Skallagrimsson, Egil

(ca. 910-990)
   An Icelandic poet, Egil is the central figure in Egils saga, one of the major Icelandic family sagas. Egil is both the greatest poet in pre-Christian Scandinavia and an exemplary Viking warrior, a man who worshipped the Old Norse god Odin and exemplifies two of Odin's major characteristics, as he was the primary god for both poetry and war in the ancient Scandinavian pantheon. Egils saga tells the story of Egil's life in the context of the culture and political events of his times. Although most of the events reported in it have clear historical foundations, there are many mythological and supernatural details. Three of Egil's poems are included in their entirety, "HofuSlausn" (The Head Ransom), "Sonatorrek" (The Loss of the Son), and "ArinbjarnarkviSa" (The Lay of Arinbjorn). "HofuSlausn" was composed in praise of King Eirik Bloodaxe, an enemy of Egil who had him in his power; after Egil performed his poem before King Eirik and his men, the king could not kill him without injuring his own honor. "Sonatorrek" and "Arin-bjarnarkviSa" were both composed by Egil upon the accidental deaths of his two sons. Some scholars have suggested that Egils saga was written by the great Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, but there is no firm evidence.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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