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Literature / Little House on the Prairie

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The eight books written and published by Laura Ingalls Wilder are Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy (about her husband, Almanzo Wilder), Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years, chronicling Laura's life from her childhood in Wisconsin, to her marriage in what would later become South Dakota. A ninth book covering the tumultuous early period of that marriage, The First Four Years, was published posthumously.

Not counting Farmer Boy, the first three and a half books of the original eight chronicle the Ingallses' family life as they move from place to place on the American West frontier, partially to carve out a better life and partially to satisfy Pa's "itching foot." Farmer Boy, meanwhile, chronicles a year in the life of nine-year-old Almanzo (the same year his future wife was born), growing up and working hard on his family's prosperous farm near Malone, New York.

The last three and a half books are about the Ingalls family settling permanently in the brand-new town of De Smet, Dakota Territory, as Ma has finally put her foot down and demanded that her girls receive a stable education. The Ingallses are also recovering from a bout of scarlet fever, which has left oldest daughter Mary blind. These books focus in on Laura's life as she grows up and struggles to find ways to help her parents survive on the harsh frontier, while also exploring life away from home. Oh, and falling in love with Almanzo, who has also just arrived in De Smet and is now ambitious for his own farm.

There is some contention about how much of the books are purely Laura Ingalls Wilder: the stories are hers, to be sure, but her daughter Rose Wilder Lane was a popular author and was instrumental encouraging her mother to publish her story. While Laura already had a background writing columns for local newspapers, some suggest Rose—who was an accomplished ghostwriter—wrote the books herself, while others suggest she merely offered advice and put Laura in touch with her publishing connections; the truth is likely somewhere between the two extremes. A study of the relevant correspondence between the two suggests that Rose's main concern was with the technical details of grammar and style, while her mother focused on character and plot. The First Four Years, which was written without Rose's help, is noticeably different in style to the rest of the series, but this may have more to do with the fact that it was apparently originally intended as a more adult take on the same material.

After Wilder's death, her daughter found her journal account of their move from De Smet to Mansfield, Missouri, and had it published as On the Way Home. Shortly after Rose's death, her lawyer and heir, Roger Lea MacBride, brought to light The First Four Years, which Rose had entrusted him with. MacBride also published a collection of letters Laura wrote to Almanzo while visiting Rose in San Francisco during the World's Fair, under the title West From Home. Not content to stop there, he also wrote a series of books about Rose, drawing on stories she told him as a child and tossing in a few creative liberties.

HarperCollins was similarly discontented, as they smelled a zombie franchise in the making - nearly half a century later! - and added to the Rose books, publishing an inter-generational Little House series about Laura's female ancestors:

  • The Rose Years by Roger Lea MacBride
  • The Caroline Years by Maria D. Wilkes and Celia Wilkins about Caroline Quiner Ingalls, Laura's mother.
  • The Charlotte Years by Melissa Wiley about Charlotte Tucker Quiner, Laura's grandmother.
  • The Martha Years by Melissa Wiley about Martha Morse Tucker, Laura's great-grandmother.

HarperCollins also published books about Mary Ingalls and Nellie Oleson, an additional book about Almanzo, and Old Town in the Green Groves, a book about the "lost years" Laura felt were too painful to include in children's books, written by Cynthia Rylant.

These extra books vary in quality and success at emulating the charm of the originals, but all are interesting portraits of "America's favorite pioneer family."

Laura's autobiography Pioneer Girl, which she initially tried to publish before re-writing her life story as the Little House books, was published in October 2013.

A television adaptation began airing in 1974.

Disney adapted Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie into a six-part miniseries in 2005. Carrie was Adapted Out of the story.

Tropes relating to Laura's books, and their companions, sequels, prequels, ad nauseam:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Eliza Jane Wilder does terribly as a teacher in Little Town on the Prairie. Nellie is the only student that likes her (and that is more because she can manipulate her into seeing things her way and hopefully get with her brother), but every other student is dead set against her.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • In On the Banks of Plum Creek, this is Pa's reaction to Laura's Loophole Abuse regarding the straw stack.
    • Laura's reaction when a kitten hides in her hoopskirts to hide from a dog, while sitting in church. Mary's stern with her at first - maintaining proper decorum, especially while in church, was very serious business - but when she hears the story even she has to admit it's amusing.
    • When the school board visits Miss Wilder's class to look into the escalating campaign of misbehavior, Pa mentions hearing that one of the boys, Charley, was punished for sitting on a bent pin. The picture of innocence, Charley replies, "I was not punished for sitting on it, sir, but for getting up off it." Pa manages to keep a straight face, but the other two board members visibly struggle not to laugh.
    • Implied to be Almanzo's reaction when he hears from Eliza Jane about Laura's antics. Granted, he also knows that Eliza Jane can be a pain in the neck and sometimes she needs an ego check. When he offers her a ride in town, shortly after Miss Wilder has left the school and teaching position, he smiles when saying that he heard a lot about her from his big sister. Laura doesn't catch the implications of this because she's too surprised that he was nice enough to let her ride with his horses.
    • Laura watches two drunks who are initially too dignified to step out of each other's way join hands, begin singing, and kick in all the screen doors in the town. When Royal Wilder tells them off, they begin singing "My name is Tay Pay Pryor and I'm Drunk". Ma and Mary are horrified by the story, but Pa clearly sympathizes with Laura for laughing.
    • When one of Rose's classmates causes havoc by releasing a snake in class, Almanzo drops everything he'd normally be doing on the farm and meets her on her way home from school so she can tell him all about it before they get to Laura, who dislikes mean pranks. When they do tell her, she starts off being the stern and disapproving mother, but then admits she's going to write about it to Pa.
  • Adapted Out: Most notably Laura's brother Freddie, who died in infancy. Laura felt it was too sad to include his death in a work for children. Less notably, Almanzo had a third sister, also named Laura, who was likely Adapted Out because it might have been confusing to have two characters with the same name. (Almanzo also had a younger brother named Perley, who doesn't appear in Farmer Boy simply because he was born a few years after the events of that book.)
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Long Winter has three or four chapters from Almanzo's point of view instead of Laura's, while New Dawn on Rocky Ridge has one chapter focusing on Laura instead of Rose...
  • Aerith and Bob: The Wilder siblings are named Royal, Eliza Jane, Alice, and Almanzo. The Rose books mention two others: youngest brother Perley and eldest sister Laura.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Laura calls Almanzo "Manly" after their marriage, and he calls her "Bess," for her middle name, Elizabeth. Partly this is due to Almanzo disliking his name and also having a sister named Laura, but it's sweet, too. Most of the girls also have pet names:
    • Laura is called "half pintnote " and "flutterbudget" by Pa.
    • Almanzo calls his daughter his "Prairie Rose," the flower she was named after.
    • Caroline was called "little brownbraid" by her father, which her brothers and her father's friend picked up.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: In the first few books, when Laura is very young, what drama there is is about her and Mary's sibling rivalry and things on that level. The stakes get much higher as she grows up.
    • In "Farmer Boy", Almanzo is frustrated that Father wouldn't let him near the colts because he was deemed too young to be responsible enough to take care of them. He eventually gets Father's permission to gentle Starlight, the colt that Almanzo is longing for.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Downplayed (though featured) in most of the books themselves: In their first interaction in a chapter of "The Long Winter", Almanzo was described as a boy. In Little Town on the Prairie, Almanzo is supposedly 20 when he begins courting the 15-year-old Laura, which Ma initially objects to due to Laura's age. In The First Four Years, the text gives his real age; he's got a solid decade on his wife. In that time and place, such an age gap wasn't uncommon, but it was seen as somewhat skeevy by the time the books were written (especially given that Laura was a teenager).
    • But then again, some sources [1] have indicated that their age gap might be only 8 years (as was the age gap of their characters in the TV adapation) and there were suggestions that Almanzo might have altered his year of birth to make him eligible to apply for a homestead. A case of Truthin Television?
  • Altar the Speed: Laura and Almanzo decide to move up the date of their wedding drastically - so drastically that it's held in the minister's parlour and with no guests - because Eliza Jane and Mother Wilder are coming to out from Minnesota to plan a big church wedding neither bride nor groom can afford, plus the harvest season is coming up. When Ma Ingalls protests that they could at least have a small ceremony at the Ingalls home, Laura counters that it wouldn't be fair to have a ceremony purely for the benefit of her family and not give Almanzo's the chance to attend.
