Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun – chapter summaries

The Growth of the Soil
by Knut Hamsun
1917 / 366 pages (Kindle)
Read by Greg W. at LibriVox
Rating – 10
(read and listened)

Isak – protagonist – a simple hard-working man who establishes a farm in the wilderness
Inger –  Isak’s wife because she simply joined him with her cow
Os-Ander – a Lapp leader –
Oline  –  old woman who is sneaky and mean but helps a bit on the farm – gossipy – selfish but helpful when needed
Geissler – Lendsmand
Brede Olsen
Axel Strom
Barbro – Brede’s daughter and Axel’s lover/household help
Aronsen – original store owner
Andresen  – Aronsen’s assistant
Gustav  –  mine worker and Inger’s brief lover
Frau Heyerdahl – Barbro’s mistress – helped her get off charges of infanticide

The novel “Growth of the Soil” expresses back-to-nature, old-school philosophies, and peasant life. His works set simple agrarian values against those of industrial society, showing a deep aversion to civilization proving that people’s fulfillment lies with the soil. The novel showed Hamsun’s favour of primitivism and aversion to modernity. He opposed naturalism and realism and wanted “modern literature to represent the complex intricacies of human mind”. Hamsun believed that the true nature of an individual could only be revealed through a subjective and irrational approach. Hamsun’s political beliefs and ideologies were often expressed in his books, especially Growth of the Soil.[2]

Week 1   March 5
Book 1 / CHAPTER 1- page 2

The novel begins by following the story of Isak, a Norwegian man, who finally settled upon a patch of land which he deemed fit for farming.

He began creating earthen sheds in which he housed several goats obtained from the not-too-distant village.

Isak asked some Lapps, a nomadic indigenous people,  who were en route somewhere, to tell women that he is in need of help on his farm.

Eventually, a “big, brown-eyed girl, full-built and coarse” with a harelip[a] named Inger, arrived at the house and eventually settled in.  She leaves one day and returns with a cow named Goldenhorns.

CHAPTER 2 – page 10
There is really only work and building on the farm and Inger is hugely helpful.  Her cow gives birth to a calf,  Silverhorns.  Isak rents a horse and obtains a bull and other improvements for their lives.  They now feel like fairly “well-to-do folks.”   Unassisted Inger give birth to a baby boy.   A woman named Oline comes to visit from Inger’s original family.   It’s all about  hard work and improving one’s lot in life but a bit of fear creeps in along with the money from trees and potatoes and corn to by coffee and so on. Oline leaves but says she would return.

CHAPTER 3 – page 18
Oline returns late in the year and now Isak and Inger can be married and so they do – before the child is christened.

CHAPTER 4 – page 27
The child is called Eleseus – (meaning “he who gives life – drives life.” )
“Oh, the potato is a lordly fruit; drought or downpour, it grows and grows all the same. It laughs at the weather, and will stand anything; only deal kindly with it, and it yields fifteen-fold again. Not the blood of a grape, but the flesh of a chestnut, to be boiled or roasted, used in every way.”   page 28- Penguin edition – Kindle

There is a drought and all might be lost but the rains come.  “Troubles great and small.”  (p. 32)  But they make it and are able to buy more luxuries like nice fabrics, a lamp and a clock.

But Isak is expanding the farm, cutting more trees,  tilling more land, building more sheds.  The boys,  Eleseus and Silvert are growing – lots of stuff growing – the farm the animals, the crops although the drought did affect that.  Os-Anders, the Lapp,  comes by they talk of Oline and how she’s getting older.  Also how Isak’s children are nice and strong and straight – thinking not  like Inger. (And Inger’s difficult childhood is noted.)     The State now owns all the land.

CHAPTER 5. page 37 –

The years are not the best but the farm is growing,  Isak and Inger continue to prosper.

” What was it a certain Lapp had said to Inger that something about not having bought? Buy, what should he buy for? The ground was there, the forest was there; he had cleared and tilled, built up a homestead in teh midst of a natural wilderness, winning bread for himself and his, asking nothing of any man, but working, and working alone.”   (page 39)

Too bad, so sad,   now come the Lensmand bringing the demand for taxes.   The amount Isak says he needs is 2 furlongs,  north, east, south and west.  It’s possible there might be some ore of some kind in one area.   The amount is “Daler.”

They named the farm Sellanraa.  (Sellen – to give up for money and raa – to

Soon after, Geissler was discharged from his position as Lensmand after a sharp reprimand from his superior and was subsequently replaced with Lensmand Heyerdahl.

Question 1 :   What do you think of the different and varying attitudes of Isak and Inger? –  What do they reveal?

Question 2:   Will the luxuries spoil them? –  What effect will they have on the very basic existence the couple has? Good or not good?

CHAPTER 6  –   One day while Isak had left the farm to sell a bull in the village, Inger gave birth to a child and had killed it upon seeing that it had a harelip and would undergo the inevitable suffering in life she herself had experienced.

One day, Oline, Inger’s relative, visited the farm and figured out that Inger had killed a child.   Inger cries.

Question –  thoughts as to the setting,  characters,  budding plot line? –

Week 2  March 12
7. page 60

“Good things mostly leave no trace, but something always comes of evil.”  –

Things are going well on the farm but one day Isak finds out why Ingar has to be alone for childbirth – she had killed their daughter with a hairlip.    She’s taken to jail with a sentence of 8 years.

Isak gets the title-deeds to his land. The telegraph line is marked out.

Chapter 72

Geissler, the Lensmand,  returned one day, interested in prospective copper mining grounds near Sellanraa.  He also talks about Ingar and her jail time –  she’s had a child in prison.  Geissler is quite helpful.  Isak might be rich.

