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Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie
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Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  3,241 ratings  ·  336 reviews
Giants in the Earth (Norwegian: Verdens Grøde) is a novel by Norwegian-American author Ole Edvart Rølvaag. First published in Norwegian as two books in 1924 and 1925, the English edition was translated by the author and Lincoln Colcord, each of whom also wrote prefatory matter.

Part of a trilogy, the novel follows a Norwegian pioneer family's struggles with the land and the
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Paperback, 560 pages
Published August 4th 1999 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1925)
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Best Scandinavian and Nordic Literature
91st out of 808 books — 772 voters
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The Great Plains
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike
Dec 10, 2007 Mike rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: students, masochists
Shelves: boasting-shelf
I hated this book. It felt like counting sand. Or corn. Or whatever the hell they were growing. Oh and everyone is named Hansa. Seriously, this book moves so slow, you could literally skip entire chapters (maybe even 2 or three), and NOTHING WOULD HAVE HAPPENED.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh. To be fair, there is a lot of depth and meaning to the story and it does resonate with many Americans because for some, the story of the prarie life is the story of their ancestery. Most people don't consider
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Joyce
Thought I would re-read this book about Norwegian pioneers in South Dakota, in anticipation of the arrival of our exchange student from Norway.

I love this book. It answers many of the adult questions I had when re-reading Little House on the Prairie with my kids. How did the mother bear the intense isolation? What was the psychological impact of that endless horizon? Did bugs crawl out of the sod house walls? (However, like the Little House books, Giants is silent on the subject of frontier outh
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L. Frockcoat
"A small caravan was pushing its way through the tall grass. The track that it left behind was like the wake of a boat - except that instead of widening out astern it closed in again."

This sentence, on the first page of Giants in the Earth, captures many of the conflicting emotions that the book's Norwegian immigrant characters face as they homestead in South Dakota during the 1870s. The settlers are moving forward into new experiences, adventures, and the possibility of wealth and status not a
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Mmars
There's lots of books about settlers of the American Prairie out there but Rolvaag does one thing remarkably well. Read this about 15 years ago, but still clearly remember Rolvaag's portrayal of the grueling solitude of early settlers of the northern plain. Especially of the wife, often left with her children while her husband went for supplies. Not unlike a sailor's wife, but without the near companionship of other women. Rough living quarters, coping with illness, scarcity of food, etc. Also, ...more
Rachel Penso
Apr 14, 2008 Rachel Penso rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Kristy Tukua
Recommended to Rachel by: Alesa
When I was a little girl, I loved to read books about the pioneers heading west. What little girl doesn't like Little House on the Prairie? I had forgotten my enjoyment of such books. But Giants in the Earth was so much better. I was glad it was a longer book, so there was more for me to enjoy.
Wendy
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I first skimmed it 25 years ago, looking for good quotations to insert into a paper due the next day for a college immigration history class. Of course, the assignment had been to read the book, not skim it, but no such luck. Since then, I've remembered it as bleak and cold and brimming with Hans and Hansas. Now that I've actually read the book, I realize that my earlier assessment didn't do the novel justice. The psychological drama that plays ou ...more
Alison
It took me a long time to get through this book the second time around, I think because I knew what was going to happen. But it was more meaningful to read it this time, having just returned from a visit to Slip Up Creek in South Dakota. I stood on the land where my great-great-great-grandparents were among the original settlers in this area of Dakota Territory. The characters in the novel were based on my ancestors, as the author, Ole Rolvaag, married into the family and got much of his informa ...more
Dereka
We reached Wall, South Dakota on our ride and I was desperate for a book. Trying to find a book while riding a bicycle across the country turns out to be much harder than one would expect. When asked whether there was a nearby bookstore, most hotel clerks looked at me as if I were asking for a brothel. Bookstore? No, they didn't have any idea. Or, yes, there might be one out in the mall, twenty minutes away (by car!)

At Wall Drug, however, they had a surprisingly good selection of books about Na
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Phillip
This sits atop my most recommended. It is an intense tale of struggle and determination. It follows a family and their group of friends as they establish a settlement on the prairie. As always I am moved by something the author may not have intended, a story within the story; I regard this among the best love stories I've read. The protagonists' dedication and sacrifice cuts so deep that the love is more bitter than sweet... in the face of their hardships the smallest kindness is a triumph, gent ...more
Iva
This is a true American classic on many levels. Like My Antonia or O Pioneers, it treats the harsh reality of early life on the plains. Written in Norwegian as Rolvaag emigrated to the midwest as a young man, and then returned to Norway for some of his education. He spent his life as a professor at St. Olaf College. The novel (actually two books combined in one volume) captures the hard work, the harsh weather, the importance of cordial relations with neighbors, fear of Indian attacks and most o ...more
Antof9
I read this because I'm the daughter of an immigrant (Holland; not Norway), and I lived in North Dakota for several years.

