The Emigrants (novel series)

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The Emigrants
Karlshamn auswandererdenkmal.jpg
Statue of the main characters, Karl-Oskar and Kristina, in Karlshamn
AuthorVilhelm Moberg
Original titleUtvandrarna
TranslatorGustaf Lannestock
GenreHistoric drama
PublisherBonniers (Swedish edition)
Publication date
1949, 1952, 1956, 1959
Published in English
1951, 1954, 1961, 1961
Media typePrint
Pages1780 (in total, Swedish edition)

The Emigrants is the collective name of a series of four novels by the Swedish author Vilhelm Moberg:

The Swedish titles are: Utvandrarna (The Emigrants), Invandrarna (The Immigrants), Nybyggarna (The Settlers) and Sista brevet till Sverige (The Last Letter to Sweden). All books have been translated into English. The novels are generally considered to be among the best pieces of Swedish literature.


For longer descriptions, see the individual wiki-pages of each novel.

The novel-series describes the long and strenuous journey for a party of emigrants from the province of Småland, Sweden, to the United States in 1850, coinciding with the beginning of the first significant wave of immigration to the United States from Sweden. The story focuses primarily on Karl-Oskar Nilsson and his wife, Kristina Johansdotter, a young married couple who live with their four small children; Anna, Johan, Lill-Märta, and Harald, as well as Karl-Oskar's parents and his rebellious younger brother Robert, who works as a hired farmhand for neighboring farmers. The family lives on a small farm at Korpamoen, where the soil is thin and rocky, making growing crops extremely difficult. It is Robert, together with his friend Arvid, who first comes across the prospect of going to America after being tired of being mistreated by the farmers who employ him. When he confronts Karl-Oskar about the idea, Karl-Oskar reveals that he too has come across pamphlets describing conditions in North America for farmers as being much better. Kristina, however, is adamantly against emigrating, not wanting to leave her homeland or wanting to risk the lives of her children by taking them across the ocean. However, things take yet another tragic turn for the family which causes Kristina to reconsider. In the winter of 1849, on the day of the christening of their youngest child, Harald, Kristina is preparing a large bowl of barley porridge. Their eldest child, four-year-old Anna, determined to have some even after being told she cannot, goes into the cellar where it is left to cool and helps herself to a very large amount of it, so much that she falls terribly ill from it. Karl-Oskar and Kristina send for Beata, a healing woman from Idemo, who upon seeing Anna tells them that after consuming so much porridge, Anna's stomach had burst. The child lingers in agony through the night before dying early the following morning, after which Kristina agrees for them to make the journey to America (Minnesota).

In their preparation for their emigration to the United States, Karl-Oskar, Kristina, their three remaining children and Robert are joined by Kristina's uncle and aunt, Danjel and Inga-Lena Andreasson and their four children. Danjel, a preacher of the Akian sect, had suffered relentless persecution under the hands of the local parish and was seeking the religious freedom promised in the United States. He was joined by a dependent of his following, Ulrika of Västergöhl, a former prostitute seeking to start a new life for herself and her illegitimate teenage daughter Elin, away from her dark past. Along with Ulrika and Elin, Danjel had also agreed to pay Arvid's passage to America after hiring him as a farmhand. The party was finally joined by Jonas Petter, a friend of Karl-Oskar who was fleeing an unhappy marriage.

The party sets off by wagon for the Swedish port city of Karlshamn, on the Baltic coast, where they board the brig Charlotta, bound for New York with emigrants.


The novels have to date been sold in nearly two million copies in Sweden and have been translated into more than twenty languages.[1]


  • The series was in a poll conducted by Biblioteket i fokus ("Library in focus") in 1997 voted as the best Swedish book of the 20th century by 27,000 people.[2]
  • The series was in a poll conducted by Sveriges television in 1998 voted as the most important Swedish book of all time by 17,000 people.[3]


Two movies based on the books have been released, starring Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann as Karl-Oskar and Kristina:

Additionally, Kristina från Duvemåla, a musical by former ABBA members Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, was produced in the 1990s. It was a great success in Sweden and abroad.


  1. ^ Moberg biography by JoAnn Hanson-Stone at the Swedish Emigrant Institute Archived 2013-10-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Results of the poll provided by Project Runeberg.
  3. ^ Results of the poll provided by Project Runeberg.

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