Isak establishes boundaries of his own land and misses Ingar.  He keeps the old woman,  Oline,  at the farm to help.  She’s almost not worth keeping.   And she wants things but then,  she’s a bit old.  “Sly.”  – gives out “rays of darkness.”

A new settler has arrived,  Brede Olsen,  young, married with children,  Lensmend’s assistant.

Oline is expensive to  keep – coffee for Lapps.   Is she taking sheep and cows?  Isak is suspicious.  Isak has really angry ideas and feelings but it’s “innocent.”  He really tries to be a  good man who misses his wife.

Telegraph line installers – offer Isak a job but he refuses because he has to take care of the land and animals.

Every day they learned something new. Jumping down from high rocks, for instance, to keep your tongue in your mouth, and not get it.  (p. 87)

Ingar writes a letter by herself from the prison.  Her new daughter is named Leopoldine.

Isak gets suspicious and Oline is sometimes guilty and other times innocent.  Hamsun calls her “sly,”  –  what will she do next?

And Eleseus found a colored pencil the engineer had left behind.  This is a true treasure for the boys.

** What place does coffee have in the days of the family –  to Isak,  to Oline?
** Is Isak’s anger going to get him in trouble?   Has Isak changed – if so, in what way?  How has Ingar’s absence contributed to his discontent –
** What will happen when Ingar gets home?

page 91
Geissler the Lensmand comes to visit Isak at Sellanraa.  They have quite a little chat.

First he wants to buy Isak’s copper land.
Next he tells Isak about how Inger is doing.  She’s fine,  has given birth to a baby girl,  Leopoldine,  and has had her mouth fixed.  She’d a good girl and doing well,  happy but wants to come home.  She learned how to sew.
Geissler has spoken to the lawmakers about Inger’s imprisonment and how her case was botched.  It is now in the hands of the king to decide.  Geissler spoke to the governor about how there were problems with the case including the fact the baby was born with a hare- lip which was never mentioned at the trial.  Also there was the predicament Isak was in with two children.  Geissler showed documents to the governor who agreed and sent the case on.   Geissler’s point is that Inger should be released early with a pardon and that should happen any time.
The two men talk about the land  purchase and Geissler offers 200 daler for it.   This is a LOT of money to Isak and seems like it should be quite an investment for Geissler.

The boys might go to school in town.

Isak learns of a telegraph – what an amazing thing.  And then gets ready to pick up Inger by fixing a cart and painting it and there is a lot of work described which shows what a hard-working man Isak is.  He plows and plants and loves his work and his boys and is getting ready to go get Inger.
Eleseus want to know how to write on paper while Sivert want to drive the cart – they are different.
Hamsun was very much opposed to infanticide and wrote political essays about it. He thought the punishments should be much stiffer than they were in some cases but he did have some compassion as shown in the case of Inger a good woman whose child had been born with a hare-lip.

Week 3  March 19
CHAPTER 11  page-101
Isak meets Inger at the wharf and she has a small girl with her – Isak’s child born in jail,  Leopoldine.  They’re introduced.   Inger also has a sewing machine with her.  Inger is speaking nicely now and looks nice.  No more hare-lip!   But Isak has cut off his beard on the way.

Throughout the return trip,  Inger seems a bit negligent of Leopoldine,  but Isak is quite protective – perhaps just not used to having a baby around,  much less a girl.  So Isak is unsure of himself  – he’s embarrassed – it’s not like it was before Inger went to jail.

Inger has brought things from Trondheim.  (It seems to me life was not so bad for Inger in Trondheim with the facial surgery and some education and less physical labor and having things to bring home.)

They discuss changes,  Isak is now quite prosperous with more animals,  more money through the sale of a copper mine.  Isak is far better off than when Inger left.  This is thanks in part to the old Lensmand Geissler who is nice to them for some secret reason – wants to get back at the villagers who rejected him for some reason.

They meet the boys,  Eleseus and Sivert,  who don’t recognize anyone – not Leopoldine as she’s new,  not their mother as she’s had her face fixed and not their father as he’s shaved his beard.


Life goes on for the family – Inger is a bit more kindly to Isak in some ways and Isak is falling in love with her.  The children grow.  The family makes money from Isak’s farm and Inger works with the children and at sewing.

Inger is quite a good seamstress and wants a servant so she can do more of it.   Isak is quite a good builder and the sons are helping nicely.

Once in awhile a traveler comes by and sees Isak working and studying the almanac – he hauls produce and supplies to the town to sell and brings back what he needs.  The road is not good and Brede will not help fix it.  Inger is impressed with how much Isak does.

Brede is working for the telegraph company.  The telegraph company wants to buy trees for poles,  but he refuses.   He’s more interested in taking good care of what he has than in some quick money.  He’s got plans for his own sawmill.  And he’s not a trouble-maker – he let’s Brede get away with a sheep stolen by Oline,  etc.

But Isak is older and can’t do quite as much now so he’s procrastinating about the sawmill.  He thinks Inger will help but she wants him to get a man to help him.  She won’t help with the saw.

Inger has learned a lot in town but she’s thinking more of herself than of the common good.   But she wears a new cloak when she takes the boys to school.  The Bredablick women see it and ask about it.  Inger is getting proud – the town wives all think of getting one for themselves.  Women start coming for sewing.

Autumn is coming.

Coffee and sewing and new fashions.   Inger is kindly and helpful and quite skilled.   And she’s getting a little business going but now she needs a servant girl.

Isak and the boys work on the sawmill while Inger works on sewing.  But Isak is tired in the evenings and there is a lot of work to do – the boys help without thanks but Isak is pleased.

Inger is not as strong either – her body and mind is changed.  She seems shallow and heedless.  She spoke of the child she’d killed –  they could have had her mouth fixed like hers was.  But she took care of the other children.

Winter is coming.