  • Amazon Chaser:
    • Almanzo hints from time to time that part of the reason he likes Laura is her spirit and tempernote . While Laura spends her teenage years worrying about what people think of her because she sometimes plays ball at recess, Almanzo buys her a swift riding pony specifically as "something for [her] to play with" and later builds her a sled that their dog can pull. When Laura tells him that she isn't comfortable promising to obey him against her better judgment as part of their marriage vows, Almanzo tells her he didn't expect her to (and that he's never heard of any woman who actually keeps the vow even if she makes it, "nor any decent man that wanted her to"). What's mildly hilarious is that when he decides to court Laura, he doesn't bother informing her that that's what he's doing, presumably assuming she'd know. He clearly hasn't factored in the fact that she's fifteen and completely naive about men. This winds up backfiring on him for a time: when she does figure it out, she panics, and tells him that while she appreciates him driving her to and from her teaching job, she's not interested in anything more. Fortunately, he's a Determinator, which pays off in the end.
    • There is also the time where a band of Indians came to inspect the Wilders' farm. One of them takes hold of Laura's arm, and she slaps him; the leader of the little band not only forestalls any violent response from the man, but promptly asks Laura to leave with him and be his wife.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Farmer Boy, which is about Almanzo's childhood in upstate New York.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Grace sometimes has moments of this, as she's so much younger than Mary, Laura and Carrie and is frankly a little spoiled because of it. It's not that common, however, and it's pretty much never intentional; it's more things like making a mess trying to "help" Laura clean.
    • In their adult years, Laura admits that she was sometimes this to Mary when they were young children.
    • Eliza Jane sees Almanzo as this, although it seems to be mostly her perception since he behaves similarly around his other older siblings (Royal and Alice) and they don't appear to have this opinion of him.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Everything is evened up in the end. The rich have their ice in the summer but the poor get theirs in the winter."
    • "All's well that ends well."
    • "There's no great loss without some small gain."
  • Author Avatar: Obviously. Although Wilder took quite a few liberties for the sake of her story, including combining three young rivals into 'Nellie Oleson' and eliminating a few very rough years in the Ingalls' lives that she apparently couldn't bring herself to write about.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. In a downright scary example, when the weather is at its coldest, Almanzo has to make frequent stops when taking Laura home from teaching school to melt the ice that forms from the condensation over the horses' mouths and nostrils, so they won't suffocate on their own breath. When this problem with livestock is first mentioned earlier in the series, Laura is horrified by it.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • In Farmer Boy, Almanzo semi-accidentally throws a blacking brush at Eliza Jane, misses, and stains the wallpaper in their mother's fine parlor - a room which the children aren't even allowed to go into without their parents' supervision lest they damage something. Almanzo spends a few weeks dreading the whipping he'll get when the stain is discovered, but Eliza Jane hunts up some leftover wallpaper and secretly patches the stain to save him. When he ventures to ask her about it, she simply replies that he's the only little brother she's got. (And apparently, there's an evidence that suggests that this wasn't just a fictional anecdote! [2]
    • There's also something to be said for Eliza Jane being one of the main reasons why Almanzo and Laura get married much earlier than planned... because she wants to come to De Smet and throw them a big church wedding. Considering how she is an antagonist to Laura in Little Town on the Prairie and would have good reason to be unhappy with her brother's choice of a bride, her enthusiasm for the upcoming wedding shows how much she cares about her brother's happiness (albeit in a way that substitutes her own judgment for Laura and Almanzo's actual wishes on the matter).
    • Mrs. Brewster in "These Happy Golden Years" is described as a sullen woman who sulks all day long, always speaks in an unpleasant tone, and does little more during the days than just the bare minimum of cooking and then sitting silently in her rocking chair. However when Mr. Brewster comes home on a very cold day, telling Laura there will be no school because they cannot keep the school house at a reasonable temperature, Mrs. Brewster suddenly becomes very affectionate in her tone, and hurries to help him try to get warm, including rubbing his feet to help get the circulation back. It seems that despite whatever form of depression or mental illness she was struggling with, she did truly love her husband.
  • Badass Adorable: Kitty, a kitten that the Ingalls adopt, who when only a few weeks old, kills a mouse much larger than her. The bigger she gets, the more mice and gophers she kills and brings to Ma as presents.
  • Badass Teacher: A gang of rough older boys comes to Almanzo's school every winter to beat up the teacher and drive him away... until this year's model, small, soft-spoken Mr. Corse, literally drives them out Indiana Jones-style with a borrowed bullwhip.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Nellie Oleson keeps boasting that because she's friends with Miss Wilder, that she'll be able to ride with Almanzo Wilder and his pretty horses. Everyone in the class expects that this will happen, including Laura who only knows Almanzo as the local farmer whose brother runs a grain store in town. Thus, she's utterly surprised when Almanzo offers to give her a ride in town during her lunch break, and more so when he escorts her to and from teaching jobs on a regular basis. Nellie later tries to crash one of their carriage rides, but by then Almanzo is breaking in a new pair of colts rather than the aforementioned horses, and Laura ensures that Nellie becomes scared of riding with the colts.note 
  • Barefoot Poverty: In Little House in Brookfield (the first book in "The Caroline Years," prequel series) Caroline's oldest sister goes to church barefoot one day because the family is too poor to buy her new shoes and she doesn't want to wear her old, worn shoes with the beautiful new dress their mother had just made for her. She thinks that said dress, which is floor-length, will cover up her shoeless feet, and she gets away with it at first, but her mother eventually notices and is not pleased.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Mr. Corse in Farmer Boy. The mild-mannered and apparently unimposing schoolteacher manages to be the first teacher in a string of them who doesn't get beaten and driven off by the older boys. It's an achievement he accomplishes with the use of a bullwhip.
  • Beta Couple:
    • Cap Garland and Mary Power, until they break up.
    • Henry Quiner and Polly Ingalls in A Little House of Their Own.
    • Ida and Elmer, in These Happy Golden Years. They got engaged at the same time as Laura and Almanzo, and serve as witnesses to their wedding ceremony.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Caroline largely seems to go along with Charles' schemes, even when it takes her further and further from her idea of civilized life—but whenever Ma finally puts her foot down, it's notable that Pa immediately drops whatever he's doing and listens to her. A notable example is when Ma tells him point-blank that he will not go chasing after wheat that might not exist during The Long Winter, but a more subtle example is when Pa agrees to finally settle the family down based on Ma's wish for the girls to have an education.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Almanzo and Cap make a cross-country journey in the depths of winter to bring back enough wheat to save the town from starvation.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: In These Happy Golden Years, Mary admits that as a child before she went blind she'd been one of these. She was very good at looking prim and perfect for adults, and relished making other kids look worse in comparison and enjoyed getting Laura in trouble.
  • Bookends: Old Town in the Green Groves, by Cynthia Rylant, begins and ends with a baby being born.
  • Bookworm: Caroline, Mary, Rose, and Laura herself.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Gender-inverted. Pa has no problem with the much older Almanzo's courtship of Laura, and is actually quite a Shipper on Deck for. Ma isn't too pleased about it; at one point she startles Laura when she forcefully opines that it seems Almanzo wants to break Laura's neck, and she hopes he breaks his own first.
  • Brainy Brunette:
    • Laura has brown hair and is consistently at the top of her class. She inherited this trait from her mother Caroline who is also a brunette and extremely studious. Laura's daughter, Rose, has brown hair as well and is something of a prodigy.
    • It's not a contrast between the blondes and brunettes in the book, however. Mary, who has blonde hair, is described as being incredibly smart with a great memory. Carrie and Grace's intelligence (who are brunette and blonde respectively) is never addressed.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The reason why Miss Wilder starts bullying Carrie is that Nellie said Laura was bragging about her father being on the school board. Now, let's say you are picking on kids whose father is an influential town member, and it leads to the rest of the class declaring war. How do you think he will not find out about it? Unsurprisingly, Eliza Jane leaves abruptly after the school board barges in on the disruption; even though Pa hears Laura's side of the story and learns she wasn't being arrogant while letting Miss Wilder off the hook, it's implied if he wanted to reprimand Eliza Jane, he could.
