Burial Rites


Hannah Kent

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Agnes Magnúsdottir

Agnes is a prisoner who has been condemned to death for the murders of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson. She is the daughter of Ingveldur, the sister of Jóas, and Natan’s former… read analysis of Agnes Magnúsdottir

Natan Ketilsson

Natan Ketilsson is a healer and farmer. He is also a well-known womanizer, and is the lover of Agnes, Sigga, and Rósa (he also has a child with Rósa). Known for his wealth… read analysis of Natan Ketilsson

Björn Blöndal

Blöndal is a District Commissioner in Iceland and the owner of the farm Hvammur. As District Commissioner, Blöndal enjoys luxuries typically only available in mainland Denmark. Blöndal is calculating and cold and he enjoys lording… read analysis of Björn Blöndal

Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson (Tóti)

Tóti is the son of Reverend Jón, an Assistant Reverend, and Agnes's spiritual advisor. Having recently completed his studies in the South of Iceland, Tóti is very well read. Tóti is called upon… read analysis of Assistant Reverend Thorvardur Jónsson (Tóti)

Steina Jónsdóttir

Steina is Jón and Margrét’s daughter and Lauga's older sister. Blonde and brown eyed, Steina is not as beautiful as Lauga, nor as socially adept. Steina's family often criticizes her for failing to… read analysis of Steina Jónsdóttir
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Lauga Jónsdóttir

Lauga is Jón and Margrét's daughter and Steina's younger sister. Lauga, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, is considered to be very beautiful and charming. Lauga does not like Agnes from the… read analysis of Lauga Jónsdóttir

Jón Jónsson

Jón is Margrét's husband, Lauga and Steina's father, a District officer in his region of Iceland, and the tenant of Kornsá. Jón accepts Agnes into his household on Blöndal's request, feeling it… read analysis of Jón Jónsson


Margrét is Jón's wife and Lauga and Steina's mother. Margrét is plagued by a cough caused by the mold in the house at Kornsá, which hinders her ability to work and occasionally causes… read analysis of Margrét

Reverend Jón

Reverend Jón is Tóti’s father and a Lutheran priest. Jón is a strict father, often criticizing Tóti’s choices and rarely extending emotional support. Reverend Jón is particularly unhappy about Tóti’s role as Agnes’s… read analysis of Reverend Jón

Rósa Gudmundsdóttir

Rósa is Natan’s former lover, Thóranna’s mother, and a well-respected poet throughout Iceland. Rósa is a married woman, and Natan lived at her farm with Rósa and her husband for a time, fathering… read analysis of Rósa Gudmundsdóttir

Sigrídur Gudmundsdóttir (Sigga)

Sigga is Agnes's coworker at Illugastir, Fridrik's fiancée, and Natan's employee and lover. Sigga is a pretty girl of fifteen. She is not particularly smart. Natan, who hired Sigga as a housekeeper… read analysis of Sigrídur Gudmundsdóttir (Sigga)

Fridrik Sigurdsson

Fridrik is Sigga's fiancée and Natan's neighbor and on-and-off friend. Fridrik is a boy of 17 who lives near Natan’s farm and sometimes helps Agnes and Sigga do farm labor while Natan is… read analysis of Fridrik Sigurdsson


Björn is Inga’s husband, Kjartan’s father, and Agnes’s foster father from the time Agnes’s mother leaves her to the time Björn leaves his farm. Björn is a generally stoic man, although he… read analysis of Björn


Inga is Björn’s wife, Kjartan’s mother, and Agnes’s foster mother from the time Agnes’s mother leaves her to when Inga dies in childbirth. Inga is a loving foster mother to Agnes, who… read analysis of Inga

Ingveldur Rafnsdóttir

Ingveldur is Agnes, Jóas, and Helga’s mother. Ingveldur is known to be a “loose” woman, and she often has to move from farm to farm looking for posts as a servant. Ingveldur’s… read analysis of Ingveldur Rafnsdóttir


Jóas is Ingveldur's son and Agnes's half-brother. Jóas and Agnes were separated when Agnes's mother abandoned her when Jóas was around one. When Agnes and Jóas coincidently find each other again on their… read analysis of Jóas

Uncle Ragnar

Uncle Ragnar is Aunt Rosá’s husband and the brother of Agnes’s foster father, Björn. Uncle Ragnar helps Björn after Inga’s death, comforting him and helping him take care of his children… read analysis of Uncle Ragnar

Worm Beck

Worm Beck is a farm owner, a friend of Natan’s, and Agnes’s former employer. Agnes enjoyed working for Worm, who seems to be a good man, and who always gave them enough food… read analysis of Worm Beck

María Jónsdóttir

María is Agnes’s close friend during her time working on Worm’s farm, and one of Agnes’s first friends ever. The two women grow apart, however, after Agnes begins seeing Natan. María warns… read analysis of María Jónsdóttir

