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Giants in the Earth

(Fortælling om norske nykommere i Amerika #1 & 2)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  4,865 ratings  ·  492 reviews
Giants in the Earth (Norwegian: Verdens Grøde) is a novel by Norwegian-American author Ole Edvart Rølvaag. First published in Norway as two books in 1924 and 1925, the author collaborated with Minnesotan Lincoln Colcord on the English translation.

The novel follows a Norwegian family's struggles as they try to make a new life as pioneers in the Dakota territory. Rølvaag is
Paperback, 531 pages
Published August 4th 1999 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1925)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Nov 29, 2007 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beret Covered the Windows to Block Out Her Fear

Dakota, Territory 1873

She looked out over the prairie, and as far as she could see there were only tall grasses and a big blue sky with not a tree or bush in sight. It felt lonely, but most of all, there was no place for her to hide. Fear swelled up inside of her.

I stood looking at the land surrounding the sod house in Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I couldn’t imagine living here in the middle of nowhere, in this desert like land. I
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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

Published in English in 1927, this is my favorite novel about the lives of the pioneers who struggled to survive life on the frontier. I have read it at least four times, but had never reviewed it because I knew it wouldn't be easy. Finally, I have, and I was right; it wasn't easy. There is so much more that I wanted to say about the book, but I decided to lay out the conflict between Beret and Per Hansa and leave it to the reader to learn how it all turns out.

Debbie Zapata
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
Giants In The Earth is the first of a trilogy by O. E.Rolvaag that deals with immigrant and pioneer life. As usual in this type of story, we see the characters dealing with a long trek, the insecurities arising from being in a new land with an unknown language, and not much more than their dreams to live on from day to day. But Rolvaag has also captured the isolation that comes from living many miles away from 'civilization', and
the loneliness of life itself, whether it is lived in a city or in
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
A giant of a pioneer novel. Isolation, loneliness and death in the stark midwest states...I have never forgotten the ending, first read when 15, of humble pioneer, 1870s, whose wife sends him into a blizzard, because--you see.... the horrid wife became a (red state) religious crackpot...and thus, out of religious - evil, America develops...with too many deaths.
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
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I came across this book a few years back when we visited Washington, DC (a shout out to Second Story Books in Dupont Circle). I picked it out because I had never heard of it. Then I find out while I'm reading this that at least two people I know on Goodreads had this book assigned to them in high school as mandatory reading.

This doesn't even make sense to me.

This book, written by Norwegian-American author O.E. Rølvaag, was published in 1927 though it tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
"The month of July wore on. The small patches of fields in the Spring Creek settlement were slowly ripening and made a brave showing. Never had one seen finer fields! The grain had started to head out long ago; the kernels were already formed, tiny bodies wrapped in the most delicate green silk. With every day that passed the wheat filled out more and more; the heads grew heavy and full of milk; as soon as the breeze died down in the afternoon, they would tilt toward the setting sun and slowly ...more
L. Frockcoat
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
"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
Apr 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 ...more
This book about a pioneer family from Norway was originally written in Norwegian and later translated into English. Many people in the USA view our pioneers as brave, well-adjusted citizens who were patriotic Americans. This novel creates a more realistic view of our ancestors and, in the process, the author shatters those illusions.

How do you handle the loneliness of being one of only a few people in a settlement? How do you handle the uncertainty of unfamiliar weather, animals and people? How
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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, ...more
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Aug 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Katie Schuermann
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Is there another fictional story so truthful as this? If so, I have not come across it. Rølvaag is frighteningly just in his storytelling, fearlessly depicting the saint and sinner in each of us. I would like to write so well as him in one language let alone in two.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can understand that this book is not for everyone but I was shocked to read some of the sarcastic silly reviews. This book was written in a foreign language in 1927 and I approached it as a history book. I wasn't expecting a bodice ripper.

One might wonder how I can assign 5 stars to such a slow paced read but I hope that I can explain my view of this wonderful history. Giants is not meant to compete with nor mimic Little House On The Prairie. I adored all of the Ingall's books and re-read them
Jesse Kraai
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: candy
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
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sherry (sethurner)
Oct 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, history
"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
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
Alan Teder
This was beautifully evocative of the 1870's prairie life of Norwegian-American immigrants in the Dakota Territories in the 1870's. Although there are lots of hardships to overcome and there is an ever increasing tension between the depressed inner life of the wife Beret and the can-do exuberance of her husband Per Hansa there wasn't enough real drama and suspense until the final "The Great Plain Drinks the Blood of Christian Men and is Satisfied." Previously each crisis seemed to be bypassed ...more
Oct 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The story was a page turner until the minister showed up and bogged down the flow. I did not expect the abrupt ending.

It was Little House with an edge.
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

Fortælling om norske nykommere i Amerika (4 books)
  • I de dage
  • Riket grunnlegges
  • Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later
  • Their Fathers' God
“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
“But more to be dreaded than this tribulation was the strange spell of sadness which the unbroken solitude cast upon the minds of stone.” 2 likes
More quotes…