Alexander Ekdahl and his younger sister Fanny live a wonderful life. Their parents own a local theater and the extended Ekdahl family are close, spending Christmas together. Just a few weeks after the Christmas celebrations however, their beloved father dies. The children and their mother feel the loss greatly and Alexander occasionally sees his father's spirit in the house. After a period of time, their mother informs them that she is to be married to Bishop Edvard Vergerus, someone Alexander had already encountered over a lie he once told at school. The Bishop's house is a dreary place and the Bishop proves to be a strict disciplinarian who insists on all house rules being followed. After being caught in another lie, Alexander is severely beaten and his mother realizes she must find a way to send the children away.