Short summary - Kristin Lavransdatter - Sigrid Undset

Scandinavian literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Kristin Lavransdatter
Sigrid Undset

The action of the trilogy covers the period from 1310 to 1349, when the plague that devastated Europe reached Norway.

Kristin's father came from a Swedish family known as Lagman's Sons. For three generations this family had lived in Norway, but sometimes they were reminded that they were strangers here. At the age of eighteen, Lavrans, the son of Bjergylf, married Ragnfrid, the daughter of Ivar. Ragnfrid was three years older than her husband and had a sullen disposition. Three of their sons died in infancy, and when they settled on the Joryungord estate, only Christine, a seven-year-old girl with golden hair and light gray eyes, remained alive. Then two more daughters were born - Ulfhild and Ramborg. Lavrans and Ragnfrid were reluctant to communicate with their neighbors and even saw their own relatives no more often than decency required. However, Lavrans was loved in the district: he was a man of courage and at the same time peaceful, he never offended his tenants and treated his servants well. The couple were distinguished by great piety and raised their children in the spirit of piety. Christine became very attached to the monk Edwin - a truly holy man. Lavrans doted on Christine, and the girl also gave a clear preference to her father, not noticing that she was causing grief to her mother. Ragnfrid's consolation was Ulfhild, whom everyone considered the most beautiful of the sisters. Ramborg's parents were rather indifferent. When Ulvhild went into her fourth year, a misfortune happened - the baby was crippled by a fallen log. Fru Aeschild was invited to take care of her. She was a woman from a royal family, but people shunned her - she had a reputation as a sorceress and homemaker. This did not stop Ragnfrid: the mother agreed to everything in order to save Ulfhild, and Fru Aeschild's decoctions really eased the child's suffering. Once Mrs. Aeschild said that Kristin's beauty could make a perfect match for her nephew Erlend, the son of Nikulaus from Hysaby. But there will be no marriage between them, because Christine Erlend is no match.

Ulfhild remained a cripple for the rest of her life, but Kristin got prettier and prettier. When she came of age, her parents betrothed her to Simon Darre, a young man from a respectable, prosperous family. Simon quickly won the favor of all the household members, and Kristin also got used to him. It was going to a happy wedding, but then the unexpected happened. Kristin has been friends since childhood with her foster brother Arne, the son of the tenant Gurd. She was aware that Arne loved her, but in her youth she did not attach any importance to this. Arne could get out and people only in the city: Before leaving, he asked Christine to go out into the forest in the evening to say goodbye, and the girl could not refuse him. When she returned home, she was ambushed by Bentein, a priest who decided that it was possible not to stand on ceremony with a girl who was running away from her father's house on a date. Kristin managed to fight off the scoundrel, and the wounded Bentein began to tell nasty things about her in the presence of Arne. When the fight broke out, Bentein was the first to draw his knife. Dead Arne was brought home, and his mother blamed Kristin for the death of her Son. None of the relatives doubted that the girl retained her honor, but Christine was so shocked that the family council decided to postpone the marriage for a year.

Lavrans sent his daughter to a monastery in Oslo. There Kristin met Erlend, the son of Nikulaus. He was already twenty-eight years old, but he looked unusually young - Christine had never seen such handsome men. In turn, Erlend was fascinated by the lovely girl. They passionately fell in love with each other. Kristin did not immediately find out about the past of her chosen one: at the age of eighteen, Erlend met a married woman and had two children with her. He was outlawed, many of his relatives turned away from him, and he had to pray for a long time for sin. Taking advantage of Christine's inexperience, Erlend took possession of her, and then they met many times in the house of the harlot Brynhild. It was in this vile place that Simon Darre lay in wait for them. The girl angrily refused the betrothal, and Erlend swore an oath to marry her. Taking pity on Christine, Simon hid the details of the breakup, but Lavrans still became indignant. He did not want to hear about Erlend, but Ragnfrid managed to gradually soften her husband. The mother guessed that Christine had lost her virginity - Lavrans, without knowing it, doomed his daughter to disgrace. Erlend decided to take Christine away, but his mistress Elina tracked them down. Having made an unsuccessful attempt to poison Christine, she wounded Erlend, and then stabbed herself. Fru Aeschild and Erlend's servant Ulf helped to hide Christine's participation in this matter, but the girl was firmly convinced that the Lord would punish her.