Winter – taking turns with one pair of skis at home but each had a pair at school.

Isak considers buying a ring for Inger and finally does it.  “I’ve grown that high and mighty I must give my wife a ring.”   And he orders a gold ring for Inger.  –

Brede is setting up poles with the  telegraph workers The sawmill is roofed in.

Summer –
now some of them have to spend the night as lodging.   Eleseus is worried about the pencil he has used up.    He gets Sivert to confesses to them about using up the pencil.  As a result Sivert gets a new pencil and a lot of paper.

A man sells them booze and at night the bottles show up along with music and Inger dances with the workers and has a great time.  Isak works but wakes in the night and Inger is gone and he looks for her.  One sheep missing.  He looks for it but he finds Inger with one of the workers.  She hangs her head with shame and the worker leaves,  ashamed.  Inger lies and tries to make up to him but it doesn’t work.  Isak is no dummy and not gentle with her.  (?)   He’s troubled but says nothing.

Biblical allusion –  Isak is great,  as if like Israel promised and ever deceived but still believing.   The men would be gone soon.   A king’s highway was cut through the forest. One more pay time.

One last worker stayed and Isak knows and is ready for a confrontation.  He’s not sure about what he thinks is going on but there is a cap and sack in the barn.

He has seen God – with eyes – an odd sight.  But where is Inger?   He had given  her the ring and she criticized it but she’s proud of it.  Foolish Isak – he’s jealous.

Brede the neighbor has taken a job as line inspector with the telegraph people and he’s there in the house with Inger.   And Inger is relieved to see it’s Brede.

The engineer wants to take Eleseus to town to work with him and be confirmed.    Isak is not happy about this because he needs Eleseus to work.  Isak is not easy to talk to.   Brede says Barbro is back and she’s good – she’s going to the Lendsman’s to work.

And it was Brede’s cap and pack Isak saw at the barn.

CHAPTER 14.pages-130
Eleseus goes to town and now needs money for things.  Sivert is sent to the house of his rich Uncle Sivert,  his namesake,  although he doesn’t want to go there.    He seems to want to stay on the farm.   Barbro,  Brede’s oldest daughter,  went to Bergen as a mission worker but returned.  and now works as a servant for two clerks.

Brede seems a bit  lazy but the other neighbor,  Axel Strom,  works hard, puts up sheds,  brings family later –  Inger likes to talk and girls come to have her sew – Oline comes to gossip and look at Inger’s ring.

Inger knows people in town and likes to go there and has changed since she went –  Inger says she can’t have more children – why? – Did she learn how to take care of that in the institution? –  Changes in Isak – more inward – changes in Inger – more social.

And then Isak catches Inger stealing his money to send to Eleseus in town.  Isak hurts her – but not badly and it must have been “long stored bitterness.”   He goes back to work with  Sivert – but goes out on a boat to fish.   Inger is miserable but takes to haymaking.  Isak sees this and they seem to be changed.   Isak goes back to work and Inger and Sivert help and they finish the hay.    (Powerful sentence – end of Chapter 14).

The coming of civilization.

** What do you think of the way the book-time hurries along –  does it feel authentic or rushed?   Is that part of the point of the story?    This manner of story telling often demands a “tell” rather than a “show” style.  Does it work here?


Week 4  March 26
Isak and Inger fight about the money she sends to Eleseus but whose money is it?  –  He grabs her roughly.

The drought is bad a second year,   the crops drying up.

Geissler shows up –  poorly dressed,  greyer,  redder eyes and without help.  Papers in pocket.  He acts like he has plenty of money in his pockets of money but no.

Geissler is impressed with Isak’s set-up.  Isak catches him up on the news of Eleseus and Sivert.  Eleseus is in engineering in town.  Geissler is restless,  a thinker –  he thinks up a way to get river water to the plants.   Isak and Sivert don’t really believe him but they get it done under Geissler’s direction and assistance – not quite as quick to fix the plants as they thought but …  Geissler gets bored.

Brede shows up with rock samples from the mine area.  Geissler and Brede talk about the mines – Isak is not interested.   Geissler leaves in shabby condition but with some lunch from Inger.  He didn’t even pay but acted like it.  He gave Leopoldine his last valuable object – a silver box.   And he’d given them an irrigation system which neighbors came to look at.  Axel Strom said he had a girl coming to help him (Brede’s girl) – he’d even telegram to get her.   The other farmers get ideas.

Brede is in trouble with the telegraph line and Isak won’t take the job.  Brede is concerned with the ore in the mountains.  He’s an “easy-going”  guy with a lazy nature but he’s “never down-hearted” – Brede misses the town.  He likes Inger but she was in prison and she’s changed and he can’t be seen in her company.   Geissler has a new assistant.

Barbro is Brede’s daughter and he encouraged her to go to Axel Strom because that might bring a better future for her.  And Axel doesn’t have a wife or any womanly help.  Barbro is a god-send to him.  She works.  She sings. She’s not perfect but Axel falls in love.

Barbro is sneaky about wanting a wood floor and a hat instead of a scarf – she also likes to read the newspaper from Bergen.   Axel is a bit of a miser but he does these things.  –  One story is that of a baby found dead in the harbour – sewn up into an old shirt.


Sellanraa is prospering – Inger is changed again – she’s working instead of visiting.

In the wilds, each season has its wonders, but always, unchangingly, there is that immense heavy sound of heaven and earth, the sense of being surrounded on all sides, the darkness of the forest, the kindliness of the trees. All is heavy and soft, no thought is impossible there.   –  p. 154 – Kindle

Nature scenes.  Inger is religious and thinks of judgement.  She adopts some stoicism – only a blue ribbon around her neck on Sundays.  She sawed wood and was seriously self-judgemental.  Her conscience bothers her.  Isak also changed due to the religion which Inger brought with her conversion.   Sivert worked from before dawn to after dusk.

