of it pretty good, with feasting ravens and wolves and swords singing it's easy to see why Ted Hughes liked the sagas so much.

One of my favorites was while!!! Egil was dispatching a big bully. After he finished the bully off, he sang about how he chopped off his leg. More seriously, as Egil gets older, he loses two sons in a short period of time. I found his poem to mark these losses to be very moving, and timeless in its appeal. I think this poem could have a place in any quality anthology. Overall Egil's Saga is a great read, just don't get bogged down too much with the names.

The general "thrust s " of the story should be apparent.

ISBN 10: 0140447709

Oct 06, Jim rated it it was amazing Shelves: middle-ages , iceland , poetry , reread. Egil Skallagrimsson, his father Skallagrim Kvedulfsen, and his father Kvedulf all ran afoul of the king who, with his reliance on lies told by informants, outlawed them. Secondly, the hero of the saga, Egil Skallagrimsson, spends most of Of all the Sagas of Icelanders, Egil's Saga , reputedly by Snorri Sturluson , differs from the others I have read in two respects.

Only a small fraction of the tale takes place around Egil's farm at Borg i Myrum in Borgarfjord, and that mostly at the end, when the tale moves from Egil to his son Thorstein, who has a feud with Steinar, who decides to allow his livestock to feed on the former's land. Like many of the figures in the Sagas of Icelanders, Egil Skallagrimsson was a historical person, a poet and a warrior who frequently butted heads with the kings of Norway, and who escaped numerous attempts to kill him.

At one point, he fights a Swedish berserker named Ljot and kills him.

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Then, being the poet he is, he memorializes his own deed: Let's strike with a sword-flash To shatter the shield; To batter the blade Till the enemy bleeds; Play with the pale man [Ljot], Then pitch him to earth; Stop his mouth with steel, And serve him up as carrion. In general, Egil's poems in this edition are far more readable than other Viking poems that are full of kennings , those annoying to me, anyway circumlocutions for such simple words as "man," "woman," and "ship" that tend to predominate.

After one battle in England, when Egil fought alongside King Athelstan, he ends one of his verses with the grim line: "No ravens went hungry. It's odd to see a warrior die of old age in any Icelandic saga. This is one of the five essential sagas that are critical for an understanding of the genre. All are available in Penguin editions and deserve a read. Feb 13, Abi rated it it was amazing Shelves: favourites , iceland , classical-and-medieval.

I love this one. It's the first one I read. Egil's is one of the funniest sagas, in my opinion. I love the bit when Egil kills one of his father's servants when he's about 8 and his father doesn't say anything, 'but relations between the two were a little strained' or something like that. Plenty of viking-style hijinks vomiting in people's faces, murderi I love this one.

Plenty of viking-style hijinks vomiting in people's faces, murdering people, writing poetry to save your life. Egil's a really interesting character as well; he's an amazing poet we're told; the translated examples probably don't do him justice capable of great loyalty and generosity but he's also incredibly bad tempered and violent. In some ways he's the pre-Christian ideal, just as Njal is the post-conversion ideal. Aug 04, Esmay rated it did not like it. May 02, Adam McPhee rated it it was amazing Shelves: scandinavia , the-medieval-world.

Viking, warrior, farmer, poet. As a boy, Egil plays a ball game where one of the older boys picks on him. Egil goes home, grabs an axe, comes back and drives it into the boy's head. A battle ensues and seven people die. Egil's father is unimpressed, but his mother thinks it a sure sign that he'll become a great viking. As an adult, Egil spends his time settling pillaging Europe, settling Iceland, fighting for the english, duelling and finding reasons to cause trouble for the king of Norway.

The vik Viking, warrior, farmer, poet. The viking pillaging is pretty amazing. Maybe the platonic ideal of a viking raid. He also kills a berserker in a duel by dropping his weapons and biting the guy in the throat. And does rune magic. And so many other amazing things. He is a bit of a dickhead though. Wouldn't want to meet him in real life. Even in his old age, he's a baddass: he wants to go the Althing and throw his silver into the crowd and cause a riot.

