This painting, created by the Danish-Norwegian artist Johannes Flintoe (1787-1870), depicts a scene from Egil’s Saga, an Icelandic text that recounts tales about the 10th-century poet, Viking, mercenary, and outlaw, Egil Skallagrimsson. In the scene above, Egil fights Berg-Onund, a man with whom the warrior-poet was embroiled in a land dispute in Norway. As taking the matter to court had backfired on Egil, ending in his own outlawry, the grudging fighter decided to hunt down his rival and take matters into his own hands with spear, sword and axe. The painting above shows the moments right before Egil Skallagrimsson confronted Berg-Onund and the man’s two companions, Frodi and Hadd. The saga described the short work that Egil Skallagrimsson made of his three opponents:
“Onund began to draw his sword, but had only pulled it half-way out of its sheath by the time Egil ran him through with his sword. Onund recoiled at the blow, but Egil drew his sword back swiftly and struck at Onund, almost chopping his head off…He lunged at Frodi with his spear, piercing his shield and plunging it so deep into his chest that the point came out through his back. He fell over backwards dead on the spot. Then Egil took his sword and set on Hadd, and they exchanged a few blows before Hadd was killed” (Egils Saga, chapter 58).
Such is the scene that is about to occur in Johannes Flintoe’s painting. It was one of several killings that Egil Skallagrimsson was said to have committed before fleeing to Iceland, after being outlawed in Norway.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- Egil’s Saga (recorded c. 13th century possibly by Snorri Sturluson), translated by Bernard Scudder. New York: Penguin Classics, 2004 edition.