  • Cabin Fever: Inevitably, in The Long Winter, Laura starts to feel like she's going a little nuts at times. Even Pa has a moment where he starts yelling at the blizzard as if it's something intelligent and malicious. Something like this also seems to be afflicting Mrs. Brewster in These Happy Golden Years.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Even in Little House in the Big Woods when five-year-old Laura fills up her pocket with too many pebbles and it rips out of her dress, her parents use the opportunity to impart a lesson about being greedy (and Laura thinks that nothing like this ever happens to Mary). This is typical of the adults' general attitude, often toward behavior that wouldn't even be considered wrong by modern standards. This is why it seems practically miraculous that Almanzo's parents never find out about the wallpaper in Farmer Boy.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • The Indian in The Long Winter who warns about "seven months of winter". Most of the townspeople don't put much stock in his claim at first.
    • When Laura discovers the cattle's heads frozen to the ground, Mary initially dismisses it as "one of Laura's queer notions."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Eliza Jane in The Rose Years. A minor subplot in the background of the series is her mission to get all of the Wilders to live with her in Louisiana and try rice farming, which leads to Mother and Father Wilder visiting Rose and her parents, Father buying the house in Mansfield that they live in for a few years, and later, Father losing his fortune and dying of the shock. It culminates in Eliza Jane visiting Rose's family, and inviting Rose to live with her for a year and complete her education, as a way of atoning for the loss. E.J., of course, ends up being a very influential on Rose's eventual independence and political beliefs.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: In The Caroline Years Caroline meets Charles when they're still at school and their families live across the river from each other. Her older sister is sweet on her future husband throughout her childhood.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Unlike Royal and Eliza Jane, Alice neither appears again nor is mentioned after Farmer Boy. Sadly, Alice's disappearance is probably because she died in Florida at the age of 39.note 
  • City Slicker: Nellie tries to act like one when she reappears in De Smet, even though Laura knows she's been living on the prairie at least as long as Laura.
  • Closer to Earth: Mild case with Laura and Almanzo, although the difference is more in their upbringing than their genders. Laura grew up always on the edge of poverty and is frugal and practical almost to a fault, while Almanzo's family was always prosperous and successful and never wanted for much. They clash a bit after they're married, because Almanzo wants the family to have modern means and comforts but Laura hates spending money. Laura tells Manly in The First Four Years that she doesn't want to marry a farmer and wishes he'd get a job in town, despite her preference to live in the country, because it'd be more financially secure. The only time we really see them in a fight is in Little Farm in the Ozarks, when Almanzo buys Laura a new stove on credit. He's excited because it will make her work easier, because she can bake and cook at the same time, it's sturdier than they one they have and less likely to catch fire, and it's actually very lovely to look at, but while Laura is initially happy, she tells him to go back and return it because they can't afford it. They have a similar difference of opinion when Almanzo brings home a mail order catalogue, and when Laura finally gives up on saving for something in it, he sighs and complains, "Sometimes a fella just wants to spoil his best girl, but you won't hardly let me." Laura kisses him and tells him that he spoils her just fine.
  • Coming of Age Story:
    • The entire series chronicles Laura's life from childhood to adulthood.
    • The prequels are coming of age stories for Martha, Charlotte and Caroline, though the first two series were never finished.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Mrs. Brewster is shown to be a very unpleasant woman who is the primary source of Laura's misery during the latter's first term of teaching, and she is also one of the very few characters to not be enthusiastic about moving westward.
  • Composite Character:
    • Nellie Oleson. Laura apparently felt it would be in poor taste to name real people if she was portraying them in a negative light, and so three unpleasant girls Laura knew were rolled into one. And yes, one of them moved from Walnut Grove to De Smet. The descendants of the three girls remain distinctly unimpressed with how much Laura made up. Being a composite of three people is why Nellie Oleson seems to suffer a personality shift in every book in which she appears. The first, Nellie Owens, was the Spoiled Brat similar to young Nellie in Plum Creek. The second, Genevieve Masters, was the snooty teen rival who complained about how much better things were Back East, similar to the Nellie in Little Town, and the third, Stella Gilbert, was a flighty ditz who briefly captured Almanzo's attention (he was also friends with her brother) until he learned she was frightened of horses, similar to Nellie in These Happy Golden Years.
    • Some researchers believe that Mr. Edwards, the "wildcat from Tennessee" who befriends the Ingalls family during their stay near Independence, Kansas in Little House on the Prairie, may be an amalgamated depiction of several different people who did kind deeds for the family throughout the years (in part because historians have been unable to find any records of a "Mr. Edwards", or of anyone who fully fits the bill).
  • Constantly Lactating Cow: Averted in the books, where the family's cow stops giving milk when the hard winter comes.
  • Costume Porn: Several of the books contain detailed descriptions of the clothes that Laura and her mother made for her and her sisters. One aunt's dress had buttons "shaped like blackberries" which Laura remembered well enough to mention again in later books.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: During the family's stint in Plum Creek, they go swimming in a local lake as a summer treat. Pa dunks the girls whenever they stray too near the deep water. Mary gets the point after one round of this, but Laura finds it fun and asks him to do it again.
  • Cool Big Sis: Laura, to Carrie and Grace. Alice to Almanzo.
    • Eliza Jane had her Cool Big Sis moment after Almanzo threw the blacking brush at her, missed and hit a wall in the parlour room. He was terrified that he'll be whipped for what he's done but she saved him by patching the stain over with a leftover wallpaper and their parents never found out about the stain.
    • Gender-flipped in Royal's case. He's supportive of Almanzo and volunteered to accompany him find the rumoured wheat supply in "The Long Winter" (they eventually agreed that Almanzo take Cap Garland instead in case the one who goes gets caught in the blizzard and one must survive for their parents' sake) and years later, took care of Almanzo and Laura when they became ill with diphtheria in "The First Four Years".
  • Cool Uncle: Aunt Lottie, Aunt Docia, and Uncle George are this in Laura's POV, and later Uncle Tom, who shows up in De Smet with a dramatic story about traveling through the Badlands looking for gold. Eliza Jane and Mary became this to Rose.
  • Country Mouse: Laura though she grows out of it by These Happy Golden Years, Caroline especially in Little City By The Lake. Martha feels like this compared to her sophisticated cousins from the city.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Long Winter takes a sharp turn into a winter during which the town is trapped with no supplies by an unusually severe series of cruel blizzards, and is in serious danger of starving to death en masse, barely surviving because a couple of locals risk their lives to get their hands on enough supplies for the townsfolk to subsist on for the last leg of the winter. The cover depicts a joyful winter wonderland scene of two girls giggling coyly while a mischievous little boy surprises them with a snowball.
  • Daddy's Girl: Laura. Pa's pet names for her were "Half-Pint" and "Flutterbudget." And not, as Cynthia Rylant would have you believe, "Apple Pie" or "Pumpkin Pie."
  • Dare to Be Badass:
    • In These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo admits to Laura that the forty-below-zero weather made him think twice about coming to drive her home for the weekend, until Cap Garland, seeing him hesitating, told him, "God hates a coward."
    "So you came because you wouldn't take a dare?" Laura asked.
    "No, it wasn't a dare," Almanzo said. "I just figured he was right."
    • In "New Dawn on Rocky Ridge", Rose's Aunt Eliza Jane (Almanzo's older antagonistic sister) gives this speech to Rose who is saddened about not being able to afford to go to an academy to finish her high school education and about her relationship with Paul. Before offering to let Rose complete her education in her hometown of Crowley, she gives this lecture.
    Rose: Oh, nothing ever comes out right for me! I don't know why, but it just never does."
    Laura: Rose, really.
    Eliza Jane: Young lady, you are suffering an attack of defeatism. Do you think your mother and father would have survived if they sat around bemoaning life's every little stumble? (Rose shakes her head) And look at me (bitter chuckle). My grand scheme to have my family close to me in Louisiana. What happened? Father's fortune lost. Then Father died. My poor sister Laura died. My husband died, and then his family descended upon me like a flock of vultures. Do you hear me groan about my terrible life?"
    Rose: No.
    Eliza Jane: You come from sturdy, independent stock, on both sides. We have all survived the very worst that life could fling at us. And you shall, too.

  • Dating What Daddy Hates:
    • A mild version of 'Dating What Mother Hates' with Laura going riding with Almanzo who Ma is openly critical of.
    • Almanzo seems to be dating what his sister hates. By the time Laura finally gets to ride behind the brown Morgans, she's sure she's lost any chance because Eliza Jane firmly believed Laura was turning the other students against her, but when Laura introduces herself, Almanzo answers, "My sister often spoke of you," - and promptly sets about courting her.
