Study Guide

The People of Juvik

by Olav Duun

The People of Juvik Summary

Summary (Essentials of European Literature)

The first Juviking was Per, a crofter from the south. After a fight with his landlord, he bought the Juvik farm along the fjord. Later his landlord’s daughter went to live with him, but they never married.

Little was known about their sons. In the third generation, the owner of the farm was nicknamed Bear Anders because he had killed a great black beast with an ax. His son was Big Per, so strong that he once saved horse, sledge, and rider from sinking through the ice. After the rescue the man gave Per his daughter for a wife. One of the last of the old-time Juvikings was Greedy Per, a rich miser who stole other men’s nets. In his old age he had a change of heart and gave back what he had taken. Everyone called him a hero, for it took more courage to return stolen goods in daylight than it did to take them after dark.

Two generations later, at the end of the eighteenth century, there was a single son, Per Anders Juvika. Taking a fancy to a girl he saw at a fair, he went to her father and frightened the man so badly that he gave Per his daughter and a handsome dowry. For his wife Ane, Per Anders built a two-story house with a plank floor in every room. They had two boys, Jens and Per, and three daughters, Ane, Aasel, and Beret. Ane and Aasel married and went off to other farms. Beret never married. Jens, wild and reckless like the old Juvikings, was also single, but gentle Per had an industrious wife, Valborg, whom his father had picked out for him. Even though they were grown men, Jens and Per stayed at home, ruled by old Per Anders, and worked the farm.

One night in December, 1800, neighbors saw a strange light over Juvik, an omen of disaster. Per Anders laughed at the superstitions of his womenfolk. On Lucy Long Night he decided to visit his married daughters. He found Ane living poorly on the great farm at Haaberg, for her husband was dead and she was childless. Aasel and her husband Mikkal lived on a tenant farm. Great workers, they had more abundance than Ane, even in the matter of children.

It was dark when Per Anders started to row home. Because of wind and high waves on the fjord, he was exhausted by the time he reached his own boat house. There his sons, worried by his long absence, found him. Worn out by exposure and fatigue, he survived until after the Christmas season and then died peacefully. When the smoke of his burning bedstraw blew back into the house, signifying another death, both Ane and Beret believed that the mother would soon follow. Beret died after a short illness, to Ane’s relief. Her own respite was brief, however, for she died six weeks later.

The farm suffered the next year, for Jens and young Per could seldom agree. A thief began to rob the storehouse. One night the brothers hunted the man into the sea and he drowned. Jens made light of the affair, but Per, the thief’s death heavy on his conscience, grew more unhappy at Juvik. After Jens had been tricked into marrying a maidservant, Per took his share of the inheritance in money and bought Ane’s farm at Haaberg. Jens, going from bad to worse, finally deserted the farm and went to sea. Aasel and Mikkal went to live at Juvik.

Per worked hard on his land before he hurt himself while lifting stones. He grew fretful and superstitious during the last months of his life, and Valborg feared that the heroic blood was going from the Juvik veins. Young Anders, who would inherit Haaberg, nevertheless had cleverness and strength. At Per’s death the fourteen-year-old boy assumed responsibility as head of the house. All the neighbors and servants saw that he would be a better man than his father.

Anders was in his early twenties when Valborg died, leaving him in charge of Haaberg and Petter, his younger brother. Petter was a sly one, always in trouble; people said he was like his uncle Jens. Anders’ reckless Juviking blood showed only in his courtship of Massi Liness. With Ola Engdal, his rival, he risked his life in many foolhardy deeds; they agreed that if either perished, the survivor was to have Massi. When Massi settled matters by accepting Ola, Anders defiantly married Solvi, a girl of Lapp blood, and took her to live in the fine new house he had built. Before long there were many misfortunes in the district. The Engdal children died. Ola injured his leg, and it became infected. Wolves killed whole herds of sheep. Because Haaberg alone continued to prosper, the neighbors began to call Solvi a witch and blamed their troubles on Lapp sorcery. At last Anders yielded to their superstitious beliefs and told Solvi to go back to her father. While she was rowing up the fjord, Petter started a rock slide which fell from a cliff upon her boat, killing her and her child. Having wished Solvi dead, Anders brooded much after her death, and his hair turned gray.

Left widowed and childless, Massi went to Anders and asked him to marry her. Their children were Per, Gjartru, Aasel, Jens, Beret, and Ola. Meanwhile Petter had grown more dissipated and spiteful. Anders finally bought him a little place at Ronningan, where he settled with Kjersti, Massi’s foster daughter. Later Anders tried to help his brother by hiring him to paint the parish church and lead the spire. Petter used cheap materials and did poor work. When Anders threatened to expose him, the rascal burned the church.

Young Per married Marja Leinland and brought his bride to Haaberg. Gjartru was in love with Hall Gronset, who was lost at sea. There was gossip in the neighborhood when Petter Liness, Per’s friend, drowned. Petter’s family suspected Per of having in his possession a wallet containing Petter’s savings. Petter had entrusted the money to Per but had asked him to give it secretly to Kjersti Ronningan. Anders, grieved and angered by Per’s stubborn silence,...

(The entire section is 2371 words.)