Isak observes his Sellanraa at night and sees two eyes.  Is it God? the Evil One?  He goes home and tells Inger not to go out at night alone.  –   Holy Ghost and Luther mentioned –
He tells Inger about it and  the experiences strengthen him.  She is pregnant.

Eleseus hires a new girl to help Inger,  Jensine.

Inger has been sending Eleseus a lot of underwear and he was obviously selling it for money.  Eleseus returns at Isak’s request.

Brede might be selling out.  Sivert helps his father and they find a rock to break.  (Breaking rocks seems to be a theme of sorts -)   They discuss buying Brede’s place.  They get the new baby christened,  Jensine is one god-parent and the baby’s name is Rebecca – per Isak.  Isak becomes rather domineering and he goes to church for the christening.

Norway was Christian from about 1000 and it was Lutheran from 1536 or ’37 when it was decreed and the Catholic priests kicked out of the country.    State religion .  –  It was the only religion permitted from then until 1845.


Eleseus came home after several years.  Sivert has gone to see about Uncle Sivert who is said to be dying.  When Sivert got that he saw his Uncle and namesake alive and living in a terrible mess.  But he has a money chest – an old bottle chest.  One paper says Sivert was to be his sole heir but Sivert already knew that – how much was it? –

Uncle Sivert wants Eleseus instead.  Oline plays with that to go along.   Barbro is apparently pregnant.   Oline is like a martyr but that’s a game and she goes after Eleseus to gain favor with Uncle Sivert.

Eleseus is glad to go to the city again.  No one in the city knows about his mother, Inger,  but in town it hurts him.  The folks in the country “still count money by the ancient daler.”   Eleseus is good at reading,  writing and numbers.  He sneaked off from the farm.
(Kroner replaced  Daler in 1875.)

Isak and Sivert build the house – Sivert is the big help.    Isak is called the “margrave” to the Swedish visitors which Geissler brings to look at the mines.  Isak owns the land –  does he want to sell it?   He sells it for 4000 Kroner with the help of Geissler – but he got a “finders fee” from the Swedes.

Brede comes along about his samples and wants to go to the mountains.  The Swedes leave.  Brede is disappointed – unusual.   “Fate was against him, nothing ever went right.” –  ironically –  Hamsun really has no use for fate – success is based on steadiness and hard work.    –  Fate is mentioned many times in the book – usually ironically.

Isak is very happy.  Geissler gets food from Inger.  Sends an application to the state.  Pays Inger.   Isak is thinking of buying Brede’s place for Eleseus.


Uncle Sivert dies – and he doesn’t have all the money he is rumored to have.   Eleseus has been helping him with accounts and does well putting things together for a funeral.   He has some kind of stick he’s hiding – the umbrella-stick-cane –  why? –  Showing he doesn’t have much money because he repairs it?
There’s not as much money from Uncle Sivert as has been promised or hinted at.  But the change between the rural use of Daler and the city use of Kroner is a problem.  Kroner is worth quite a lot less.
** Bit of racism here – “If his brother were anything but a lousy Indian savage, he ought to give back half.”   –    (And do we notice the Lapps have been missing for awhile now?)   Eleseus always has bigger ideas –
Sivert was supposed to get quite a large inheritance but it seems it evaporated in spite of the announcement of how great Uncle Sivert was when it was signed.   Eleseus knew about the juggling of accounts.  When the truth came out Sivert isnn’t upset but Oline is.
After the funeral Eleseus stays a few days at his old home and gets together with Barbro from the farm of Axel Strom where she is working.   Axel is the new neighbor who purchased the old Breidablik place,  a neighbor.   Axel is more to Barbro than she lets on and vice versa.   Barbro and Eleseus flirt and he falls in love.  He visits on Sundays, although she remains nervous about him being there.   One Sunday they fight and he leaves.
But Axel returns home and confronts Barbro and tells her she is pregnant.  There is a section on Axel’s ideas of how to handle a woman.   He gives her a ring, not gold,  she refuses.  She’s been to Bergen, a real city,  and  Eleseus has town ways.  Barbro accepts the silver ring. –
** Illegitimate births were not uncommon in Norway at the time (if ever).  Especially in rural areas where there were fewer ministers to marry folks it was standard fare.  Even if there was a church marriage was not always seen as being necessary.   When the immigration boom of the late 1800s started and there was a religious revival in both Norway (Haugian) and the US the attitude toward this changed –  “We are not in Norway now.”    Haugians were very strict about morals (cards, dancing, music, sex) and they were persecuted by the official Church of Norway so they immigrated and started their own.   –  (At least one of my immigrant ancestors was Haugian and the whole town was split back in the 1890s.)
(A relative was the eldest son of a Norwegian woman who had three illegitimate children.  Her father was quite prosperous but Paul was embarrassed when he got to the US.
**  In Hamsun’s views city life is very dangerous for good people – it makes them less moral – he held very strongly to the old agrarian values.   When people go to the city it doesn’t do them any real good – they just become very materialistic, lazy and proud.   They can recover though –   Inger did.
Eleseus sends her back a photo she’d given him  and he later spies on them and sees her with Axel. He knows they’re over.


Isak buys a horse –  it was expensive and then he needed a new stall and carts plus fodder.   That was fine,  he’d planned for it and waited.  He had the time and money now.

