Petra, known as the fisher maiden. She is the illegitimate child of Pedro Ohlsen and Gunlaug. As a child, she is brought back to her home village by her mother. When she grows up, she acquires three suitors who fight over her. She leaves the village for Bergen because she is attracted to the stage. She is later forgiven by Hans Ödegaard, who has felt that she ruined his life when he was her suitor.
Hans Ödegaard, the village pastor’s son. He teaches Petra to read and falls in love with her. To his father’s sorrow, he is indifferent to a career as a clergyman. Though he feels his life is ruined by Petra’s having other suitors, he gets over his despair and marries a girl named Signe, daughter of a clergyman.
Pedro Ohlsen, a dreamer and a flute player. He has an affair with Gunlaug that results in Petra’s birth. His father and grandfather leave him a fortune, which he in his turn wills to Petra upon his death.
Gunlaug, an audacious and bewitching woman, the mother of Petra. She helps her daughter escape from the village after the village is aroused by the girl’s having three suitors.
Gunnar, a poor sailor. He is one of Petra’s three suitors.
Yngve Vold, a rich shipowner, one of Petra’s three suitors. When he announces that he plans to marry Petra, he is beaten by both Gunnar and Hans.
Signe, a friend of Petra. She loves Hans and plans to marry him. She is a suitable wife because she is a pastor’s daughter of unimpeachable reputation.
Brandes, Georg. “Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.” In Henrik Ibsen: A Critical Study—with a 42 Page Essay on Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. 1899. Reprint. New York: Benjamin Bloom, 1964. A firsthand biographical and critical portrait of Bjørnson’s literary and political career. Notes that his daring apostasy of the Norwegian cause was implicitly optimistic, idyllic, and distinctively feminist.
“The Bravura of Bjørnson.” The Times Literary Supplement, June 20, 1958, p. 344. Describes Bjørnson’s literary career, especially as it related to his public image.
Kepos, Paula, et al., eds. “Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.” In Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1991. An excellent biographical and critical overview of the author’s work. Includes a comprehensive bibliography of his principal works and reprints of critical reviews of the author, including those of Max Beerbohm, William Payne, and Edwin Bjørkman, and an excellent contemporary analysis of The Fisher Maiden by William Dean Howells.
McFarlane, James Walter. “Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.” In Ibsen and the Temper of Norwegian Literature. New York: Octagon Books, 1979. A general survey of the work of this poet, dramatist, novelist, and national hero. Describes his talents in theater and as a writer and critiques his role as a public figure and passionate advocate of women’s rights.
Rottem, Oystein. “The Multifarious Bjørnson.” Scandinavica 24, no. 1 (1985): 59-64. Reviews a five-volume jubilee edition of Bjørnson’s works, published in Norway to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Bjørnson’s birth.