Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy. The first novel, The Bridal Wreath, depicts the eponymous character’s girlhood and adolescence during the fourteenth century. Kristin’s early childhood is idyllic. She lives on Jøundgaard, a prosperous estate in Gudbrandsdal, Norway. She has a very close relationship with her father, Lavrans Bjøgulfsøn, the master of the estate and a pious, respected man. One rare childhood tragedy is the crippling of her little sister Ulvhild in an accident.
With puberty, Kristin’s life becomes troubled. Arne Gyrdsson, Kristin’s close peasant friend, worships Kristin and dies defending her honor. Kristin rejects her parents’ spousal choice, the mature and pious Simon Darre, because she is not romantically attracted to him. While residing temporarily at a nunnery in Oslo, Kristin is seduced by Erlend Nikulausson, a worldly knight. Kristin is accidentally complicit in the death of Erlend’s former mistress, Eline Ormsdatter. The headstrong Kristin breaks church rules requiring chastity, truthfulness, and obedience to one’s parents. She also goes against the cautionary teachings of her friend and adviser Brother Edvin, a wandering friar. Kristin’s parents do not approve of marriage to the impulsive, immature Erlend, but love-smitten Kristin is determined to marry him and they relent. Secretly pregnant at her marriage celebration, the physically ill bride experiences doubts about her marital choice....
(The entire section is 808 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In Kristin Lavransdatter, Undset told the entire life story of the eponymous character in chronological order in three books. A supporting cast of characters grows old with Kristin over the time period 1320-1350 c.e. The author vividly describes the setting in medieval rural Norway. It is a brutal world with much violence and many pagan superstitions. The Viking era had ended when King Olaf Haraldson converted his kingdom to Christianity. However, many of the Viking behaviors continued, such as drunkenness, brutal talk, and vicious fights begun with little provocation. Just as Norway is undergoing a conflict between pagan and Christian ways, the book’s characters struggle between spirit and flesh.
The first book, The Bridal Wreath (also known as The Wreath), depicts Kristin’s idyllic childhood. She grows up secure and well loved on her father’s prosperous feudal estate. She is especially close to Lavrans, her father. He is an admirable figure, respected and honorable. Her protected, happy life is interrupted only by an accident that seriously injures her little sister, Ulvhild.
With puberty, Kristin’s rebellious nature surfaces. Her childhood friend Arne, a peasant, dies in a fight defending her honor. Her parents arrange her marriage to Simon, a good and wise man of her landowner station in life. Kristin, however, does not love Simon, and to delay marriage she spends a year in a...
(The entire section is 1009 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Lavrans Björgulfsön and his wife, Ragnfrid Ivarsdatter, are descended from powerful landowners. Although Kristin was born at her father’s manor, Skog, she spends most of her childhood at Jörundgaard, which falls to Lavrans and Ragnfrid upon the death of Ragnfrid’s father. Kristin’s childhood is exceedingly happy.
A second daughter, Ulvhild, is crippled at the age of three. Lady Aashild, a declared witch-wife, is sent for to help the child. Kristin becomes well acquainted with Lady Aashild that summer.
When she is fifteen years old, Kristin’s father betrothes her to Simon Andresson of Dyfrin. One evening, Kristin slips away to bid good-bye to a childhood playmate, Arne Gyrdson. On her way home, Bentein, Sira Eirik’s grandson, accosts her. She escapes after a fight with him, physically unharmed but mentally tortured. Later that year, Arne is brought home dead after fighting with Bentein over Bentein’s sly insinuations regarding Kristin. Kristin persuades her father to put off the betrothal feast and permit her to spend a year in a convent at Oslo.
Soon after entering the Convent of Nonneseter, Kristin and her bed partner, Ingebjorg Filippusdatter, go into Oslo to shop, accompanied by an old servant. When they become separated from the old man, they are rescued by a group of men riding through the woods. In that manner Kristin meets Erlend Nikulaussön, the nephew of Lady Aashild. In July, Kristin and Erlend meet once...
(The entire section is 1205 words.)