This saga starts out with some big, hairy asshole named Kveld-Úlfur (“evening-wolf”), who may or may not be a werewolf. He is suspected of such based on his frequent bouts of rage in the evenings, but these could just as easily be attributed to alcoholism or garden-variety domestic abuse. Werewolf seems like too easy an excuse. “I’m sorry, baby! I didn’t mean it! It was the wolf, I swear!” Wolf or not-wolf, he pisses off some super douchey kings of Norway, resulting in the death of one of his sons, so he and his other son set sail for Iceland, the land founded on the sole principle of freedom from Norwegian douchery. Unfortunately he dies on the way so they throw his coffin overboard and his son Skalla-Grímur decides to start a farm where his dad’s corpse washes up.
The good, the bad, and the fugly
He has two sons, Þórólfur and Egill. Þórólfur goes to Norway and gets cozy with the Norwegian royalty and Egill stays at home being a genius and a dick. In addition to the lycanthropy and/or general propensity toward abuse, he has inherited another key feature from his father and grandfather: fuck-ugliness. Þórólfur is the pretty one. Egill is one motherfuging fugly motherfugler. But he learns to ride horses and compose literary masterpieces by the age of three, so maybe he’s not totally hopeless in the love game. Ladies love horses and poems, right?
Having already killed a man at seven, he challenges his father who manifests his wolf-strength and splatters Egill’s BFF on the ground like a blood balloon so Egill kills one of his dad’s employees and then they’re totally in a fight. Like, officially. So Egill bullies his way onto his brother’s next trip to Norway, which he turns into a literally royal clusterfuck by reciting some salty poems to taunt them, then stabbing the king’s steward so violently that the nearest man promptly vomits into the bloodbath. The only good thing to come from this trip is that Egill begins a bromance with Arinbjörn, the only person he ever seems to truly love except maybe the wife Egill later steals from his dead brother. Spoiler alert, btw. It’s fine, his brother was boring anyway. The pretty ones always are.
Hindsight is 00/00
So he marries his sister-in-law and gets chummy with the kings of England. One day he is visiting King Aðalsteinn of England and he bumps into his arch-nemesis, King Eiríkur “Bloodaxe” who wants to start some shit. But his bro convinces Bloodaxe to spare his life in exchange for the dopest of poems, which Egill busts out to save his own ass. Soon after, both the kings die and the rest of the saga is drowned in mercilessly boring shit like inheritance feuds, legal struggles, and poems that even I find uninteresting as both a poet and a scholar. So take my word for it. My word for it is “nope.” Hell nope.
Egill grows older, meaner, and eventually blind. He spends his final days trying to keep warm by the fire, being shooed away from the fire, (possibly) starting Iceland’s still-going-strong monopolistic beverage corporation, and composing poems about his dead sons and the mean ladies who won’t let him sit by the fire. He also hides his fortune in the hills outside Reykjavík, so feel free to go fucking crazy digging shit up. I really wish there was literally anything else funny or violent that happens in the bajillion final pages of one of Iceland’s oldest and most magnificent literary treasures but there pretty much isn’t. I guess there’s a couple stabbings and some Jesusy stuff but trust me, it’s not even noteworthy. One noteworthy note, however, some of the beers from Borg (a subsidiary brewery of his apocryphal corporate legacy named after his farm) actually taste like beer. That can be harder to find in Iceland than Egill’s treasure. So lycanthropy, boredom, and literary heritage aside, let’s all be thankful for beer.
Morals of the story: 1. I was kidding about digging up treasure. Don’t do that. The landscape is already increasingly pockmarked by tourists lighting their literal shit on fire and greedy Icelanders’ aluminum poison fortresses. 2. There is no excuse for abuse. Not even werewolfishness. Kick that douche to the curb.
Read more Saga Recaps here.