Sacred Texts  Legends & Sagas  Iceland 


Gisli the Outlaw

by George Webbe Dasent


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The story of Gisli the Outlaw, one of the minor Icelandic sagas, was first translated into English by George Dasent, who also wrote Popular Tales from the Norse. Dasent was a skilled linguist, folklorist, and journalist, and had a good feel for story-telling.

This is a story of cyclic blood-revenge, set off by a casual overheard remark, leading to the protagonist, Gisli, becoming a fugitive from society, and eventually dying in single combat against a dozen foes. It is similar in theme and structure to the Saga of Grettir, if not as elaborate. Set during the introduction of Christianity to Iceland, there are numerous details about pagan practices which are dotted through the narrative.

The Gisli saga is notable for its deep psychological treatment of its lead character, who is tormented during his exile by vivid foreshadowing dreams of two wives, one good and one evil. Also of note are the female characters, who can be just as hot-headed as their male counterparts. For instance Auda, Gisli's wife, in one notable scene spurns Eyjolf's, Gisli's nemesis, offer to betray Gisli for a bag of silver--by bashing Eyjolf in the face with it.

--John Bruno Hare, May 1st 2004.

Title Page
List of Illustrations
Chronology of the Saga
Chapter I. The Thrall's Curse
Chapter II. Kolbein's Killing
Chapter III. The Burning of the Old House
Chapter IV. The Soursops in Iceland
Chapter V. The Soursops Abroad
Chapter VI. Gisli and Thorkel Part
Chapter VII. Vestein Comes Back to Iceland
Chapter VIII. Vestein's Slaying
Chapter IX. Thorgrim's Slaying
Chapter X. Gisli Betrays Himself
Chapter XI. Gisli An Outlaw
Chapter XII. Gisli Begins to Dream
Chapter XIII. Gisli Goes to Ingialld
Chapter XIV. Gisli Slips Through Bork's Fingers
Chapter XV. Thorkel's Slaying
Chapter XVI. Spy-Helgi and Havard
Chapter XVII. Gisli's Evil Dreams
Chapter XVIII. Gisli's Slaying
Chapter XIX. Thordisa's Welcome to Eyjolf
Maps of Iceland