Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Although “The Outlaws” has been translated from Swedish, its simple, direct prose is notable even in English; it is the prose of myths and legends. The characters themselves are mythical figures. Berg is described as a giant, a person who can catch spears thrown at him and outrun any enemy. Lagerlöf is noted for this simple mythical style—she wrote about a number of legends both Christian and pagan, and these stories commonly contain an element of the supernatural. “The Outlaws” originally appeared in a book titled Osynliga länkar (1894; Invisible Links, 1899), and the supernatural elements of the story symbolize these invisible links to family, to morality, to justice, to pleasure, and to passions, forces that compel humans to act in ways that they cannot control and that they may not understand.

“The Outlaws” alludes to the split between Christians and pagans. Tord mentions that Berg’s family has a hall built before Saint Olaf’s time. In 1030, Saint Olaf, the first Christian king of Norway, was slain in a battle by his pagan subjects. Thus, Lagerlöf sets this story in a period when some people, such as Tord, are still pagan and Viking traditions and values still exist. Like Saint Olaf, Berg is killed by a pagan subject, but Tord is a pagan subject who, ironically, has converted to Christianity.

This characterization of one man as a pagan and the other as a Christian becomes symbolic; Lagerlöf wrote...

(The entire section is 434 words.)