Thoughts -- randomly:

This is a more gritty, heavier, more serious, more realistic version of the Little House on the Prairie books. Includes braided hay for burning in the winter, grinding wheat in a coffee mill, indian arrowheads and more.

Beret made me sad. I didn't totally get her, and . . . well, she made me sad.

I thought the information about birds and insects and the uns
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Stenwjohnson
It took me years to read "Giants in the Earth"; the novel felt over-familiar, since I grew up across the street from Ole Rolvaag's house in Northfield, Minnesota near the campus of St. Olaf College, where he taught and where a library bears his name. His descendents still lived in the house, and my parents were friends with his great-great granddaughter and her family. I spent many hours there in the 1970s, and the fabled shadow of "Giants of the Earth" hung heavily over the residence in the for ...more
Chuck
Published in 1927, this stark, slow-paced novel mirrors the pace of life experienced by Norwegian immigrants as they staked claims and started settlements in the western territories of the United States during the last half of the 19th century. There was nothing romantic about those times; life was undeniably hard, and Rölvaag doesn't sugarcoat his account of it.

At the center of Rölvaag's story are Per Hansa, a strong-willed, independent, and resourceful man, and his wife Beret, who grows increa
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MaryJane
I have read this book several times, the first time I was on my way to South Dakota to a funeral in about 1975. A cousin had died and I was reading it in the car on the way. Later that day I found myself in a cemetery on the prairie among my ancestors, most born in Norway, some of the stones inscribed in Norwegian, my great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather were buried in that cemetery. The book is a classic pioneer tale, written in Norwegian, translated later into English. The author emi ...more
Jesse Kraai
I sometimes believe that novels have a certain logic to them. As if separate authors have to reach for the same levers to tell their stories.

Let me compare this tale with Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres A Thousand Acres. One is set in the desolation of the Dakota Territory, one is set in the desolation of Iowa. Both are very cold.

Both begin as tales of a farmer who kicks ass. We wish him well in his competitive and capitalistic zeal. Unfortunately however, the womenfolk don't understand what the
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Ryan
I changed my rating for this book upon realizing that it is a existential novel, inadvertently showing the bad side of commanding one's life.

I think that the majority of people who love this book have no idea what it means or what it is trying to say. It paints South Dakota perfectly -- nothing of the plains has changed but the technology and the will to try anew of the people there.
L
This is not my usual fare, but every so often, I like to stretch my boundaries and I'm glad I did so with this book. Even the intro was fascinating, with much biography of the author. It was interesting to see how Rolvaag, someone of roughly my grandmother's generation, albeit from a very different place, found himself emigrating.

The novel itself is psychologically focused, astutely so. Reading, I felt the openness of the prairie through the different characters' perceptions of, and responses t
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Sherry (sethurner)
"Bright, clear sky over a plain so wide that the rim of the heavens cut down on it around the entire horizon. . . . Bright, clear sky, to-day, to-morrow, and for all time to come"

The opening lines of Ole Rolvaag's 1927 story of Norwegian settlers who start a difficult new life in South Dakota is deceptively optimistic, because the the book is full of the paradoxes of the time. While the new land was beautiful and fertile, it could also be deadly. On the one hand there were acres of land to settl
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Greg
A gripping and ground-breaking narrative of Norse immigrants making their way into the American plains to carve out their portion of the promise of that age. This is the first of a two-part saga by O. E. Rolvaag, and was originally published in Norway in 1924. Rolvaag subsequently accepted a tenure at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he finished the translated edition for United States publishing. This is not a scholarly work in and of itself. To the contrary, this is a great Ame ...more
Kristin
It's 2:45 in the morning and I've finished it. Ron Wilcox, I can't believe you made me read that book knowing full well how it turns out. O.E.Rölvaag, I enjoyed your book so much, I never wanted it to end - and then when it did end I realized I was right in not wanting that to happen because the ending sucked. It sucked, I say. Here's my hasty revision, which I hope will make me feel better:

