Sagas & Legends
It is now more than thirty years since Dasent by the story of Burnt Njal delighted
many readers and awakened in England an interest in the Icelandic Sagas. The introduction
to Burnt Njal trats ably and fully of Icelandic history and literature, pointing
out their especial value to us Englishmen. And this the same author has further
done in his introduction to Vigusson's Dictionary. Other Sagas have since been
made accessible in English: e.g., the story of Gisli the outlaw, by Dasent;
Grettir's Saga, by Magnusson and Morris; and recently some others in the series
entitled 'The Saga Library.'
Dasent put before us the best first, for of Iceland's Sagas the Njala undoubtedly
bears the palm. But the next best has hitherto not been open to English readers—the
Egilssaga to wit. Second only to the Njala in interest and merit is the Egla,
and second (in my judgement) after no long interval. For though no one character
enlists our sympathy in Egil's story so much as does the wise and good Njal so
underservedly cut off, yet the whole story is in stle and force little, if at
all, inferior. Nay it has more variety of scene and adventure, more points of
contact with history, than has the Njala; it is to Englishmen especially interesting,
as one part of it is much concerned with England. The narrative takes us to many
lands; all over Norway, to Sweden, to Finmark, and the lands beyond, Kvenland,
Bjarmaland, the shores of the White Sea; in company with the Vikings we go 'the
eastward way' to the Baltic, to Courland in Russia; we visit Holland, Friesland,
Jutland; [iv] westwards and southwestwards we cruise about Shetland, the Orkneys,
Scotland; England is reached by our hero Egil; York is the scene of his most perilous
venture; he comes even as far as London.
The earlier part of the Saga, the scene of which is in Norway, with the account
of Harold Fairhair's obtaining sole dominion there, is of great interest, and
agrees with other accounts of the same. It is well known that Harold's tyranny
(as they deemed it) drove many Norsemen of good familyto seek Iceland and freedom.
Among these were Egil's grandfather and father. We have a full account of their
settlement in the island, whither as yet few had gone, and where land was to be
had for the taking, but hard work was needed. We read of these early pioneers'
industries—their farming, smithying, fishing on sea and river, seal-hunting, whaling,
egg-gathering. Minute descriptions there are of the island, particularly of its
western coast, its firths, nesses, rivers, fells.
No reader of this Saga can for a moment doubt the truthfulness of the picture
given of life and manners at that time. A seafaring race were those Norsemen,
both for trade in their ships of burden and for freebooting in their long ships;
bold and skilful mariners they are seen to be. We read of a winter sledging journey
in one most adventurous episode. There are battles, some of great moment, by sea
and by land. One of the latter, the battle of Vinheath, in England, is told with
much detail, and is (one may venture to say) as vivid an account of a battle as
can be found anywhere in any language. There are single combats or wagers of battle,
about the manner and terms of which we learn much that is noteworthy. There are
also lawsuits in Norway, and, towards the end of the story, one in Iceland, whence
we learn that the emigrants carried out with them and established their civilization
with all the machinery of courts and legal procedure. There is less litigation
in the Egla than in the Njala, but few readers will regret this, for, if there
be anything in the story of Burnt Njal which one would be inclined to skip, it
is some of the long law-pleadings.
The home life of the North is in this Saga graphically set [v] before us. We see
the men at their banquets; mighty drinkings they had, with curious manners and
rules. There are feasts at harvest, at Yule-tide; they exchange visits at each
other's houses; hospitality is universal; weddings there are, burials. Of their
halls, the arrangement thereof, their order of sitting, their armour hanging ready
above the warriors, we can from scenes in this story form a complete idea. We
witness their amusements, their trials of strength; a certain game at ball is
described in detail.
Of their religion perhaps we do not read so much in the Egla as might be expected.
They were still heathens, though Christianity was prevailing in the countries
around. That the Norwegians and Icelanders were familiar with their own theology
and mythology is, however, plain; their knowledge of it is constantly assumed
in the poetry. Of priests the Egilssaga tells us, and of temples, and one great
religious gathering isdescribed. There is not much of the marvellous or supernatural
in this Saga: no ghost, as in Grettir's Saga. Some superstitions appear: a belief
in magic and spells, in the force of runes graved rightly or wrongly. Several
women are spoken of as possessing magic skill, especially queen Gunnhilda, who
on one memorable occasion exercises all but fatally for Egil her power of shape-changing.
