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Skallagrim, the brand name. Now you might be thinking “that is a weird fucking name”, and you would be right to think so.
But it’s a weird name with quite the weight. We will tell you all about the great, morally ambiguous character that is Egill Skallagrimsson and why we chose to honour him.
Egill was born in Iceland, 910 CE. When he was still a child he was already garnering renown because of three reasons. First and foremost, he was terrifyingly ugly. Secondly, he already composed his first poem at the age of three. Thirdly, his renown was set in stone when at seven he split the skull of another boy who cheated him in a game.
Now we know Egill as a warrior-poet-farmer who dabbled in politics. Egill’s later life is a story of war, love, depression and willpower. To give you insight into the man he became we will take a look at two events in the life of Egill.
When Egill shipwrecked on the coast of Northumbria he sought out an old friend of his for help, for he was a wanted man. When he found him they geared up and ogether with his friend he marched to Eiríkr's court. Eiríkr was not impressed by the case Egill presented. His friend convinced Eiríkr's to not execute Egill until the morning. Due to viking law he could rest peacefully, for it was illegal to kill a man during the night. Egill didn’t rest though, for he knew the tale of Bragi Boddason, the famous skald who turned the wrath of King Bjorn of Sweden with a poem. He decided to follow his example and laboured all night to compose a twenty-stanza long head-ransom poem. Egill wrote a poem that rhymed, something Eiríkr had never heard before. He entranced Eiríkr, and so the man whose son he had killed decided to spare his life. Here follows an excerpt from the now famous head-ransom poem.
“'Westward I sailed the wave,
Within me Odin gave
The sea of song I bear
(So 'tis my wont to fare):
I launched my floating oak
When loosening ice-floes broke,
My mind a galleon fraught
With load of minstrel thought.”
Egill’s depression resulted in the greatest poem he ever made and arguably the greatest thing he ever accomplished. The pain of losing Böðvarr, his favourite son was already a heavy weight on his shoulders, but the what truly brought Egill to his knees was that his son had not died a viking’s death, he simply drowned. The weight of his grief was too much for the old viking to bear. He went into seclusion and refused to eat or drink, he intended to die. His daughter Thorgerd tricked him into drinking milk and then said to him that since he wasn’t going to die right away now he might as well honour his lost son with a poem, to make sure he’d be remembered. His poem, Sonatorrek, is widely considered to be one of the finest poems in all of scaldic poetry. Here follows an excerpt from the poem, the ending.
“The end is all.
High on the headland
Hel stands and waits,
Life fades, I must fall
And face my own end
Not in misery and morning,
But with a man's heart.”
Egill’s character can’t possibly be summed up in a couple paragraphs, but we hope this gives you enough context to understand why we choose to honour his memory, for he was a man, a real man, not a superhero.
He became known for being ugly, yet this never put a dent into his character. He faced many obstacles, but was never daunted. Honour, loyalty, respect, and friendship he valued above all other things. He took it as a great personal insult when someone broke any of these values. He was brute, aggressive warrior, but also a sensitive, emotional man.
A morally amibgiuous man, we don’t intend to glorify him, but we do honour his memory. We commend you not to emulate his decisions, but his virtues.
You might not like what’s ahead of you, but just like Egill, go and do it to the best of your ability.
The time is now.