Žorgeršur brįk

born: ?
died: 922 at Digranes in Iceland

Žorgeršur brįk was a bondswoman and a servant to the family of Egill Skallagrķmsson who fostered (and perhaps nursed) Egill as an infant. She gave her life to protect Egill when he was a young man.

The word used to describe Brįk is ambįtt, which suggests her service was not entirely voluntary. The word is often used of concubines, but in the saga, Brįk was an old woman.

Egill's father, Skallagrķmur was playing knattleikur, the Viking ball game, with his twelve-year-old son Egill, and Egill's friend Žóršur.

Once during winter, there was a ball game at Borg. Egil and Thord played against Skallagrim, who grew tired and they came off better. But that night, after sunset, Egil and Thord began losing. Skallagrim was filled with such strength that he seized Thord and dashed him to the ground so fiercely that he was crushed by the blow and died on the spot. Then he seized Egil.

Skallagrim had a servant-woman called Thorgerd Brak, who had fostered Egil when he was a child. She was an imposing woman, as strong as a man and well versed in magic arts.

Brak said, "You're attacking your own son like a mad beast, Skallagrim."

Skallagrim let Egil go, but went for her instead. She ran off to the end of Digranes, off the end of the cliff and swam away. Skallagrim threw a large boulder after her which struck her between the shoulder blades. Neither the woman nor the boulder ever came up afterwards.

Egils saga, ch. 40
translation: Bernard Scudder, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

Skallagrķmur's father Kveld-Ślfur (night-wolf) was called strong, powerful, and shrewd, but at night, he became bad-tempered and difficult to deal with. People said he was a hamrammur, a shape changer who was filled with great, uncontrolled strength and traveled in the shape of an animal. Skallagrķmur must have inherited some of his father's abilities. The word berserkur is used to describe several kinds of fighters, and some of these people also went into a uncontrolled frenzy at times.

The episode illustrates the strong bonds that could grow between a servant and her charge, not unlike the bond between Tyrkir and Leifur. Brįk stepped between her beloved foster-son and his berserk father to protect the boy. She paid for it with her life.

The place where Brįk jumped in to the sea is called Brįkarsund (Brįk's channel).


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