There is one remarkable instance of a solemn spoken and written curse, with very
curious accompaniments. But upon the whole little happens that is beyond fair
probability, or that does not spring from natural causes. Although, as we have
seen, Egil and his comrades were not Christians, the Christian faith is incidentally
mentioned as prevailing in England, and towards the end of the Saga we read that
Thorstein, Egil's youngest son, became eventually a Christian.
The characters in the Egilssaga are well marked and forcibly drawn. In the house
of Kveldulf, old Kveldulf himself, Thorolf the elder, Skallagrim, Egil, stand
forth as real men with characters well-sustained throughout. Outside the family
king Harold is well drawn, the able ruler, generous in much, but suspicious, as
a tyrant must needs be. His son Eric is violent, but weaker, and swayed by his
wife Gunnhilda, who is to him somewhat as Jezebel [vi] was to Ahab. Arinbjorn
is perhaps the noblest character in the story, the brave, generous, true friend.
But the reader will estimate these and others for himself; of the hero who gives
his name to the Saga a few words will not be out of place. Egil certainly must
have been a remarkable man. Strong in body beyond his fllows, he was no less uncommonly
gifted in mind, a poet as well as a soldier. Brave he was even to foolhardiness,
yet wary withal and prudent; full of resource in danger, never giving up the game
however desperate; a born leader, liked and trusted by his men. His character
has its unpleasant side; he was headstrong, brutal at times when provoked, determined
to have his own way, and overbearing in pursuit of it. Yet there is nothing mean
or little about him; he does not engage in petty quarrels, he helps or hinders
kings and great chiefs. He is outspoken and truthful, and his ire is especially
stirred by meanness and falsehood in others. To women he is pleasant and courteous,
as appears on several occasions. For the sake of his friend Arinbjorn and his
kin he risks his life more than once.
That the bad points in Egil's character are not screened is surely one proof of
the truthfulness of the Saga-writer; a mere eulogist would have blazoned forth
all his hero's noble exploits, but veiled the other side, and hardly would anyone
inventing a fictitious character have put such dark blots in it. But some of Egil's
faults were rather those of his time than of himself. A careful reading of the
whole Saga leaves us with a more favourable opinion of Egil than we form at the
beginning of his life. For most readers will (I think) at the first dislike Egil;
they will agree with his father Skallagrim and his elder brother Thorolf, who
had not much affection for the boy. But as the story goes on, one cannot but admire
his bravery, his resource, his indomitable resolution, his readiness to face danger,
not only for himself, but for others whom he really prized.
The Egla contains many wonderfully good descriptive passages of the fjords, sounds,
and islands of the North. An instance is chapter xlv., which relates Egil's first
scape from Eric. A most dramatic scene is that where Skallagrim [vii] goes before
king Harold in chapter xxv. So is chapter lxii., where Egil and Arinbjorn are
before king Eric Bloodaxe in York. Very striking is the interview between Egil
and his daughter Thorgerdr, after Bodvar's death, in chapter lxxi. Looking at
the vigour and beauty of the style in these and other passages, we agree with
the judgment in Thordarson's preface, that the Egilssaga was put into writing
'in the golden age of Icelandic literature.' And for these excellencies we must
remember to give due credit and admiration to the Saga-writer. For though he was
(as is generally believed) describing real men, real scenes, real characters,
yet it is not everyone who, having the matter to hand, can put it together and
express it so well.
About the truthfulness and historical value of the Egla there has been some discussion
and difference of opinion. Is it in the main a true family history, or a romance?
How long after the events recorded was it written? And by whom? These questions
have een debated by northern scholars, Icelanders and others. The balance of authority
and reason appears to be very much in favour of the general truthfulness of the
story. The writer surely wrote down the facts as he heard or read them, not departing
from the truth as he knew it or believed it. But on this question let us hear
what the northern editors say.
