Friday, February 22, 2008

Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Part I

I have never read the Little House on the Prairie series and I finally decided it was high time I did. Quite frankly, I'm very glad that I have waited until now to do so. The stories are far more interesting to me, I think, because we are currently in the process of building a log home to live in ourselves. That makes certain aspects of these stories a bit more applicable and meaningful. I was surprised by other interesting tidbits that I ran across as I worked my way through. Today I have read as far as On the Banks of Plum Creek. I anticipate finishing this series in the coming week, and I'll post my thoughts on the later half of the books then.

Of course all things start in that Little House in the Big Woods. So far this was the least memorable tale for me. Sure, it sets the series up and tells you where they came from and why. Quite frankly, I don't understand Pa and I likely never will. The family was warm and cozy and surrounded by friends and family. Pa felt the need to go adventuring though and that lead them out of the Big Woods eventually. I suppose I should be grateful for people like him who were willing to leave the life of "comfort" that they knew and strike out to explore new territory. Living on the West Coast myself, I am grateful. I just wouldn't have done it, lemme tell ya!

Little House on the Prairie is certainly the most popular title in the series and I have to confess that I do not really know why. I'm frankly surprised that it receives the notoriety that it does in today's society. Why, you ask? Ma's dislike/distrust of the Indians. Now, grant it, Laura is just relating the general feeling of the population of the time towards Indians. They were not understood, their land was being invaded and the white man (in this case, Pa) didn't seem to care. I thought Pa had an interesting perspective of expecting the government to just give him the land that the Indians lived on. I'm not going to state my opinion about this one way or another. History is history in this case. I'm just a wee bit surprised that this book is promoted so heavily. Sure, it does explain life on the Prairie.

I liked this book VERY much from the standpoint of building a log home. Pa announced he found a spot for them to live on the Kansas prairie and I thought to myself, "But yeah....where are the supplies for the house coming?" Turns out Pa had to spend days hauling logs from the creek bed and then he had to put the thing together for himself (and Ma had to help - bleh!). Nowadays you just "order" a "kit" and a log home company comes with crane and stacks your house for you. It's much easier and way more romantic NOW than it was back THEN! On a personal note, here's a picture of our house in progress:

Next up, of course, is Farmer Boy, which breaks up the tale of the Ingalls family and gives us a peek at Almanzo's childhood. His family was much more wealthy than the Ingalls. Of course, they were also well established on the East Coast where goods were more readily accessible and you didn't have to work quite so hard as the pioneers did. For my personality, were I living in that time frame, I would have stayed on the East Coast. I'm too wimpy for great explorations and the sacrifice of a good bed. Heh. I like Almanzo's character so I'm already happy about the fact that he and Laura marry. The most interesting thing in this book is that, without the slightest mention of God's involvement in their lives, He was. (Well, He IS.)

Laura relates the story of the night when Almanzo's father sold two of his horses for two hundred dollars. Unable to make it to the bank, they had to keep the money in the house, which worried Almanzo's mother something awful. Although she was anti-dog, it "just so happened" that a stray dog appeared on their doorstep and was befriended by the children that same night that the money was in the house. Buglars had attempted to come and steal the money but were chased away by this stray dog. The next morning the dog was gone but footprints were found on the property. A God-thing? I think so. See, even if you don't recognize that God is active in this world and even in your life -- it is a truth. He protects His people for a reason and a purpose -- whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. How many times in my life have I not been aware of His care for me? I'm thankful for it nevertheless. It's stories like the stray dog that drive the point home sometimes.

Lastly (for this week) is On the Banks of Plum Creek. This book made me like Pa even less. I know he had good excuses for having to leave the family to go find work. I guess I'm just disappointed that up to this point he's been incredibly resourceful and unwilling to be "beholden" to anyone. In this book he's banking on wheat that hasn't been grown and throws his family into debt which results in him having to leave them for months at a time to go find work elsewhere. It's just a sad situation, really. If I were Ma, I'd be a bit put out with him. Especially when he failed to heed her advice about going to town when a blizzard could have been on its way (which it was) and resulted him stumbling about in the snow until he found shelter.

