The Axe

by Sigrid Undset

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 534

Characters Discussed

Olav Audunsson

Olav Audunsson, the master of Hestviken, who is betrothed to Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter from infancy. After slaying a kinsman of hers in a quarrel, Olav is proclaimed an outlaw, and thus is unable to marry Ingunn, though he has been sleeping with her. Returning home much later, he finds her pregnant by another man. He kills the man in secret—a deed he can never confess, lest disclosure of his motive result in Ingunn’s shame.

Steinfinn Toresson

Steinfinn Toresson, the father of Ingunn and foster father of Olav. In love with a woman promised to another, he steals her away. They live together until everyone is reconciled to their wedding, at which time their daughter Ingunn is three years old.

Ingebjorg Jonsdatter

Ingebjorg Jonsdatter, Steinfinn’s wife. Her rejected suitor comes years afterwards to take revenge on Steinfinn, whom he shames before his household. Steinnfinn swears not to sleep with his wife until he gets vengeance; the first opportunity comes years later, and Steinfinn kills his rival in combat. Ingebjorg dies in her sleep that very night, and Steinfinn later dies of his wounds.

Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter

Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter, betrothed to Olav. Her child by another man is given to a forester’s wife at birth, and at last Ingunn and Olav are married.

Arnvid Finnsson

Arnvid Finnsson, Steinfinn’s kinsman. He gives much help to the romance between Ingunn and Olav.

Kolbein Toresson

Kolbein Toresson, Steinfinn’s gloomy half brother. He is relentlessly opposed to Ingunn’s marrying Olav.

Einar Kolbeinsson

Einar Kolbeinsson, who is killed by Olav in a quarrel between the Kolbeinssons and Arnvid and Olav. As a result, Olav is outlawed and must leave Ingunn.


Teit, an Icelander and a merry, pert clerk. Ingunn succumbs to him during Olav’s absence. He fathers her child and is killed by Olav.


Eirik, the illegitimate son of Teit and Ingunn.

Tore Toresson

Tore Toresson, the father of Steinfinn. He sends his son to the royal bodyguard at Bergen, where Steinfinn first sees Ingebjorg.

Queen Ingebjorg

Queen Ingebjorg, with whom Ingebjorg Jonsdatter came from Denmark.

King Magnus

King Magnus, who has promised Ingebjorg to Mattias.

Mattias Haraldsson

Mattias Haraldsson, Ingebjorg’s rejected promised bridegroom. He takes revenge by shaming Steinfinn, who later kills him in combat.

Tora Steinfinnsdatter

Tora Steinfinnsdatter, Ingunn’s sister.

Hallvard Steinfinnsson

Hallvard Steinfinnsson and

Jon Steinfinnsson

Jon Steinfinnsson, younger brothers of Ingunn.

Audun Ingolfsson

Audun Ingolfsson, of Hestviken, the father of Olav. Told he is soon to die, he holds Steinfinn to an agreement made during a drinking bout that Olav and Ingunn shall marry. The orphaned Olav is then reared by Steinfinn.

Haakon Gautsson

Haakon Gautsson, the husband of Tora.

Bishop Thorfinn

Bishop Thorfinn, a stern but just man. Were it not for Olav’s slaying of Einar, the bishop might have succeeded in helping Olav and Ingunn to marry, despite her kinsmen’s opposition.

Earl Alf Erlingsson

Earl Alf Erlingsson, Queen Ingebjorg’s liegeman, in whose train Olav returns briefly to make peace with the Kolbeinssons. Upon the queen’s death, her son proclaims Alf and his men outlaws.

Lady Magnhild

Lady Magnhild, who gives Ingunn’s child to a foster mother.

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