(WARNING: Contains spoilers. If you haven't read the book, don't read the following until you get to the p
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James
The saga of Norwegian immigrants by O. E. Rolvaag entitled Giants in the Earth is truly a heroic epic of the settling of the upper plains. Rolvaag keeps his narrative focused on the family of Per Hansa with his long-suffering wife Beret and four children, And-Ongen, Store-Hans, Ole and Peder Victorious. The last of the children is born in their plains home while the others take part in the trek from Minnesota with which the novel begins. More than this family and their neighbors who form the new ...more
Jrobertus
This book, translated from Norwegian, is a classic of pioneer life by an author from my home state of Minnesota. It is considered a minor classic of American literature, and I see why. In the story we follow a young family Per Hansa, his wife Beret, and their children. With a handful of other Norwegians they make their way from Filmore county Minnesota to a homestead just north of Sioux Falls South Dakota. This is a story of the stuggle to live on a treeless prairie that gives a much harder efge ...more
Richard Epstein
I didn't like this book when I read it in high school. I didn't like it when I reread it in college. And when I reread it recently, I didn't like it again. It is a Longfellow kind of book -- "Life is real! Life is earnest!" Yes, I get it. But it's not enough. Not even if you made it into a TV series starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert.

On the other hand, the Giants, while not in the earth, won the World Series yesterday.
Lalove
This is not a fast paced book by any means. There is no really big climactic moment, but rather it follows the life of one family trying to survive as homesteaders in the Midwest. Overall I did like the book. I think it does a good job of illustrating just how lonely and difficult it must have been for the people who first settled the Midwest. I liked learning everything they had to do to survive. My main dislikes were that the book is slow moving at points, and the end of the book was not what ...more
Mary
Published in 1927 in English translated from Norwegian, almost 500 pages,
this novel is about pioneering in South Dakota around 1870. I was curious
about why a very good writer, William Kittredge, recommended it so strongly,
but I thought I'd just pay my respects by skimming it. It turned out to be
a gripping story both for the practical facts of life among Norwegian immigrants
and for the penetrating psychological study of the effects of that life on a
small group who traveled together and sett
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Suzann
I believe that this book captures life in South Dakota during the 1880's. One side of my family lived near where the setting of this story takes place, and the other Norweigen side, lived in North Dakota. When my mother asked my grandmother to tell us about her life back then she said that why would she talk about that life when it was so hard. I remember as a child hearing the story of Ingalls family and the Long Winter, I was drawn back to their life story, while reading this book.
Great story
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Brandon
Giants in the Earth is truly a heroic epic of the settling of the upper plains. This saga of Norwegian immigrants makes "Little House on the Prairie" look like a fairy tale. This story we follows Per Hansa, his wife Beret, and their children. With a handful of other Norwegians, they make their way from Minnesota to a homestead north of Sioux Falls South Dakota in search of the American Dream.

Filled with the vicissitudes of a life on the frontier, the novel celebrates the life of the family and
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Gregg Bell
You will leave reality if you read this book.

The other afternoon I wanted to go out for a long walk, but it was kind of dark out and I was concerned about being way out there somewhere on my walk and getting caught in the rain. Well, no problem, right? I popped on the computer, checked the radar and off I went.

Giants in the Earth is America pre-technology. Period. In one scene the father of the immigrant family of the story is caught in a snowstorm, and a snowstorm in those days and where they
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Tracy Laaveg
This is my favorite book of all time. I simply love the way the author (I think) accurately captures the fears and emotions of these Norwegian immigrants. I live on the plains of North Dakota, and every day I thank God that I have instant access to my friends and the outside world in emergencies or just when I need them. I simply cannot imagine the isolation that they dealt with here (expecting their families to deliver bablies in sod huts... OMG!) but it also shows why they stayed.
Cpb
One of two books I have read twice. Once as a child and again as an adult because of the great impression the story of these pioneer settlers had left with me. To imagine that we would (could) endure what it took to settle in the lands of America as it was coming of age is an amazing story. Of course as an adult, one is more aware of issues that had to have happened with native Americans but this is not that book. Well worth a read for older kids and for adults.
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Ole Edvart Rølvaag was born in the family's cottage in a small fishing village on the island of Dønna, in the far southern district of Nordland county, Norway. Dønna, one of the largest islands on the northern coast of Norway, is situated about five miles from the Arctic Circle. He was born with the name Ole Edvart Pedersen, one of seven children of Peder Benjamin Jakobsen and Ellerine Pedersdatte ...more
More about O.E. Rølvaag...
Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later Their Fathers' God Boat of Longing The Third Life of Per Smevik When the Wind Is in the South and Other Stories

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“When the quarrel had finally worn itself out they had found themselves at opposite ends of the earth, though lying side by side in the same bed.” 2 likes
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