Ellida Wangel, a woman dominated by the sea. She feels stifled in her new home after she marries and goes away from the sea to live in the mountains. She feels strangely drawn to a sailor who had known and loved her years earlier. When he appears again, she feels his hold over her, as well as feeling the conflicting hold of her husband. Left to her own choice, she stays with her husband. She feels that she has retained her sanity by being able to make a choice for herself.
Dr. Wangel, Ellida’s husband, a physician. He tries to understand the strains on his wife’s mind and gives her a verbal release from her vows so that she can decide for herself whether to go with her former suitor or remain with her husband.
Hilda Wangel, Dr. Wangel’s daughters by his first wife. They find their stepmother a difficult person with whom to make friends.
Arnholm, Boletta’s former tutor and another early sweetheart of Ellida. She refused in the past to marry Arnholm because, she said, she already was betrothed.
The stranger, a sailor who has a powerful psychological hold over Ellida because he makes her think she has been betrothed to him in a strange ceremony by the sea. He has murdered a man and is a fugitive from justice. Ellida finally decides to stay with her husband and breaks the hold the stranger has over her mind.
Lyngstrand, a traveling sculptor who stops at the Wangels’ house. His story of a sailor and his wife reawakens in Ellida’s mind memory of the sailor who had betrothed himself to her years earlier.