Places: Kristin Lavransdatter

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1920-1922 (English translation, 1923-1927): Kransen, 1920 (The Bridal Wreath, 1923); Husfrue, 1921 (The Mistress of Husaby, 1925); Korset, 1922 (The Cross, 1927)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Religious

Time of work: Early fourteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedJörundgaard

Jörundgaard Kristin Lavransdatter (jor-ewnt-GAYRD). Manor and farm inherited by Kristin Lavransdatter’s mother. The farm is located in Sel, a central Norwegian region northwest of Lillehammer, where Undset herself spent much of her life and where she died. Although Kristin was born at her father’s manor at Skog near Oslo, she spends her early life and a significant part of her adult life at Jörundgaard. Jörundgaard and its master, Kristin’s father Lavrans Björgulfsön, who is deeply rooted in his lands, family, and the Roman Catholic religion, represent the patriarchal religious life against which Kristin rebels and to which she eventually returns.

Surrounding Jörundgaard are hills, dales, forests, and streams that Kristin enjoys exploring. Catholicism is so intimately connected with Jörundgaard that visiting a church is like traveling into the mountains. The church is also where Kristin’s arranged marriage to a neighbor’s son is to take place because Lavrans wants to join his and his neighbor’s estates. Troubled in heart, Kristin asks her father to let her go to a nunnery, where their shared hope is that she will regain her peace of mind.

*Oslo

*Oslo. Large port city on the southeastern coast of Norway where Kristin meets the love of her life, Erlend Nikolaussön at a fair. Instead of isolating Kristin from her troubles, the nearby convent of Nonneseter compounds them. The piety of convent life is no match for the passion promised by this knight of the north. Oslo becomes the scene of their sins and deceptions, though Kristin is eventually able to overcome the objections of her family to marry Erlend at Jörundgaard.

Husaby

Husaby (hew-sah-BEE). Erlend’s estate, comprising thirty farms and homesteads, located about twenty miles southwest of Nidaros. Perched on a hillside between two valleys, its many buildings are situated above a lake. Though larger than Lavrans’s estate, Husaby has rocky soil and is not as fertile as the flatlands around Jörundgaard. For Kristin, Husaby’s deteriorated state contrasts unfavorably with the order and productivity of her father’s farm. However, through her dedication and hard work, she helps to cure Husaby’s ills and turns it into a prosperous inheritance for her seven sons. Plagued by guilt over her sins with Erlend, she also tries to restore her soul to health.

*Nidaros

*Nidaros (NEED-ah-rohs). Now known as Trondheim, the historic capital of Norway on the country’s central coast. Located within the archbishopric of Nidaros, Nidaros contains a cathedral known as the Wonder of the North and the shrine of Norway’s patron saint, Olav. As a child, Kristin sees pilgrims passing through Jörundgaard on their way to Nidaros. Later, like them, she is awestruck by the cathedral and experiences true contrition at the shrine of St. Olav.

Later, with the death of her father and husband, Kristin no longer feels part of the young generations at Jörundgaard and decides to enter a convent at Nidaros. During her journey to Nidaros over the Dovre Mountains, she reviews her life and sees it in the light of God’s grace. She enters the convent at Rein, where she hopes to become a nun. When the Black Death arrives in Nidaros, the city and the convent become scenes of great suffering, but for Kristin these disease-ridden places become the means of her redemption. With a self-abnegation that was lacking in her early life, she cares for the sick and dying, and when the plague makes her, too, its victim, she realizes that her moves from place to place were not meaningless fragments or a disorganized story but the unified parts of God’s plan for her salvation.

Haugen

Haugen (HOW-gen). Small farm in the Dovre Mountains to which Erlend retires after losing his Husaby estate because of his involvement in a political plot. Uncomfortable with his subsequent role as the lord of Jörundgaard, Erlend abandons his family and goes to his Haugen farm. Though Kristin visits him and pleads for him to return, he insists on remaining on his “little croft” where he can be free. However, he does return to Jörundgaard to defend his wife’s honor.

Sources for Further StudyAllen, Walter Gore. Renaissance in the North. London: Sheed & Ward, 1946. This study contains an informative essay by the author on Sigrid Undset’s conversion to Catholicism at the age of forty-two, discussing its influence on both her contemporary-based and medieval-based works.Bayerschmidt, Carl F. Sigrid Undset. New York: Twayne, 1970. This book-length study of Undset argues that it was the empirical side of Christianity that Undset emphasized rather than the dogmatic. A comprehensive biography.Brunsdale, Mitzi. Sigrid Undset: Chronicler of Norway. Oxford, England: Berg, 1988. A comprehensive and wholly contemporary revaluation of Undset’s canon, placing her firmly within a Norwegian historical and cultural context. Especially informative on the often neglected minor characters in the novel.Grenier, Cynthia. “Reading Sigrid Undset Today.” Crisis 17, no. 2 (February, 1999): 28-33. The Washington Times columnist discusses Undset’s life, spiritual beliefs, and conversion to Roman Catholicism.Gustafson, Alrik. “Christian Ethics in a Pagan World: Sigrid Undset.” In Six Scandinavian Novelists. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968. Places Undset within the context of European and Scandinavian modernism. Shows how her Christianity differentiated her from other modernist authors but also suggests that the spiritual dilemmas faced by the characters in Kristin Lavransdatter have their counterparts in the modern age.Hudson, Deal, ed. Sigrid Undset: On Saints and Sinners. Ft. Collins, Colo.: Ignatius Press, 1993. Essays about Undset and her works derived from the Wethersfield Institute, which holds annual conferences on cultural aspects of Catholicism intended to support U.S. Catholicism. The 1993 conference focused on Undset.Leithauser, Brad. Introduction to Kristin Lavransdatter. Translated by Tiina Nunnally. New York: Penguin, 2005. The introduction to this first translation since the archaic, stilted translation by Charles Archer in 1920 provides background to Undset’s trilogy. The translation includes parts deleted by Archer for being too sexually explicit.Lytle, Andrew. Kristin. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1992. This loving tribute to Undset’s masterwork summarizes the plot and testifies to the book’s moral values and its enduring emotional core. Filled with a tender affection for the book’s central character. The most passionate criticism in English Undset has stimulated.Naess, Harald S., ed. A History of Norwegian Literature. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993. Views Undset in a historical context with other Norwegian authors. Includes a section on Norwegian female authors.Page, Tim, ed. The Unknown Sigrid Undset: “Jenny” and Other Works. Royalton, Vt.: Steerforth Press, 2001. Analyzes Undset’s lesser-known works, such as short stories and letters; discusses her opposition to modern feminism.Winsnes, A. H. Sigrid Undset: A Study in Christian Realism. Translated by P. G. Foote. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1953. This book-length study of Undset as a writer in the realist tradition interprets, among other things, Undset’s tendency to indulge in lengthy descriptions and analyses of mental states.
Categories: Places