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Egill Skalla-Grímsson: The Dark Figure as Survivor in an Icelandic Saga

Jesse Byock

A wanderer and a poet, Egill Skalla-Grímsson is the most tho-roughly developed dark figure in the Icelandic family sagas.Egill’s family tree included werewolves, berserkers and shapechangers, and be inherited not a little of his ancestors’fierceness. On one occasion Egill wins a duel by biting through his opponent’s windpipe; on another he vomits on a stingy host. He is self-centered. His poems, although ostensibly intended to honor others, are chiefly about himself. Intensely ugly, swarthy, and at his best in middle age, Egill is anything but the fair-haired or tragically fated hero. He is obstinate and greedy. At the end of his life, he, like his father, throws his viking treasure into a bog rather than share it with his children.

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