Pa always has a good outlook on life -- but I think he would have been an EXASPERATING person to know! I like steady and I think Ma did too. Pa doesn't strike me as steady enough. But then, that's probably why the west was settled. It's those crazy adventure people who are able to smile against the odds that frequently make things happen.

The last thing I'd note about this book, and the second most memorable thing, is the grasshoppers. Can anyway say "EWWW" louder than myself? The swarm of grasshoppers was just downright disgusting. There's no getting around it. It's hard to believe that would happen outside of the plagues of Egypt when locusts swarmed the earth but....I cannot image living through something like that.

I really am enjoying this series and am anxiously ready to hop off onto the next book. So here endeth Part I of this review.

Stay tuned for more . . .


Anonymous said...

Its very interesting to hear someone's reaction to their first time reading the series... I first read them when I was in kindergarden, and have reread the entire series AT LEAST once a year (more often for my favorites)every year since (I'm 26).

I can see your view of Pa - thats not the view I get, but I think its probably more accurate... I think reading them first when I was so young, I kind of just accepted it, and by the time I was old enough to really think about it, it was as if Pa was my Pa and I loved him anyway, and wasn't about to question him, lol... But I think if I'd actually known him in real life (if he really was quite like that) I think I would have been rather irritated (I do think we probably should feel sorry a bit for Ma... but then I've always thought that - no matter how you view Pa, Ma never wanted to move all those times...)

Anyway - my favorite books have always been the later ones so I'm looking forward to hearing your reactions when you get through them... (If I had to rank them in my favorite order, I'd probably say: 1) These Happy Golden Years, 2) Little Town on the Prairie, 3) Farmer Boy 4) Little House in the Big Woods 5) By the Banks of Plum Creek 6) Little House on the Prairie and then tied for last pace 7) The First Four Years (which Laura didn't finish editing herself which I think is my issue with it) and 7) By the shores of Silver Lake (no giving away anything - but you'll know within the first part of the book why its my least favorite probably...)

Nikki in Niagara said...

What a wonderful review! It is so interesting to read your first impressions of the books. Like aria, I was in kindergarten when I first read the series. Then I re-read them later (around grade six, I think) but I haven't re-read them since and I really want to get to them this year.

Queen of Carrots said...

Pa is definitely a character. Actually DOB is rather like that but fortunately for me his bad foot keeps things somewhat under control. :-P Right now he's decided to go for a new three-year high-level certification, but it doesn't involve moving so it's fine with me!

I have an uncle who is almost exactly like Pa, except he's an inventor and businessman. He's in his late 70s and still in constant litigation and business deals. And my aunt has stuck with him from living in refurbished chicken houses to million-dollar deals and moving all over the west.

Guys like that are exasperating at times, but they're so cute when they're excited about something new. So although Ma must have had her patience tried many times, I think on the whole she liked having him around. And every once in awhile some of them strike it rich. For awhile, anyway . . .

I think the ducklings will be ready to hear at least the first few books by next fall. I can't wait!

BubblesandMoney said...

I so enjoy your blog. Thank you for writing it. I also first read the Little House books as an adult.

My children and I were always so hungry after reading Farmer Boy. I later read that when Laura wrote it she wanted to tranlate the wealth that Almonzo had that she didn't and she did it with food. Almonzo is always eating and then he stuffs a piece of apple pie in his pocket on his way out the door.

Laura wrote these books when she lived in Mansfield, MO. The museum and house are a delight to see. Mary's nine patch quilt and Pa's fiddle are there. Rose Wilder Lane was the oldest war correspondent to Vietnam and one day she said to her mama, you should write a book. I'm sure glad she did.

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