Giants in the Earth is the story of the early Norwegian settlers on the Great Plains and of the travail they went through in trying to build a settlement and to farm the virgin land.
Per Hansa, the male protagonist, is the natural pioneer who looks to the future and believes that he can accomplish anything if only he works hard enough. His wife, Beret, on the other hand, longs for the homeland she left to follow her husband.
The action takes place in the 1870s and the locale is South Dakota.
Per Hansa, his friend Hans Olsa, who has been a fisherman like him back in Norway, Tönseten, and the Solum boys, as they are called, start the work of conquering the prairie.
In time they all prosper to an extent and Per Hansa is particularly pleased with the way things are going-except for his growing concern over his wife's strange ways. Finally, when a plague of grasshoppers descends on them and ravages the fields, Beret loses her mind and only regains her sanity later after an itinerant minister visits the settlement and helps her spiritually. This, and the knowledge that her husband loves her deeply, brings her back to a more-or-less normal state.
Then comes the terrible winter of 1880-81, when almost every day from October to April there is a blizzard. One day Hans Olsa is caught out in it and taken very ill. Both he and Beret want Per Hansa to go for a minister, but Per Hansa feels it is impossible to travel in this weather. In the end, however, he sets out on skis — and is found dead later in the spring.