Finnur Jónsson (Copenhagen, 1888) gives his judgement thus:
'1. The Saga in what concerns persons and events in Iceland and Norway may be
considered true, with small and unimportant exceptions.
2. For what happens in other countries it cannot be reckoned quite trustworthy.
3. Its chronology is in several places faulty, which is not to be wondered at.
4. It shows extensive geographical knowledge, insight into Icelandic and Norse
law and culture.
5. The composer had partly written sources of information, partly family traditions
of the Moormen to go upon, with much of Egil's verses and poems.
6. He is a master in the art of telling a story and delineating character.
7. He must have lived on the Borgar-firth.'
[viii] The preface to Thordarson's edition says:
'The Saga agrees well with other Icelandic Sagas, and may be reckoned as one of
the most truthful; but when it is considered that it was kept in men's memory
for a very long time—the events happening before the year 1000, and the story
not being put into writing till near the end of the twelfth century—naturally
every syllable of it will not be true. Neither in this, however, nor in any of
the best Icelandic Sagas do the writers thereof deliberately assert untruth or
mean to exaggerate.'
To the authority and judgment of these scholars an Englishman can add little.
Only, as regards historical events foreign to Iceland and Norway, it may b remarked
that no one could reasonable expect Icelanders of the eleventh and twelgth centuries
to be infallible about them. In the Egilssaga what is said about foreign countries
appears generally like truth. What we read about England, e.g., and what
passed there at the beginning of Athelstan's reign, agrees fairly with what we
know of that time from history; some facts are undoubtedly true, none palpable
untrue, though there are details which present some difficulty. But these will
be better discussed in a note on that part of the Saga.
The date of the writing of Egilssaga is put between 1160 and 1200; probably near
to the latter date. In chapter xc. We read of the taking up of Egil's supposed
bones in the time of Skapti the priest. He is known to have been priest from 1143
onwards. Thordarson's preface suggests as a possible author Einar Skulason. He
was a descendent of Egil, being grandson of the grandson of Thorstein Egilsson;
he traveled much, knew well both Norway and Iceland, and was a good skald; he
lived till late in the twelfth century. But that he was the author is but a guess.
Of the Egilssaga there are several editions. For this translation the following
have been used: The large edition, with a Latin translation (Havniæ, mdcccix);
Einar Thordarson's (Reykjavík, 1856); Finnur Jónsson's (Copenhagen, 1888). Also
Petersen's Swedish translation (1862). The text of Thordarson's little book has
been followed in the main; Jónsson's differs from it in many places, being [ix]
generally shorter. Into the critical merits of these texts I am not competent
to enter; the variations are of no importance to the story or to an English reader.
The prose of the Saga presents few difficulties to a translator. Icelandic prose,
as regards order of words, is simple, and runs naturally enough into English.
The sentences are mostly short and plain. In Egilssaga the style for Icelandic
is pronounced by good authorities to be of the best; the translator can only hope
that in its English dress it may not have lost all its attractiveness.
Of the verse in this Saga, and of the principles followed in translating it, something
must be said; for peculiar difficulties beset the translator of Icelandic verses.
Icelandic poetry differs entirely from Icelandic prose. Whereas the prose is simple,
the poetry is highly artificial. Especially so are the detached staves or stanzas
sprinkled throughout the Sagas. Of such the Egla has a great number, mostly Egil's
own verses; and, as he is accounted one of the best of Iceland's ancient skalds,
they are an interesting part of the Saga and could not be omitted. But in rendering
them into English one meets with perplexing difficulties.
These staves consist nearly always of eight lines each, made up of two sets of
four lines, the sense being usually complete in each quatrain. As regards metre,
the lines are short, about of a length, not exactly so in syllables, but alike
in rhythm and number of accented syllables. No doubt more exact rules about their
metre are discoverable and known to Icelanders, but for the English reader the
above description will suffice. The lines to not rhyme, or very seldom do so,
and (I believe) rhyme in these detached stanzas is looked on as a mark of a later
date than the tenth century. The place of rhyme is taken by alliteration of initials.
That is to say, in the second line must be repeated the same initial consonant
that has been used twice (or at least once) in the first line, or else a vowel
must be so repeated. Anyone familiar with old English or Saxon verses (such as
occur in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, e.g., the battle of Brunanburh) will
understand the kind of alliteration meant.
