Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Hestviken. Olav Audunssøn’s ancestral home—a cold, isolated place on a rugged Norwegian landscape of rocky promontories and pounding fjord waves. Olav secretly carries bowls of ale out to an old Viking burial mound on his property to honor an adventurous ancestor. This practice demonstrates his longing for release from the constraints of his confining life.

Eirik, Olav’s heir apparent to the estate, covets Hestviken’s land and buildings and reacts with anger and jealousy to any perceived threats to his right to inherit them. However, Eirik fails to perform his share of farm work, and household workers make fun of his lies and boasting.


Rundmyr. Farm near Hestviken that is overseen by Olav and occupied by the mentally deficient Arnketil and the corrupt Liv. A “den of iniquity,” this site of slovenliness, thievery, and profligacy contributes to the corruption of Eirik. Olav can reform neither the farm nor Eirik’s character.

Torhild Björnsdatter’s farm

Torhild Björnsdatter’s farm. Home of Olav’s former mistress at Auken. Contrasting completely with Rundmyr, this household is a place of virtue and accomplishment. Olav twice crosses the fjord to visit it, and each time is favorably impressed by Torhild’s hard work and resourcefulness in managing the property. When Swedes invade Norway, the women of Hestviken flee to Torhild’s farm for...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Allen, W. Gore. Renaissance in the North. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1946. Notes strong Catholic underpinning of Undset’s works. Claims Undset approaches her medieval material with no preconceptions, and portrays her hero as living in a golden age when religious values guided people’s lives.

Bayerschmidt, Carl. Sigrid Undset. New York: Twayne, 1970. General study for nonspecialists; provides overview of Undset’s life and major works. Commentary on In the Wilderness is included in a chapter discussing Undset’s novels of the Middle Ages. Concentrates on the moral development of the hero.

Gustafson, Alrik. Six Scandinavian Novelists. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1971. Analysis of the four novels that make up the chronicle titled The Master of Hestviken. Considers Undset’s portrait of the hero of In the Wilderness as gloomy; highlights her concern for the perennial battle between flesh and spirit.

Whitehouse, J. C. “Sigrid Undset.” In Vertical Man: The Human Being in the Catholic Novels of Graham Greene, Sigrid Undset, and Georges Bernanos. New York: Garland, 1990. Analysis of Undset’s view of human nature seen in her novels and stories. Discussion of In the Wilderness is included in a discussion of Undset’s vision of humanity. Calls Undset a great moralist whose characters reveal her optimism for the future of the human race.

Winsnes, A. H. Sigrid Undset: A Study in Christian Realism. Translated by P. G. Foote. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1953. A biography of the novelist that traces the strong strand of Christian belief that undergirds all of her fiction. Discusses the characters in the multivolume saga of which In the Wilderness is a part.