Gisli the Outlaw
by George Webbe Dasent
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.