  • A Day in Her Apron: When Ma and Pa take Mary to college, Laura decides she and the younger girls will do the spring cleaning themselves as a surprise for when they get home, and it turns out to be a bigger job than they bargained for. Farmer Boy has a similar chapter where Almanzo's parents go away for a week and the kids have the farm to themselves, with even more disastrous results in this case since they're in no way trying to be responsible until the mad scramble to clean up on the last day, exactly like a Wild Teen Party in a Dom Com.
  • Death Glare: Cap Garland supposedly had one that could intimidate a railroader.
  • Determinator:
    • Almanzo and Cap Garland, who in The Long Winter head out to look for the homestead of a man who might have enough grain to keep the town from starving. They're not even sure where it is, or whether or not the man decided to winter on the prairie or go back East. Given the frequency of blizzards, it's a rather dangerous undertaking, but they find him, persuade him to give them some wheat, and successfully make it back to town.
    • On a more personal note, Almanzo's unwilling to be put off by Laura's initial reluctance to let him court her, which of course paid off in the end.
    • Mr. Edwards, who walks the eighty-mile round trip to bring Laura and Mary their Christmas gifts: a tin cup, a shiny penny, a heart-shaped cake, and a candy stick each.
    • Charles Ingalls, who laughs off disasters that would drive other people to a sobbing fetal position, and Caroline Ingalls, who opts to bear them stoically.
  • Delicate and Sickly: It takes Carrie a long time to recover from the malnutrition the family suffered in The Long Winter. She's often mentioned as being "delicate", and suffers frequently from what sound like migraines. At one point she almost faints in school during an unjust punishment, prompting Laura to resent Eliza Jane even more. The fact that EJ picks on sickly little Carrie is what sends Laura over the edge, and makes her give up trying to get the other children to behave.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Miss Wilder hears from one of her favorite students that Laura is being arrogant because her father is on the school board. (In context, Laura was actually telling Nellie how much the other girl enjoyed lording power over her, and it's too bad she can't be a bully anymore.) Being arrogant necessarily isn't school-punishment worthy unless you are disrupting the class, but Miss Wilder nevertheless tries to find excuses to punish Carrie and make Laura suffer. Why is the real question, since even Nellie and her brother Willie come to agree that Miss Wilder is a bully to her students. It comes to a head when she makes Carrie rock a desk when the latter is about to faint, and Laura angrily rocks it, leading to them being sent home from school. The boys go This Means War! and start disrupting the class on purpose to take the heat off the girls, complete with stealing Miss Wilder's ruler so she can't smack them. When the school board barges in on the ongoing chaos, Miss Wilder tries to scapegoat Laura by reporting her arrogance. Needless to say, it doesn't work; the only reason that Charles doesn't go Papa Wolf is because of the Deliberate Values Dissonance of respecting your teacher, and the rest of the board can see that the new teacher is being unprofessional. Miss Wilder leaves shortly after, and it's unclear if she was fired or resigned. Pa also gets Laura's side of the story and uses it to teach her to mind what she says to others because other people can twist your words.
  • Disease by Any Other Name:
    • In one of the early novels, the Ingalls family contracts "fever 'n' ague" (identified as malaria in retrospect, a diagnosis that itself is questioned by modern scholars).
    • This trope pops up a few times, probably due to a case of Science Marches On. Mary's blindness is attributed to scarlet fever in the books, but scholars today believe it was more likely viral meningoencephalitis, which would cause swelling of the brain and optic nerve, leading to the kind of slow loss of vision Mary suffered in the books.
    • In The First Four Years, Laura's infant son dies after suffering "convulsions," a diagnosis that would not be given today as a cause of death but might be a symptom of an underlying fatal disease. Given that Laura's brother Freddie also died in infancy after suffering "convulsions" and her daughter Rose's only child was a premature, stillborn son, it has been speculated that the family had some sort of sex-linked genetic disorder.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Kitty the cat from Little Town On The Prairie. Averted with the dogs (Jack, Ol' Shep, etc.).
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Almanzo Wilder's initial courtship of Laura takes essentially this form, particularly when she tells him up-front that she's letting him take her to and from her teaching job on the weekends so that she can get home, but doesn't plan to continue to go with him afterwards, so he shouldn't feel any obligation to keep coming to pick her up. Not only does he go right on doing so (in forty-below-zero weather), once her teaching job is over and she's back home, he turns up at her door the next weekend to ask if she'd like to go sleighing. (She would.)
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Ma is often described as sitting down "limply" in response to a shock. When a teenage Laura gets her first invitation to a real formal dinner party, she does the same.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Little House in the Big Woods has less of a narrative than the later books and is organized around a series of stories and general descriptions of the Ingallses' daily life, probably because Laura was so young at the time.
  • Education Mama: Ma, who was a schoolteacher when she was younger and has her heart set on one of her girls following in her footsteps. Everyone thought Mary would be the one, including Mary herself, but her blindness derailed her plans. Laura ends up becoming a schoolteacher, partly to please Ma, but mostly to earn enough money to send Mary to the college for the blind in Vinton, Iowa. By contrast, when Laura herself is a mother, she's much more pragmatic toward Rose's schoolwork. Rose is one of those gifted children who is bored to tears by having to wait for the rest of the class, and periodically quits school in favor of studying on her own— it's explicitly mentioned that she sits around solving complex Geometry problems for fun. Laura reasons that as long as she keeps up or surpasses her class in town, she'll survive.
  • Eldritch Abomination: From the time the Ingalls arrive in De Smet, the "stillness underneath everything" on the De Smet prairies make Laura uneasy. When some cattle get their heads frozen to the ground, she gets the horrors over imagining that the Stillness somehow seized the cattle.
  • Embarrassing First Name:
    • Almanzo's clearly not too fond of his (as he explains in-story, it stems from a family tradition of a 'Moorish' soldier named Al-Manzoor who once saved a Wilder ancestor), and you'll note that Laura calls him Manly after they're married. His siblings call him "Mannie" or "'Manzo."
    "I think it is a very interesting name," said Laura honestly.
    • His sister Eliza Jane also hates her name thanks to an embarrassing ordeal in school. It doesn't help that, once Nellie Oleson tells the other girls why Eliza Jane hates her name, Laura's friend Ida writes (with a little editing help from Laura) a nasty but humorously catchy limerick about it that half the little boys memorize and then sing loudly through the entire town. Eliza Jane needless to say is not pleased. By the time she pops up in the Rose series, she insists on being called "E.J." (Laura still calls her 'Eliza Jane' in her letters to Rose. Whether that's because Laura is too formal to use such an informal nickname for her much-older sister-in-law or because she still hates E.J. is left as an exercise for the reader.)
  • Everyone Can See It: Everybody but Laura catches on to Almanzo's intentions around the time he starts driving a twenty-four mile round trip to bring her home for the weekends during her first teaching job.
    "If you knew how that Nellie Oleson's always bragging and showing off, and picking on Laura. And now to think that Laura's teaching school, and Almanzo Wilder's beauing her home."
    "Oh, no! He isn't!" Laura cried out. "It isn't like that at all. He came for me as a favor to Pa."
    Mary [Power] laughed. "He must think a lot of your Pa!"
  • Exact Words:
    • In On the Banks of Plum Creek, a chapter is devoted to the mishaps of Laura and Mary and the straw stack Pa has assembled for the cattle. After being scolded for sliding down it, Laura gets around the rule by jumping and rolling down it. When Pa confronts her, he initially thinks she's lying when she says she wasn't sliding. When she explains she didn't slide down, she rolled down, Pa has to turn away to avoid showing her his amused reaction.
    • In Farmer Boy, Mother Wilder tells Royal, E.J., Alice, and Almanzo not to eat all the sugar while she and Father are away. They promptly spend the week baking cakes, churning ice cream, and pulling candy for every meal. When they get back, Alice bravely and apologetically points out that there's still some grains that can be scraped from the bottom of the barrel, but Mother laughs and says that since they were so good about else, she wouldn't scold them about the sugar.
  • Eye Scream: In Farmer Boy, Almanzo and his sister Alice are helping their father burn potato stalks. They get hungry long before lunchtime, and bury a couple potatoes in the pile to roast for a snack. Unfortunately for Almanzo, when he goes to check on them, one explodes right in his face. He manages to shut his eye before it can blind him, but winds up with a nasty burn all over that side of his face.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It takes Laura a good year to figure out just why Almanzo keeps seeing her home from church and driving her all over, and when she does she freaks out over it a little. Rather justified by the fact that she's fifteen years old and thus completely clueless about men. Ma, on the other hand, is much more aware and for quite a while does not approve.