His children forbid him, so instead he hides it in a fjord. He leaves behind a long line of ugly children. Years later a priest finds his skeleton while building a church and is unable to split his skull, proving how tough he was in life. The sagas are full of amazing names, and this one might be the best. First there's Skallagrim's party to go meet the king. It is worth quoting in full, as it puts the Fellowship of the Ring to shame: Skallagrim prepared for this journey and chose the strongest and boldest of his men and neighbors to go with him.

There was a man named Ani, a wealthy farmer; another called Grani, and Grimolf and his brother Grim, who lived on Skallagrim's farm, and the brothers Thorbjorn Hunchback and Thord Hobbler. They were known as Thorarna's sons -- she lived near Skallagrim and was a sorceress. Hobbler was a coal-biter. Other men in the band were Thorir the Giant and his brother Thorgeir Earth-long, a hermit called Odd and a freeman called Gris. In all there were twelve men in the party, all outstandingly powerful men, and many of them were shapeshifters.

Best lines: view spoiler [ 1. When Kveldulf heard about the death of his son Thorolf, he was so saddened by the news that he took to his bed, overcome by grief and old age. Skallagrim went to see him regularaly and tried to talk him round. He told him to take heart, saying that nothing was less becoming to him than to be bedridden.


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In each province King Harald took over all the estates and all the land, habited or uninhabited, and even the sea and lakes. All the farmers were made his tenants, and everyone who worked the forests and dried salt, or hunted on land or at sea, was made to pay tribute to him. After that he intended to go north and take on to Naumdal and take on the brothers Herlaug and Hrollaug, who were kings there, but when they heard that he was on the way, Herlaug and eleven of his men went into the mound the had spend the last three years building, and had it closed upon them.

Then the King said, 'Such a shame that Thorolf seems to be disloyal and to want to kill me. It is said that people who could take on the character of animals, or went berserk, became so strong in this state that no one was a match for them, but also that just after it wore off they were left weaker than usual.

Kveldulf was the same, so that when the frenzy wore off he felt exhausted by the effort he had made, and was rendered completely powerless and had to lie down and rest.

Skallagrim and Bera had many children, but the first ones all died. Then they had a son who was sprinkled with water and given the name Thorolf. You're enough trouble when you're sober. Not everyone agreed that he was not a shapeshifter.

Egil's Saga

In the woods, Egil stopped and said, 'This is a poor and cowardly raid. We have stolen all the farmer's wealth without his knowing. Such shame will never befall us. Let's go back to the farm and let people know what has happened. Egil is at a feast and there's a man assigned to keep his horn full of ale. He is drinking for himself and for his companions who have started to pass out. Egil started to feel like he would not be able to go on like this. He stood up and walked across the floor to where Armod was sitting, seized him by the shoulders and thrust him up against a wall-post. Then Egil spewed a torrent of vomit that gushed all over Armod's face, filling his eyes and nostrils and mouth and pouring down his beard and chest.

Armod was close to choking, and when he managed to let out his breath, a jet of vomit gushed out with it. All Armod's men who were there said Egil had done a base and despicable deed by not going outside when he needed to vomit, but had made a spectacle of himself in the drinking-room instead.

Egil said, 'don't blame me for following the master of the house's example. He's spewing his guts up just as much as I am. Armod leapt to his feet and ran out, but Egil asked for more to drink. The next day Egil breaks into Armod's room and confronts him in front of his wife and daughter, because Armod had originally served Egil curds and hadn't let on that there was ale until late into the night. He gouges out Armod's eyes using his finger, leaving it hanging.

He also cuts off Armod's beard. Jun 03, Shane rated it really liked it. A blood-soaked history of Egil and his family as they follow the path of the first settlers of Iceland who came from Norway after a detour to Ireland to pick up slave women.