Troubles rained down one after another: before the betrothal to Erlend, the unfortunate Ulfhild died, and then the holy monk Edwin quietly faded away from old age. In the meantime, Simon got married - it seemed that he wanted to prove to everyone, and above all to himself, that he did not regret the former bride at all. Shortly before the wedding, Christine realized that she was pregnant. Unfortunately, Lavrans decided to throw a lavish celebration, and Kristin knew that this would be the subject of evil talk. People were condescending to the love pleasures of youth, but it was considered the greatest shame to desecrate the bride. Despite the nausea, Kristin adequately endured the prescribed ceremony, but her father understood everything, and this was a cruel blow for him. At the same time, Lavrans suddenly realized that he had not given his wife true happiness - he married so early that intimacy seemed to him a shameful and sinful thing, and Ragnfrid blamed herself for this. They lived in harmony, and he never offended her even with a word, but they missed something very important in their lives.

Erlend took his young wife to Hysaby. Christine was tormented by fear for the child: she constantly prayed that God would not punish the child for the sins of the parents. But Erlend could not hide his annoyance: he was the most noble person in the district, and it was not proper for him to sin with his own bride. For the rest of her life, Christine harbored a deep resentment towards her husband, who did not support her in difficult times. The birth was unusually difficult, but tiny Nikulaus - Nokkwe, as his mother called him - was born healthy and strong. With this news, Erlend went skiing to Joryungord, and Lavrans for the first time felt good feelings for his son-in-law. Kristin, taking little Nokkwe with her, made a thanksgiving pilgrimage: during her prayer, she saw St. Edwin - she took it as a sign of forgiveness.

Erlend's large and rich estate was completely neglected. Kristin was a worthy daughter of Lavrans: work was in full swing in her hands, she gradually got rid of negligent servants, and the rest took up their minds. She made the manager Ulva, who was related to Erlend - he had to go into the service due to the fact that he was an illegitimate son. Ulf proved to be an excellent assistant, but sometimes he behaved too familiarly, which caused gossip in the district. However, Kristin had no time to delve into these little things: household chores fell upon her, and she gave birth almost continuously - after Nokkve, Bjergylf and Geute were born, and then the twins Ivar and Skule. At the insistence of his wife, Erlend took into the house children from Elina - Orm and Margret. Kristin became very attached to her stepson, but she could not bring herself to love her stepdaughter - she was too much like her mother. Because of Margrethe, the couple often quarreled. However, most of all Kristin resented Erlend's frivolity: it seemed to her that he did not think at all about the future of his sons and was almost jealous of them for her. Children were often sick - Christine nursed them, using the knowledge received from Fru Aashild. Then a purple rash began in the area, and everyone in the house fell ill, including Christine herself. When she woke up, Orme had already been buried.

Meanwhile, Simon Darre was widowed. With his wife, he was not too happy, because he could not forget Christine. Her younger sister Ramborg was fifteen years old, and Simon wooed her. Lavrans, who always appreciated Simon, willingly agreed to this marriage. Pregnant Kristin arrived at the wedding with her husband and children. Lavrans did not have long to live: before his death, he forgave his beloved daughter and bequeathed to her his pectoral cross. She named her sixth son after his father. In January 1332, Ragnfrid also died. Joryungord went to Kristin, and she instructed Simon to manage the estate. By that time, her seventh son, Myunan, was born.