  • Fake-Hair Drama: Laura's friend Mary Power secretly wears a switch, and Laura must come to her rescue when a boy playfully begins snatching out her hairpins.
  • Fever Dream Episode:
    • At one point in the series, the entire Ingalls family falls victim to malaria. Laura documents her experience with the disease, which included odd hallucinations. Her pregnancy and childbirth in The First Four Years are also alarmingly trippy: suddenly she's overwhelmed by the barn walls (which are papered with newspapers, some of them pasted upside down) and feels compelled to read them until she gets so dizzy she passes out.
    • In the prequels, Caroline's family is hit by a cholera epidemic (luckily, everyone survives). As the story is told from Caroline's point of view, it becomes this when Caroline is stricken with the disease.
    • A relatively mild version occurs in "The Rose Years", when Rose contracts pneumonia.
  • First Girl Wins: Gender-flipped.
    • Almanzo is the first man who shows a romantic interest in Laura (in fairness, she's quite young at the time), and the only one she gives the time of day to when other men do start courting her.
    • Teased at but ultimately averted for Rose. Towards the end of the series, Rose begins seeing a childhood friend (someone who actually traveled with the Wilder family from De Smet to Missouri), and she believes she's going to marry him, but in the final book, he turns out to be a jerk, and she leaves him for another suitor, a man named Lane...
  • Food Porn:
    • Especially in Farmer Boy, to the point where it becomes a mild Running Gag. All that hard work in the fields gives little Almanzo a fierce appetite, and his mother is a fabulous cook; just how fabulous is spelled out on nearly every page. Worth noting that this'd be all fresh, organic, free-range ingredients, too...
    • As noted in the companion book The Little House Cookbook, this food porn might be due to the author having spent much of her childhood eating little else but cornbread, salt pork, and the occasional prairie rabbit.
    • One Christmas with the Boasts, they talk about how they're having jackrabbit because there aren't many at Silver Lake and it's a special occasion, while when they lived in Indian Territory, they ate jackrabbit all the time and Pa shot a turkey for Christmas dinner. There are many stretches where the Ingallses are eating the same food at every meal for months. It's very noticeable how different the food in Farmer Boy is, not just in quantity but in variety.
    • There are also at least two lengthy passages describing harvest and butchering time, with detailed descriptions of preparing and storing up food in various ways — these are surprisingly engrossing.
    • The descriptions of chicken/blackbird pie in Little Town on the Prairie, baked beans and pumpkin pie for the town social, Ma creating a mock-apple pie from green pumpkins, fresh greens from the garden, and creamy cottage cheese with onions also make an appearance. Even the butter and milk and baked bread sound mouthwatering!
  • Foreshadowing: The prequels have an impressive amount, considering the variety of different authors. The Caroline Years portrays Charles as an excellent speller which will come up in Laura's books, and of course shows Caroline's interest in school and teaching right from early on.
  • Frontier Doctor: The only black person to appear in the original books, Dr. Tan, who comes to the Ingallses' aid when they have malaria, and is identified only as "a doctor with the Indians." His role is very brief and matter-of-fact, which is rather frustrating to modern readers.note 
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!/Narrative Profanity Filter:
    • Almanzo saying "Gol ding it!" is classified as swearing, and so is Laura's cousin Lena saying "Gosh!" Other times, such as when Big Jerry draws the mob of railroad workers away from Pa's store, the "rough language" is simply mentioned and not recorded.
    • There's a few occasions where Pa seems on the verge of swearing in front of the girls, only to have Ma clear her throat at him.
      Charles (to an unruly roof he's building): Now you just lie there and be—
      Caroline: Charles!
      Charles: --and be good. Why, Caroline, what did you think I was going to say?note 
    • In By The Shores of Silver Lake, Aunt Docia complains that Hi "worked like a nailer" for the railroad with nothing to show for it. "Nailer" is a substitute for the n-word, then common slang for thankless labor.
    • When Royal Wilder's screen door was busted by a pair of drunks, he opened it up and "said what he thought."
  • G-Rated Sex: The book series makes only one mention of sex, and it is unsurprisingly very subtle. When Laura discovers that she's pregnant with Rose in "the First Four Years" she thinks to herself something to the effect of "those who dance must pay the fiddler", and that she had indeed enjoyed dancing so now she had to pay with morning sickness.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Laura struggles with this at times, as does her mother in The Caroline Years prequel series.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry:
    • Explicitly, beginning in the first book — when they're about four and six respectively — between Laura, who is strong-willed and active, and Mary, who is traditionally pretty and perfectly well-behaved. Lessens naturally as they grow older, especially after Mary's blindness forces Laura to become her eyes. No doubt describing everything around her for her sister's benefit helped her writing talent, too.
    • There's a nice scene in one of the later books where Mary admits that part of the reason it was so easy for her to be "good" when they were little was the pleasure of one-upping Laura — so really, a lot of the time she wasn't being genuinely "good" at all.
  • Happily Married: Most of the Little House girls and their husbands, despite the hardships of frontier life. Laura and Almanzo certainly, even with their different life experiences (See: Closer to Earth.) Caroline and Charles, though the books do allude to tensions about Caroline wanting to settle down while Charles is a wanderer. Charlotte and Henry before he died, and Charlotte with her second husband Frederick.
  • Height Angst: Laura has quite a bit of this, particularly when she first begins to teach school. She topped out at five feet tall, which was short even by the standards of her day, and worries her students won't listen to her because she's so small. (Turns out she's right, but she handles it.) She also tells Almanzo that Pa never let her drive the wagon, because she's too little. Almanzo thinks that's ridiculous, and teaches her to drive anyway.
  • Hidden Depths: In-story, Laura is surprised to realize that her gentle, ladylike mother hates sewing as much she does. In spite of this, both Laura and Ma are skilled seamstresses, as being able to make the family's clothes was an essential accomplishment.
  • Hunter Trapper: Pa in the Big Woods, and Mr. Edwards.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Mary confesses to Laura that she would like to write a book, and muses that she also planned to teach school, but now Laura is doing that for her. Laura finds the idea absolutely hysterical and tells her to write her own book.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Cap Garland.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit:
    • More subtle than many examples, but for women, the fashions of the day were pretty impractical for frontier life. Working a farm in corsets, hoop skirts, and layers and layers of petticoats would have been much harder than it should have been. In Farmer Boy, Alice is explicitly mentioned as planting crops in her hoop skirts, and Laura has to wheedle to leave her corset off while helping Pa bring in the crops. Despite the fuss and trouble of fashion, though, everyone still wanted the latest styles from the east.
    • Later, when the family's settled down somewhat, Carrie admires how nice Laura looks in her long dresses and hoops and wishes she were old enough to wear them too. Meanwhile, she's saying this just as a strong wind has caused Laura's hoops to bunch up, forcing her to pause and spin around to untangle them. Laura tells her that being fashionable is a nuisance, but that when you're her age, you want to be fashionable.
    • In Farmer Boy, Mother is described as having to turn sideways before she can pass through a door because of her hoop skirts. And Little Town on the Prairie makes a point of the fact that hoop skirts are coming back into style. Yes. They got rid of hoop skirts and then they came back.
    • In fact, there's a lot of fretting over Mary's college wardrobe, just in case hoops come back. There's also a moment of comic panic when Ma fears she's accidentally made Mary's bodice too small before Laura realizes that Mary's corset is looser than it was when they took her measurements. After tightening her corset, the bodice fits, and everyone heaves a sigh of relief (except for Mary, who can't).
  • Improbable Age: Laura, who gets her first teaching certificate at the age of fifteen, wonders if she's too young to be a capable teacher. The fact that three of her students are older than her really doesn't help her self-confidence, and she hits some rough patches during her first term because of it. It works out in the end, though.
    • That's Truth in Television though, straight out of the real life of Clara Barton, who was thirteen when she first taught school.