Brede is moving to the village,  but he really wants to move in with Axel and Barbro.  Axel refuses and this doesn’t sit well with Brede so Brede backs off.
Isak is a rich man now – Eleseus is working with him but he’s very unhappy due to Barbo.   Isak thinks maybe Eleseus would like his own land.  But Eleseus wants to go back to town and work there.  He wants to pay off his bills – he has a plan.  Inger supports him in his desire to go to town.   And he wants to go back to town and settle his bigger debts and maybe get a new start.  Eleseus decides to work a bit harder even if he is spoiled – he wants to get some money from Inger or Isak.
Eleseus is happy but he doesn’t work much.  He smokes and talks and plays around.  Isak wants Eleseus to live at Brede’s place and Isak thinks he’s doing well with the farming but Inger doesn’t think so.   And Eleseus doesn’t want that either and Inger wants him to go back to the city but then changes her mind. –  (Why does Inger want this?)
But Isak also bought a mowing machine – (industrial revolution) –  He has some trouble with it. Eleseus finds a bolt on the ground.  Eleseus has his talents – reading the instructions.  Isak kind of tries to save his own prestige.
“Eleseus has found the instructions and is reading them.  ‘Here,  it says to sit up on the seat when you drive.  then it runs steadier.’”   (p. 200)    LOL!
They finally get it going and Rebecca is walking with Inger and Leopoldine and Jenny to see him.  The neighbors will come to see it all –  Axel and Brede –
****   We have had  man against nature, man against woman,  man against the state, man against man,  and now  man against machine.  Soon it might be man against sons.  But Isak keeps winning in his own way and he’s happy.
His spectacles fall from his pocket – he’s got too proud.  He needs help now.  But he knows that Eleseus is meant for something other than farming.  And Sivert jests about Isak doing it all.
The more I read here the more impressed I am with the scope and depth of this book –  yes,  it’s a bit sexist, racist and seriously 19th century mentality –  that didn’t change until WWI or WWII, perhaps. The whole Imperialist Colonialist stuff.

Week 5  April 2

CHAPTER 1.- page 204
Folks want to see Isak’s mowing machine including Oline.

 Sivert’s money is gone – used by his debts.  Eleseus seems to have got the best of it by borrowing against what was expected but didn’t come through –  his brother Sivert loses out.   Oline also loses out although she tries to get over it.  –  Sad story  – self-pity – she was a mother and very poor,  worked very hard,  schemed.  She thinks it was the men of the Department who cheated her and they will get their just reward from the Almighty.
She sees Isak’s machine – others have machines –
An auction at Breidablik – Isak buys his own goats back and Axel buys a piece of land – “for someone else.”
Eleseus decides to go back to the city and says goodbye to everyone – hard with his mother who slips him 200 Kroner.  Barbro says goodbye without emotion but seems to flirt against Eleseus.
Sivert goes to work for Axel and they get the place roofed for the animals.

What’s the thoughts on Oline and Barbro – Inger?   Are they changing?  Isak? Does Isak change?


CHAPTER 2.  page 219

Barbro is missing  – Axel finds her all wet by the river.  She says the child was dead but Axel is not sure he believes her –  he’s a bit slow.
They move into their new house and life was as usual except that something was different.  Barbro feels like a servant.  Axel feels he’s lost her somewhat – she takes off her rings – faithless/desertion.
Axel finds the body and buries it.  They start fighting – Barbro lies – says it drowned in the water.  She’d seen it happen before – she wasn’t innocent – she’d now killed two children – one before Axel and now his own.  The one seemed pre-meditated.   What if people find out?  She’ll fix things.  Yet Axel can’t blame her too hard although  it bothers him.

She says Axel had ruined her father, Brede,  when he’d only tried to help.


CHAPTER 3.  page 232

Oh my –  what a chapter!

Barbro wants to go to Bergen and finally Axel gives her money and she goes.  He is sad,  can’t get Oline to help.  Sivert helps sometimes.   Brede Olsen stops by and said his family would be going.  Axel feels like he is well rid of her but would like to see her come back.

He goes to find Barbro,  slips and has an accident in the snow.  No one comes and he can’t get free.  Brede comes along and can’t help him – has to get to work on the telegraph lines.  The snow gets higher – Barbro has her rings to sell if she needs money but  Axel is lying out in the snow,  pinned down under a tree.   He’s angry at Brede for leaving him.
Oline appears.  She finds the axe and gets him out but he can’t walk now and then Brede comes along and continues to help get him to the house but Oline is seriously jealous of the place she has in mind for herself – she wants to be the hero who saved Axel.
Oline works pretty hard at the house.
Sivert comes to see Axel –  there are new homes in the area but lower down than Isak.  So the neighborhood consists of  Isak, Brede,  Axel and now a new man.  Bringing up houses already made as well as a wife and children.  This new guy is making a store.
Axel gets a job with the telegraph company.

Everyone is wanting more material wealth except Isak.


CHAPTER 4. page 247

The store materials come  – loads of it and four men to build the store.  It is to be called Storborg owned by Aronson.
“The day is gone when wandering Lapps could come to the house and get all they wanted for the asking; they come but rarely now, seem rather to go a long way round and keep out of sight; none are even seen inside the house, but wait without if they come at all.”
Hamsun, Knut (2004-07-01). Growth of the Soil [with Biographical Introduction] (p. 250). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

The place is growing –

Inger is sad about something and really wants to dance – his name is Hjalmar?

Sivert comes across the mining workmen and they want to hire his horses but he has too much work of his own to do (value of the soil).

