I brought my copy of Kristin Lavransdatter, The Bridal Wreath home to Oslo, Norway. This was near the end of my Scandinavian tour with my mother and sisters, so I guess I'm starting at the end of my trip. But I'll work my way backwards with these posts, until I get to the beginning of our journey.
To understand the scope and influence of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy to the Norwegian culture (and the literary world), it helps to know a little about Nobel Prize winning author Sigrid herself and the city she grew up in. (Go here for an excellent review of the trilogy. The author shares my exact sentiments on why sticking with Charles Archer's older English translation of Kristin Lavransdatter will transport you to a better and more medieval world than the more recent English translation).
Author Sigrid Undset was born on May 20, 1882, at Kalundborg, Denmark, but she moved to Norway at the age of two because of her father's illness. Ingvald Undset was an internationally respected archaeologist, whose speciality was the Iron Age in Europe, with Norse and European pre-history as supplementary fields. His illness forced him to give up his extensive travel and archaeological research all over Europe.
So Sigrid grew up in the city of Kristiania - Norway's capital (the name was changed back to Oslo in 1925). The first 11 years of her life were not only strongly influenced by her father's serious illness (he died when she was 11), but also by his extensive knowledge of history.
At an early age, Sigrid had learned many of the secrets of archaeology as well as the mysteries of the Norse sagas and Scandinavian folk songs.
With that background her storytelling began, and later in her life she wrote the medieval Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy (I would recommend this historical novel, for ages no younger than 16 and up).
To me, parts of it feel like an ode to medieval Oslo! Kristin met Erlend while staying at Nonneseter Abbey in Oslo, so I was happy to get a view of the city and its islands from our perch at a restaurant on a hilltop full of Viking history.
Unfortunately, all of the monasteries, convents and churches Kristin visited in the book are now just ruins that I viewed from the hilltop and later from the window of our tour bus. Our very kind female guide was thrilled and proud to know that I had read the novels, so she had the driver slow down as we passed some of the sites.
Happily, the Akerhus Fortress built by King Haakon V (1299-1319) is still standing.
Oslo goes back to even before the middle ages. It is one of the cities claimed to hail from the Viking Age, and excavations have revealed a city structure there that dates back to 1000 AD.
Our next and last city was Bergen, where we visited a reconstructed Stave Church. The old stave church, originally built in 1150, burned down in 1992.
Fantoft Stave Church has been rebuilt exactly as it was before the fire. I'm sure it looks much like the Stave church in Bridal Wreath. Remember the heart-wrenching chapter when Erlend, Kristin, and her family try to save their wooden Stave church, "Olav's Church", after it becomes engulfed in a raging fire?
I really wish we could have seen one with medieval DNA, but I had to settle for the smell of fresh lumber and just pretend it was an ancient building...
I can just picture Kristin worshipping with her family here, can't you?
My mom is of Norwegian descent, so we all loved touring the beautiful sights and being introduced to the history of medieval Norway.
|Mom with one of her favorite purchases!|
But the rain, waterfalls, and stately pine trees will have to give way to sunny skies, red houses, and slender birches as I take you to Sweden, leaving the majestic fjords of Norway behind. (Stay tuned for Swedish horses and Astrid Lindgren!)