Vikings, in a word, were incredible. They were expert sailors, warship builders and navigators of the seas before the magnetic compass was invented. They were also experts with the sword, spear, and ax as well as being superb archers. We could imagine how these mighty Vikings could’ve passed— axed on the head, burnt along with their ship, maybe held captive and tortured by the enemies. Among the Vikings, the best death was one in battle.  There once was this very mighty Viking, though, who met his end in a way far less mighty than his name.

Sigurd Eysteinsson

Popularly known as Sigurd the Mighty, he was the Second Earl of Orkney, who reigned between circa 875–892. The beginning of his death saga started when his brother, Rognvald Eysteinsson of Møre or known in modern Norwegian as Ragnvald Mørejarl, helped King Harald in the weeding out of rogue pirate Vikings and invading the islands of Shetland, Orkney, and Hebrides. Rognvald’s son named Ivar, got killed during one of their conquests. To show that his sorrow on the loss of Rignvald’s son while in his service(and to head off any bad blood), the king granted Orkney and Shetland islands for Rognvald to rule over, along with the title “Jarl” or “Earl.”

Ragnvald Eysteinsson, Earl of More. Photo from Geni

Rognvald wasn’t interested, so he transferred the title and the islands to his brother Sigurd Eysteinsson’s leadership with the king’s permission.

His Rise to Power

We must say Sigurd was lucky to have received the islands from his brother, and it seemed that he was really into his new role. So, together with Thorstein the Red, they expanded their territories and conquered northern Scotland and some other nearby counties. Because of his fierceness, he was called the “ríki,” meaning “The Mighty.”