Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Brother Clemens

Brother Clemens, the narrator, an Irish monk from the cloister of Clonmacnoise who sets about telling the story of the children of Duke Grimald. Clemens tells the story with great sympathy and poetry, believing his tale to be instructional as well as entertaining. Living in Rome, Clemens (his Irish name is Morhold) believes that his tale of a saint has a universal message: The sinner may be the chosen one (the German title translates as “The Chosen One”).

Duke Grimald

Duke Grimald and


Baduhenna, the grandparents of “the Holy Sinner.” Grimald is the duke of Flanders and Artois and lives in the Castle Beaurepaire with his wife, Baduhenna. They become the parents of Wiligis and Sibylla, two handsome children who are loved by their father; Baduhenna dies giving birth to the pair. The duke dies seventeen years after his wife, leaving the children in the hands of their guardian, Sieur Eisengrein.


Wiligis and


Sibylla, the two comely children of Duke Grimald and his lady, Baduhenna. After Duke Grimald dies, Wiligis becomes a duke and Sibylla a duchess. The two then commit incest. They confess their sin to Sieur Eisengrein, who sends Wiligis off to join the Crusades and orders Sibylla to Eisengrein’s own castle, where she is to have her baby. Wiligis dies on the way to the port of...

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The Holy Sinner The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

As legendary figures, the two main characters are more than human, not well-rounded, three-dimensional, and credible as ordinary persons. Their beauty, passion, singularity, and steadfastness are the qualities of which legendary tales are made. Extreme in everything they feel, say, and do, whether in love or penitence, pride or humility, they are appropriately astonishing.

Many secondary characters weave in and out of the story like figures in a tapestry. These persons are all entirely human and believable, ranging from the most aristocratic to the most humble. Mention should be made of at least a few of them. The stout-hearted and sensible Sieur Eisengrein helps the sinful twins with practical advice and genuine service, performing deeds of great sacrifice and courage. His wife, Dame Eisengrein, whose passion is motherhood (her own and that of every woman in her care), is memorable for her single-minded maternalism. The fishing folk of St. Dunstan are also completely acceptable as they are portrayed: simple, ignorant, canny, and strong. Their counterparts at the end of the story, the kindly woman of faith and her coarse and crude fisherman husband, are remarkably real. The wealthy man of faith and the cardinal who find Gregorius and bring him back to Rome are highly individualized and admirable. There are many others, too numerous to mention, who contribute to the richness of the story.

The Holy Sinner Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)

Apter, T.E. Thomas Mann: The Devil’s Advocate, 1979.

Cleugh, James. Thomas Mann, 1933.

Feuerlicht, Ignace. Thomas Mann, 1968.

Heller, Erich. The Ironic German, 1958.

Lukacs, Georg. Essays on Thomas Mann, 1964.