Johannes, the miller’s son, later a poet. At the age of fourteen, Johannes is immersed in nature. Birds, trees, and stones are all his friends. Imagination peoples his small realm with dwarfs, giants, kings, and princesses. Emotional and sensitive, he suffers the misery of being the poor boy and servant when Ditlef and Victoria, children from the local manor house, wish to play. Even at the age of fourteen, he adores the ten-year-old Victoria, who enchants him with her pretty appearance and gestures. His love for Victoria inspires him to write a series of successful books of love poems. His success, however, cannot clear away the misunderstandings, doubt, and pride that continue to bar his way to Victoria.
Victoria, the daughter of the master and lady of the castle. At ten years of age, Victoria is irresistible to Johannes, and as she grows older she becomes more lovely, graceful, and slender. Her deep blue eyes and wide, slender brows lure the miller’s son. As her childish affection for Johannes matures, Victoria disguises her love to save her mother. Although the great success of Johannes and the death of Victoria’s wealthy fiancé, Otto, might have freed the two lovers, a lack of frankness prevents their union. Hurt by Victoria’s actions, Johannes proposes to Camilla hours before he learns of Otto’s death. Misperception continues until Victoria’s death, which comes not long after a tubercular attack. Death frees her not to call to him but to write him a letter and admit the depth and constancy of her love.
Camilla, the young child rescued from drowning by Johannes, later his fiancée. Where Victoria is complex, Camilla is simple and childlike. Cheerful, fair, and naïve, she holds no surprises for Johannes. Despite her engagement to Johannes, she falls in love with the uncomplicated and friendly Richmond.
Otto, a chamberlain’s son. Wealthy and thoughtless, the young lieutenant is not someone Victoria can love. His snobbish actions begin in childhood. The evening before he dies in a hunting accident, the jealous Otto strikes Johannes in the eye “by accident.”
Master of the Castle
Master of the Castle, an improvident, party-loving man who allows the manor house to decline. Dependent on his daughter’s good marriage to restore his fortunes, the master destroys himself and the castle by fire when Otto dies.