Kristin Lavransdatter and Your Nordic Medieval Catholic Heart


I will not sleep, I will not even sit down, until every man goes to bed with a paperback copy of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.
In these high fourteenth-century mountains, priests still visit the sick shouting, “God help those in this house!” as they raise a cross to all four corners of the room and splash holy water everywhere. Wolves and bears still reign in the forest, and goblins and elves still hide under every rock. Swords slash at you from every page and the ecclesiastical Latin will keep you reaching for your dictionary. On second thought, maybe it’s best if you don’t take this epic trilogy to bed. What will you say to your wife when the crumbs of lefse and dried reindeer fall out of the opening chapters? What will you do when the homebrewed ale spills out of the paragraphs and stains your pajamas?
“Is it safe?” a friend asks.
“Safe?” I say. “Who said anything about safe? Of course it isn’t safe. But it’s good.”
Kristin Lavransdatter will make you weep and shout and stay up way too late with eyes as big as saucers. But you will sleep like a baby, and in the morning you will wake up with a bonfire in your heart. “That’s right,” you’ll say, your voice husky from drinking mead with kinsmen after a long Alpine hunt. “Real men read novels.” You’ll make your morning offering and kiss your brown scapular, and then you’ll drive to the jobsite…with your tear-stained copy of Kristin Lavransdatter tucked somewhere between your toolbox and your Stanley thermos.
It Takes a Woman…
God made Adam, and then he made Sigrid Undset. If this Catholic convert and Norwegian Nobel Prize winning author isn’t a “suitable helper,” then I don’t know who is. Perhaps the old saying is true: “Only a woman can


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