Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Egil's Saga” as Want to Read:
Egil's Saga
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Egil's Saga (Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,942 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
Egil's Saga tells the story of the long and brutal life of tenth-century warrior-poet and farmer Egil Skallagrimsson: a morally ambiguous character who was at once the composer of intricately beautiful poetry, and a physical grotesque capable of staggering brutality. The saga recounts Egil's progression from youthful savagery to mature wisdom as he struggles to avenge his ...more
Paperback, 254 pages
Published February 24th 1988 by Penguin Classics (first published 1240)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Egil's Saga, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Edward Richmond No relation at all.

Despite the scattering of fantastical elements in Egil's Saga, the eponymous character probably was a real person.

Egil from the Lay…more
No relation at all.

Despite the scattering of fantastical elements in Egil's Saga, the eponymous character probably was a real person.

Egil from the Lay of Volund is a legendary figure, and is unlikely ever to have existed.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Introduction & Notes
Further Reading
Note on the Translation

--Egil's Saga

Egil's Ancestors and Family
Social and Political Structure
The Farm
Apr 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the ass-kickingest story I have ever read.

"Egil's Saga" kicks Conan's ass from one end of some stupid fictional continent to the other.

Did Conan ever get so miffed after being given sour curds and malt liquor as a guest (instead of meat and fine ale, which were being hidden by the greedy host) that he held his host against a pillar and vomited on his host's face with such force that his host's teeth were all knocked out?

Did Conan ax another boy to death at the age of six on a ba
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sagas, eye-for-an-eye
Poets, Viking ones at least, could be genuine bad asses. Egil Skallagrimsson, the subject of this saga, is Exhibit A. At the age of 7 (or 6), while playing a game of Viking ball (whatever that is), Egil gets knocked aside by a 12 year old. Egil then goes home, gets a battle axe, returns to the game, and then buries that axe in the offending 12 year old's head. (Kind of like coming in off the sidelines to make a tackle -- Viking style.) A Viking scrum of sorts erupts, with bodies, blood, etc. But ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the Sagas of Icelanders, Egil's Saga, reputedly by Snorri Sturluson, differs from the others I have read in two respects. First of all, it shows one reason why Iceland was settled: Many Norse were fed up with the high-handed rule of King Harold Fine-Hair. Egil Skallagrimsson, his father Skallagrim Kvedulfsen, and his father Kvedulf all ran afoul of the king who, with his reliance on lies told by informants, outlawed them.

Secondly, the hero of the saga, Egil Skallagrimsson, spends most of
I love this one. It's the first one I read. I can remember being really excited when the Hvítá (White River) comes in because I'd just got back from Iceland and I'd been in that river.
Egil's is one of the funniest sagas, in my opinion. I love the bit when Egil kills one of his father's servants (when he's about 8) and his father doesn't say anything, 'but relations between the two were a little strained' or something like that. Plenty of viking-style hijinks (vomiting in people's faces, murderi
Kids, do you want to know how badass the Vikings really were? DO YOU?

Here's the story of a warrior and poet who once had someone BREAK AN AX ON HIS SKULL, and he just shook it off.

Of course, later it was discovered that he had some weird genetic disorder that made his bones keep getting denser. His skull, exhumed, is hard as a rock, far thicker than it should be, and shows the imprint of his brain on the inside, which means that there was not only terrible, painful pressure on his head his enti
Adam  McPhee
Viking, warrior, farmer, poet.

As a boy, Egil plays a ball game where one of the older boys picks on him. Egil goes home, grabs an axe, comes back and drives it into the boy's head. A battle ensues and seven people die. Egil's father is unimpressed, but his mother thinks it a sure sign that he'll become a great viking.

As an adult, Egil spends his time settling pillaging Europe, settling Iceland, fighting for the english, duelling and finding reasons to cause trouble for the king of Norway.

The vik
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A blood-soaked history of Egil and his family as they follow the path of the first settlers of Iceland who came from Norway after a detour to Ireland to pick up slave women.

The fact that the Icelandic sagas were the precursors to modern European literature made me pick Egils Saga, which is one of three (or four, depending on whom you talk to) seminal sagas documenting the 9th century genesis of the youngest country in Europe, in itself a contradiction, for this “youngest country” has also produc
Tolkein stole the part where there's an ambush in the forrest and the two paths, one safe but slow, the other fast but dangerous. It took away some of Tolkein's magic for me. But at the same time, I wanted to yell, Gandalf! Look out! Oh wait, he's not in this one.

I liked the idea of the Norse people without kings being the ones who would stand up to the foreign kings. They were sort of rebels against the king'ed countries around them. But they were also always getting in trouble with the kings
Deborah Ideiosepius
It took me a whole lot of time and dedication to get into this and the reason was that Egil, as a kid, was a total little shit. I rather wished someone would strangle him and I knew they wouldn't.