Now, a translator has to choose between keeping this [x] form as far as he may,
or changing it into rhyme with strict syllabic metre. As the former method of
alliteration with some license as to length of line by unaccented syllables allows
of a closer rendering of the original, it has been preferred.
But there are several puzzles to solve in icelandic verse. There is often a curiously
complex order of words, an order that sometimes renders a sentence unconstruable
at first sight even to one accustomed to the involutions of Latin and German.
Were it not for the consentient authority of Scandinavian interpreters, I could
never have imagind words to be meant so out of the order in which they are written.
To keep their rules of alliterative sound, the skalds broke those of grammatical
sense. The subjoined examples (by no means extreme ones—will give an idea of the
Icelandic practice in this kind.
(1) 'Now hath the lord of earth slain falls the land under the descendent of Ella
forward in fight of rule head-stem three princes.'
Which being interpreted is: 'Now hath the lord of earth, forward in fight, head-stem,
slain three princes: the land falls under the rule of the descendant of Ella.'
(2) 'Let listen pleased to the stream of long-haired friend of altars take heed
thane of silence thy people the king's of mine.'
Interpreted: 'Let the king's thane listen pleased to the stream of my long-haired
altar-friend (= to the stream of song from Odin); let the people take heed of
The consenting voice of three gives (with hardly a variation in detail) these
explanations. Now, these examples in their original order sound much as if Scott
had written in the opening of the 'Lady of the Lake':
'At eve had drunk where danced
The stag the moon on Monan's rill.'
This feature of Icelandic verse plainly cannot be kept, nor is it worth keeping.
We must presume that somehow the hearers (or most of them) did understand what
was sung, but no English hearer or reader could understand his own language so
treated. A translator must give up this artificial order. But this peculiarity,
besides making the sense hard [xi] to unravel, may also cause additional trouble
to the translator, who has to make new alliterations in place of old ones, that
were perhaps ready to hand, but have disappeared by the rearranging of the words
into something intelligible.
But the most curious characteristic of Icelandic poetry and the most difficult
to deal with is the 'kenning,' as it is called. It means 'a mark of recognition';
kennings are descriptive names or periphrases. Such phraseology we find, to some
extent, in all ancient poetry, but it is most artificial in the Northern poets.
It seems a principle with them seldom to call a thing or person by its plain name,
but to use a periphrasis. These kennings are of very different kinds. Sometimes
they are really poetical descriptions, figurative, but easily understood and appreciated,
and apposite to the passage in which they occur. For instance, anyone can understand
a sword in action being called a 'wound-snake' or 'wound-wolf,' arrows flying
from the bowstring 'wound-bees,' a shield a 'rimmed moon,' a ship 'sea-swan,'
sea-horse 'sea-king's steed.' 'Willow-render' (tree-render) for wind recalls the
silvifraga flabra of Lucretius. But some kennings are extraordinary, especially
when compound, as they often are. 'Dale-fish,' for example, is a curious roundabout
for 'serpent'; then built upon this we find 'dale-fish mercy,' for the season
that cheers or enlivens the serpent, i.e., 'summer.' We know that 'it is
the bright day that brings forth the adder,' but very cumbrous is this kenning
used in a verse of the Egla simply to mark the time of an exploit. Numerous are
the kennings for 'gold,' 'man,' 'woman,' nor are these (as far as one can see)
used with any reference to the fitness of each for the occasion.
Again, some of the kennings seem meant to be rather humorous than what we should
call poetical, as when the head is 'hat-knoll,' 'hat-stall'; the eyes 'brow-pits';
the tongue 'song-pounder.' And certainly some were purposely enigmatical, meant
to tax the ingenuity of the hearer to solve. Names of persons are hidden. Egil
is supposed once to do this with the name of a woman; it is hidden so carefully
that his friend Arinbjorn cannot discover it, nor have commentators satisfactorily
found it yet. On another occasion Egil describes Arinbjorn by a kind of pun [xii]
as 'the bear' (bjorn) of the birchwood's terror (of arin, 'the hearth,'
on which birchwood is burnt).
