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  • Writer's pictureZoe Franznick

Egil's Saga, Part III

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

The family drama continues in Part 3 of Egil’s Saga! This time, we watch Egil in his adult years, crashing parties and deepening the rift between his family and the King of Norway. Will anything ever be resolved between these dynasties?

This section of the saga begins with the Egil and his companion, Aulvir, as they go viking across the seas and onto Atla-isle, where a nobleman, Bard, lived. Bard welcomed them, but said he had nowhere for the brothers and their men to stay save for the barn. Likewise, Bard apologized that he had no ale, but served them below their station with only bread and curds.

Later than night, however, King Eric and Queen Gunnhild arrived on Atla-isle, wherein Bard brought them into his house and gave them the best of his table. The king noticed that Bard was not as attentive as he ought to have been, and asked one of the servants why. The servants answered that there were others on the property, and the king demanded to see these other guests and took it as an insult that Bard would tend to them and not himself.

At once, Bard fetched Egil and his men and brought them before the king. Seeing that they had been slighted and offered less than their station, Egil grasped a drinking horn from Bard and sang a stave to declare their offense.

The parties were then combined, but Queen Gunnhild was furious at seeing Egil, so she and Bard mixed a horn of ale with poison, consecrated the cup, and proffered it to him. Egil was wise to their tricks, however, and took the horn, carved runes into it, and smeared the runes with blood from his hand. The horn exploded in his hand, and he one again declared the wickedness of Gunnhild and Bard.

At this point, Aulvir was feeling ill, so he and Egil made their way to the door. As they did, however, Bard made to stop them, so Egil grasped his sword, stabbed him through the stomach, and fled into the night. Aulvir, now alone, vomited on top of Bard and passed out.

Enraged, the king charged his men to find Egil once it was morning. That night, Egil swam across a channel to another isle, and when Aulvir returned to Thorolf, he said he knew nothing of Egil. Thorolf resolved to intercede on his brother’s behalf, knowing that King Eric would be furious with Egil.

After some time, Egil and Thorolf went harrying again, this time against the Courlanders. Egil and his men charged at the house, but where soon overtaken and made prisoners. They were tied up and locked in a room while the lord and his son debated whether to torture and kill them now, or wait until the morning.

When they had resolved to wait until morning, Egil and his men broke free from their bonds that night and broke down the door of that room. Having escaped, they found a trapdoor in the next room, where they found a group of Danes who had been captured and held prisoner as well. Together, the two parties plundered the house and escaped, but once they had, Egil paused and declared they ought to go back and declare what they’d done to the lord and his family. The rest disagreed, seeing safety close by, so Egil retuned alone. He plundered the house, set fire to it, and killed the Courlanders within. After this, Egil returned to his brother and his men with a barrel full of silver.

Shortly after, Thorolf attempted to bring peace between himself, his brother, and the king. King Eric accepted these terms, so long as no other man besides Thorolf harbored Egil in his land. Queen Gunnhild reprimanded her husband, but King Eric would not take back his word. The queen was much angered over this, and plotted her own revenge.

Thus, when a pagan religious festival was set to occur, Thorolf planned to go but said Egil ought to remain behind. He agreed. While there, however, the queen ordered her two brothers to slay Thorolf— a forbidden act, since no weapons were allowed during the event. The brothers were unable to kill Thorolf, but Eyvind, one of the brothers, killed one of Thorolf’s men- Thorvald Proud. Both Egil and Thorolf made after Eyvind, but he escaped.

Finally, desiring other fortunes, the two brothers made for England, where they joined up with Athelstan, who was struggling against the rebellion of the Scotts. In order to join forces with Athelstan, Egil and Thorolf were “prime-signed” — meaning they were blessed with the sign of the cross, but still were free to practice as pagans. Thus, the brothers became King Athelstan’s men.

Thanks for joining us in this week's episode of The Maniculum Podcast. Looking for more? Check out our Master List series for the full collection of segments at the end of our show, and for more gaming and world building ideas, check out The Gaming Table section of our blog, Marginalia!

Searching for our sources? Read Egil's Saga here, and check out our Library for more! More references for interested scholars:

  • Byock, Jesse L. “Egil’s Bones.” Scientific American, vol. 272, no. 1, 1995, pp. 82–87. Link.

  • Rodriguez, Jesus Fernando Guerrero. Old Norse Drinking Culture. 2007. University of York, PhD Dissertation. Link.

We do our best to accurately research, source, and cite the works we use, and make them available to you, too! Each episode has a corresponding blog post which includes further breakdowns of the big ideas in each text as well as cites our sources and references. We also have the Maniculum Library, which actively collects resources and recommendations for writers, scholars, and geeks alike! We update our collection of Master Lists after each new episode, so be sure subscribe and stay updated!

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