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Ongenžeow, Ongentheow, Ongendžeow, Egil, Egill, Eigil, or Angantyr (- ca 515) was the name of one or two semi-legendary Swedish kings of the house of Scylfings, who appear in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian sources.
The names are different and have little etymological connection. Ongenžeow would in Proto-Norse have been *Anganažewar, whereas Egil would have been *AgilaR. The reason why they are thought to have been the same is that they have the same position in the line of Swedish kings and are described as the fathers of Ohthere and grand-fathers of Eadgils. As will be shown below, it can be argued that they are based on the same person and the same events, but it should be noted that not every scholar is open to the historicity of the characters in Beowulf and in the Norse sagas.
In Ari Frode 's Ķslendingabók and in Historia Norwegiae, he was called Egil Vendelcrow (Vendilcraca/Vendilkrįka, a name traditionally given to those living at the royal estate of Vendel in Sweden). Snorri Sturluson, however, gave the name Vendelcrow to Egil's son Ottar (Ohthere). In these sources, Egil was the son of Aun the Old, and like him, not very warlike. After he had made the thrall Tunni (or Tonne) responsible for the treasury, Tunni rebelled against Egil. They fought eight battles after which Egil fled to Denmark, according to the Ynglinga saga (Ynglingatal does not mention where he fled and Historia Norwegiae does not mention any escape at all). Snorri wrote that Fródi, the Danish king, aided Egil in defeating Tunni, and made Egil a tributary to the Danish king.
Egil was killed by a bull during the sacrifices at the Temple at Uppsala.
- The fair-haired son of Odin's race,
- Who fled before fierce Tunne's face,
- Has perished by the demon-beast
- Who roams the forests of the East.
- The hero's breast met the full brunt
- Of the wild bull's shaggy front;
- The hero's heart's asunder torn
- By the fell Jotun's spear-like horn."
According to Beowulf, his wife and two sons Onela (Įli) and Ohthere (Ottar) were captured by the Geatish king Hęžcyn. The old Ongentheow saved them, killed Hęžcyn, and captured the Geats in a forest called Ravenswood.
The Geats were, however, saved by their new king Hygelac. Ongenžeow and his men sought refuge on higher ground in a fortification, but it was overrun by the Geats. Eofor killed the hoary-bearded Ongenžeow during a vicious battle where the old man wounded Eofor's brother Wulf.
Ongenžeow is also mentioned in passing by the earlier poem Widsith as the king of Sweden:
|Wald Woingum, Wod žyringum,||Wald the Woings, Wod the Thuringians,|
|Sęferš Sycgum, Sweom Ongendžeow,||Saeferth the Sycgs, the Swedes by Ongendtheow,|
|Sceafthere Ymbrum, Sceafa Longbeardum||Sceafthere the Ymbers, Sceafa the Lombards,|
The two versions seem contradictory, but it has been shown that the two stories may very well describe the same event (Schück H. 1907, Nerman B. 1925), and that Ynglingatal was probably misinterpreted by Snorri due to a different dialectal meaning of the word farra. In Ynglingatal, it says
- en flęming, jötuns eykr
- farra trjónu, į Agli rauš
If there is any authenticity behind the traditions, the origin of Ynglingatal was most probably a Swedish poem which has not survived. In Old Swedish, farra did not mean "bull" but it meant "boar". Moreover, in Old Norse Trjóna normally meant a pig's snout (modern Scandinavian tryne). Flęmingr meant "sword" (originally a flemish sword imported by Vikings).
Moreover, the sword of the snout can hardly refer to the horns of a bull, but it is more natural to interpret it as the tusks of a boar. In English, the lines can be translated as but the giant beast coloured its tusk red on Egil.
In Anglo-Saxon, the name eofor meant "boar" and consequently Ynglingatal could very well relate of Eofor (the boar) killing Egil with kennings for boars. These kennings, sung originally by Swedes, were later misinterpreted by Norwegians and Icelanders as litteral expressions due to the different dialectal meanings of farra.
Moreover, according to Schück, the name Tunni which has no meaning in Old Norse should in Proto-Norse have been *Tunža and derived from *TunžuR. Consequently, it would have been the same word as the Gothic Tunžus which meant "tooth". This would mean that the name of Egil's enemy, actually meant "tooth" and Tunni and the bull/boar would consquently have been the same enemy, i.e. Eofor.
- Ynglinga saga (part of the Heimskringla)
- Historia Norwegiae
Nerman, B. Det svenska rikets uppkomst. Stockholm, 1925.
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