Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in GREAT PLAINS QUARTERLY 25:4 (Fall 2005). Copyright 2005 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Translated from the Norwegian into English, O. E. Rölvaag's Giants in the Earth narrates the saga of pioneer life on the American prairies. It is a saga that has the sanction of official ideology and the authority of a religious edict: to go on an "errand into the wilderness," explore and subdue the frontier, which was the "basic conditioning factor" of American experience, and, in so doing, cultivate a new civilization. Indeed, it is hard not to read the novel as dramatizing the power of Turner's frontier thesis because it seems to unabashedly affirm the frontier as the great American experiment. Even the marketing of this text in the United States aptly underscores this point.