Minnesota Author Biographies.

Ole E. Rolvaag

Ole E. Rolvaag

From The Boat of Longing (1985) by Ole Rolvaag and translated by Nora O. Solum

The place lay on the sea, as far out as the coast dared push itself, and extremely far north, so far, in fact, that it penetrated the termless solitudes where utmost Light and utmost Dark hold tryst.

In summer an idle sea stretched broad-bosomed and dreaming between skylines--for days at a time too indolent to stir more than just enough to betray its eternal restlessness. Across its glittering reaches wavelets, in sabbath mood, billowed lazily; finding an islet or skerry, they would rise, curious; then they would murmur on along headlands and around venturesome points, but purl more softly against the beaches of coves. The seatang and the long-stemmed kelp, peeping up from the soundless deep, would curtsy graciously to the moving softness overhead. . . . Summer night, glorious and big, listened intent.

Biographical Notes

Birth: April 22, 1876, Donna Island, Norway
Death: November 5, 1931, Northfield, Minnesota

Author and professor, Ole Edvart Rolvaag was a fisherman in Norway from 1892-96. He immigrated to the United States in 1896 and worked as a farmhand in South Dakota from 1896-98. He graduated from Augustana Academy in Canton, South Dakota (currently Augustana College, Sioux Falls) in 1901. Rolvaag earned a B.A. from St. Olaf College in 1905 and a M.A. from St. Olaf College in 1910. He studied at the University of Christiania (currently University of Oslo), Norway from 1905-06. He was a professor of Norwegian language and literature at St. Olaf College from 1906-31. He authored Norwegian language textbooks and novels, essays, and poems about the Norwegian-American immigrant experience. His novels, Giants in the Earth (1927) and Peder Victorious (1929), originally written in Norwegian, were published in English translation. They received international acclaim as accounts of immigrant pioneer life on the Dakota prairies in the 1870s. Rolvaag worked to preserve and enrich the Norwegian cultural heritage from 1914-25, and he helped found the Society for Norwegian Language and Culture in 1910 and the Norwegian-American Historical Association in 1925. He was secretary for the Norwegian-American Historical Association from 1925 to 1931. In 1926, Rolvaag was Knighted (Order of St. Olav) by King Haakon VII of Norway. The Ole Rolvaag Memorial Library at St. Olaf was named for him in 1944.

Selected Works
The titles below link to the catalog record in MnPALS, the Minnesota Historical Society’s library catalog. Please click on your browser's back button to return.

The Boat of Longing
Giants in the Earth : A Saga of the Prairie
Peder Victorious: A Tale of the Pioneers Twenty Years Later
Pure Gold
Their Fathers' God
The Third Life of Per Smevik
When the Wind Is in the South and Other Stories

Additional Resources

• Search MNHS Library and Archives Catalog for author - Searches for works by this author in the Minnesota Historical Society’s library
Minnesota Historical Society Collections Online
Selected O. E. Rolvaag Papers
Ole Edvart Rolvaag by Einar Haugen
Ole Edvart Rolvaag by Ann Moseley
Ole Edvart Rolvaag, a Biography by Theodore Jorgenson and Nora O. Solum
Ole Rolvaag, Artist and Cultural Leader edited by Gerald Thorson
Prairies Within: The Tragic Trilogy of Ole Rolvaag by Harold P. Simonson
Rolvaag: his life and art by Paul Reigstad

See More