The Giaour

The Giaour

Infobox Book
name = The Giaour

image_caption = "Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha"
Painted by Eugène Delacroix (1827)

author = Lord Byron
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = flagicon|UK United Kingdom
language = English
genre = Romance/Epic poetry
publisher =
release_date = 1813
media_type = Print
pages =
isbn =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Giaour" is a poem by Lord Byron first published in 1813 and the first in the series of his Oriental romances. It is also one of the earliest fictional works to touch upon the subject of vampires (see vampire fiction). "The Giaour" proved to be a great success when published, consolidating Byron's reputation critically and commercially.


The origin of the story came during Byron's Grand Tour during 1809 and 1810 which he undertook with his friend John Cam Hobhouse. While in Athens, he became aware of the Turkish custom of throwing a woman found guilty of adultery in the sea wrapped in a sack.

A giaour (Turkish: Gavur) is the Turkish word for infidel or nonbeliever and is similar to the Arabic word kafir. The story is subtitled "A Fragment of a Turkish Tale" and is Byron's only fragmentary narrative poem. Byron designed the story with three narrators giving their individual point of view about the series of events. The main story is of Leila, a member of her master Hassan's harem, who loves the giaour and is killed by being drowned in the sea by Hassan. In revenge, the giaour kills him and then enters a monastery due to his remorse. The design of the story allows for contrast in Christian and Muslim perceptions of love, sex, death and the afterlife.

The poem was written after Byron had become famous overnight after the publication of the first two cantos of "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" and reflects his disenchantment with fame. It also reflects the gloom, remorse and lust of two illicit love affairs, one with his half-sister Augusta Leigh and the other with Lady Frances Webster.

The earliest version of the poem were written between September 1812 and March 1813 and a version of 700 lines published in June 1813. Several more editions were published before the end of 1813, each longer than the last with the last edition containing 1300 lines or almost twice as long as the version first published.

Romantic Orientalism

"The Giaour" proved to be very popular with several editions published in the first year. By 1815, 14 editions had been published when it was included in his first collected edition. Its runaway success led Byron to publish three more "Turkish stories" in the next couple of years: "The Bride of Abydos" in 1813, "The Corsair" in 1814 and "Lara". Each of these poems proved to be very popular with "The Corsair" selling 10,000 copies in its first day of publication. These tales led to the public perception of the Byronic hero.

Byron commented ironically on the success of these works in his 1818 poem "Beppo":

"Oh! that I had the art of easy writing,What should be easy reading (...)How quickly would I print (the world delighting)A Grecian, Syrian or Assyrian taleAnd sell you, mixed with Western sentimentalismSome samples of the finest Orientalism."

French painter Eugène Delacroix used the story as the inspiration of his 1827 painting "Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha".


The poem was an influence on the early work of Edgar Allan Poe. His first major poem, "Tamerlane", particularly emulates both the manner and style of "The Giaour". [Campbell, Killis. "The Origins of Poe", "The Mind of Poe and Other Studies". New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1962: 150.]

Mention of vampires

"The Giaour" is also notable for its mention of vampires. After telling how the Giaour killed Hassan, the Ottoman narrator predicts that in punishment for his crime, the Giaour will be condemned to become a vampire after his death and kill his own dear ones by drinking their blood, to his own frightful torment as well as theirs. Byron became acquainted with vampires while on his grand tour.

The association of Byron with vampires continued in 1819 with the publication of "The Vampyre" by John Polidori, which was inspired by an unfinished story by Byron. The lead character Lord Ruthven was based on Byron. Polidori had previously worked as Byron's doctor and the two parted on bad terms. Much to Byron's annoyance, "The Vampyre" was widely attributed to him and even included in the third volume of Byron's works by popular demand. Polidori is thought to have encouraged this, seeing how it increased sales considerably. Lord Ruthven was the first portrayal of the vampire as a debauched aristocrat.


External linkss

* [ Text of "The Giaour"]
* [ Norton anthology on "The Giaour"]
* [ article on vampire stories]
* [ Crede Byron on Byron's association with vampires]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • giaour — [ ʒjaur ] n. m. • 1740; mot turc « incroyant » ♦ Hist. Terme de mépris appliqué aux non musulmans en Turquie. ⇒ roumi. ● giaour nom masculin (turc gâvur, de l arabe kāfir, infidèle) Terme péjoratif par lequel les Turcs désignaient les non… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Giaour — or Ghiaour written gâvur in modern Turkish, is a derogatory word used by Turkish people to describe all who are non Muslims, with particular reference to Christians and at times to Greeks [James Lewis Farley, Turks and Christians ,Adamant Media… …   Wikipedia

  • Giaour — Giaour, n. [Turk. giaur an infidel, Per. gawr, another form of ghebr fire worshiper. Cf. {Kaffir}, {Gheber} .] An infidel; a term applied by Turks to disbelievers in the Mohammedan religion, especially Christrians. Byron. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • giaour — 1560s, Turkish term of contempt for non Muslims, from Pers. gaur, variant of gabr fire worshipper, originally applied to the adherents of the Zoroastrian religion …   Etymology dictionary

  • The Bride of Abydos (Lord Byron) — The Bride of Abydos La fiancée d’Abydos par Delacroix, 1849, Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon Auteur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • GIAOUR —    the Turkish name for an unbeliever in the Mohammedan faith, and especially for a Christian in that regard …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • The Art Institute — Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago Informations géographiques Coordonnées …   Wikipédia en Français

  • giaour — n. infidel; non believer (used by the Turks to disbelievers in the Muslim religion, especially Christians) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • giaour — noun Etymology: French, from Italian dialect (Venetian) giaur, from Turkish gâvur, from Persian gawr, gabr Date: 1564 one outside the Islamic faith ; infidel 2a …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • giaour — noun /ˈʤaʊə/ A non Muslim, especially a Christian, an infidel; especially as used by Turkish people with particular reference to Christians like Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Serbs and Assyrians. We men are not a race of freebooters or giaours;… …   Wiktionary

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