    • It was also part of the reason why Laura in Little House in the Big Woods is older than Laura herself was at the time they lived there. In the book, she is five years old. In reality, she was three years old, and publishers suspected people would not believe a three-year-old would have such vivid memories. note 
  • Innocent Inaccurate: A young Laura goes through this twice with the same issue: in Little House in the Big Woods, her cousin Charley ends up badly stung by bees because he keeps screaming when nothing is wrong to make his father and Laura's stop working and come running, only to get no response when he really does stumble into the bees' nest; Pa concludes that "it serves the little liar right," and Laura lies awake that night wondering how Charley can be a liar when he didn't say anything. The other time is in On the Banks of Plum Creek; Laura honestly doesn't realize she's committing Loophole Abuse re: the strawstack (see below), and she doesn't know why Pa looks shocked when she repeatedly denies sliding down it.
  • In with the In Crowd: Not even a year after Laura receives a new autograph album, Nellie Oleson finds out about name cards, and arbitrarily changes the fashion amongst the girls at school. Laura is initially reluctant to ask her parents to buy her some, but they eventually get her to admit she wants them and tell her that they want her to have the same nice things as other girls her age.note  Laura is both guilty and pleased. See also: Laura's hoopskirts (Laura: "They're a bit of a nuisance, but they are in style, and when you're my age, you'll want to be in style.") and bangs (or, as her parents call them, 'lunatic fringe').
  • Inevitably Broken Rule: Pa tells a story about his childhood and how he was told never to "play by the way". Guess what he was doing when he met wild animals?.
  • Injun Country: There are several descriptions of the displaced Indians in Little House on the Prairie, not openly unsympathetic (aside from Ma's open prejudice) but still as dangerous Noble Savages. Native American educators have some pretty harsh things to say about the books and the true story behind the Native situation at the time.
  • Insistent Terminology: Almanzo's horses and calves may run, but they do not run away.
  • Irony: The entire premise of the series is that Pa is constantly convinced that if they can just find the right homestead, he'll be able to make a prosperous, independent living as a farmer, and then there'll be silk dresses, glass windows, and all the candy they can eat. In fact, as the series progresses, the family ends up living in worse and worse conditions while sinking ever deeper into debt. They only achieve any level of success and stability after Pa finally gives up, settles in town, and gains steady employment as a hired carpenter. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that Laura became the only truly wealthy member of the Ingalls publishing novels about her childhood poverty.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Pa usually speaks approvingly of any sort of new technology that helps facilitate planting or harvesting (there's even a chapter entitled "The Wonderful Machine" when Pa's able to rent a threshing machine), saying that it is the next big innovation and someday everyone will have one. Meanwhile, Father Wilder disapproves of such devices, calling them lazy or wasteful, and saying that it's better to know how to do a job yourself rather than relying upon technology. Bear in mind that both these men are talking about not modern industrial combines but automated devices that run on mule-power, and that Father Wilder's hard manual labor has yielded him a life of wealth and comfort, while Pa's has not.
    • Laura begs Ma to let her cut a "lunatic fringe" (i.e. bangs) like her fashionable friend. Ma is reluctant, since in a time when many women never cut their hair, bangs were a serious commitment; Laura was proposing to cut off 15 years' of growth that would leave her long hair forever uneven. Once the deed's done, Pa says it looks nice on her, even if he too thinks it's a passing fad.
    • When Laura starts telling Almanzo what she wants out of married life, he asks if she's for womens' rights like his sister. She laughs it off and says she doesn't want to vote.
    • Discussed and played with towards the end of "Little Town in the Ozarks" where Rose and her friends were discussing the incoming 20th century; amongst the topics were if horseless carriages would arrive in the Ozarks, the answer was no but they imagined that people would soar through the air in flying machines and that Butch Cassidy would be caught by the law.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Ma was not as slim as she used to be, after five pregnancies, but described how tiny her waist was when she and Pa first met at one point (at the time the book is set, extremely small waistlines were in fashion and corsets were standard wear). We're also told that in her youth, Caroline's hair was so long she could sit on her braids.
  • Jail Bait Wait: Maybe. Thirteen-year-old Laura first meets nineteen-year-old Almanzo when she and Carrie run across the field he and Royal are working in, having gotten lost on their way home from an errand in town. The narrative mentions explicitly that he won't stop staring at her, "as if he had known her a long time". Two years later, when she's fifteen, he begins seeing her home from church, and they marry when she's eighteen. (But see May–December Romance below.)
    • Although some historical sources said that this may have been a fictional scene written by Laura.
  • The Klutz: Laura on occasion. Carrie is also described as a bit clumsy, but it's attributed to her being sickly.
  • Language Barrier:
    • Subverted in Little House in the Big Woods, where Laura and Mary visit their Swedish-speaking neighbor. The book tells us that the girls speak to her in English and the neighbor replies in Swedish and everyone understand one another perfectly.
    • In On the Banks of Plum Creek, the family buys a cow from their Norwegian neighbor, who tells them the animal is named "Reet of Roses." The whole family is baffled until Laura catches on that the cow's name is Wreath of Roses, after the circle of spots on her side.
    • Due to one of these, Laura's young Norwegian neighbor Anna believes that Laura has given her her beloved ragdoll Charlotte to keep, rather than just to play with during her visit.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: In a rather shocking moment in The First Four Years, Laura and Almanzo take newborn Rose to show to the Boasts, the young couple befriended by the Ingallses, who have no children. As they leave, Mr. Boast comes back out of the house and awkwardly offers to trade his best horse for the baby, explaining that Laura and Almanzo can have other children, but he and Mrs. Boast can't: "We never can." Becomes Harsher in Hindsight as it turns out Rose would be the only child Laura and Almanzo were able to have (other than a son who survived for only a few days).
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Little House In The Big Woods has a significantly lighter tone, compared to the latter books to come.
    • There was a big jump in the maturity of the tone in between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shore of Silver Lake.
    • Farmer Boy is also a change of pace in a way: whether because Almanzo is a boy, because she was writing about a different family for once, or some of both, Laura clearly felt free to be a little more easygoing and humorous about family dynamics than in the other books. For instance, the young Laura would never get away (narratively speaking) with thinking of one of her parents' rules as "senseless," but Almanzo does. And Eliza Jane is pretty much unapologetically written as a bossy antagonist.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Due to the standards of the time, all the women wear their hair long and braided. Girls wear the braids down; teenagers and adults pin them up. When Laura lets her hair loose as an adult, it goes down to her knees, and she admires it in the mirror, feeling slightly odd to be vain over "just hair." Some girls who lost their hair (cut off for a fever, for example) have to wear false braids to hide it, because short hair on an adult woman simply is not done.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • In On the Banks of Plum Creek, after being told she and Mary could no longer slide down the haystack, Laura decides that she can still roll down it. While she doesn't get punished for it — Pa actually has to turn his back so the girls don't see him struggling not to laugh at Laura's perfectly reasonable argument in defense of her loophole — her father does then clarify that she is no longer to even touch the haystack. Making it even funnier, it doesn't appear to have been an intentional attempt to get around the rule; Laura was just being a bit Literal-Minded.
    • In Farmer Boy, Royal gets Almanzo to agree to a bet that he and the men will have all the sheep sheared before Almanzo has the fleeces stored away in the barn loft. During the lunch break Almanzo sneaks an unshorn sheep up into the barn loft and wins the bet.
  • Marry for Love: All of the Little House girls. Although there's a lot of pragmatism mixed in, all the marriages are based on love.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Wilder family adopts this mindset towards a stray, starving dog that shows up on their homestead one evening after Father had sold two horses and is forced to keep the money in the house overnight as it is too late to take it to the bank in town. The dog stays on the farm overnight after Alice gives it some food, and ends up warding off a pair of would-be burglars during the night. The next morning the dog is gone, and the family debates whether the dog's presence was just exceptional luck or if, as Mother believes, the dog was sent by God to test the family and in turn reward them for their kindness.
  • May–December Romance:
    • A very mild example. In the books Laura shaved a few years off her and Almanzo's age gap—he was ten years her senior, meaning when he started courting her she was fifteen and he was twenty-five. That wouldn't have been seen as at all odd in the 1880s, when an age disparity in a couple might easily be twenty years, but by the time she wrote Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years it would have been considered a little skeevy. (Though not so startling as, in By the Shores of Silver Lake, the story of a girl who was married at thirteen; even Laura and her friend Lena are shocked by that, as they're both nearly the same age.)
