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Egill Skallagrímsson was the most original, imaginative and technically brilliant of the Old Norse skalds, poets whose orally composed and performed verses were as much revered in ninth- to thirteenth-century Scandinavia as heroism in battle. Egill's saga details his life-story as well as those of his immediate predecessors, from whom he inherited his massive build, his early baldness (Skalla in his name means 'bald') and his exceptional ugliness. An arch enemy of Eríkr Blooðax, he was a notoriously difficult man and, as many of the poems demonstrate, was lethal when crossed. But he also made poems which show he was capable of concern for others, as well as romantic love. Physical, direct, inventive, even transformative, Egill's poetry conjures up a territory far beyond the normal scope of language, something that only the finest poets achieve.