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Little House on the Prairie is a children's book by Laura Ingalls Wilder that was published in 1935. It is part of a series of books known collectively as the Little House series.

The Little House series is based on decades-old memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood in the Midwest region of the United Statesmarker during the late 19th century. The best-known of the books is Little House on the Prairie. The books are told in the third person, with Laura Ingalls acting as the central character and protagonist, and are generally classified as historical fiction rather than as autobiography, although several of the later books are almost purely autobiographical. Wilder's daughter, author and political theorist Rose Wilder Lane, assisted her mother with the editing of the works. The depth of her involvement, and the extent of her influence on the theme and content of the books, has been the subject of some debate in recent years, but almost all Laura scholars and her biographers consider that the writing of the books was a tense but ultimately effective continuing collaboration between mother and daughter — Laura writing the books, Rose editing them.

The books have remained continuously in print since their initial publication by Harper & Brothers, and are considered classics of American children's literature. Several of them were named Newbery Honor books. They remain widely read. The edition of the series currently in print contains illustrations by Garth Williams. The books were also adapted into a long-running, popular American television series, Little House on the Prairie.

Wilder's Little House books


At the beginning of this story, Pa Ingalls decides to sell the house in the Big Woods of Wisconsinmarker, and move to the Indian Territory near Independence, Kansasmarker, as there were widely circulating stories that the land (technically still under Osage ownership) would be opened to settlement by homesteaders imminently. So Laura, along with Pa and Ma, and Mary and baby Carrie, move to Kansasmarker. Along the way, Pa trades his two horses for two Western mustangs, which Laura and Mary name Pet and Patty. When the family reaches Indian Territory, they meet Mr. Edwards, who is extremely polite to Ma, but tells Laura and Mary that he is "a wildcat from Tennesseemarker." Mr. Edwards is an excellent neighbor, and helps the Ingalls in every way he can, beginning with helping Pa erect their house. Then, Pa builds a roof and a floor for their house, digs a well, and the family is finally settled. During the book, the Ingalls family becomes terribly ill from a disease called at that time "Fever 'n' Ague" (fever with severe chills and shaking) which was later identified to be malaria. Mrs. Scott, another neighbor, takes care of the family while they are sick. Mr. Edwards brings Laura and Mary their Christmas presents from Independence, and in the spring, the Ingalls plant the beginnings of a small farm. At the end of this book, the family is told that the land must be vacated by settlers as it is not legally open to settlement yet, and Pa elects to leave the land and move before the Army forcibly requires him to abandon the land. The next book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, reveals that they have moved to Minnesotamarker.

Many of the incidents in the book are actual situations that happened to the Ingalls family at that time in their lives, as told to Laura by her Pa, Ma and sister Mary over the years. Laura was, in fact, 2 to 3 1/2 years old while her family lived in Indian Territory during 1869–1870, and did not remember the incidents herself. For this reason, Laura did more historical research on this novel than on any other novel she wrote, in an attempt to have all details as correct as possible. She portrays herself as being six to seven years old, however, as she began the series when she was 4–5 years old (after the family's return to Wisconsin from Kansas), but wanted to set this second book chronologically after the first. This is also why Baby Carrie is portrayed as making the trip to Indian Territory with the family, when she was, in reality, born in Indian Territory in August 1870 (as recorded in their family Bible) shortly before the family left to return to Wisconsin. With her fourth book, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura is, from that point on, describing her own age correctly, and most events as they actually happened.

Actual location of the "Little House"

Laura had always heard from her family that the little house was "40 miles from Independencemarker," which would have put the house approximately where the town of Nowata, Oklahomamarker, is today. It was, in fact, about from Independence, not , and the reason for this rather large discrepancy is not known, although she may have misheard or mis-remembered "14 miles" as "40 miles," while the surveying techniques of the day would in fact have measured it as being . The actual site of the Charles Ingalls house in Indian Territory was established conclusively in the late 1950s through careful record research done by a librarian named Margaret Clement, which established the Ingalls cabin as having been definitively in the southeast corner of Section 36, Rutland Township, Montgomery County, Kansas. It is the only quarter section in that area with no claim filed in 1870 (no claims could be filed until 1871, and the Ingalls had returned to Wisconsin by then) and it is the only quarter section with a hand-dug well (which Pa told of digging shortly after their arrival there). Carrie Ingalls' birth is also recorded as being in Montgomery County, Kansas in August 1870. Today there is a facsimle log on that cabin.

