Sigurd Eyseinsson Was Killed by His Enemy’s Severed Head
Sigurd the Mighty, born Sigurd Eyseinsson (died 892), was a Viking earl who ruled the Orkney and Shetland Islands off northern Scotland. He invaded the Scottish mainland, conquered northern Scotland, overran Sutherland and Caithness, and asserted his kingship and Viking authority as far south as Moray. His martial prowess earned Sigurd his nickname, “the Mighty”, from fellow Vikings.
He had become an earl after Norway’s Viking king sent Sigurd’s brother, Rognvald, to conquer the Shetland and Orkney islands after they became a refuge for Norwegian exiles. Once they were conquered, the king of Norway rewarded Rongvald with the islands and made him earl. Rognvald had interests elsewhere, however, so he gave the islands and the title to his younger brother, Sigurd.
Sigurd’s undignified end came after he challenged a Scottish chieftain, Mael Brigte the Bucktoothed, head of the Mormaerdom, or kingdom, of Moray, to a 40 man per side battle. Mael Brigte accepted, but Sigurd cheated and showed up with 80 men instead of 40. Outnumbered, the Scots were defeated and massacred, and Sigurd personally chopped off Mael Brigte’s head.
Tying his enemy’s head to his saddle as a trophy, Sigurd rounded up his men and headed back home to celebrate the victory. Unfortunately for him, as the severed head tied to the saddle bounced around, the bucktooth which gave Mael Brigte his nickname scratched Sigurd’s leg. The scratch became infected, and Sigurd did not make it home alive, dying of the infection en route.