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Thread: Kristin Lavransdatter

  1. #1
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Kristin Lavransdatter

    I'm through the first two books of Sigrid Undset's trilogy. It's set in 14th century Norway, and one of the themes is the integration of Christianity with older pagan traditions.

    Sancho's post about "The Children of Ash and Elm" prompted me to post. I recieved that book (and Undset's trilogy) for Christmas, probably because of my Norweigian heritage (my older brother is convinced, as the "eldest son of an eldest son", that the heritage might by Royal). I'll probably read "Ash and Elm" at some point.

    So far, "Kristen" is great. Kristen, as the title implies, is a "daddy's girl". And well she might be, because Lavrans Bjorgulfson is one of the best fathers in literature, patient, upright, brave, and noble. She disgraces her father by refusing to marry the man he has picked out for her, and getting pregnant before marrying her lover.

    Her husband, Erland Nikulauson, is richer and more highly born than her proposed fiance, but he is also flighty, and runs afoul of the crown. Kristin's former fiance has since married Kristin's younger daughter, and is a great help to Kristin and Erland in their troubles, but I suspect he still loves Kristin and trouble may be brewing. I'll post more when I finish the third book (I'm coming up for air for a few days after the tension of the first two). I almost dread reading on, because the year now is about 1338 or so, and I fear that the Black Death is coming in volume three. "Big Rock Candy Mountain" involved the influenza pandemic of 1919, and now this! Just what I don't need!

    Despite my Norweigian heritage and fondness for Kristin, I did not don Viking garb and attack any Capitol Buildings in recent weeks.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 01-20-2021 at 11:59 AM.

  2. #2
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    Sigrid Undset is not widely read anymore outside of Norway. That's a shame. "Kristin Lavransdatter" is a truly great novel. Kristin tries to be a devout Christian -- but her earthy loves -- for her husband, her father, and her children -- are too strong. Her brother-in-law, a priest, tells her that earthly loves are valuable because they hint at the glories of heaven. But Kristin is consumed by them. She heretically tries to heal her sister's child through pagan rites. She loves her husband so fiercely that she can never forgive him (as a true Christian must) for any wrongs he has done her (yet she doesn't much care about his adultery). Her fierce and possessive love for her children leads to heartbreak as they grow up and leave.

    Yet Kristin (and others in the book) can least of all forgive the people that she has wronged. It's easy to forgive others their sins; it's difficult to forgive them for causing us to sin.

    The novels (it's a trilogy) are Nordic: tragic, icy, and iron gray like Norweigian skies. The matter-of-fact descriptions of heartbreaking events make those events all the more moving, as does the love that I have for Lavran, Kristin, Erland, and many others (as with Russian novels, it's hard to keep the names straight).

    Highly recommended. I know of no novel that better captures the fiercely protective love of a passionate mother, daughter, and wife. No wonder so many people love the book, and so many characters in the book love Kristin.

    The novel is unrelentingly tragic. Yet it provides hope that there are people as kind and loving as Lavran, as passionate as Kristin, and as besotted as Erland, even when he leaves.

  3. #3
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I saw the film by Liv Ullmann years ago. If I remember rightly the film took a feminist turn, with Kristin trying to free herself from conventions.
    #Stay home as much as you can and stay well

  4. #4
    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    I read a couple of reviews of the movie (I haven't seen it), which found it mediocre. In the novel, Kristin does defy her father's wishes to marry Erland instead of Simon. However, both Lavran and Simon sign on to the switch. Indeed, Kristin feels guilty about dishonoring her father (by both defying his wishes and being pregnant at the time of her lavish wedding) for the rest of her life. One of the ironies of the novel is that Simon remains in love with Kristin (despite marrying her younger sister) for the rest of his life, and repeatedly helps her. Lavran is hardly an overbearing father. His disappointment at her decision is not based on the notion that she is defying his authority, but on his belief that Simon would be a better, more dependable husband. He thinks only about his daughter's happiness and is right about the "more dependable" part.
    Last edited by Ecurb; 02-03-2021 at 11:19 AM.

  5. #5
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    I found "unrelentingly tragic" too much when I tried to read it. It's obviously time for a second attempt.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

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