Heinesen's novels always contain the portrait of what might be termed a "good” woman: Simona in Windswept Dawn, Eliana in The Lost Musicians, Liva in The Black Cauldron. Here, however, the "good” woman, Antonia, is raised to mythological status as the representative of motherhood, the bearer of life as has existed from the dawn of time. This portrayal is placed against the description of a limited circle of ordinary and unprepossessing figures in a small town, much of it as experienced through the eyes of Antonia's infant illegitimate son from his very earliest days until he is some five years of age.
In contrast to Antonia, there is Trine , an essentially tragic figure, whose tragedy to a large extent is the direct result of her narrow religious beliefs and her resultant refusal to follow her natural instincts and to take the chance of happiness and the natural fulfilment of life when it is offered to her. Religion is in this novel portrayed exclusively in negative terms in stark contrast to the world of nature, the bearer of life, the supreme representative of which is Antonia.