Historic sites and museums

The state of Kansasmarker has designated the childhood home of the Ingalls South of Independencemarker as a historic site, which is open to visitors. It is the location from which the events of the book Little House on the Prairie take place. It includes a cabin modeled after the original (at the William Kurtis ranch), and the original post office. Much of the surrounding countryside retains its open and undeveloped nature. It is now owned and operated by journalist Bill Kurtis and his sister Senator Jean Schodorf. There is a historical site, and they get about 20,000 visitors a year. The land was inherited by the two from their parents, Bill Kurtis and Wilma Kurtis. Wilma inherited it from her father, Bert Horton. It has been in the Kurtis/Horton family for close to 100 years.

Sign in front of Little House on the Prairie historic site in Kansas
De Smetmarker, South Dakotamarker attracts many fans with its historic sites from the books By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter', Little Town on the Prairie', These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. From 1879 to 1894 the Ingalls family lived in De Smet and the family homestead, a house in town built by Charles Ingalls, the Brewster School where Wilder taught, and the surveyor's home the family lived in between 1879 and 1880 are open to visitors. The bodies of Charles, Caroline, Mary, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls, and the unnamed infant son of Laura and Almanzo Wilder are buried in the De Smet Cemetery. Laura and Almanzo Wilder stayed briefly in Westville, Floridamarker in the 1890s.

The Surveyors House is a Laura Ingalls Wilder historic site in De Smet, South Dakota
Mansfieldmarker, Missourimarker is the chosen final home town of Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was here, on her farm, that she wrote the Little House books. Each year the whole town celebrates with a festival, turning back the clock to the late 1800s. During the festival, the town square becomes a showcase for handmade crafts. There is a big parade, and folk music is played from the gazebo in the park.

Walnut Grove, Minnesotamarker may be the most recognized name of all the towns Wilder wrote about in her books (although it is the only town she did not mention by name) because Michael Landon's television series Little House on the Prairie of the 1970s and 1980s was set here. Although the show depicts the family as living here through Wilder's adulthood, in reality, they only lived here a few years.

In 1874, when Wilder was seven years old, the family left their home near Pepin for the second time and settled just outside Walnut Grove, Minnesotamarker. Wilder writes of her early years here in On the Banks of Plum Creek. The family lived in a dugout in the creek bank until Pa could build a house. Laura and Mary began school again, and made both friends (the Kennedy children) and enemies (Nellie Oleson). Laura discusses both at length in her book On the Banks of Plum Creek, as well as in her unpublished biography "Pioneer Girl."

Pepin, Wisconsinmarker was Wilder's birthplace. Her birthplace is about seven miles (11 km) north of the village, and is marked by a replica cabin along the former WIS-183 at the Little House Wayside (near Lund, Wisconsinmarker). Pepin celebrates her life every September with traditional music, craft demonstrations, a "Laura look-alike" contest, a spelling bee, and other events.

Wilder's baby brother, Charles Frederic Ingalls, was born in Walnut Grove on November 1 1875; he lived for nine months before dying in South Troy, Minnesotamarker. Wilder did not include this in her books, (other than "Pioneer Girl," the unpublished manuscript) as she thought that an incident that sad had no place in a series of books aimed at young children.

Pa had felt that Minnesotamarker would be "the land of milk and honey," but a plague of grasshoppers destroyed the wheat crops two years in a row. Pa was offered a job co-managing "The Master's Hotel" in Burr Oak, Iowa, and the family moved there in 1876. A year later, the family returned to Walnut Grove. In 1976 the restored Hotel was opened as a museum.

At first, the Ingalls family lived with their friends, the Ensigns. Pa built a house in town, and worked as a storekeeper, butcher, then carpenter. In the spring of 1879, Mary became very ill. Her illness was followed by a stroke, which resulted in blindness. Soon afterward, Pa's sister Docia came from the Big Woods and offered him a job with the railroad going west. Though Ma wanted to remain in Walnut Grove, Pa felt a better future could be found in Dakota Territory. After making a promise to Ma that it would be their last move ever (a promise he kept) he accepted Docia's offer gladly, thus ending the Ingalls' stay in Walnut Grove, eventually settling for good in DeSmet, South Dakota.

Related books

The success of the Little House series has produced many related books including two series ("Little House Chapter Books" and "My First Little House Books") that present the original stories in condensed and simplified form for younger readers. Other related titles include sticker and craft books, cookbooks, diaries, calendars, dishes, and so on.

Four series of books expand the Little House series to include five generations of Laura Ingalls Wilder's family. The "Martha Years" and "Charlotte Years" series, by Melissa Wiley, are fictionalized tales of Laura's great-grandmother in Scotlandmarker in the late 18th century and grandmother in early 19th century Massachusettsmarker. The "Caroline Years" series narrates Laura's mother, Caroline Quiner,'s childhood in Wisconsinmarker. The Rose Years (originally known as the "Rocky Ridge Years") series follows Rose Wilder Lane from childhood in Missourimarker to early adulthood in San Franciscomarker. It was written by her surrogate grandson Roger MacBride. Lane's novels, Let the Hurricane Roar (also known as Young Pioneers) and Free Land can be seen as re-tellings of the Little House books from an adult perspective, as many of the incidents in both books mirror the experiences of her parents and grandparents. In fact, "Young Pioneers"'s main characters are even named Charles and Caroline, the names of Laura's parents.

