Kristin Lavransdatter, the novel you probably haven’t heard of

Kristin Lavransdatter

Writings and books of old are cherished and read as classics, whether it be William Shakespeare, Jane Austin, or Charles Dickens. For example, “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens is an all-time classic and has had a number of remakes.

It is rather bizarre that people seem to have forgotten entirely about “Kristin Lavransdatter.” If you have never read this novel, it is due to the fact not many have.

Author Sigrid Undset penned “Kristin Lavransdatter” in the early 1920’s. The book led her to win the Nobel Prize in 1928.

Isn’t it true that whenever a novel wins prizes and makes its author famous, it becomes part of the literary canon?

It has not been the case for “Kristin Lavransdatter.” Instead, a masterpiece of its time has lost its significance and has been forgotten in time.

Sigrid Undset, author of “Kristin Lavransdatter,” became a celebrity?

Sigrid Undset was shown great appreciation for writing “Kristin Lavransdatter.” Apart from winning the most prestigious prize, the Nobel, she was also greatly acknowledged in other ways.

In addition to being honored with money and postage stamps, Undset became a literary celebrity. She is even commemorated by having a crater named after her on Venus.

Kristin Lavransdatter is considered to be one of the most significant historical novels ever written.

Kristin Lavransdatter

What is the Novel about?

Kristin Lavransdatter was published in 1920. Written by Sigrid Undset, it is a trilogy of historical novels.

The Norwegian novel was later translated to be understood by a wider audience.

All three books tell the story of a heroine, each corresponding to a certain point in her life.

The first book is Kransen (The Wreath). The heroine experiences the loss of innocence that threatens to cost her the right to wear her bridal wreath and remain accepted by her family.

The second book is Husfru (which translates to The Lady of the Manor). This book takes into account Kristin’s life as a wife and her roles.

Lastly, the third book called the Korset (The Cross) incorporates Kristin’s later life, which led to her death in a convent.

Why didn’t the book Connect with the modern audience and was forgotten?

The book created a massive wave in its era. It in recent times, its translation has been considered archaic. A retranslation of the historical series by Tina Nunnally was presented in 1998.

However, Otto Reinert notes it was available only in an English edition that kept using lots of “thees,” “thous,” and “forsooths.”, which the current audience could not connect to.

The book is about the love and life of a medieval woman, and women of this era cannot relate to her situation in those times. As women of this era are more liberated and don’t feel the relation to her life. Women no longer believe that “innocence can be lost” by particular desires and acts.

Kristin Lavransdatter

Families’ systems have changed, and the bridal wreath has no relation to a woman’s innocence but is rather worn as a traditional significance on a wedding.

In my opinion, if I were to get married, I would rather take into consideration the type of wreathing or crown I would choose to wear with my dress. I would not be stopped by society to wear flowers in my hair. It would seem nonsensical in today’s era.

This kind of thinking does not really correlate with today’s society as it did years ago. That era had specific family values and practices which are no longer performed in this era.

According to Reinert, the heroine lived a “long irony” of a life. The book instills fear that you will meet a horrible end if you do not follow morals and abstain.

In today’s era where women are independent and don’t need the support as they once required, this story doesn’t fit the frame. Women have worked hard to climb hierarchal ladders, and being shamed for what the other gender is praised for is the last thing they want.

In an era of equality, such a novel may have its fair share of issues to create recognition.

There are other authors that, however, have gained recognition, such a Jane Austin, who wrote “Pride and prejudice.” “Pride and Prejudice” is also based on a society that no longer exists.

The main character of “Pride and prejudice” needs to marry a man with wealth to gain a higher acceptance in society. So the sisters of that women can also get married to wealthy men is an old concept.

So why was “Pride and prejudice” widely accepted and turned into a movie rather than “Kristin Lavransdatter.”

Well, I think it is because Elizabeth in “Pride and prejudice” had a voice. She spoke her mind and did not feel ashamed to do so. Women of this era can relate to this.  Apart from that, Mr. Darcy is a character that women even find appealing in today’s time.

Why “Kristin Lavransdatter” should be read in this era?

Like other classics, “Kristin Lavransdatter” should also be read as it is a historical book. It lacks relatability, but it does provide a time machine to enter that era. It provides a new experience of what the world use to be.

Reinert defends the book by saying, “The function of literature is not to mirror passing surfaces in fidelity to the random, but to show general laws and principles in operation.”

He also adds that “…We feel at home in her medieval world because she knew that the mazes of the mind and the unquiet of the heart are forever.”

These lines point out that whatever the era may be, the human mind has the same obstacles; they don’t end; they just change. So to understand the life of a young woman and how it went about in a medieval era, one should read the book.

The author won a Nobel Prize, and that does undoubtedly speak in volumes that the trilogy did take over the mind and hearts of many people.

So the book should be read as a peek into the past and acknowledged as it was a masterpiece of its time.

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