Blogger: Mary Keeley
Location: Books & Such Chicago office
Weather: Cloudy and blustery; 30 degrees
I enjoyed all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, but my favorite was The Long Winter. My mother would read a chapter to my sister and me at bedtime—two chapters if we could talk her into it. Technically this isn’t a Christmas story, but the savage winter of 1880-1881 in the Dakota Territory delayed the celebration of Christmas, and that was a big deal in my young mind.
I hung on every word as the author showed in story form the true account of the hardiness and resourcefulness of her family and community. In the midst of unrelenting blizzard conditions and near-starvation, the townspeople cared for each other, and there still were joyful hearts in the Ingalls family.
I recall the bravery of Almanzo Wilder (Laura’s future husband) and his brother, Cap Garland, who risked their lives by venturing out in the severe cold to search for a store of wheat; the inventiveness of twisting hay to use as fuel for fire; and the admirable qualities and devotion to family, sustained by a deep faith in God, that these people displayed.
In the story, spring finally comes and trains arrive with desperately needed supplies. The story ends as the Ingalls family gathers together with happy, thankful hearts to celebrate Christmas in May, complete with turkey dinner. The combination of the author’s first-hand knowledge of her topic, vivid storytelling, and inspiring characters endeared this book to me, then and now. It is a story worth reading every Christmas for its evidences of what really matters in our lives.
Reading about these characters and others like them gave me a sense of security as a child and a confidence there was goodness in the world. Hmm…Perhaps the current trend to make characters more realistic focuses too heavily on showing their flaws. We’re all flawed; so we can easily connect with them. But do they leave us on a horizontal plane of commiseration at the expense of inspiring us to a higher level of character by example?
Before Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the Little House books, she wrote articles for the Missouri Ruralist. On November 15, 1923, she wrote: “Mankind is not following a blind trail; feet were set upon the true path in the beginning. Following it first by instinct, men stumbled from it often in the darkness of ignorance even as we do today for we have much to learn. But even more than for material blessings, let us, with humble hearts give thanks for the revelation to us and our better understanding of the greatness and goodness of God.”
This deep conviction is reflected in her characters.
Do you think readers hunger for inspiring characters?
What is your favorite Little House book?