Critical Evaluation

Like Sigrid Undset in Norway, Verner von Heidenstam drew inspiration from the history of his native Sweden in medieval times. The Tree of the Folkungs is a historical novel of imaginative freedom and dramatic vigor. There are two parts to the story. The first deals with the period at the end of the eleventh century—a barbaric, brutal age which in the North saw heathenism and Christianity in conflict. In the second half of the novel, the Folkung family, proud descendants of an ancient peasant freebooter, push their way to the Swedish throne by the middle of the thirteenth century. The pageantry, heroism, humility, superstition, cruelty, and greed of the Middle Ages come alive to the reader. The effect is not one of antiquarianism, however, for Heidenstam is interested in a living past, the growth of a culture, with its mixture of good and evil, nobility and baseness. The writer tells his story with a variety of styles and techniques, mingling myth, legend, history, saga, and fantasy. The result is a literary work of significance and tragic power. The author was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916.

The Tree of the Folkungs is romantic with a core of realism. It presents the saga of a great family that held sway in Sweden from the close of the Viking age to the end of the thirteenth century. Written in a style reminiscent of that of ancient legends, this massive novel records the destiny of a nation. In deceptively simple,...

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