Eleseus goes to the town and spends the money his mother gave him  – ends up working in a little store selling supplies to peasants.
The miners come to build roads and buildings and make arrangements –  it’s a huge project-  (
money growing everywhere –
someone knew ahead of time because Storborg  was ready to go –  And Aronson had a nice home and family and made good money – he was a “businessman”  and his children were being brought up to have an easier life than he’d had.    He uses the term “cash down”  to signify a good deal.   What it signifies is that a lot of people are using credit and that’s bound to collapse.  (to me anyway)
Gustaf the miner would come and play with the children,  spend money,  visit with Isak’s family and the Swedes.  He let off a rocket and it reminded Inger of the life she used to live.  The villagers and Isak’s family go to see the mines – also Brede and Axel and it’s hard on Inger and she shows her legs – it thrills her.  She hadn’t had opportunity to …  Gustaf flirts with her a little bit, but he’s not going to be careful –  and he got her gold ring on his finger somehow.   She cuts through the barn where her third daughter is buried but thinks about the girls and their milking.
The mines slow down due to the ore – there is more across the way  – but it’s Geissler’s land.   Aronson’s store was hurt so he and Isak go to the mountains to see the mines.  They’re shutting down.   There’s more nice machinery,  a portable forge,  Isak is interested.  Isak gets the forge,  goes back home with Aronson and there is Geissler.

Week 6  April 9

CHAPTER 5. page 261

Inger is with Gustaf,  the Swedish miner,  picking berries and having fun – falling in love – showing her legs.  It’s springtime.    Isak sees them.   Inger is “too weak“  (morally) so although she prays,  she gives in because she’s in love although she’s “getting on in years.”    Picking berries with Gustaf and showing her legs.  They rest in the wilderness – “in the garden of Eden.”   It’s dark and Inger needs to get home.  She goes home alone  just as Isak drives up and then comes Geissler back again after a long time. He looks well-to-do.

Geissler sees that Isak has expanded his land and made improvements and has a forge now (from the mine) and a horse-driven mowing machine.   But Geissler is there to see what’s going on at the mines and going to see the Swedes at the mines – to negotiate with the miners about his own little piece of land with copper on it.    He won’t take less than a quarter million dollars for his land.  They offer 25,000.   The mine owners have to go see Geissler in his white suit and gold –  he’s “over-lordly.”   They talk and leave.
 Geissler looks like he’s being a braggart jerk – he’s a strange guy and he owns a whole field next to the mining Swedes.   He wasn’t intending to be a mining king.  He travels around – looking,  thinking,  ignoring the miners who have come to negotiate again  –  and then offers to buy their mines.  The negotiations end – no deal.
Geissler is interested in the land around Isak’s place – Axel’s and the store,  Axel has Oline  now and is trying to improve his situation – the telegraph lines and work on his farm.
Barbro is under investigation because she’d been pregnant and then left not pregnant and  without a child.   Oline is in Barbro’s place and wants to outdo her even if she is older.   She found the little grave of Barbro’s child.
Geissler is going to give his land to Isak and he has to help the others in the community.  Axel wants to go but he has Oline  – In the next spring Oline finds out about the grave and also finds Axel there.   Oline plans some revenge for Alex’s  miserly ways and not appreciating her having saved him.   (There’s a little moral lessen against miserliness here –  “How easy would it have been for Alex to have brought out a cow to give to Oline in thanks?”  –  (paraphrased).
 She whispers around and it gets to the Lensmand.   And he investigates and even digs up the body.   Axel confesses and might go to jail.  Barbro is in jail.
Geissler tries to advise Axel now,  but Geissler is  caught up with his dealings – he’s over spoke himself.    Geissler is poor now and duller than he’d been that morning.

A couple days later Geissler is acting the big-shot again and  tells Isak that it’s all  “Words, nothing more.”    Before he actually leaves,  Geissler gives Axel a bit of advice and offers  to come to town and watch proceedings – he has things to  do – says he’ll send machines –  but will he?

CHAPTER 6. page 274

Work stopped at the mines and work is done at Sellanraa for the winter.  But Gustaf the miner stays on helping, cleaning up.   He finally has to go and Inger is sad but won’t show it.  He was playing with her  feelings and she was in love.

There is work to do on the farm in autumn.  There are now 8 farms in the area but no trade at the store because the mine is shut down.  Aronson is not happy about that and he can’t/won’t farm.  The others laugh without pity.   Isak thinks Aronsen will sell out.  Aronsen sends his son off somewhere and keeps the chief clerk.  He really just wants to stand around looking grand.

Nature talk between Sivert, Fredrik, and Isak.  What will grow this year –   Sivert doesn’t smoke – wanted tobacco for Brede.  Isak is now thinking about buying the store for Eleseus. (What is with Isak trying to get Eleseus to stay nearby?)

Inger is truly changed – she feels bad about not being as good as she should to Isak and apologizes – he apologizes in return.

Andresen,  Aronsen’s head clerk,  comes to see Isak and he formally meets Leopoldine.  She’s embarrassed to see him and that he remembers her from the store.   She’s a bit overgrown, pretty and newly confirmed (Lutheranism again).   She can dance and fall in love.  She’s taken Communion which makes her eligible –  more Lutheranism.  She watches Andresen.   (Leopoldine would be about 14 or 15  then due to Confirmation,  so he is about 22 or 24.)

More talk of the store being up for sale by Aronsen along with the fine big houses.

Sivert has some news – Axel has a mowing machine and a harrow.  Isak is interested.  But really they’re interested in the new child murder case in town.  The Lensmand’s wife was standing up for the mother,  Barbro,  and her husband, Axel.

Sivert watches Jensine leave and goes to her home to pick her and Rebecca up.  Sivert and Jensine have a misunderstanding – sad.


CHAPTER 7.  page 288

The chapter opens with Axel on his way home from court where he was tried and found not guilty of infanticide.   The farm and the machines are waiting at home and he’s happy.   And then the back-story.

The crime of  Barbro was discovered because of the grave and she was arrested in Bergen where she had gone.   So the trial of Barbro and Axel takes place.  The Lensmand’s wife, Fru Heyerdahl, stepped up for Barbro and gave an eloquent speech in support of her – not so much of Axel –   about how society is to blame for much of the burden of women in terms of childbirth.   The mother goes to prison and the man goes free – why should he be acquitted –  because laws are made by men.   Women’s rights.
Fru Heyerdahl took Barbro as as servant.

