"Tish-ah!" said the grass. "Tish-ah, tish-ah!" Never had it said anything else—never would it say anything else. It bent resiliently under the trampling feet; it did not break, but it complained aloud every time—for nothing like this had ever happened to it before.
This passage occurs in the very beginning of the novel, Chapter I, as the omniscient narrator describes the prairie landscape that Per Hansa's caravan crosses. Rölvaag personifies the land to emphasize its power. The prairie is also the first "character" of the novel to speak, as it says "tish-ah" in this passage—indeed, we may argue that the land is the main character of the novel, as the novel's full title is Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie. The narrator references the land's continuity by repeating the words "never" and "ever," referring to the fact that the land will remain forever while the people living on the land will only come and go. The repetitions of "never" also reference the fact that the pioneers of the novel are the very first people to arrive and to settle in the area permanently. The land resists the encroachment of man because it "complains aloud" and "bends resiliently" as the caravan passes through the land. While the grass "bends" as it is trampled—just as the land bends to man by letting him settle—it does not "break" because the land remains more powerful than man.