Egil's Saga Analysis

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With the word king comes imagery of unbridled authority. A king is man who 's whims run a realm, or at least that is what comes to mind most readily. However this view of a king isn 't always the case. For example in Egil 's Saga a piece of literature which follows the lives of various political figures and families in the Norse world, a king does not have as much power as one might think. While some characters, such as Harald Fair-Hair, have real life counterparts in history it is uncertain how much of Egil 's Saga is based on historical fact. But its portrayal of kingly power seems to line up quite well with other sources, and thus it provides an interesting avenue to explore how much royal authority Viking kings possessed. The picture …show more content…
The power of Harald 's kingship comes from his ability to raise men to his side, to command loyalty. Without these men he is powerless, he has no authority. This means that anyone who is capable of raising as many men as Harald or even a large portion of the force Harald commands, is a threat to his royal authority. Not because they necessarily would contest his power, but because they could contest it if they so chose. One see 's this fear, this insecurity first when Harald arrives to Thorolf 's feast: "The king arrived for the feast with a party of almost three hundred men, and Thorolf had five hundred... He (Harald) did not speak a word but it seemed obvious he was angry." (18). This is where Harald begins to doubt Thorolf 's loyalty, not when the brothers approach him. Thorolf manages to get five hundred men to attend the feast, that number of men is almost twice the force that accompanies Harald. If all of those men were loyal to Thorolf and had decided to fight the king, that would have been the end of his reign. So even though Thorolf was loyal and simply wanted to throw a grand feast for the king, it was seen by Harald as an affront to his royal authority. That affront was something Harald couldn 't let stand, Thorolf at this time, whether his crimes are real or imagined, had to be made an example of. This is where the royal backlash …show more content…
He knew Thorolf would fight to the last, inflict many casualties on his forces. He does not want that because his men are what he derives his authority from. If he loses men unnecessarily in this fight he loses power, he will be forced to go to others and ask for their loyalty. That process is costly if he loses too many men he might appear weak and then he will not be able to replace them. He will lose his kingship and dwindle into obscurity. Thorolf also knows that power lies in the loyalty of other men because when the king offers him a way out, that he will be set free but his men will be punished accordingly, Thorolf denies him. If Thorolf had accepted he would have been living a fate worse than death, he would have been ostracized, because he would have been repaying the loyalty of his men with betrayal. He would have never held any sort of position of power

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