Geisler was there for Axel.   If Barbro were exonerated then Axel would also be. Geissler talks to the advocate.   Society is easier on these things these days – more sympathy for the girls.  “What is the good of all these convictions?  Society has been hard enough on these girls?”   And illegitimate have a very hard time of life.   –  But what about the babies?   Erasmus and Mozart –  (And therein lies a large part of Hamsun’s point.)

The crown is actually on the side of the accused but gets harder.  The defense is adamant that Barbro is innocent –  society is guilty.   Defense is angrier at the court for not stopping Frau Heirdahl. Barbro had not told anyone and Axel did not know of her pregnancy.  She slipped and couldn’t save her child.   There was no evidence that the death was anything other than an accident.   The defense goes on.  Barbro does not blame Axel at all – she takes all the blame.

The rules of court in Norway in 1917 were apparently different than they are today – a bit difficult to follow.

Barbro and Axel were fully pardoned and Geissler had been standing by Axel the whole time.   Everyone is happy –  first Inger then Barbro – Frau Heirdahl tries to make up for her bad talk about Axel and she takes Barbro on as a servant.  Heirdahl is a stern mistress.   (I’m thinking that Barbro is about 16 or 17 years old.)


CHAPTER 8. page 303
Axel is struggling with all of his work on the telegraph poles.   Brede talked him into it using guilt – wants credit for saving Axel’s life.  To Axel,  Aronsen is a traitor because he’s sold out and there is machinery all around.  And Aronsen is angry with Geissler for not sell his land to someone who would run the mines – maybe.  Aronsen will sell out if he gets a buyer.  Axel sees it as good decent land and thinks Isak should buy it –

Eleseus, Inger and Sivert go to the store to look.  They all favor the deal.   Eleseaus makes an offer and Aronsen laughs at it.   But no else has any more money.

Geissler is upset at the village because they helped get him fired.  But Geissler has money somewhere because he sent machines to Axel.  What price would Geissler accept for his mine? –   the villagers and others offer to help.  But Geissler refused mainly because Brede Olsen to negotiate.  Geissler was getting revenge by withholding money and goods.   He could sell his land – Aronson tries a little conniving but Geissler won’t sell.  Brede went along to try to convince Geissler but he’s angry, too – about Barbro.

Aaronson finally sold to Eleseus for 1500 Kroner,  his first offer and about right all things considered. But he didn’t really want it because he wants to live elsewhere.  He likes being boss but not doing the work.  So he even got the clerk thrown into the offer – Andresen.

And Andresen the clerk helps Sivert dig ditches.   Andresen is a good guy as shown by the story of not gambling.   Sivert teases Andresen about Leopoldine showing there’s no hard feelings.  Pleasant days.  Eleseus sometimes helps but he’s not strong of body or will.

Oline is getting older.  She can’t quite do the work at Axel’s the way she used to.  But she still likes to gossip and drink coffee with the neighbors.  She has some kind of issue with the court on Barbro’s case because the laws have changed – Inger got 8 years back 20- years prior and Barbro was acquitted.   And still Barbro sold the rings Axel gave her.

Barbro was being decent living in Frau Heyerdahl but sneaking around.   Axel runs into Frau Heyerdahl and they talk about bulls and finally an ox –  he “should” give his “better” something in thanks.   This refusal by Axel makes him nervous so the next time he goes to town he brings a lamb to Frau Heyerdahl as a thank you gift.  Still – she paid him a good price for it.  Frau Heyerdahl had hidden Barbro out of the way.  –  Axel feels like he was cheated out of his help for a year and a half.   (lol)

Week 7   April 16

CHAPTER 9. page 313

Times change – years move on –
Work at the mine starts up again because Geissling sold his land. No one knows exactly why but the area is doing much better economically.
Even Aronson came back but Eleseus won’t sell the store because he has a grand life traveling and keeping the store.  He won’t go back to live there but he can travel and might go to America.  Might develop the trading post into something bigger.
But the big plans for mine extension fall through – Aronson leaves.  His clerk Anderson stays,  thriving.
From –  (translated by ? – someone else)
**  “A man of the wilds did not lose his head. The air was not less healthy now than before; there were folk enough to admire new clothes; there was no need of diamonds. Wine was a thing he knew from the feast at Cana. A man of the wild was not put out by the thought of great things he could not get; art, newspapers, luxuries, politics, and such-like were worth just what folk were willing to pay for them, no more. Growth of the soil was something different, a thing to be procured at any cost; the only the origin of all. A dull and desolate existence?   Nay, least of all. A man had everything; his powers above, his dreams, his loves, his wealth of superstition.  –“
Re the above –  Sivert is a man of the wild.  He is attracted to Jensine, the servant girl.  Inger is not amused by this.  And Anderson bothers her, too – Leopoldine gets nervous when he’s around.   Jensine leaves Salanraa.
Isak tries to move a large stone and just can’t do it,   so Inger helps him with the rock and he recovers from his exertions,  but he  knows he’s getting older.  Isak lucks into finding a door slab and pretends that’s what he was doing.  So Severt helps him with the rock and  with the farming and they get a house ready for some reason.  Still,   “age is upon him.”
More folks are moving into the area and all things are changed.  Isak is remembering “the old days,”  and comparing it to now –  now he’s old though and Severt has the strength.  Isak is rests and is not happy about it.   He wants to get the last house built – the house for himself.
Eleseus owns the store now but he’s always away doing “business.”   Times are changing and life is good.  There are 10 farms in the area now and Isak was the founder of the district.

