Bjartus is a sheep farmer hewing a living from a blighted patch of land in Iceland. After 18 years of servitude to a master he despises, all he wants is to raise his flocks unbeholden to anyone. Nothing, not inclement weather, not his wives, not his family will come between him and his goal of financial independence. Only Asta Solillja, the child he brings up as his daughter, can pierce his stubborn heart. But she too wants to live independently - and when Bjartus throws her from the house on discovering she is pregnant, her more temperate determination is set against his stony will.