Noted children's author Cynthia Rylant has written a slender volume, Old Town in the Green Groves, that covers the two years in Laura's life between On The Banks of Plum Creek and By The Shores of Silver Lake which are unnarrated in the original series of books. Two volumes of Laura's letters and diaries have also been issued under the Little House imprint: On The Way Home and West From Home, both published by Harper Collins in 1962 and 1974 respectively.

The series, The Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Thomas L. Tedrow, offers tales of Laura's early adulthood in Missouri; unlike the core Little House books, the Tedrow series is not drawn from episodes in Wilder's life.

Television adaptations

Jackanory (1966, 1968)

Jackanory is a UKmarker series intended to encourage children to read which ran from 1965 to 1996, and was revived in 2006. From October 24 through October 28 1966, there were five short episodes based on Little House in the Big Woods released, with Red Shively as the storyteller. From October 21 through October 25 1968, five more were released, this time based on Farmer Boy, with Richard Monette as the storyteller.

Little House on the Prairie (television series, 1974–1984)

A television series based on the Little House On The Prairie aired on the NBC network from 1974 to 1983. The show was a loose adaptation of the Little House on the Prairie books, with the namesake book being represented in the premiere movie only, and the regular series primarily following characters and locations from the follow up book, On the Banks of Plum Creek (the continuity of the television series greatly departed from this book as well). Some storylines were borrowed from the later books as well, but were portrayed as having taken place in the 'Plum Creek' setting. Michael Landon starred as Charles Ingalls, Karen Grassle played Caroline Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert played Laura Ingalls, Melissa Sue Anderson played Mary Ingalls, and the twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush (credited as Lindsay Sidney Greenbush) played Carrie Ingalls. Some characters were added in the show, such as Albert, played by Matthew Laborteaux, an orphan the family adopted. Although it deviated from the original books in many respects, the television series, which was set in Walnut Grove, Minnesotamarker, was one of a few long-running successful dramatic family shows (and it is still in syndication).

Laura, The Prairie Girl (animated series, 1975)

A Japanese cartoon series of 26 episodes (about 24 minutes each), originally entitled Sôgen no shôjô Laura.

Beyond the Prairie (2000, 2001)

Two made for television movies by Marcus Cole, with Meredith Monroe as Laura. Part 1 tells story of teenage Laura in DeSmet, while the second part is about Laura and Almanzo's (Walton Goggins) marriage and their life in Mansfield, Missourimarker. It also focuses a lot on the character of Wilder's young daughter; Rose (Skye McCole Bartusiak).

Little House on the Prairie (2005 miniseries)

The 2005 ABC five-hour (six-episode) miniseries Little House on the Prairie attempted to follow closely the books Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie. It starred Cameron Bancroft as Charles Ingalls; Erin Cottrell as Caroline Ingalls; Kyle Chavarria as Laura Ingalls; Danielle Chuchran as Mary Ingalls; and Gregory Sporleder as Mr Edwards. It was directed by David L. Cunningham.

Stage adaptation

A musical version of Little House on the Prairie, based on the books, premiered at the Guthrie Theatermarker (Minnesotamarker) on July 26, 2008 in previews, opening August 15 and running through October 19. The musical has a book by Rachel Sheinkin, music by Rachel Portman and lyrics by Donna DiNovelli and is directed by Francesca Zambello with choreography by Michele Lynch. The cast includes Melissa Gilbert as "Ma", Steve Blanchard as "Pa", Kara Lindsay (Laura), Jenn Gambatese (Mary), Sara Jean Ford (Nellie), Kevin Massey (Almanzo Wilder) and Brian Muller (Clarence Brewster).

The musical began a 5-week engagement at the Paper Mill Playhousemarker, Millburnmarker, New Jerseymarker, on September 10, 2009 prior to a US National tour beginning in October 2009 at the Ordway Theatremarker, St. Paulmarker, Minnesotamarker. Gilbert, Blanchard, Lindsay and Massey continue their roles.

Prior to these productions, workshop presentations were held April 16-17, 2007; the cast included Melissa Gilbert and Patrick Swayze.

See also


  1. Gans, Andrew. "New Musical Little House on the Prairie Makes World Premiere July 26 at the Guthrie",, July 26, 2008
  2. Rothstein, Mervyn. "Prairie Tales",, July 26, 2008
  3. Gans. Andrew. "Gilbert, Blanchard, Lindsay, Massey, Loprest Explore a Musical Prairie at Paper Mill, Opening Sept. 20",, September 20, 2009

Further reading

External links

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