Like many real life humans he improved as an adult, and when I got past the early parts of Egil it was great.

By the end I was pretty much in awe of the fact this saga spanned the lifetime of a single hero, the amount of information that came through on the times, kings, battles, trading and raiding voy
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ruard_referred
Epic in scope, engaging in its telling, this Icelandic / Norwegian history is worth the read. Unlike Homer's in media res, this story must be told from the beginning; and don't worry if the list of characters starts to feel like the Bible's Book of Numbers, the narrative will remind you that there really is nothing new under the sun. Humans behaved both honorably and like shits at the turn of the first millenium, just as they do at the end of the second.

This saga was read as part of The Sagas of
Oct 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
ok listen. egil is a born werewolf suffering from chronic depression. his entire family us a bunch of werewolves. i actually legit love him & p much his entire family.
Jade Heslin
Sep 17, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the oldest and most boring thing I have ever read. Reading Egil’s Saga was like sitting next to a really annoying mithering person on the train – but it’s an 8 hour journey and they are the king of never missing a detail and never getting to the point. Every chapter begins with a completely unnecessary family history. The very first sentence of the book is a great indicator of what you have in store: “There was a man named Ulf, son of Bjalf, and Hallbera, daughter of Ulf the fearless; sh ...more
The writing itself is good enough. Everything comes clear in complete sentences. The breakdown in communication is entirely cultural: to an American reader, the Viking sense of wry, cutting humor may sound a little cheesy or even nonsensical. That's just an issue of not growing up with that body of reference, those conventions of speech.

Beyond that, Egil's Saga is a history of despicable men. In the winter they hunker down, eat their preserved foods, drink their drinks, keep their spirits up. In
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable Norse saga, based on an actual person and events -- Egil, a sort of human monster/poet . . . or poet/monster, if you will. Warrior, con-man, poet, cynical devil in human form. Weaves history from five generations of Norse and Icelandic families, rivalries, and wars. Great stuff! Good book for the winter.

From The Pulp Rack:

Roughly covering the years 858 to 990, the saga follows Egil's adventures until his old age and death. Living in his
dead letter office
my favorite of the icelandic sagas. egil was tons of fun. he killed one of his father's friends when he was six years old, then recited a poem about it at dinner. he was constantly killing and maiming people, carrying off women, getting drunk, and making up poems, which made him very popular as a viking. i also enjoyed his friends and relatives, including one who may or may not have been a werewolf and a guy named shaggy harald who had vowed never to cut his hair. all in all the 900's sound like ...more
Bruce MacBain
While touring Iceland two weeks ago, we took a trip to the Snaefelnes peninsula, the area where Egil lived--the crashing sea, the black sand beaches, the towering cliffs. Our tour leader regaled us with anecdotes from the saga along the way. At one stop we viewed a modern statue of the aged, sorrowing Egil on his horse with his drowned son Bodvar across his knees. This is not ancient history to Icleanders but a living tradition bound up with the landscape. I resolved to read the saga as soon as ...more
Billy Roper
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Egil Skallagrimson, more than most Vikings portrayed in the Sagas, is a hard man to root for, and not just because he's ugly and deformed physically: his moral and emotional reflection bear a similar corruption. Still, he has his moments of the kind of keenness and insight that can only come through pain and loss. It's his complexity that makes him interesting, and his story bittersweet.
Egil was a classic anti-hero, a warrior, poet, runemaster, traveller, adventurer, took crap off of nobody, had bloodfueds and vendettas that went as high up the ladder as the King of Norway. The guy was everything an Odinist should be. I am a lover of Icelandic Sagas and have read many, if not most of them but this one is one of my favorites.
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saga, epics, history
Egil Skallagrimsson. Skald. Berserkr. Badass. The Norse had an amazingly laconic sense of humor, and man, does it ever show in their sagas. An amazing read.
May 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Egil's Saga is one man's journey to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before... And when he gets there to rape, pillage, and murder his way to fortune.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone who likes tough guys
Egil is a serious badass.

One of the great Icelandic sagas. Surprisingly enough, _Egil's Saga_ does not introduce Egil himself for a good 50 pages, a span longer than some stand-alone sagas and including sufficient material on certain of Egil's forebears that it would be justified for reading on its own. You should not mourn Egil's lack in these early segments, though, as he is for the most part a deeply hateful character, representing in full the worst stereotypes of a Viking: he is brutish, selfish, self-aggrandising a
Colin Darby
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Egil's Saga got me thinking in ways that I hadn't about warrior virtues.

