Picture of author.

Sigrid Undset (1882–1949)

Author of Kristin Lavransdatter

192+ Works 10,215 Members 214 Reviews 52 Favorited

About the Author

Sigrid Undset was the daughter of archeologist Ingvald Undset. Cultural, autobiographical, and religious topics constitute a large and interesting portion of her fiction, which in Norway is categorized according to the time of action: medieval or modern. Jenny (1911), an idealistic and tragic love show more story, is one of the latter novels. Undset's comprehensive knowledge of medieval Scandinavian culture has its literary monuments in Kristin Lavransdatter (1920--22) and The Master of Hestviken (1925--27), historical novels that depict life in the Norwegian Middle Ages. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Norwegian criticism of Sigrid Undset's writing centers on her religiosity (she became a conservative, almost reactionary Catholic in Lutheran Norway in the 1920s; she possesses an intensity of belief that is rather naturally expressed in the medieval novels. Yet while she has written religious polemics, the medieval novels are not tendentious. In fact, the central motifs are eroticism, marriage, and family life, in short, the full life of a medieval woman who sees herself in the light of contemporary Christian beliefs. These novels are great, realistic delineations of medieval personalities. During World War II she escaped the German occupation of Norway and fled to America, where she wrote her autobiographical Happy Times in Norway (1942). (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Disambiguation Notice:

(nor) Sigrid Undset's sitat: "Menneskenes hjerter forandres aldeles intet i alle dager. Det er bare de ytre forholdende, vanene og miljø som har forandret seg, ikke følelsene, kjærligheten, skylden og ansvaret".

Image credit: Sigrid Undset - photo: Eivind Enger, Kristiania, 1905


Works by Sigrid Undset

Kristin Lavransdatter (1920) 2,944 copies
Gunnar's Daughter (1909) 340 copies
Catherine of Siena (1951) 307 copies
Jenny (1911) 296 copies
The Master of Hestviken (1925) 198 copies
Ida Elisabeth (1932) 129 copies
Våren (1914) 83 copies
The Wild Orchid (1929) 79 copies
The Faithful Wife (1936) 69 copies
Happy Times in Norway (1942) 65 copies
Return to the future (1605) 63 copies
The Longest Years (1934) 62 copies
Madame Dorthea (1939) 62 copies
The Burning Bush (1930) 61 copies
Stages on the Road (1934) 55 copies
Olav Audunssøn i Hestviken (1982) 38 copies
Images in a Mirror (1938) 27 copies
Saga of Saints (1934) 23 copies
Four Stories (1959) 22 copies
Men, Women, and Places (1939) 12 copies
Tolv år (1998) 10 copies
Fru Hjelde (1958) 9 copies
De kloge jomfruer (1982) 9 copies
Ungdom : dikt (1986) 8 copies
Fattige skjæbner (2005) 6 copies
Splinten av troldspeilet (1980) 6 copies
Kjære Dea (1979) 5 copies
Den hellige Sunniva (2000) 4 copies
Etapper 3 copies
Et kvinnesynspunkt (1982) 2 copies
Undset : Sitater (2010) 2 copies
Småflickor (2021) 2 copies
Harriet Waage (1959) 2 copies
Sigrid Undset 2 copies
Yarina Dönüs (2022) 1 copy
Fortellinger i utvalg (1999) 1 copy
Katholsk propaganda (1927) 1 copy
Cuatro mujeres (1978) 1 copy
Thjodolf 1 copy
Sunniva 1 copy

Associated Works

A World of Great Stories (1947) 253 copies
Women and Fiction: Volume 2 (1978) — Contributor — 72 copies
Witches, Witches, Witches (1958) — Contributor — 30 copies
The Seas of God: Great Stories of the Human Spirit (1944) — Contributor — 25 copies
Echo: Scandinavian Stories about Girls (2000) — Contributor — 14 copies
Kristin Lavransdatter [1995 film] (2002) — Original book — 7 copies
Norway's Best Stories (1927) — Contributor — 4 copies
The Undying Past — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Undset, Sigrid
Legal name
Undset, Sigrid
Date of death
Burial location
Lillehammer Church, Lillehammer, Oppland, Norway
Country (for map)
Kallundborg, Denmark
Place of death
Lillehammer, Norway
Places of residence
Kallundborg, Denmark
Oslo, Norway
Rome, Italy
Lillehammer, Norway
New York, New York, USA
Blindheim, Charlotte (niece)
American Academy of Arts and Letters (Foreign Honorary ∙ Literature ∙ 1943)
Awards and honors
Nobel Prize (Literature, 1928)
Short biography
Admittedly short biographical note: while in the midst of writing her two most famous works (the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy and the quatrology Master of Hestviken), for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928, she was raising five children, one of whom was severely mentally handicapped, as a single woman. Albeit with a live-in nanny, this is still an extraordinary achievement!



