February 24, 2016

I Hate Pa Ingalls: The Long Winter

It's epically windy and snowy on Northern Indiana. The campus where I teach is closed.

This got me thinking of two things: First, Frozen Fairy Tales. It's full of wonderful, snowy tales. If you haven't bought a copy, please do. Go to worldweaverpress.com for buying options.

But today's horrid weather got me thinking of The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. That book is truly harrowing. I didn't get how seriously bad the situation in the book is until I read it to my daughter. The Ingalls family and the community around them are starving. It's as grim as a fairy tale.

But I'm also here today to make a confession: I hate Pa Ingalls. He and his "itchy feet" made life unnecessarily hard for his family of women. I think Laura Ingalls Wilder tried her best to make Pa look good, but I just wanted to smash his fiddle over his selfish head.

Got that out of my system. Does anyone agree?


8 comments

  1. I never thought about that before; however, having been married to someone with "itchy feet," I can see your point. That makes Laura all that much better of a writer, to pull all his finest qualities to the forefront and diminish that flaw.

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    1. True. She really made his image as positive as she could. The books are compulsively readable, despite some sentiments that make uncomfortable reading in the 21st century. Fairy tales have that problem, too.

      And like many fairy tale parents, Pa was a deadbeat:

      http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2014/julyaugust/feature/reading-laura-ingalls-wilder-not-the-same-when-youre-parent

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  2. What an interesting point, "Itchy Feet" seems to have become an national American quality! If Americans aren't moving around for the new greatest opportunity they just aren't achieving their dream. I never minded Pa Ingalls in the books, but I would struggle with being in his family.

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    1. I think I'm too materialistic to like Pa. Even when I was little, I'd look up at my bedroom with its Kate Greenaway wallpaper, while I was reading a Little House book, and feel greatful that my dad was no Pa
      Ingalls.
      But you are dead right about Americans always being on the move. We're born to flee.

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  3. Yep. You're right. She definitely put a positive spin on all those hardships. I will never forget how, as a married woman, she felt a little unwell and later woke up with a baby. What?! I guess she thought the gritty details were inappropriate for her readers....

    Anyway, I suppose it was adventurous people with "itchy feet" who settled this country, but, he did put his family through a lot.

    My parents read Little House in the Big Woods to me and my sister when I was four, so it was my first read-aloud novel. But when I became a parent, my animal-loving daughter couldn't stomach the hunting and trapping and livestock butchering, so we didn't get any farther than the story of Grandpa and the wildcat. She's the same with fairy tales--hands off that wolf, cruel woodsman!

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  4. So true! As a kid reading the Little House books, I used to think how glad I was that I didn't have to move as much as Laura. I would talk about the books to my parents and found out that their life, growing up in North Dakota in the late 1920s and 1930s, mirrored a lot of Laura's experiences. My dad's father, Henry, was like Pa Ingalls with "itchy feet," also. I remember thinking from the comfort of my warm Southern California house, "I'm so happy that I never had to go through one of those long winters."

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  5. This post made me laugh. That's probably easy to do since I'm in Florida and our high for today is eighty degrees (sorry). If I remember correctly, Laura liked to travel too. I don't think she liked staying in the same place. At least, that's what Pa said about her; but yes, I think it is selfish for someone to uproot their family over and over simply because they want to. I believe families need stability. Homes are what make some women (myself included) feel secure.

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    1. Amen! But, to be honest, I'm the worst traveler, ever.

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