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O.E. Rølvaag Books In Order

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Publication Order of Giants in the Earth Books

Giants in the Earth (1925)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later (1928)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Their Fathers' God (1931)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Boat of Longing (1921)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Third Life of Per Smevik (1971)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Pure Gold (1973)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Collections

When the Wind Is in the South and Other Stories (1984)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

O.E. Rølvaag

O.E. Rølvaag was a literature and fiction author born in Norway in 1876. Rølvaag was born in a small fishing village in Norway as one of seven children. At the age of fourteen, the talented author was ready to join his father and brothers in the fishing grounds. Rølvaag stayed in his small village until an uncle living in America sent him an invitation in 1896. The now 20-year-old traveled to South Dakota and worked as a farmhand until 1898. Later, he enrolled in Augustana Academy and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield. Rølvaag graduated with a master’s degree from St. Olaf College in 1910.

Giants in the Earth

Giants in the Earth is a story that was first published in Norwegian as two books. The novel follows a Norwegian family and highlights the struggles they encountered as pioneers in Dakota territory. The year is 1873, and Beret moves to cover the windows to stop her fear. Looking over the prairie, all Beret can see is tall grass and the blue sky. There is no tree in sight, meaning that she would have nowhere to hide even if she wanted to. To Beret, the prairie looked like a God-forsaken land. Everything about Beret’s new homemade her uncomfortable, and it was hard for her husband to miss her depressive state. Was Beret going to add to the number of pioneer women who went insane when they moved to new territories?

Per Hansa, the hero in this story was a relentlessly optimistic and energetic man. He was outgoing and unlike his wife, who was depressed without her family. This man did his best for his family, including making all efforts to cheer up his wife. He used lime paint on their sod house at some point, hoping that the white color would cheer up his wife. However, this did not do much for her until religion came. Suddenly, Beret had something to look forward to, but the same religion spelled doom for her husband. The children remained untroubled and sunny. After all, the two people they needed in the world, their parents, were always there when they needed them.

Following this story, it is amazing how the author is interested in human psychology at a time when most writers focused on the romance and glamour of the west. Through the characters’ personal experiences, it is easy to see that life has never been easy for immigrants. In the case of pioneers in Dakota territory, the people had to withstand locusts, snowstorms, poverty, hunger, homesickness, and loneliness. Fitting into a new culture was not easy, and some, especially women, never fully recovered. However, it is great how time heals the woman in this story even though her husband suffers a great deal in the process of building a new home for his family.

Giant in the Earth is a fascinating story documenting a pioneer family’s struggles. The writing is flawless, and reading through the book, it is easy to see why it was turned into an opera that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1951. There is a lot of depth in this story, and many immigrant families can identify with most of what this family had to go through. Not many authors have managed to paint a picture as clear as this one on the grueling solitude the pioneers had to endure. This possibly explains why this book remains a classic.

Peder Victorious

Peder Victorious continues with the saga Of Norwegian Settlers in Dakota. Once again, we get to meet the pioneers in Giants on the Earth and see how their lives had changed over 20 years. The struggles against the vast spaces and land, in general, had already been won. Most of the settlers had already created a home in this new territory, and most were relatively comfortable. Civilization in the form of organized education, religion, and politics was already here, and you would expect that the settlers would finally enjoy their lives. However, there is a second struggle that they had to address. The Norwegians used to their customs had now to start becoming Americans.

Young Peder was the child of Hansa and Beret. Peder was also the only member of the family born in America. This means that he did not get to experience any of the cultures in Norway, not to mention that he was born during one of his parents’ most challenging times. Peder questions everything, and for most of the story, he will seem like he is rebelling against everyone. However, it is easy to understand where his frustrations were coming from. Like other young men and women across the land, Peder wondered what to do with his life. School did not make life any easier, and religion did not provide the answers these young minds were looking for.

This story is not just about Peder and his identity crisis. The author also highlights the conflicts witnessed in the church and the scandals reported in the community. It is unfortunate that the organized religion many had prayed for divided the community at some point. The author also touches on politics which created further rifts in the community. At some point, Peder even wishes to be a politician. It is sad that the education system at the time only allowed English as the language of communication, which meant that the Norwegians had no choice but to learn. Teachers ridiculed immigrant children for their accents which meant that they remained self-aware throughout their childhood.

Peder Victorious is different from Giants in the Earth, but the content is just as engaging. The author continues to detail the struggles of immigrants living in the Dakota Territory and shows how the people dealt with different problems. At the heart of this novel is a story of personal growth, victory, and guilt. Curious to read about America’s pioneers and how they dealt with different issues? This O.E. Rølvaag creation is a great choice. You will get to read the experiences of those who lived during these times and see how they lived their lives.