Group read: Kristin Lavransdatter in 2018 Category Challenge (June 2018)


If you think what you want will make you happy, you're wrong... it won't. This is the basic premise of the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. Overall, I really liked it. I thought it was very realistic in portraying the characters' emotional lives, and some of their actions that spilled over from these.

Though it follows Kristin and Erlend's relationship, it is not a love story, which I really loved. Since the premise of this book is that Kristin sleeps with Erlend before they're married and is then filled with guilt, yet still goes on to fight for what she wants (Erlend), there is a certain amount of sexual references/content, though nothing is very graphic.

The name of Jesus is used in vain several times throughout.

I'm giving it 4 stars overall, but have briefly reviewed the individual books below.

Book One, The Wreath - 3 Stars

The first book in the series was not very interesting. The pace was slow, not much happens, and I didn't love the characters. What I liked the most about this first book was some of what the monks said about God and their faith.

Throughout most of this book, I was so disengaged that I wasn't even planning on continuing the series, but at the very end, the book left off at a place that finally piqued my interest.

A favorite quote from The Wreath:

"'God help you, Ragnfrid Ivarsdatter,' said Sira Eirik, shaking his head. 'You want nothing more from all your prayers and fasting than to force your will on God. Does it surprise you, then, that it has accomplished so little good?'" (p 44)

Book Two, The Wife - 5 Stars

I really liked this book, as this is when Undset begins really showing that Kristin isn't satisfied with all the choices she's made, yet now she has to deal with the consequences, like it or not. Undset also begins showing some situations from the point of view of Simon, the man Kristin was betrothed to before she married Erlend. Their lives never go as planned and they're bittersweet.

A few favorite quotes from The Wife:

"Every man forgets the sinful pleasure he has enjoyed when he has to pay for it." (p 306)

"Are you so arrogant that you think yourself capable of sinning so badly that God's mercy is not great enough?..." (p 361)

"She had chosen to follow the other man, whom she knew traveled on dangerous paths. Monks and priests had pointed out remorse and repentance as the road home to peace, but she had chosen strife rather than give up her precious sin." (p 630)

Book Three, The Cross - 4.5 Stars

This was a good continuation of The Wife, but toward the end it began to drag, and some of the characters I'd become comfortable with were switched out for others whom I had no attachment to, so I didn't enjoy it quite as much.

Favorite quote from The Cross:

"It seems to me that you should have seen so much by now that you would put more trust in God the Almighty. Haven't you realized yet that He will hold up each soul as long as that soul clings to Him?... Haven't you realized yet, sister, that God has helped you each time you prayed, even when you prayed with half a heart or with little faith, and He gave you much more than you asked for. You loved God the way you loved your father: not as much as you loved your own will, but still enough that you always grieved when you had to part from him. And then you were blessed with having good grow from the bad which you had to reap from the seed of your stubborn will." (p 1094-1095)
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RachelRachelRachel | 72 other reviews | Nov 21, 2023 |
Oh, Kristin. You really did make all the wrong choices in life, didn't you?Probably the best part about this book for me was the focus on the relationship between Kristin and her father. The love between them was so intense; everything Lavrans did was so clearly for Kristin's benefit, but she could not bring the family honor. Still pretty upset about how things went down despite reading this half a year ago, but deep down I can't find it in me to blame Kristin. She was a child really, and Erlend...Well let's just say this wasn't Erlend's first rodeo. Undset is a master at expressing the emotions, desires and regrets of her characters. Though this one was truly heartbreaking, I think I'm going to have to read the sequel.… (more)
ejerig | 36 other reviews | Oct 25, 2023 |
"Are you so arrogant that you think yourself capable of sinning so badly that God’s mercy is not great enough?"