When he is young, Egil is hot-tempered, rash, and prone to adventures where he survives more due to luck and panache than due to planning - "fortune favors the bold." However, as he ages, Egil's survival becomes more and more tied to his ability to think his way out of situations, until in his old age, business that he would have settled in his youth with an axe is settled instead with a lawsuit where he manipulates the cond
Sam OdinsDottir
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This story outlines the life of Egil Skallagrim’s son. It actually begins a few generations before Egil and tells the story of his ancestors and why they moved from Norway to Iceland. Egil’s family interacts with several prominent historical characters such as Harold Fairhair and King Athelstan of England. The story continues all the way through Egil’s death and tells a bit of his descendants, some of who convert to Christianity when it reaches Iceland. Egil spent most of his younger year
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Four stars. This first translation I have is by Christine Fell, with poems translated by John Lucas. Overall the translation sticks to historical accuracy (not post-dating object descriptions) and the poetry gives both the initial scaldic "kenning" translations (cryptic metaphor stringings) with more literal equivalents. I found this worked well.

I would caution that the saga swings back and forth through large histories in a short amount of time, and while there are several moments of clear char
Dave Morris
May 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this translation in parallel with Catherine Fell's. I liked the character of Egil (a tween psychopath who matures a bit as he gets older) but I prefer my sagas small-scale, where a feud that leads to an inburning starts with the theft of a pig. Egil's life has a little too much to do with kings and things for my taste, but it's told well, trusting the reader to get what's going on without being spoon-fed.
Jordan Cardenas
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great read for anyone interested in Viking sagas. Egil is a very interesting character to be such an influential figure for Icelanders, and the stories presented in this saga are rather entertaining.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Grim but interesting! There's plenty of battles if you like that sort of thing. There are tidbits here and there about Odin but nothing major in terms of heathen practices.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Old Norse Literature: April 2012 18 47 Apr 25, 2012 03:33AM  
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • King Harald's Saga
  • Gisli Sursson's Saga and the Saga of the People of Eyri
  • Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes, Books I-IX: I. English Text; II. Commentary
  • Viking Age Iceland
  • The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature
  • The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok
  • The History of the Franks
  • Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources
  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas
  • Women in the Viking Age
  • The Vikings
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
  • A Dictionary of Northern Mythology
  • Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs
  • The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings
  • A History of the Vikings
  • Chronicles
Books can be attributed to "Unknown" when the author or editor (as applicable) is not known and cannot be discovered. If at all possible, list at least one actual author or editor for a book instead of using "Unknown".

Books whose authorship is purposefully withheld should be attributed instead to Anonymous.
More about Unknown

Other books in the series

Íslendingasögur/Sagas of Icelanders (1 - 10 of 21 books)
  • Vatnsdæla saga
  • Laxdæla Saga
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Hrafnkels Saga Freysgoda
  • Bandamanna Saga
  • Gísla Saga Súrssonar
  • The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
  • Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu
  • The Saga of Ref the Sly
  • Greenland Saga

Nonfiction Deals

  • Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany
    $15.99 $3.99
  • The Monster of Florence
    $10.99 $2.99
  • The Westies: Inside New York's Irish Mob
    $9.99 $1.99
  • April 1865 (P.S.)
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Jesus Is ______: Find a New Way to Be Human
    $7.99 $0.99
  • Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Lab 257
    $8.74 $1.99
  • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--and the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The Last Lecture
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Not Tonight, Honey: Wait 'Til I'm A Size 6
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Dog Years
    $13.74 $1.99
  • The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology
    $12.99 $2.99
  • An Appetite For Wonder: The Making Of A Scientist
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience
    $27.99 $2.99
  • Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Sex Object
    $9.74 $2.99
  • Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Dakotas)
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Restless: Because You Were Made for More
    $7.49 $1.99
  • Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman
    $10.24 $1.99
  • The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions
    $16.99 $2.99
  • Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
    $13.99 $3.99
  • Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Pukka: The Pup After Merle
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion
    $16.99 $3.99
  • Denial [Movie Tie-in]: Holocaust History on Trial
    $11.99 $1.99
  • A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies, and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System
    $9.99 $3.99
  • All Creatures Great and Small  (All Creatures Great and Small, #1)
    $17.99 $2.99
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Cheaper by the Dozen
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors
    $19.99 $1.99
  • Buddhist Boot Camp
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Flour: A Baker's Collection of Spectacular Recipes
    $21.99 $3.99
  • The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Do the Work
    $4.99 $1.49
  • The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Suck at Girls
    $10.74 $1.99
  • The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
    $14.99 $2.99
  • A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives
    $18.99 $1.99
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's Tragic Quest for Primitive Art
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now--As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It
    $7.24 $1.99
  • The World's Last Night: And Other Essays
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Tracks: One Woman's Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman's Awakening
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Life
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society
    $13.24 $2.99
  • Grace, Not Perfection (with Bonus Content): Celebrating Simplicity, Embracing Joy
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Robert F. Kennedy
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Why We Run: A Natural History
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple
    $12.99 $2.99