Daníel Gudmundsson

Daníel is a worker on Worm’s farm and later, during lambing season, on Natan’s. He is in love with Agnes and wants to marry her, and he resents Natan’s manipulation of her. Daníel… read analysis of Daníel Gudmundsson
Minor Characters
Pétur Jónsson
Pétur is a servant and one of Fridrik's murder victims. Before his death, Pétur was known for being strange. He enjoyed killing animals and was convicted of illegally slaughtering sheep.
Kristín is a servant at Kornsá. She helps with every aspect of day-to-day farmlife. Margrét often jokes about how Kristín is not especially good at her work.
Snaebjörn is Jón and Margrét’s neighbor and Róslín’s husband. He sometimes accompanies Róslín on her visits to Kornsá.
Páll is Lauga, Steina, Jón, and Margrét’s neighbor and Snaebjörn and Róslín’s son. Páll sometimes helps with farm work at Kornsá.
Róslín is Margrét and Jón's neighbor and Snaebjörn's wife. Róslín has so many children that it seems like she’s perpetually pregnant. Róslín is dramatic and gossipy, and Margrét doesn’t like her very much. When Róslín goes into labor, Agnes helps her deliver the baby.
Haukur Jónsson
Haukur Jónsson is Dagga’s husband and a farmer who lives near Reverend Pétur Bjarnason. Tóti goes to his house to find Reverend Pétur, and Haukur invites him in to wait while Haukur seeks out the Reverend.
Reverend Pétur Bjarnason of Undirfell
Reverend Pétur is the priest of the parish that Agnes grew up in, although he wasn’t working there when Agnes was a child. Reverend Pétur shows Tóti the ministerial records about Agnes and later appears at Kornsá to account for everyone in that year’s record.
Dagga is Haukur’s wife. Tóti meets her while he is waiting for Haukur to fetch Reverend Pétur. Dagga and Gudrún tell Tóti about the rumored Satanic origins of Natan’s name. Dagga is skeptical about the veracity of these stories.
Gudrún is an elderly woman who lives with Dagga and Haukur. Tóti meets her while he is waiting for Haukur to fetch Reverend Pétur. Gudrún and Dagga tell Tóti about the rumors surrounding Natan’s supposedly Satanic name. Gudrún doesn’t like Natan and believes the stories are true.
Gudmundur and Bjarni
Gudmundur and Bjarni are temporary farmhands on the Kornsá farm, hired to help with the hay harvest.
Gudmundur Ketilsson
Gudmundur Ketilsson is Natan’s brother. He is chosen by Blöndal and the District Officers to be Agnes and Fridrik’s executioner.
Ingveldur’s lover and supposedly Agnes's father. Agnes believes Magnús isn’t actually her father, but that Ingveldur said so to avoid admitting an affair with Jón of Brekkukot. When Agnes goes to see Magnús, he’s furious at the mention of Ingveldur’s name, but when Agnes leaves, Magnús gives her money.
Jón of Brekkukot
Jón of Brekkukot is a married farmer and, according to Agnes, her real father. Agnes believes her mother lied about who Agnes’s father was to save Jón and herself from disgrace.
Ingibjörg Pétursdóttir
Ingibjörg is Margrét and Jón’s neighbor and Margrét’s close friend. Ingibjörg is sweet and kind, and she often visits Margrét at Kornsá. Ingibjörg is also nice to Agnes, especially after Agnes saves Róslín’s pregnancy.
Helga is Ingveldur’s daughter and Agnes and Jóas’s half-sister. Agnes never met Helga, who died as an adolescent.
Illugi the Black
Illugi the Black is Ingveldur’s lover and Jóas’s father. Ingveldur and Agnes live with him while Ingveldur is a servant on his farm before Illugi’s death.
Kjartan Björnsson
Kjartan is Agnes’s foster brother when she lives with Björn and Inga. Agnes takes care of Kjartan while Björn attends to Inga as she dies in childbirth.
Gudbjörh is Aunt Rosá’s servant. She helps the family clean up from Inga’s childbirth and death and then comforts Agnes.
Aunt Rosá
Aunt Rosá is Uncle Ragnar’s wife and the sister-in-law of Agnes’s foster father, Björn. Aunt Rosá comforts Agnes after Inga’s death. When Björn leaves for Reykjavik, Aunt Rosá and Ragnar take in Kjartan but not Agnes.
A servant on Blöndal’s farm and Natan’s former housekeeper. Karitas, who left the post as Natan’s housekeeper just before Agnes arrived, sympathizes with Agnes because she knows how manipulative Natan can be. Karitas pulls Tóti aside during his visit to Blöndal to tell him about Natan’s abusive behavior.
Thórunn is Fridrik’s lover before Fridrik decides to marry Sigga.
Thóranna is Natan and Rósa’s daughter, who lives with Natan during part of the time that Agnes is staying with him.
Bjarni is Fridrik’s brother. His testimony is solicited for the trial, during which Bjarni says that Fridrik had killed two of Natan’s sheep the year before.
Thórbjörg is Fridrik’s mother. Thórbjörg kindly takes Agnes in after Natan throws her out in the cold. Agnes also suspects that Thórbjörg had a hand in plotting Natan’s murder.
(Saga) Gudrún
Gudrún is a character in the Laxdoela Saga, from which Kent quotes at the beginning of Chapter Twelve. She is Ospak’s sister, and it is Gudrún who encourages Ospak to seek revenge on Kjartan.
Ospak is a character in the Laxdoela Saga, from which Kent quotes at the beginning of Chapter twelve. He is (saga) Gudrún’s brother. At Gudrún’s encouragement, Ospak leaves to seek revenge on Kjartan.
Kjartan is a character in the Laxdoela Saga, from which Kent quotes in the beginning of Chapter twelve. Ospak leaves to seek revenge on Kjartan at (saga) Gudrún’s encouragement.