Book 2 deals with Kristin's marriage, and as I suspected, there is trouble in paradise. Kristin is haunted by her sins, and this guilt consumes her. Even when the priests, including her brother-in-law, Gunnulf, advise her not to focus on her sins so much, but to live her life doing good. Still, Kristin struggles with trusting in God's mercy. It's heartbreaking because I'd like to see her experience the peace thatvtge Catholic Church is offering her, but she just can't get over her guilt. She makes a pilgrimage and gives her bridal wreath as penance, and after this she is able to move on for a time. She and Erland experience many struggles in their marriage. Kristin is consumed with guilt. Erland doesn't understand this. He doesn't take his sins very seriously. Kristin is a good steward of of their household and properties. Erland is wasteful and let's his properties fall to ruin. Kristin is obsessed with her seven sons. Erland doesn't want much to do with them. These and many other differences between them cause serious rifts in their marriage as neither of them is very good at communication and compromise. Kristin's guilt festers into a hatred of Erland. She takes everything out on him, and even her father and her brother-in-law, Simon, rebuke her over this. Erland resents Kristin for her "holiness". Despite her resentment of him, he sees so much goodness in her that it pricks his conscience, and makes him feel worse about his own sinfulness. This harkens back to the first book, where Brother Edvin points out that once people sin, they have a tendency to delight in others sins, because it makes them feel better about themselves. Erland cheats on Kristin, and this exposes his plot against the king. He is convicted of treason, and sentenced to death. Only then does Kristin let go of her hatred for Erland. Simon helps them, and gets the king to pardon Erland. At the end of the book it is revealed that Simon still loves Kristin, his sister-in-law and ex-fiance. This book is more political than the first and it's a bit difficult to keep track of all the political history of Norway at that time, so it was a slower read for me than the first book, but it was still very good and worth the read. Oddly enough, I sympathized with Simon the most, and I'd like to see more of him in Book 3.


C- 9

A- 8

W- 8

P- 6

I- 7

L- 8

E- 6

Avg= 7.5= ⭐⭐⭐⭐

#backtotheclassics (classic in translation)
#mmdchallenge (three books by the same author)
… (more)
DominiqueMarie | 20 other reviews | Oct 22, 2023 |
"I've done many things that I thought I would never dare to do because they were sins. But I didn't realize then that the consequence of sin is that you have to trample on other people."

On the surface this story can seem a bit melodramatic, but it's really a very deep book. It's beautifully written, but it's heartbreaking as well. The descriptions are on point. It follows Kristin from a child to her wedding to Erland. I love the Catholicism of it. This culture of Medieval Norway is very Catholic, but still steeped in paganism. They praise God, yet utter curses. Pray to the Saints, but believe in Fae. They believe in trusting God's will for them, but they are also superstitious. Many priests are good, but Undset does not hide the fact that there are evil ones as well, and even the good ones are shown to have sinned and have flaws. The people do not expect them to be perfect. They realize that they are human. This is the culture she grows up in. She is seduced by a much older man, when she is a teenager, who had been excommunicated for adultery, and still has his mistress live with him off and on. This sin causes great trouble in her life. As soon as she gave into him she felt she was his possession, and not in an entirely romantic way. She is passionate about him, but she also feels trapped. It takes her peace away, leads to more sin, and she must struggle with her guilt and the consequences. She still wants to be right with God and the Church, but she wants Erland, and she has her pride. She lies, and hides her sins, and prolongs them until she gets her way. She goes about it backwards. Instead of confessing, and doing things above board first, and then getting married to Erland. She hides, and works sneakily, she wants to marry him first and then deal with her sin, but it festers, and more people are hurt in the process. There is so much going on in this novel, and so many ways to look at it, but I think it's primarily about the struggle between sin and grace, hatred and love, forgiveness and resentment. This book ends on her and Erland's wedding night, but there is a sense if foreboding that their marriage will not be a happy one. I will be reading book 2 for my next category.

"I've done many things that I thought I would never dare to do because they were sins. But I didn't realize then that the consequence of sin is that you have to trample on other people."


C- 9

A- 10

W- 8

P- 7

I- 9

L- 9

E- 9

8.7 = ⭐⭐⭐⭐

#backtotheclassics (classic by a woman author)
#mmdchallenge (three books by the same author)
… (more)
DominiqueMarie | 36 other reviews | Oct 22, 2023 |



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Associated Authors

Tone Modalsli Editor, Afterword
Tiina Nunnally Translator
Charles Archer Translator
J. S. Scott Translator
Arthur G. Chater Translator
Teresia Eurén Translator
Sherrill Harbison Introduction, Editor
Davide Rondoni Introduction
A. Snethlage Translator
Brad Leithauser Introduction
Geoff Taylor Cover artist
Tove Bouveng Translator
Julius Sandmeier Translator
Sophie Angermann Translator
Rut Tellefsen Translator
Marthe Metzger Translator
Elvi Lumet Translator
Tawfik Al-Assadi Translator
Alex Budișteanu Translator
Thekla Hammar Translator
Radko Kejzlar Translator
H.J. Smeding Translator
W. Emmé Translator
Jane Smiley Introduction
Jan Erik Rekdal Introduction


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