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Giants in the Earth

O.E. Rölvaag

Book II, Chapter I—"On the Border of Utter Darkness"

Book I, Chapter VI—"The Heart That Dared Not Let in the Sun"

Book II, Chapter I—"On the Border of Utter Darkness", page 2

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The full fury of winter hits the Great Plains. Beret regains consciousness from childbirth, but she can hardly believe that she is still alive. Life gradually returns to her as she realizes that she must take care of her family, especially the baby. Per treats Beret kindly, and she feels joy in taking care of the baby, Peder Victorious. The newborn provides a source of amusement for the whole settlement during their first winter on the desolate prairie.

The settlers bear their first winter with social gatherings. With the help of Sorine and Kjersti, Beret holds a party for her neighbors on the thirteenth day after Christmas. Everyone rejoices over the baby, wondering what his future will be. Tonseten feels that giving the child a second name is too extravagant, but Kjersti silences him. Tonseten proposes that the baby will become President, but Hans Olsa suggests that he could become governor instead. Per and Beret listen to the others talk, and they feel happy.

Meanwhile, Henry Solum organizes an informal school for the children. The school moves from house to house every week, giving the adults an opportunity to learn English. At first, Henry does not know what to do as a teacher, so he just tells stories. When Henry no longer knows what to teach, his brother Sam teaches the children songs.

As the winter advances, the settlers begin to run out of supplies. Hans burns hay for fuel, but the men realize that they must make a trip to town to get wood and other supplies. Beret feels afraid every time Per leaves her, but she does not stop him. The men wait for clear weather before they leave, but their caravan gets caught in a blizzard anyway. From their days as fishermen in Norway, Per and Hans have experience fighting storms, but the blizzard is unlike any sea storm they have ever experienced.

The men connect their sleighs with a rope so they will not lose each other in the blizzard. In the rear of the caravan, Per becomes cut off from the others when his rope tears. Per finds himself caught in a fierce storm, lost and freezing as night approaches. He feels drowsy and imagines dying, and he thinks tenderly about Beret. These thoughts of Beret make him determined to stay alive. Per thinks about the Rocky Mountains and how he should have continued west until he reached the Pacific Ocean, where there is no winter. Finally, Per finds safety when he reaches a house.

As Per stumbles into the door with no idea where he is, he discovers that his friends are all inside. The cabin belongs to a Norwegian couple, the Baarstads. The kind couple provides food and shelter for everyone, and Per's spirits return. In the next few days, Per's friends stay in the Norwegian community near the Baarstads' home. The people of the settlement originally came from the Tronder area in Norway. Per makes many friends among the Tronders as they tell stories and fish. During a dance, Per humorously notes that Sam Solum seems interested in the Baarstads' daughter.

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