This fondness for wrapping up wisdom in riddles we see in Eastern nations. Solomon
(Prov. i.6) puts it as a desirable learning 'to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their dark sayings' (marg. 'riddles'); the LXX. has
parabol»n ca…scoteiuÒu lÒgou r»seij tj sofèn ca… a…u…gata.
There are phrases
like Icelandic kennings in Solomon; e.g., in Eccles. Ix. 3, 4, 'the keepers
of the house, the strong men, the grinders, those that look out of the window,'
are of this kind, as also perhaps some of those expressions that follow. And riddles
of the older type are so. Take, for example, Samson's riddle, 'Out of the eater
came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.' What is this but
describing what had happened with the kennings, 'eater' and 'strong' for lion,
'meat' and 'sweetness' for honey?
In some respects the use of certain epithets in ancient Greek poetry is like the
use of kennings. We find in Homer stock epithets, names, titles, repeatedly occurring
where they do not specially fit the passage. Men are 'articulating, enterprising'
earth is 'black, all-feeding, rye-giving'
the sea is 'divine, fishful' (dia,
and chiefs 'Jove's nurslings, blameless'
without regard to the special
circumstances. But in Greek with the epithet the noun is mostly expressed; whereas
in Icelandic it has to be guessed.
Very many kennings are based on mythology. This is not only true of the names
of the gods, but also of other persons and things; they are frequently described
by periphrases which can only be explained from the Edda, and are therefore meaningless
to those who are not well versed in the details of that same.
And now it will be seen that these various
kennings present a double difficulty, first to understand, then to deal with in
translation. Suppose them understood, still how shall they be rendered? When they
are poetical figures appropriate to the passage they are fairly manageable, sometimes
without change, sometimes by simile, sometimes as [xii] epithet, adding the noun.
But where they do not fit the matter at hand, they are, if closely rendered, barely
intelligible; to our notions they are unpoetical; they will often spoil the spirit
and meaning of the whole verse to an English reader by calling off his attention
to a puzzle. The substance of the entire passage will be lost by too much particularity.
They are cumbrous, there is no room in the text to make them really clear, and
to be continually putting down obscurities and claiming space elsewhere in notes
to explain them seems undesirable. Therefore I elected to give up many of the
far-fetched kennings, putting the answer instead of the riddle where the riddle
seemed hardly worth keeping. For one thing seemed most important in translating
these staves, to make each stave fairly plain to be understood by English readers
as it was presumably by Icelandic hearers. That my renderings will satisfy all
I do not suppose, either all learned Northern critics or all English readers.
Many of the original staves cannot be made to satisfy modern taste, and, indeed,
they are of very unequal merit. Some of Egil's verses are of great force and spirit;
he had a true poetic vein, and depends less on artificialities than some of the
Icelandic verse-writers; but the merit and attractiveness of the Saga does not
rest on these detached verses. Were they omitted most readers would not miss much.
But to omit them I could not venture, so I have dealt with them as best I might.
Besides these scattered stanzas the Egla contains Egil's three great poems. Jónsson,
indeed, banishes these to an appendix. But there seems no doubt that they are
genuine compositions of Egil, though perhaps not included in the Saga in its earliest
form. It appeared, therefore, better to keep them in the place to which they have
now by use a prescriptive right. I shall say no more of them here than thatthey
are each remarkable in their way; 'Sonatorrek,' for depth of feeling and poetry,
I should rank first; it is unlike the generality of Icelandic poems.
And now pass we to the actual matter and outline of the story, which naturally
falls into three divisions.
I. The history of Kveldulf's family, especially of Thorolf, in Norway.
[xiv] II. The settlement of Skallagrim in Iceland, the birth of Thorolf the younger,
then of Egil, whose adventures (all out of Iceland) are told up to his final return
when fifty years old.
III. Egil's later uneventful years in Iceland, his old age and death, and a brief
notice of his descendants. The outline of the story is this:
Kveldulf, a rich yeoman, marrying rather late in life, has two sons. The younger
son, Skallagrim, stays at home with his father. Thorolf the elder goes freebooting.