CHAPTER 10. page 326

Barbro’s adventures under Frau Heyerdahl who treats her very well.  She is tempted and finally sneaks out in the middle of the night to meet boyfriends. She knows no other recreation except men.  She lived in Bergen and is not innocent.   (Hamsun is pretty harsh.)   –  She eventually gets caught and fired.

She  goes to her father,  Brede, but then seeks a place of her own.  She is sad sometimes – she goes to Axel’s and due to her finagling and flirting and flattering gets a place with him and a promise to marry (bans).  They end up together but both of them were lying.    She’s taken care of the banns.

Oline is not happy about this because she’ll have to leave and she’d planned to stay.  Too bad,  she stays.   She’s unhappy and  “intrigues” against Barbro but Axel takes Barbro’s side.  Oline stays anyway even after the wedding but leaves Barbro to do all the work.

Oline complains about Barbro and a cow she was supposedly promised – she dies. Barbro and Axel bury her and they can be at rest.   Barbro is pregnant again and acts like it.  Axel, who is a bit slow thinking is surprised.   Barbro makes promises about working hard but the fact is they need help on the farm.   Axel had a woman who went to American but not wants to come home.  That won’t do now because it’s too far and he’s got Barbro.  Also, Brede is now Axel’s father-in-law.   Axel is happy.

Coffee is a big deal in this book – it helps to bind friendships and more.

CHAPTER 11.  page 339

Time goes on through the seasons –  Eleseus is leaving for somewhere as usual  –  Andresen is doing well on the land with the help of Sivert.  Barbro has had another child.   Isak comes to say bring him part way and bring him some things –  they stay at Brede Olsen’s boarding house/coffee shop.  Eleseus has forgotten an umbrella.

En route they see a flag on a roof “for Constitution Day”  –  May 17,  1914 –

Brede Olesen has a small boarding house now with his wife selling coffee and other things.  His wife really enjoys selling coffee and has help from her youngest daughter.   It looks like the family is doing well and can make more money.  Brede works as he can at odd-jobs.  And his older children bring him money or goods, except Helge, a son who smokes and drinks a bit.   But there are still some hard times, too.   They manage somehow.

Eleseus pays for their coffee even if he doesn’t have all that much money.

Sivert wants Jensine to come back and it’s okay with Inger – she’s older too so life is hard on the farm.

Eleseus is treated like a big shot at Brede’s – but he still worried about his umbrella.  He talks about going to America.    Brede has the trunk of a man from America in storage.   – They men look at it.  After Eleseus buys the coffee  and sees the trunk he feels dejected by comparison.  He thinks of a grand trunk he will buy.

Eleseus’ mother and younger sister Rebecca sent him a letter but there was no had money this time – could not.   The money had gone to buy Storborg and they need some to live on.  So he only has what money he could gather and not enough for a ticket to America.

Jesine agrees to got to Sellanraa and Isak and Jesine leave.

Eleseus’ store has not done well since being bought for Eleseus by his father,  Isak,  from Aronsen.  Eleseus was so smart and had so much help but can’t do it in part because he sells on credit and travels and plays the big shot.  The money has all gone out at Isak’s expense.  His mother had pushed for helping Eleseus but can’t anymore.  Isak doesn’t understand –  he gave the child his root hold and it didn’t take.   but he sees the money go out –  he tells Inger no more money.

Avoiding his own home,  Eleseus goes over to Storborg and finds Sivert in the barn – he tells Sivert he’s going to America and he’s determined.   The store can go to Andresen along with Leopoldine.  They talk.   Eleseus doesn’t want to involve his father so Sivert gets Eleseus some money and Eleseus leaves and never returns even if he did say he would.    Sivert gives him the gold coin as he leaves.


Constitution Day –  May 17 (1814)

CHAPTER 12.  page 354

“Little Andresen,”  who is pretty smart about things,  along with Sivert, and Strom from Breideblik are walking along heavy laden.   They pretend to sell excess things from the store time to time.  They are headed for the mines but there are no blasts or workers.   It’s all deserted.  They come across Aronson – the first store -owner – he tells the men that everything was going well until about a week prior when everyone left.  Aronsen suspects trickery and that Geissler is at the bottom of it.  Very angry.

Andresen is not going to be deterred and Andresen is his own boss now.   He thinks of selling to the natives (Lapps?) – glass beads and finger rings.     They go to the huts at the mining center – empty.   But there’s Geissler and Geissler talks to Sivert and bemoans the state of affairs in Norway.  There aren’t  enough people like Isak – real workers.   It’s all about money now.  Complaining and gambling and selling.  Geissler says that he  is “like the fog” – he knows what’s going to happen and does nothing.   But “My son is the lightening” – gets things done – but that’s still not the storm.

Andresen,  Strom and Severt sell their wares in the village where some still have money.  Aronson the late-comer is furious  and tries to watch them,  but there are too many to watch at the same time.  Andresen is a salesman,  Sivert is a farmer and Storm wants to get home to his own land.  Aronson is devious but Andresen knows his ways.   Then they gamble.   Aronson is bested and the other three head on home in good spirits.

They get home and it’s pretty romantic rustic.  Isak is sowing in one field while the women are waiting for the men – Leopldine, Jensine and Rebecca are barefoot in the fields,  Inger is inside cooking the meal.

Look, Nature’s there, for you and yours to have and enjoy. Man and Nature don’t bombard each other, but agree; they don’t compete, race one against the other, but go together. There’s you Sellanraa folk, in all this, living there. Field and forest, moors and meadow, and sky and stars – oh, ’tis not poor and sparingly counted out, but without measure. –  p. 360 / Kindle

A tiller of the ground, body and soul; a worker on the land without respite. A ghost risen out of the past to point to the future; a man from the earliest days of cultivation, a settler in the wilds, nine hundred years old, and withal, a man of the day.  (p. 365 – Kindle)




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