The saga of Gisli is one of those I’ve taught most often over the years–it’s short, it’s got a (for modern readers) relatively unified narrative for a saga, and it’s a murder mystery, giving us at least one easy point-of-entry for those less used to discussing literature.
There are at least a couple recent (ie, last few decades) translations that are worth picking up (stay away from the free translations online, unless you really can’t find anything else–those come from well-intentioned translators of 100+ years ago who felt like the Norse material would gain better acceptance in the greater Western canon if it sounded “old-timey”–which is why the Thor comic books, and now the movies, are full of all the faux-Shakespearian crap), but to get your appetite whetted I present this short documentary about the location of the saga from my friend Emily Lethbridge, whose Icelandic saga travelogue I believe I’ve blogged about before (probably way back in 2011 or 2012):
Also check out the Icelandic Saga Map project that Emily is working on.
I recommend watching this documentary, then reading the saga (and yes, some bits will be more difficult to get through than others–there is some overlap in terms of what contemporary readers find intriguing and what Medieval Icelanders found intriguing in their stories, but there are some gaps as well), then watching the kinda cheesy but still pretty awesome 70s movie about the saga–the soundtrack and action scenes leave something to be desired, but from my limited understanding (as a literary scholar rather than an archaeologist), this movie is the closest representation of what it would have looked like at the time compared to any other Viking movie I’ve seen–fill your imagination with this, rather than the usual Hollywood crud. But OK, you can choose a more varied soundtrack if you want…
Also, if someone knows a way to get an english subbed copy of this movie in the US, please let me know–the library copy at my current department is almost as bad as this youtube version, and I’d rather point people towards copies they can buy rather than youtube.