Monday, March 8, 2010

About the Nym

The nym I am blogging under is a tribute to tenth century Icelandic viking and poet Egil Skallagrimsson, who was immortalized in the saga which bears his name. Much of the content of the Icelandic sagas is very matter-of-fact (genealogies and minutely-detailed recollections of political and social events in the the Norse world), there are occasional glimpses of outré subject matter, recounted in the same generally dispassionate tone as the mundane events. The presence of half-trolls and shape-changers in the community, uniped attacks, and struggles with undead are told with a tone suitable to a newspaper's "Community Events" column.

In Egil's Saga, there is an account of the exhumation of Egil's bones, and the following description of his skull:

The skull was wondrous large, but still more out of the common way was its heaviness. It was all wave-marked on the surface like a shell. Skapti then wished to try the thickness of the skull. He took a good-sized hand-axe, and brandishing it aloft in one hand, brought down the back of it with force on the skull to break it. But where the blow fell the bone whitened, but neither was dinted nor cracked.

This seemingly outlandish description was cited by some scholars who wished to dispute the veracity of the saga, but UCLA professor Jesse L. Byock proposed that Egil suffered from Paget's Syndrome, a condition which causes abnormal bone growth. The picture on the blog is that of the skull of an individual with Paget's Syndrome.

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