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Literature / Kristin Lavransdatter

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Kristin Lavransdatter is a trilogy of historical novels written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset. The individual novels are Kransen (The Wreath), first published in 1920, Husfrue (The Wife), published in 1921, and Korset (The Cross), published in 1922. The cycle follows the life of Kristin Lavransdatter, a fictitious Norwegian woman living in the 14th century.

Won Sigrid Undset the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.


Kristin Lavransdatter provides examples of:

  • Altar the Speed: Subverted. Kristin keeps her wedding date unchanged despite her hidden pregnancy. She knows everybody will be counting backward on their fingers and Erlend will look bad because of it.
  • A Man Is Always Eager Averted with Lavrans Bjorgulfsson.
  • Attempted Rape: Bentein tries to rape Kristin, but she fights him off.
  • Arranged Marriage: Lavrans Bjorgulfsson and Ragnfrid Ivarsdatter (Kristin's parents)
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Erlend exhibits this behavior to Kristin. Played straight in the first book, where Kristin falls in love with Erlend, breaks her engagement with her fiance, and defies the will of her father to be with him, all despite his shady past and his none-too-kind treatment of her. Deconstructed in the two later books, set after Erlend and Kristin's marriage, where she has to live with the painful consequences of her decision, all in a highly patriarchial world that offers little support for women.
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  • The Black Death: It sweeps through Norway in book three. Characters make reference to the personification of the plague, an old crone holding a rake in one hand and a broom in the other. As a nun, Kristin is bound by charity to offer help to any and all sufferers. She hears of the plague killing most of her sons, and in the end, she dies of it.
  • Character Title
  • Character Witness: Simon does this for Erlend when he gets into legal problems.
  • Chaste Hero: Despite having fathered six children with his wife, Lavrans can do without sex quite nicely, and genuinely doesn't understand why everybody else around him seems to want it so much.
  • Cool Old Lady: Aashild Gautesdatter, who is a skilled healer, beautiful even in her old age, married to a much younger man, and lived at court when she was a young girl. When she is accused of witchcraft, the parish priest even defends her, saying that peasants are all to quick to accuse a woman of witchcraft if she's a little smarter than her neighbors.
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  • Daddy's Girl: As a child, Kristin is close to her father.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Subverted for Intense Drama. Kristin names her last son Erlend, after her husband... who is alive and well, and Kristin knows it. Naming the baby Erlend is a public statement that her husband is dead to her, and all her friends are horrified. The baby sickens and dies, and everyone sees this as divine punishment for Kristin's refusal to forgive.
  • Defictionalization: The Kristin Days are held every year on the first weekend of July at Jorundgard Middelaldersenter in Norway where the main attraction is a theater production of the book(s) in addition to lectures, fairs and other Kristin-themed activities.
  • Dinner and a Show: The first time Erlend and Kristin entertain Munan Baardson and his family, Munan becomes drunk at dinner and insults and harasses the other guests. Kristin is appalled, but Munan's wife continues eating supper as if nothing strange is going on.
  • Dogged Nice Guy Simon is very kind, but Kristin chooses Erlend over him.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Naakve romances most of the young maidens in his parish, then a traveling knight meets him and tries to convince him to become his "squire".
  • Fainting: Kristin faints at a party when she sees Erlend for the first time after many weeks of longing—in front of her fiance and his entire family.
  • The Fair Folk Kristin meets the huldra as a child.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: When Lavrans and Ulvhild are injured at the same time, Lavrans insists they treat her first.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Kristin starts out like this. People remark on her blond hair, and she is sweet, innocent, and beloved in her neighborhood. Until she meets Erlend...
  • The High Middle Ages: The novels take place in the late 1200s and early 1300s.
  • Historical Fiction: The novels take place in the late 1200s and early 1300s.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Erlend has promised himself to both Eline and Kristin. Eline tries to poison Kristin when she finds out about this. Kristin forces Erlend to choose between them and does nothing to prevent Eline's death.
  • The Old Gods Kristin sacrifices to them when Simon's son is ill.
  • Settle for Sibling: Kristin leaves her bethrothed Simon for Erlend. Simon ends up marrying her little sister, but never really gets over Kristin.
  • Screaming Birth: Many, many, many pages are devoted to the birth of Naakve. There is screaming on every page.
  • Silver Fox: Erlend continues to turn heads even after his daughter Margaret has married and borne a child.
  • Stay with Me Until I Die: Simon begs Kristin to sit with him while he's dying so he can confess his undying love to her
  • Super Window Jump: Margret's paramour, when surprised by Erlend.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The convent Kristin is sent to has lax enough security that she's able to slip away several times to be alone with Erlend without getting caught.
  • Sword Plant: Subverted. Simon Andresson is sitting on a wooden bench, talking to his fiancé and fiddling with his dagger. He stabs the bench with the dagger and only winds up bending the point so badly it won’t go back in its sheath.
  • Thrown Down a Well: During the Black Death, some desperate townspeople attempt a sacrifice to the pagan goddess Hel by throwing the child of a local prostitute down a well.


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