Hollywood's Versions of "Little House" Fail to Impress

Little House on the Prairieby Erin Mawn

I am a fervent fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I own the whole collection of Little House books, all of her nine original books from “Little House in the Big Woods” to “The First Four Years”. I also have in my vast collection of books all of the prequels and sequels to her stories; the stories about Martha (her great-grandmother, Charlotte (her grandmother), Caroline (her mother, Ma Ingalls) and her daughter Rose. The prequels and sequels are written in the same simple style that made Wilder’s books so easily accessible to generations of readers. The stories possess the wholesome values that made these generations’ parents comfortable and able to enjoy the books alongside their children.

 The "Martha Years" and "Charlotte Years" series, by Melissa Wiley, are fictionalized tales  but they are fun to read and imagine the story of Laura’s ancestry. The books which center around Rose were written by her surrogate grandson Roger MacBride, who based the books on stories he heard from Rose Wilder Lane throughout her life. Likewise, the series which is based on Caroline Quiner (who would later marry Charles Ingalls and become Ma) narrates her girlhood based on letters that Laura received from her aunt Martha, the sister of Caroline. It took me a couple years, but I eventually collected all of the books, including “Old Town in the Green Groves” which is sometimes referred to as the “lost” Little House years. This volume was based on papers which Laura had written at some point in her life, but they were never completed or published.

The entire collection, particularly the nine original books, are still wildly popular among readers; although some of the prequels and sequels are now out of print, they still appear on Ebay and are no doubt enjoyed by the lucky high bidder. (Some of the books fetch quite high prices because they are so hard to find.)

My question to you, dear readers, is that if these books have stood the test of time, and are consistently popular among readers, then why has there not been an accurate film or television depiction of them?

The television series which ran from 1974–1984 was very popular with audiences, but it was only loosely based on Laura’s books and/or life. I have watched episodes of the show and I am annerved by how many liberties the show takes with the stories and characters. For example, in one episode a young adult Laura brawls in the street with her longtime nemesis Nellie Olsen. Laura Ingalls specifically writes in “Little House in the Big Woods” that her father would not stand for violence, and she was disciplined when she slapped her sister Mary on one occasion.

There was also a 2005 mini-series which aired; this had real potential because the costumes and sets looked more authentic, but one of the facts which irked me almost instantly was the deletion of baby Carrie, the young sister or Laura and Mary who is present in the book series from the very beginning. Also, the manner in which young Mary constantly defends the Native American neighbors is not true to the character of her, nor is it true to many pioneers’ feeling regarding the Native Americans during the late 19th century.

I am not usually the type of person who begs for movies and television shows to be made from good books, but as long as there already WAS a television show and a mini-series, let’s try for one that accurately depicts the books and do justice to the amazing life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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