Short summary - The saga of Gísli the Outlaw - Epic

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The saga of Gísli the Outlaw

The main events described in the saga are considered historically reliable, they date back to 962-978; vises (poetic stanzas) attributed to Gisli were most likely composed much later.

Thorbjorn marries Thor, and they have children: daughter Thordis, eldest son Thorkel and middle Gisli. Nearby lives a man named Bard, who wants to get Thorbjorn's daughter Thordis, and Gisli resists and pierces him with a sword. Thorkel goes to Skeggi the Brawler, Bard's kinsman, and incites him to avenge the Bard and take Thordis as his wife. Gisli cuts off Skeggi's leg, and this duel multiplies the glory of Gisli.

Skeggi's sons drive up to Thorbjorn's house at night and set it on fire. And where Thorbjorn slept, and Thordis, and his sons, there stood two jars of sour milk. Here Gisli and those who were with him seize goatskins, dip them in milk and put out the fire with them. Then they break through the wall and run into the mountains. Twelve people burn in the house, and those who set it on fire think that they all burned down. And Gisli, Thorkel and their people go to the Skeggi farm and kill everyone there.

Thorbjörn, nicknamed Sour because he escaped with the help of an acid serum, dies, and his wife follows. A barrow is built over them, and the sons of Sour build a good court in Hawk Valley and live there together. They give their sister Thordis in marriage to Thorgrim, and they settle nearby. Gisli marries Aud, the sister of the merchant-navigator Vestein.

Here are the men from Hawk Valley to the Thing and stick together there. And everyone is wondering how long they will last. Then Gisli invites Thorgrim, Thorkel and Vestein to take a vow of brotherhood. But Thorgrim refuses to shake hands with Vestein, and Gisli refuses to shake hands with Thorgrim. And everyone leaves the Thing.

Thorkel does nothing about the household, and Gisli works day and night. One day Thorkel is sitting at home and hears his wife Asger and his wife Gisli Oud chatting. And it turns out that Asgerd knew Vesteyn. At night, in the matrimonial bed, Asgerd settles the matter with Torkel. Only Gisli, to whom Aud tells about this, becomes gloomy and says that you cannot escape fate.

Thorkel offers his brother to divide the household, because he wants to manage with Thorgrim, and Gisli agrees, because there is no harm to him from this.

And now Gisli makes a feast at his place, and Thorkel and Thorgrim also have a feast. Thorkel and Thorgrim invite the sorcerer Thor-grim, nicknamed Nose, to their place, and he makes them a spear.

Vestein is staying with Gisli at this time. One night it rains heavily and the roof starts to leak. Everyone leaves the room, while Vestein is asleep because he is not dripping. Then someone sneaks into the house and stabs Vestein right in the chest with a spear; he falls dead at the bench. Gisli enters, sees what has happened, and draws the spear from the wound himself. Vestein is properly buried, and Gisli utters bitter whiskers.

In autumn, Thorgrim throws a feast and invites many neighbors. Everyone drinks drunk and goes to bed. At night, Gisli takes the spear with which Vestein was killed, goes to Thorgrim and kills him. And since all the guests are drunk, no one sees anything, Burke, brother of Thorgrim, removes the spear. Everyone is celebrating the feast according to Thorgrim. When the news is brought to Gisli, he speaks to the Vis.

Burke moves in with Thordis and takes her as his wife. Thordis deciphers the meaning of Gisli's visa and tells her husband that Gisli killed his brother. Thorkel warns Gisli about this, but refuses to help him, for his son-in-law, companion and friend Thorgrim was dear to him.

Burke at the Thing accuses Gisli of killing Thorgrim. Gisli sells his land and takes a lot of silver for it. Then he goes to Torkel and asks if he agrees to shelter him. Torkel answers as before: he is ready to give him what is required, but he will not hide.

Gisli is outlawed. He utters a mournful visu.

Gisli lives outside the law for six winters, hiding in different places. One day, when he is hiding with his wife Aud, he has a dream. Two women come to him in a dream, one kind, the other bad. And then he enters a house where seven fires are burning, and a kind woman says that these lights mean that he has seven years left to live. Waking up, Gisli says visa.

Burke hired a man named Eyolf and promised him a big reward if he hunted down and killed Gisli. Upon learning that Gisli is hiding in the forest, Eyolf goes looking for him, but does not find him. Upon Eyolf's return, only ridicule awaits.

Gisli goes to Torkel and again asks him for help, Torkel again refuses to hide his brother, only gives him the requested silver. Gisli goes to Thorgerd. This woman often hides the outlaws, and she has a dungeon with two exits. Gisli spends the winter in it.

In the spring, Gisli returns to his beloved wife Aud and tells her sad vises. In the autumn he comes to Torkel and asks him for the last time to help him. Thorkel answers the same as before. Gisli takes the boat from him, and then says that Thorkel will be the first of them to be killed. That's where they part.

Gisli goes to the island to his cousin Ingjald. Near the island, he overturns the boat, as if he had drowned, and he himself goes to Ingjald and lives with him. Eyolf hears rumors that Gisli has not drowned, but is hiding on the island. He tells Burke about this, he equips fifteen people, and they swim to the island.

Gisli fools Burke's men and goes into the rocks. Burke is chasing him. Gisli cuts one of the pursuers with his sword, but Burke wounds Gisli in the leg with a spear, and he loses strength. Nearby lives a man named Rev. He and his wife shelter Gisli from pursuers.

This trip is shameful for Burke and strengthens the glory of Gisli. “And they say the truth that no man was born as skillful as Gisli, and so fearless. But he was not happy."

Burke goes to the Thing, and Thorkel, son of Sour, too. There, two boys approach Torkel, and the elder asks to show him the sword. Having received the sword, he cuts off Torkel's head, and then they run away, and they are not found. People say they were the sons of Vestein. The death of Thorkel turns into shame and disgrace for Burke.

Gisli is sitting in the basement near Aud, and Eyolf comes to her and promises a mountain of silver because she will show him where Gisli is. Aud hurls the silver right into Eyolf's nose, and he walks away in disgrace.

The Gisli begin to have bad dreams. So, he dreams that Eyolf came to him with many other people, and Eyolf has a wolf head. And Gisli fights with them all. And Gisli pronounces sad visas, where it is about death.

The last night of summer comes, and Eyolf comes to the refuge of Gisli, and with him fourteen more people. Together with Aud, Gisli climbs a rock and calls Eyolf to him, for he has a greater account with Gisli than his people. But Eyolf keeps aloof, while Aud beats his people with a club, and Gisli cuts with a sword and an ax. Then two of Eyolf's kinsmen rush into battle, they smash Gisli with spears, and his insides fall out. Having tied them up, Gisli says his last visu, and then cuts off the head of Eyolf's kinsman, falls on him lifeless and dies.

Thordis, having learned about the death of his brother, tries to kill Eyolf and divorces Burke. Eyolf, displeased, returns home. Aud travels to Denmark, where he is baptized and goes on a pilgrimage to Rome.

Gisli hid for thirteen years.