A Little Pregnant wrote an absolutely brilliant post about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic children’s book The Long Winter. She debates whether the book is too grisly and scary for her five-year-old son and comes to the conclusion that Ma Ingalls is a pill. Graphic language about “dropseat lovin’ ” is involved, so consider yourself forewarned.
First of all, I believe it’s time for me to re-read the Little House series, which I adored as a child, because it seems there is a lot of crazy crap in there that I don’t remember. Racism, minstrel shows, pig bladders, Scarlet Fever and an inappropriate purchase of an organ (the musical kind, not the animal kind) in the midst of family destitution? REALLY? There are also some who believe that Pa Ingalls was bi-polar, always gambling on ill-advised financial schemes and moving his family around when debt was threatened. And finally, this fascinating New Yorker article about Laura’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, posited that ROSE might have been the main writer of the books, not her mother. Rose was an accomplished journalist and a best-selling author BEFORE the Little House books came out. Also, apparently, she and her mother would be Tea Party enthusiasts today.
What I mainly remember about the Little House books was the palpable sense of deprivation, hardship, hunger and danger the Ingalls family faced, day-in, day-out. Yet, there was also a sense of hope and adventure the family was able to maintain, even after the eldest daughter went blind and even with the daily threat of starving to death. I believe I need to read The Long Winter again to ascertain if the Ingalls had a magical formula for surviving scary situations. Stoicism is, according to Tom Morris, “about managing your deepest inner resources and learning to find your way through any circumstances, no matter how challenging they may be.” Or were the Ingalls just insane optimists?
What do you think? Is Julie right: was Ma a pill? Was Pa bi-polar? Were the pioneers stoics, or insane?