    • Almanzo's given age in the books varies wildly over the series, possibly to assuage readers over this very issue. In The Long Winter it's stated that he's under 21, the age one had to be to file a claim on a homestead. He tells Royal that he's "21 or as good as." (It's interesting that by the time she was writing the books, Laura-the-author preferred to have people think Almanzo was breaking the law than that he was ten years older.) Laura was about 14, making their age difference only 5-6 years. However, the 10-year age gap comes to light in The First Four Years when it's mentioned explicitly that when Laura turned 19, Almanzo turned 29.
  • May I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?: In The First Four Years, Laura and Almanzo's nearest neighbor is described as an inveterate borrower who never gives anything back. At butchering time, he comes over when Almanzo's out to ask Laura, one by one, for all the necessary tools, and "grimly Laura said to herself if he came next to borrow their fat hog to kill she would let him have it. But he had a hog of his own."
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: New schoolmarm Eliza Jane gives a speech on her first day about how she intends to rule by love, not fear: "Birds in their little nests agree!". Laura and her friends find it embarrassing and don't think it will go over well when the older boys start coming to school... as it turns out, they're all too right. Not to mention that Eliza Jane devolves into a Sadist Teacher thanks to Nellie spreading gossip about Laura being arrogant.
  • Morning Sickness: Though the term itself is not used, Laura has horrible morning sickness with both her pregnancies, involving not just vomiting, but dizziness and fainting, which scares Almanzo enough to call the doctor. Despite that, she does what she can to take care of the homestead. With her second pregnancy, a neighbor brings her a big bag full of Walter Scott novels, and reading them in between her chores gets her through the worst of it.
  • My Card: The first time Laura and Almanzo properly speak to one another, they exchange name cards.
  • Narm: In-universe example - Laura and the rest of the students at her school find Miss Wilder's overly cutesy speeches trite and embarrassing.
  • National Stereotypes: Occasionally. A couple of these come out of nowhere: A storekeeper named Gerald Fuller shows up several times in Little Town on the Prairie and is never mentioned to be different in any way from the rest of the townsfolk, except for one line where he's described as speaking "in his English way": "I say, there's talent enough for a musical program, what?" And we meet Laura's friend Mary Power's mother once or twice and she likewise has no distinguishing features, but when she resurfaces in The First Four Years to help Laura deliver her baby, suddenly she's a "jolly Irishwoman" who talks like Mrs. Doyle. In the first book, immigrant neighbor Mrs Peterson speaks Swedish to Laura and Mary, and they speak English to her, and "understood each other perfectly well".
  • Nice Guy:
    • Almanzo, who drove Laura the twenty-four-mile round trip to and from her teaching job on a weekly basis so that she could spend weekends with her family instead of in the oppressive, unfriendly atmosphere of the Brewsters' house.
    • Charles (Laura's Pa). Despite his mischievousness, he's devoted to his family and a respected member of the community.
  • Nobody Poops:
    • The issue is never touched on in the books, although we know pretty much every other detail of the Ingallses' various houses and daily routine, and it's a rather intriguing if potentially Squicky question to ponder (in particular, how they managed during the months of blizzards). There are also, of course, No Periods, Period, and Carrie and Grace are carefully born between books even though this is inaccurate in Carrie's case.
    • The closest the books come is Little Town in the Ozarks, written in the '90s by Roger Lea Mac Bride, where Rose is recovering from an illness and briefly acknowledges that she hates using a chamber pot, but is still too weak and dizzy to make it to the town's privy.
    • The manuscript of By The Shores of Silver Lake includes a passage where Laura sees men "pissing by the side of the railroad tracks" that they are building, but Rose, in correspondence, advised against its inclusion in the final book.
      • Interestingly, while Carrie and Grace might as well have been brought by the stork, both of Laura's pregnancies make it into The First Four Years. Rose's birth is even mentioned, though it mostly consists of pain, chloroform, and some trippy hallucinations.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When the boys find Laura's and Ida's nasty limerick about Eliza Jane and start singing it all around town.
    Pa: "What's this? Some song I don't know? You ever hear anything about 'lazy, lousy, Lizy Jane?'"
    Ma: "Either way, it doesn't sound like a nice song."
  • Oblivious to Love: Laura at first about Almanzo's courtship. It takes her a few months to catch on that he's courting her, and a little more time to return his feelings.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Eliza Jane. Laura and Almanzo essentially elope because she's insisting on planning a big church wedding for them, which Pa Ingalls can't afford. In the Rose series, she brings her son to visit Rose, Laura, and Almanzo, and the narrative actually does a good job of balancing the fact that Laura and E.J. politely hate each other with Rose's admiration of her aunt. The thing that really frustrates Laura is that E.J. insists on helping with the housework, hustling and bustling and trying to make Laura's workload easier. She tries to deal with it, but Laura insists to Rose that two women cannot coexist in one house.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Laura is not fond of her corset; she describes it as "a sad affliction to her". She actually looks forward to the hard work of bringing in the crops, because it means she can leave it off. She also can't follow her mother's and sister's example — they both sleep in theirs, which she gives up on fairly early on. Carrie isn't too keen on the idea, either, and Laura tells her to be grateful to be without one while she has the chance.
    • Going by her descriptions, it sounds as though they were all practicing tight-lacing, which was unhealthy, uncomfortable, and fortunately fairly uncommon. Ma was proud that Pa could "span her waist with his hands" when they were first married, and, as mentioned above, Mary was laced so tightly that her bodice was too small once the corset strings stretched. Laura's was tight enough that she was "tormented by the steels, which scarcely allowed her to draw breath." Properly-fitted, non-tightlaced corsets are far more comfortable, and were what the majority of women wore.
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: When Ma Ingalls objects to Laura using her new black cashmere dress as her wedding dress, citing the saying "married in black, you'll wish yourself back," Laura cheerfully invokes this trope in response, saying she'll wear the dress with her old blue-lined bonnet and borrow Ma's gold brooch. Ma concedes that there is probably not much truth in such sayings, although it bears some mentioning that Laura and Almanzo's life together is marked by disaster after unmitigated disaster.
  • One of the Boys: Laura gets along well with the boys at school because she's willing to do things like play ball outside with them instead of staying primly indoors. This no doubt contributes to the boys' decision to rally against Miss Wilder after it becomes clear she has it in for Laura.
  • One-Steve Limit:
    • Carrie's just a nickname; she was named after her mother, Caroline. Almanzo's oldest sister was also left out of Farmer Boy so as to not confuse readers, since her name was also Laura — which is also why Almanzo called his wife "Bess" or "Bessie" (her middle name being Elizabeth).
    • Averted with one of Laura's classmates in De Smet, who is also named Mary. However, the narrative always refers to her by her full name (Mary Power), likely to prevent the character being confused with Laura's sister.
    • Averted briefly in Big Woods, where Laura runs into a cousin of hers at Grandma and Grandpa's sugaring off dance also named Laura Ingalls. Played straight because the two of them were probably named after Grandma Ingalls or else Aunt Docia, themselves both named Laura.note 
      • In the same book, both the Ingalls' cat and Laura's first (pre-Charlotte) rag doll are named Susan.
    • Mrs. Boast's real name is Ella, but Mr. Boast calls her Nell as a pet name in By the Shores of Silver Lake. However, the more-significant character Nellie Oleson happens not to appear in that particular book.
  • Only Child Syndrome: Inverted in The Rose Years; being an only child in a pioneer family is a tough lot, as it generally means a greater share of the work and more social isolation. Laura and Almanzo both admit that as much as the relationships with their siblings weren't always great, being an only child would be much worse.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Whenever Caroline puts her foot down. She is usually a model pre-womens' rights housewife who loves her husband enough to make the best of his choices, even if they're not exactly to her liking, but for this very reason, Charles knows to take her seriously when she won't.
    "You will not go after that wheat."
    • When Laura wants to curl up by the fire instead of playing outside in the snow, her husband immediately runs to get her mother, her mother's friend, and the doctor. It turns out she's about to go into labor.
    • Charles is optimistic almost to a fault, so when even he can't see the bright side in a situation — whether it's the loss of the wheat crop all his hopes and dreams were pinned on or signs of a frighteningly hard winter on the horizon — it's a sign of just how bad things have gotten. Likewise, when Ma insists that Pa has not only not been caught in a blizzard, but is surely sitting around the fire in town telling stories and cracking jokes, it's a very dark moment.
  • Orphan's Ordeal: It's understated, but Laura's friend Ida, who is adopted, makes a few comments to the effect that her adoptive parents don't really see her as a member of the family, but instead treat her as though she owes them a debt for adopting her, which she's expected to repay by doing nearly all the housework on a regular basis.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Laura obviously as she prefers working on the farm with her Pa to helping with housework.