Ole Edvart Rolvaag was a renowned Norwegian-American writer and professor. He was particularly well known for his writings based on the Norwegian-American immigrant experience. The most popular work of author Rolvaag is the award-winning novel Giants in the Earth. This epic novel tells the story of the Norwegian immigrants living in the Dakota Territory. Author Rolvaag was born on April 22, 1876, in a small village on Donna island in Norway. This island is situated very close to the Arctic Circle. The birth name of Rolvaag was Ole Edvart Pedersen. He had six siblings and was born to Ellerine Pedersdatter Vaag and Peder Benjamin Jakobsen. His village did not have any official name at that time, but the locals used to refer to it as Rolvaag based on a narrow bay where the village’s fishermen parked their boats.

When Rolvaag was 14 years old, he starting going to the fishing grounds of Lofoten with his dad and brothers. He lived in his village and worked as a fisherman until the age of 20. The impressions received by him during the early stages of his life helped to shape him into what he became and endured with him for his entire life. During the summer of 1896, Rolvaag received a ticket to America from an emigrated uncle. Rolvaag joined his uncle in Union County, South Dakota, and initially worked as a farmhand. Until 1898, he continued the job and lived in Elk Point, South Dakota.

It was his pastor who helped him to get enrolled in the Canton-based Augustana Academy, where he completed his studies in 1901 and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Northfield, Minnesota-based St. Olaf College in 1905. Rolvaag followed it up with a master’s degree in 1910 from the same college. Also, Rolvaag had studied at Oslo University for some time. From 1906 onward, Rolvaag started working at St. Olaf College as a professor. He was recruited by the college’s president named John N. Kildahl. By 1916, Rolvaag had become St. Olaf’s Norwegian Head. Later, he became the first archivist and secretary of the Norwegian-American Historical Association in 1925.

Rolvaag kept both positions for his entire life. He had achieved the citizen of the United States in 1908 by marrying Jennie Marie Berdahl, who was the daughter of Karen Oline Otterness and Andrew James Berdahl. The couple went on to have four children, namely Ella, Paul, Olaf, and Karl. Rolvaag’s son, Karl Fritjof Rolvaag, was the 31st Governor of Minnesota. Author Rolvaag mostly used the Norwegian language to write his books, which were later translated into English. In spite of having been written in his native language, Rolvaag’s novels seem to have a distinctly American theme and flavor in them. He was believed to have been deeply influenced by the earlier writers of America like him who also wrote in Norwegian and gave a faithful portrayal of the experiences of a large number of immigrant pioneers from Norway in their work. In doing so, Rolvaag had a particularly strong influence of Peer Stromme and Hans Andersen on himself. Both these writers were known to have penned novels that provided realistic intakes on the experience of homesteaders.

One such novel is the 1925 released book called The Emigrants, written by a Norwegian author named Johan Bojer. It follows many such themes and describes the hardships faced by Norwegian immigrants during their early years in America. Author Rolvaag then went on to provide an equally strong influence and inspiration to the Scandinavian writers that followed later. He particularly attracted many gifted young writers of the Norwegian-American heritage to St. Olaf College. One of the most prominent ones was author Einar Haugen. A Swedish-American writer named Vilhelm Moberg, who came to the scene decades later than Rolvaag, was also inspired him and wrote novels on similar themes, describing the experiences of the Swedish-American immigrants.

The scholarship and authorship of author Ole Edvart O.E. Rolvaag were mainly based on the pioneer experience of the immigrants living in the Dakota plains during the 1870s. Giants in the Earth was one such book and was a part of his popular trilogy of books focused on this topic. This novel features the story of the struggles of a pioneer family from Norway with the elements and the land of Dakota Territory while trying to make a new life for themselves in America. The story was partly based on the personal experiences of Rolvaag as a settler and immigrant and partly on the experiences of the family of his wife, who were also immigrant homesteaders. Rolvaag’s novel gives a realistic treatment of the trials and lives of Norwegian pioneers living in the Midwest in the late 19th century and emphasizes their battles with the region’s elements.

The book also gives a portrayal of the trials of longing, loneliness, difficulty to fit in a new culture, and separation from family. Although the book is seen as an American novel, it stems from a literary tradition of the Old World. The main characters of this book include Per Hansa and Beret, who are a married couple and have a dramatic contrast in their lives. Per Hansa is described as a national pioneer, who sees a promising future in the windswept plains’ flooding. Beret longs for a life in her homeland. She is filled with loneliness in her heart that penetrates the deep reality of life on the American frontier. Originally written in Norwegian and published in two parts in 1924 and 1925, the book depicts poverty, homesickness, snowstorms, hunger, locusts, loneliness, estrangement, etc.

The translated version of the book was released in 1927. Author Rolvaag had teamed up with Lincoln Colcord to carry out the translation. Inspired by the immense success of the book, Rolvaag followed up with two sequels, Peder Victorious and Their Fathers’ God, which came out in 1928 and 1931 respectively. Giants in the Earth was adapted into an opera by Arnold Sundgaard and Douglas Moore with the same name. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951 for music. The death of author Ole Edvart O.E. Rolvaag occurred in Northfield, Minnesota on November 5, 1931. In 1926, King Haakon VII appointed him St. Olav’s Knight of the Order. For his dedication in the field of literature, St. Olaf named a literary award after Rolvaag to honor the memory of the greatest writer of St. Olaf.

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