The Son Avenger

by Sigrid Undset

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Characters Discussed

Olav Audunsson

Olav Audunsson, the master of Hestviken. Accumulating family tragedies seem to him part of the retribution for his great unconfessed crime. He suffers a stroke that makes it impossible for him to confess, despite his great and constant remorse. At last, he dies.

Cecilia Olavsdatter

Cecilia Olavsdatter, the daughter of Olav and Ingunn. She makes an unhappy marriage to a wastrel who becomes a thief. After he is killed, she marries the man who was her first choice.


Eirik, the illegitimate son of Ingunn, whom Olav has accepted as his heir. Feelings of guilt after the girl he has been pursuing dies cause him to decide to become a monk. A poor novice, he is sent home and settles down. A planned advantageous marriage is called off, and he marries a fallen woman. At last, both go into holy orders.

Jörund Rypa

Jörund Rypa, a young squire who marries Cecilia and proves to be dishonest. Discovery of his part in a robbery causes the breaking off of Eirik’s engagement. When Jörund is found stabbed in his bed, guilt-ridden Olav believes to his horror that Cecilia is the murderess, but this is not true.


Liv and


Arnketil, a husband and wife who keep a house of thieves and gamblers. To avenge the ruin of a daughter, Arnketil kills Jörund. Arnketil’s body is found long afterward in a swamp.

Bothild Asgersdatter

Bothild Asgersdatter, Olav’s foster daughter. Trying to evade Eirik’s pursuit, she falls and vomits blood; thus he first learns that she is ill with the wasting sickness. In remorse, he leaves Hestviken for a short while. He returns to make amends by asking for her hand in marriage but finds that she has died.

Gunhild Bersesdatter

Gunhild Bersesdatter, to whom Eirik is betrothed.


Guttorm, Gunhild’s rich uncle, of Draumtop. Some of the proceeds of a robbery against him are found in Jörund’s chest. Eirik’s efforts to cover up the crime prove unsuccessful.

Berse, of Eiken

Berse, of Eiken, Gunhild’s father. He forbids the marriage between Eirik and Gunhild after Jörund’s part in the robbery is disclosed.

Aslak Gunnarsson

Aslak Gunnarsson, a young man with whom Olav fought in Duke Eirik’s war. An outlaw, he is sheltered by a reluctant Olav. When he leaves Hestviken after his family has paid atonement for his crime, he begs to return with his kinsmen to ask for Cecilia’s hand, but Olav gives him no hope. He marries Cecilia after her widowhood.

Eldrid Bersesdatter

Eldrid Bersesdatter, Gunhild’s older sister. She caused great scandal and is living alone. Eirik goes to her house as part of a plan of Gunhild’s, but Gunhild is prevented from getting away to meet him there. Eirik finds Eldrid kind and marries her. She enters a convent later.


Björn, the illegitimate son of Olav, who is married and happy. Visiting the pair, Olav feels that family troubles cannot touch this son whom he cannot claim.

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