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“Ay,” said Ragnfrid. “We had to leave the way — go aside into a meadow. I saw them bear him by on his bier — with priests and monks and armed yeomen. I heard he had made a good end — had made his peace with God. I prayed as we stood there with Ulvhild’s litter be- tween us — I prayed that my sin and my sorrow might be laid at his feet on the Last Day


It's also from 'Kristin Lavransdatter' by Sigrid Undset.

The wife (Ragnfrid)is talking about her raper, whose bier happened to pass her and her husband who were on the way to Oslo, along with sick daughter in litter.

At the last sentence, she said she would put her sin and sorrow at his feet on the Last Day.

Is this a kind of English expression? But I can't find any example of this type of expression anywhere. Or it has something to do with catholic religion?

In 'at his feet', I think 'his' is the raper, not God who will judge on the last day.

Thank you in advance.

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  • If it's God's feet, the word "his" needs a capital H: "...laid at His feet..." Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 2:25
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    From the title of the story and the name of the author I assume that the piece is translated from the original Norwegian. Sometimes there is no really equivalent phrase in the target language for an idiomatic one in the source language so the translator either has to rewrite it or translate it literally making the translation awkward. This could be an example of literal translation.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 3:59

2 Answers 2

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No, “his” is God’s. Her raper had asked for divine forgiveness on his deathbed: “a good end [death], had made his peace with God [confessed his sins and been absolved by a priest].”

The woman is praying that her sin will be forgiven and her resulting guilt and sorrow will be removed by God on the day that God comes to render judgment on the living and dead, the last day of earthly existence, dies ira dies illa, that day of wrath.

I am not conversant enough with the different theologies of Christian sects to know whether that is peculiarly Catholic doctrine. The novel, however, is set in a time when Roman Catholicism was the dominant religion in Scandanavia.

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It's unclear to me, too, but I THINK what the story is saying is this ...

Based on your statement that the dead man had raped her ... (The word is "rapist", by the way, not "raper".)

So this evil person "made a good end". That is, he had sought forgiveness from God for his sins and so had presumably received it. But she still resents him for his crimes against her. She does not want him to be forgiven. So she prays that the pain of her sorrow, and the judgement for her sins, will be counted against him. That is, if he doesn't suffer for his own sins, he should suffer for hers.

Addition several years later

"Laid at his feet" is an English idiom meaning "given to him, as a gift". Not just related to sins but could be anything. Like, "We laid our presents at his feet" or "The soldiers all swore their allegiance to their command and laid their lives at his feet." It can also be used for negative things, like, "The blame for the accident was laid at his feet." So in this case, saying that "my sins might be laid at his feet on the Last Day" ... Could be read to mean her sins will be laid at Jesus Christ's feet as he has already paid the penalty for them. But I think in this case she means that her sins will be laid at the rapist's feet and he will be held responsible for them.

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  • I read the novel so long ago that I remember very little, but if I remember correctly, she married her husband without telling him she was already pregnant. Commented Aug 10, 2021 at 2:12

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