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No one knows who wrote this particular saga, but it is often credited to a 13th century scholar, Snorri Sturlusson, who was murdered by the King of Norway for failing to bring the Icelandic fiefdoms under Norwegian rule. Egil is a brave, homicidal maniac; he drinks alcohol at the age of three, kills a kid who beat him at sport at age seven, is moody and vengeful, dangerous and unpredictable, is a poet who laments the death of his son with heartrending verse, and who calls is as it is even in the face of the king.

An antique anti-hero! Circling him are bands of independent farmers and sycophantic followers who succumb to his tithes and taxes. And those who fall foul of the king are forced to flee to distant, unexplored lands like Greenland and Iceland, and even to the eastern shores of Canada called Vineland at the time. The family moves to Iceland, an uninhabited island recently settled by Norwegians and their Celtic slaves, where Egil is born. Young Egil, seeking adventure, becomes a Viking marauder and has a profitable life of raiding and robbing along the English and Norwegian coasts, earning the loyalty of the English king but further enraging the Norwegian one.

What follows is a series of adventures and misadventures of Egil as he builds and stores his wealth in Iceland and has many skirmishes with Harald and successor, Eirik, in his bid to regain the forsaken family lands in Norway. The Viking code of honour is simple: a Plundering and raiding is the order of business, even extending to the land, for Iceland is soon denuded of its sparse vegetation by the Vikings for the stoking of their fires and the making of their longboats. Brides are traded by fathers to prospective grooms for a price. The narrative style of the saga is Biblical and feelings are shown by behaviour, sometimes calculating, sometimes illogical.

The mix of prose and poetry is another interesting feature, the latter is used often to reveal character, provide back story or set the scene. Reading the many exploits of Egil, including his final foray to aid his son, I could see the evolution of the wild western novel in this saga. And like a Wild West saga which wraps up all the loose ends, punishes the bad guys, and rewards the good guys, our homicidal hero, Egil, decides to bequeath his ill gotten gains to society in a most unusual manner, not unlike his father Skallagrim before him.

You gotta like this guy, flawed though he is. Sep 17, Jade Heslin rated it did not like it. This is the oldest and most boring thing I have ever read. Every chapter begins with a completely unnecessary family history. You store about different names, odd of them being Thor-something: Thorgild, Thorolf, Thorsson, Thort-your-fucking-life-out-mate - and the majority of them never reappear!

The reviews I had seen prior to reading this made me think it was going to be a good story. Egil sounded really bad-ass. I understand that the story of Egil was first written in the 13th Century, and god knows how many years the tale had been told by word-of-mouth, before this, but surely that gave storytellers the perfect opportunity to jazz it up a bit. Get rid of all the crap names and dally with the truth a little bit.

Nothing actually happens of any note.

The back of the book suggested that there would be friction between two brothers who loved the same woman. That might be some scandalous Jeremy Kyle shit these days, but years ago it was just the done thing, especially in a small Icelandic community. I got absolutely nothing from reading this. Usually if I find a book dull, I will have at least picked up a few nuggets of knowledge along the way. All this has taught me is to never go near an Icelandic saga again. Dec 29, Maggie added it. Tolkein stole the part where there's an ambush in the forrest and the two paths, one safe but slow, the other fast but dangerous.

It took away some of Tolkein's magic for me. But at the same time, I wanted to yell, Gandalf! Look out! Oh wait, he's not in this one. I liked the idea of the Norse people without kings being the ones who would stand up to the foreign kings. Disclaimer:A readable copy. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. Pages can include considerable notes-in pen or highlighter-but the notes cannot obscure the text. Dust jacket quality is not guaranteed. London: Penguin Books Ltd. Egil's Saga tells the story of the long and brutal life of tenth-century warrior-poet and farmer Egil Skallagrimsson: a morally ambiguous character who was at once the composer of intricately beautiful poetry, and a physical grotesque capable of staggering brutality.

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Egil's Saga

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