Discontent has been growing in the country for a long time. Even the peace-loving Lavrans believed that in former times people lived much better. The young King Magnus, son of Queen Ingebjerg, paid more attention to Sweden than to Norway. Many thought that another son of Ingebjerg, the young Haakon, should have been placed on the throne. Kristin never delved into these men's conversations - she had enough worries with the house and children. She knew that rural work burdened Erlend - a born warrior and knight. It seemed natural to her that noble relatives found a worthy occupation for him - he received a parish in management. Suddenly, Erlend was seized and taken to court in Nidaros - for Kristin it turned out to be a bolt from the blue. Her husband was accused of plotting against King Magnus and sentenced to death. No one wanted to take care of Erlend, partly out of fear, but more out of contempt. Erlend himself blabbed about everything to a dissolute woman, from whom he decided to seek solace after another quarrel with Christine: he quickly got tired of this Fra Syunniva, and the wounded woman informed him. When a terrible threat loomed over Erlend, Kristin seemed to be petrified with grief. Seeing this, Simon Darre went to the relatives of Erlend, and they yielded to his prayers - thanks to their intercession, King Magnus gave Erlend life. The Hyusabyu estate was confiscated in favor of the treasury, and the couple had to settle in Yoryugord. Soon, Erlend helped Simon out of trouble when he was almost killed in a random fight. And Kristin managed to cure Andres, the only son of Simon and Ramborg. It seemed that both families now became friends so tightly that nothing could separate them. But Erlend and Simon quarreled - Christine was the reason, although she herself did not know about it. Christine was annoyed with her husband: even after imprisonment and dishonor, he did not lose his former arrogance and frivolity. In these parts, old Lavrans was well remembered, and therefore his son-in-law and daughter were strictly judged.

Once, a kinsman Ulf told Kristin that Erlend dispossessed his sons most of all - they will never be able to occupy a high position in society, although they are far superior to other young men in beauty and abilities. And Kristin could not stand it: during one of the quarrels, she reminded her husband about Syunniwa. Erlend left Joruyagord and settled in a small house in the mountains. Christine saw how her grown sons suffered, but she could not break her pride. But then a terrible misfortune happened - a trifling wound brought Simon Darre to the grave. Before his death, he ordered to call Christine: he wanted to say that he had loved only her all his life - instead, he asked her to reconcile with Erlend. Christine promised. As soon as she and Erlend saw each other, their love flared up again. Returning home, Christine realized that she was pregnant. In deep anguish, she waited for her husband, and he hoped that she would come to the mountains. And Kristin named the newborn son Erlend, although the paternal name was supposed to be given only after death. The baby was so weak that he lasted only a few days. There has long been a vicious talk in the district about what is happening in Joryungord. All this broke out when Ulf decided to part with his unloved wife, and her relatives, with the support of the local priest, accused Christine of fornication. The sons rushed to protect their mother - they were taken into custody. But the teenager Lavrans managed to slip away and galloped after his father. Erlend rushed to the rescue: there was a skirmish in which he was mortally wounded. He remained true to himself - he died refusing to take the last communion from the hands of the one who slandered his wife.

Only after losing her husband, Christine realized how dear he was to her. The troubles did not end there - soon she lost her little Myunan. Adult sons no longer needed her support. She could do nothing to help the blinded Bjerpolf - the monastery was expecting a handsome, intelligent young man, and Nokkve announced to his mother that he would not part with his brother. Both eldest sons were tonsured in Tuetra. The twins and Lavrans set off to seek their fortune in foreign lands. The most economic of all the children of Erlend and Kristin, Geute, remained in Joryungord. He was very similar to the old Lavrans and enjoyed universal love. Even the kidnapping of the bride got away with him: people admired his valor, and in the end he managed to agree with Yufrid's relatives. The young woman showed respect to her mother-in-law, but she managed the household in her own way. Kristin felt more and more like a stranger in her own home. And then she decided to make a pilgrimage. She again dreamed of St. Edwin - this meant that he approved of her intention.

When the pestilence began, Christine lived in a convent. People seemed to be mad with grief and despair. One day, the novice sisters learned that at night the men were going to sacrifice a little boy whose mother had died to a pagan monster. Christine snatched the child from the hands of the angry people, and they shouted that they would believe in her piety if she was not afraid to bury the body of the deceased. And Kristin entered the plague-ridden house - only her kinsman Ulf accompanied her. But when they carried the unfortunate woman to the cemetery, a crowd with a priest at the head was already moving towards them - among the weeping pilgrims, Christine also recognized those who were ready to commit sacrilege. During the funeral, blood gushed from her mouth, and she realized that it was the plague. In her deathbed delirium, Christine saw father, mother, husband, sons. More often than others, those whom she had lost appeared to her: little Erlend, little Munan, Nokkve with Bjergylf - it became known that all the monks of Tuetra had died. Sometimes she came to her senses and recognized Ulva, the nuns, the priest - she was surrounded by loving, reverent faces. She gave her father's cross and wedding ring to Ulva as a memento of the soul of the unfortunate woman whom she had saved for eternal life.