While these two are young men, Harold Fairhair is winning to himself the sole
rule of Norway and putting down the petty kings. Kveldulf refuses to leave home
and help in fight against Harold, yet will he not upon Harold's success take service
under him. Thorolf, however, against his father's warning, does so, and wins favour
and rank at court. Upon the death of his friend Bard he inherits his wealth and
widow. Then two half-brothers of Bard's father claim part of the property. Being
denied allshare, they slander Thorolf to the king. Harold is by degrees brought
to believe their charges; he deprives Thorolf of his honours and his inheritance
fom Bard, then seizes Thorolf's own ship and cargo. Whereupon Thorolf seizes Thorolf's
own property. Then king Harold goes against him with a large force, burns his
house, and in a desperate fight slays him.
After awhile Harold is willing to make some amends; but Kveldulf and Skallagrim
refuse all overtures of reconciliation. They take what vengeance they can on some
concerned in Thorolf's death, and resolve to seek Iceland. Kveldulf dies on the
way, but his coffin is cast upon Iceland's near shore, and found by the rest soon
after their landing. Near this spot on the Borgar Firth Skallagrim settles. He
and his company thrive. Two sons are born to him: Thorolf, and about ten years
later Egil. Thorolf grows to be like his namesake and uncle; he soon takes to
roving; visits Norway, where at the house of Thorir, his father's friend, he meets
a son of Harold Fairhair, Eric, then but a boy. They strike up a friendship, which
continues when Eric Bloodaxe becomes king; and Thorolf is much with Ericand queen
Gunnhilda. After some years he returns to Iceland.
[xv] Meanwhile Egil has been growing up. As a child he shows no common wit and
strength, but is wilful, unmanageable, agrees ill with his father, breaks out
in acts of violence. He goes out with Thorolf on his next voyage to Norway; he
and Arinbjorn, Thorir's son, become friends. But Egil soon provokes the wrath
of Eric and Gunnhilda; Gunnhilda attempts his life; Egil retaliates, and the brothers
have to quit Norway. They seek England, serve under king Athelstan, win for him
a battle in Northumberland, in which Thorold falls. Egil, though promised great
honours with Athelstan, goes to Norway to see after Thorolf's widow; after awhile
he marries her and returns to Iceland. On tidings of his wife's father's death
he goes to Norway to claim her inheritance, which is unjustly and violently kept
from him. Egil narrowly escapes from Eric's ships, slays the man who holds the
property, also slays a son of Eric, and after solemnly cursing the king and queen
returns to Iceland. He finds his father ageing much; soon Skallagrim dies. And
now Hacon, Eric's brother, foster-son of king Athelstan, is recalled to Norway
as king, and Eric Bloodaxe is forced to flee. He with Arinbjorn goes to Scotland,
then to Northumberland, of which he is made governor for Athelstan. Egil, resolving
to revisit Athelstan in England, is wrecked at Humbermouth, within Eric's dominion.
At once he rides to York, seeks ou Arinbjorn, and they two go before Eric. Gunnhilda
urges that Egil be put to death; but for Arinbjorn's sake, after recital of his
poem, he is spared. Going on to Athelstan, he is well received, and urged to stay;
but first he will go to Norway after his wife's property. From Hacon he wins a
hearing, brings a suit against Earl Atli, the holder of the property: the matter
is referred to wager of battle; Atli is slain, whereupon Egil returns to Iceland;
he is there twelve years: sons and daughters are born to him. Athelstan dies soon
after Egil's return to Iceland; some years later Eric is killed in battle. Arinbjorn
is again in Norway; so Egil goes thither, is with him; they go harrying in Saxland
and Friesland, after which Arinbjorn joins Eric's sons in Denmark; Egil returns
to Thorstein, Arinbjorn's nephew, and he takes Thorstein's place in a winter expedition
to [xvi] Vermaland to gather the king's tribute. From the perils of this he escapes;
then in spring sails out to Iceland, where he lives without further adventure.
