Erik Foss, an emigrant to the United States. He returns to Norway to lead a band of his people to a new start in America, even helping them with money. His feet are frosbitten while he searches for cattle in a prairie blizzard, and he dies as a result.
Morten Kvidal, one of the emigrants. He assumes the leadership of the group after the death of Erik Foss and leads them for many years. He returns briefly to Norway to bring a wife, Bergitta, to Dakota. He becomes a railroad agent, helps his people become Americans, and shows them how to prosper in their adopted land. Blinded by an exploding lamp, he returns as an old man to Norway. He feels that he is still a Norwegian, though his children are Americans.
Ola Vatne, a Norwegian laborer in love with his employer’s daughter. After serving a term in prison for burning his employer’s barn, he migrates to America with Erik, taking his wife Else with him. A drunkard and gambler, he cannot succeed without help from his friends.
Else Vatne, Ola’s wife. She marries him against her father’s wishes after he is released from prison.
The Colonel, Else’s father, who dismisses Ola when he discovers the love between his daughter and the man.
Per Föll, a big, hardworking emigrant. He is jealous of his wife, knowing her too well. His jealousy drives him mad, and he is placed in an institution.
Anne Föll, Per’s wife, admired by Morten Kvidal’s young brother. She is pregnant by another man when Per marries her.
Bergitta Kvidal, Anne’s sister and Morten’s wife.
Kal Skaret, a hardworking, efficient emigrant who succeeds well in the Dakotas.
Karen Skaret, Kal’s hardworking, efficient wife.