Bizarre Deaths: 12 of History’s Weirdest Deaths, From Antiquity to the Middle Ages

Sigurd the Mighty. Ranker

Sigurd the Mighty

Sigurd Eysteinsson, AKA Sigurd the Mighty (died 892) was a Viking Earl who ruled the Orkney and Shetland Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. Allied with other Vikings chieftains, he launched an invasion of the Scottish mainland which conquered northern Scotland, overran Sutherland and Caithness, and asserted Viking control as far south as Moray. Sigurd’s exploits during that conquest earned him the epithet “the Mighty” from fellow Vikings.

He gained his earldom after the Viking king of a recently unified Norway sent Sigurd’s brother, Rognvald Eysteinsson, to conquer the Shetland and Orkney islands after they became a refuge for Norwegian exiles, from which they raided their homeland. During the conquest, Rognvald lost a son, so the king of Norway compensated him by giving him the islands and making him earl. Having interests elsewhere, Rognvald gave the islands, and the title, to his younger brother Sigurd.

Sigurd’s bizarre end came when, during the course of his conquest of northern Scotland, he challenged a local chieftain, Mael Brigte the Bucktoothed, head of the Mormaerdom, or kingdom, of Moray, to a 40 man per side battle. However, Sigurd cheated and showed up with 80 men. Outnumbered, the Scots were defeated and massacred, and Sigurd personally beheaded Mael Brigte.

Tying the defeated leader’s head to his saddle as a trophy, Sigurd rounded up his men and rode back home to celebrate the victory. However, on the way back, as the severed head tied to the saddle bounced around, the bucktooth which gave Mael Brigte his nickname cut Sigurd’s leg. The cut became inflamed and infected, and Sigurd died of the infection before he got back home.

Advertisement