His daughters get husbands: of his sons, Gunnar dies young of sickness; Bodvar
is drowned, aged about sixteen, on which loss Egil composes a poem; and later
one on Arinbjorn. Upon the death of Asgerdr, his wife, he leaves Borg, and returns
to live at Mossfell with Grim and Thordisa his niece and step-daughter. Thorstein,
Egil's youngest son, has a lawsuit with an encroaching neighbour; the decision
of this, referred to Egil, is about his last public act. But he lives on to be
very old and blind, and dies of sickness.
Grim and Thorstein afterwards become Christians. Many famous men sprang from Skallagrim
and Egil. Bones believed to be Egil's were found about a hundred and sixty years
after his death, and removed to the churchyard at Mossfell.
Through the whole Saga, as a connecting thread, runs the family feud between the
house of Kveldulf and the house of Harold. Old Kveldulf's prophecy that Harold
will work scathe on his kin comes true by Thorolf's death. Vengeance for him is
taken, and the feud sleeps awhile; nay, against his father Harold's warning, Eric
accepts the younger Thorolf as a friend. But Egil, going to Norway, by his headstrong
deeds reawakens the quarrel, being perhaps nothing loth to do so, and following
Skallagrim's mood, who had scorned king Eric's gift sent by the hand of Thorolf.
The enmity is bitter between Egil and Eric stirred by Gunnhilda; Egil however
wins through all perils, and, even as Harold Fairhair, chief of the feud on the
other side, had done, at last dies in his bed full of years.
CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE CHIEF
EVENTS IN THE
SAGA OR CONNECTED WITH IT.
A.D. 850. Birth of Harold Fairhair.
" 860. Harold Fairhair comes to the throne.
" 870. He becomes sole king of Norway.
" 870 (circa). Thorolf, being about twenty-four
years old, goes to Harold.
" 872. Battle of Hafrsfirth.
" 877. Death of Thorolf.
" 878. Skallagrim emigrates to Iceland.
" 886 (circa). Thorolf Skallagrimson
" 898-901 (circa). Egil born.
" 898-902. Bjorn's abduction of Thora,
marriage, visit to Iceland.
" 903. Feast at Yngvar's. Thorolf and
Bjorn go to Norway.
" 904-14. Thorof's freebootings. Among
these is put Eric's
expedition to Bjarmaland, but this probably was in 918.
" 906. Bjorn's second marriage.
" 906-15. Egil's childhood and boyhood
" 914. Thorolf returns to Iceland.
" 915. Thorolf goes to Norway with Egil;
twelve years pass
before Egil returns.
" 916-23. Freebootings of Thorolf and
" 923. Thorolf marries Asgerdr. Slaying
" 924. Fight with Eyvind Skreyja. Thorolf
and Egil go to England.
" 925. Battle of Vinheath, where Thorolf
" 926. Egil goes to Norway. Marries Asgerdr
" 927. Returns to Iceland; is there several
years, during which
probably his oldest daughter is born.
" 933. He goes to Norway. Harold Fairhair
dies. Egil has a suit with
Bergonund; returns to Iceland. Skallagrim dies this winter.
" 935. Hacon now king in Norway. Eric
is in Northumberland.
Egil wrecked there. Höfudlausn. Egil with Athelstan.
" 937. He goes to Norway; fights with
Atli; returns to Iceland.
" 938-50. Egil is in Iceland. He has
five children in all.
" 940. Death of king Athelstan.
" 950 (circa). Eric falls in battle.
Arinbjorn is back in Norway;
Egil goes to him.
[xviii] A.D. 951. They harry eastwards; Arinbjorn then joins
Eric's sons. Egil next winter goes to Vermaland.
" 952-60. Marriages of Egil's step-daughter
" 960. Bodvar's drowning. Sona-torrek.
" 961. Hacon's death.
" 962. Epic poem on Arinbjorn.
" 967 (circa). Thorstein's marriage.
" 973 (circa). Asgerdr dies. Egil retires
to Mossfell. Thorstein lives at Borg.
" 975-8. Dispute between Thorstein and
" 975. Earl Hacon becomes king. In his
'early days' Egil is past eighty.
" 983-8. Egil's death.
" 1000. Grim and Thorstein are baptized.
" 1143. Skapti priest. Egil's bones found.
Next: CHAPTER I. Of Kveldulf and his sons.