  • Perspective Flip:
    • Nellie Oleson Meets Laura Ingalls tells the events of On The Banks of Plum Creek from Nellie's point-of-view.
    • Probably not intentional, but Little House on Rocky Ridge (the first book in The Rose Years) functions as a perspective flip of On the Way Home (Laura's diary of their trip from De Smet to Mansfield).
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Eliza Jane is usually not portrayed in the best light, but she does have one good moment: after Almanzo ruins the wallpaper in their mother's parlor—by throwing a blacking brush at Eliza Jane, no less—EJ finds the leftover paper in the attic and patches it up before Mother and Father find out.
    • Reverend Brown. The Ingallses find him abrasive, and the hellfire tone of his sermons off-putting (it also doesn't help that he took a post they had hoped would go to their beloved reverend from Minnesota). But he's very against the use of the vow of a woman to 'obey' her husband in a marriage ceremony, to the point that he's argued about it with people offscreen.
  • Pintsized Powerhouse:
    • Laura. Her small stature even as a child earns her the name "Half-Pint," but as a five-year-old, she's strong enough to drag a rocking chair containing both her sisters away from a fire, and she and Mary manage to bring an entire woodpile into the house during a blizzard. As a teen, she rips the bolts out of a bench that had been secured to the floor of her schoolhouse. On several occasions, Pa says she's "strong as a little French horse." She also has little trouble helping Pa with the harder parts of bringing in the harvest. Her strength also surprises Almanzo when he starts teaching her to drive his buggy.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up:
    • The events of Little House On The Prairie actually took place when Laura was about four years old; in fact, much of what's depicted in Little House in the Big Woods actually took place after the Ingallses returned from Indian Territory. The characters were aged up in Little House On The Prairie to set it up as a sequel to Little House in the Big Woods.
    • Some elements of Little House in the Big Woods count as this as well, since the story also includes some events that took place before the family left for Indian Territory, when Laura was only three. Her age progression was partly to set up Little House in the Big Woods as a more unified story and partly because the publisher didn't think anyone would believe that Laura's memories at age three would be so vivid and accurate.
  • Plucky Girl: Most of the female characters; the 1880's frontier life tended to require it.
  • Prospector: One of Laura's uncles shows up one day with a Shoot the Shaggy Dog Story about going looking for gold in the Black Hills.
  • Pungeon Master: Pa, slightly. Ma is anti-pun, but is mentioned a few times to be laughing at one of his in spite of herself. He also brings the house down at one of the "Literary Society" meetings in town when, for a charade, he just balances two potatoes on the blade of his axe: "Commentators on the Acts."
  • Quitting to Get Married:
    • Laura quits her teaching job when she and Almanzo decide to get married. She also quits her own continuing education: when she tells Mr. Owen she's engaged and won't be coming back to school after her upcoming term as a teacher, he apologizes for not graduating her already— he was waiting to graduate her and her classmates all together the next term, and some of them weren't ready. Further reading about the author's actual life will show that, while she wasn't allowed to teach after marriage, she still did a variety of other jobs to supplement her husband's farm work during lean times, including dressmaking, writing, bookkeeping, boarding, and dispensing loans. It's specifically noted in On the Way Home and Little House on Rocky Ridge that the hundred dollar bill the Wilders have as a down payment for their new land was earned by Laura, working outside the home as a seamstress. Laura's mother, Caroline, was also a schoolteacher before she got married.
    • In the Rose books, one of Rose's teachers quits to get married. In a sign of the changing times, her replacement is such a disaster that she's allowed to come back to teaching.
  • Radish Cure: In Little Town on the Prairie, Miss Wilder attempts to employ this trope by commanding Carrie Ingalls and her seatmate to put their books away and rock their desk as punishment for rocking it while studying. It's mostly an effort to get at Laura by picking on her little sister, and it backfires dramatically (and awesomely) when Miss Wilder demands that sickly little Carrie, abandoned by her seatmate, continue to rock the desk by herself—Laura declares that she'll rock the desk if Miss Wilder wants it rocked, and she proceeds to do just that, ripping the bolts right out of the floor and making so much of a racket that nobody in the entire schoolroom can hear the lesson.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Ma and Pa are surprisingly progressive when it comes to their treatment of the girls. For example, when Laura very nearly drowns after playing on a footbridge while the creek's at full flood, Ma admits that there's nothing she can do to further punish her, considering Laura's quite aware of how close she came to death. Likewise, when Laura admits to visiting the swimming hole after Pa forbids her to go there alone, her parents know her well enough to realize that for the active, outdoorsy Laura, being stuck indoors under supervision all day is a much more memorable, effective punishment than a spanking.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Laura and Rose.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Three sets in the Ingalls family:
    • Laura is spunky and adventurous while Mary is quiet and well-mannered.
    • Pa is playful and boisterous, while Ma's more reserved.
    • Grace is assertive and blunt to the point of occasionally forgetting her manners, while Carrie is the painfully shy, nervous, sickly girl.
  • Regal Ringlets: "Nasty" Nellie Olson's hair, as shown in the famous Williams illustrations, is a classic example of this style.
  • Relative Error: Almanzo mistakes Laura's visiting uncle for a would-be suitor. Laura explains it's her mother's younger brother and is genuinely confused as to why Almanzo would even care.
  • The Rustler: Big Jerry, Pa's "half-breed" friend at Silver Lake, is rumored to be a horse thief, and one night the railroad workers lie in wait for him around the stable hoping to shoot him.
  • Sadist Teacher: Eliza Jane picks on sickly little sister Carrie to make Laura mad, because she's under the impression Laura is throwing her weight around due to Pa being on the school board. Then the realistic happens in that the rest of the class can see the unfairness, and the subsequent rebellion that the boys undertake leads to Miss Wilder leaving her position and never returning. Possibly a Take That!, since the real Laura and Eliza Jane didn't get along very well at all; see also EJ being portrayed as a bossy little brat in Farmer Boy.
  • Scenery Porn: Loving descriptions of the prairie scenery are a staple of the series.
  • She's All Grown Up: Laura in Little Town on the Prairie is dissatisfied with her looks and clothes, but she attracts Almanzo's attention when she's fifteen. In These Happy Golden Years, after Almanzo takes her out for weekly horse rides, in one week at least three men start courting her as well.
  • Shipper on Deck: Laura for Mary Power and Cap Garland. Mary Power for Laura and Almanzo. Pa Ingalls seems to encourage Laura and Almanzo's courtship as well.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Tomboyish, imaginative Laura and demure, logical Mary.
    • Carrie (shy and quiet) and Grace (loud and confident).
    • Caroline (academic, quiet, neat, and bookish) and her sister Martha (practical, boisterous, messy, and sophisticated).
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Averted. All of the books, especially Farmer Boy, make it clear just how much time and labor went into basic things like planting potatoes or cooking a meal in the pre-industrial days. Almanzo spends whole days plowing the fields, sunup to sundown, and he's maybe 10 years old!
    • Exemplified in a speech where young Almanzo asks his father for a nickel, and Father Wilder instead gives him a half-dollar, while reminding Almanzo that what really goes into a half-dollar is the year's worth of labor required to grow, harvest, and sell a half-bushel of potatoes.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Most of the Little House girls, which is accurate for their time periods and Almanzo and Charles are portrayed as good, hard-working men.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Brown of De Smet, whose thundering, fear-based style is contrasted with Reverend Alden, the kind and quiet minister from Walnut Grove. He holds a week of revival meetings at one point, and when the Ingallses go to one, they find it off-putting at best and leave before it's over.
    For one horrible instant Laura imagined that Reverend Brown was the Devil. His eyes had fires in them.
  • Stepford Smiler: Rose in "Little Town in the Ozarks" notes her Mother to behave cheerfully at the drop of a hat when visitors drop in, despite the fact she hates living in town.
  • Sunday Is Boring: Little House in the Big Woods has poor Laura bored out of her skull on Sundays as a kid.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Pa in Little House on the Prairie illegally settled in Native American territory. He's convinced that as long as they don't argue with the locals, all should be good. That's not what happens; the government in a moment of goodwill forces the settlers off the land to honor the treaties.
    • Eliza Jane Wilder's last class ends in bedlam when the school board walks in, and she tries to defend herself by throwing Laura under the horse carriage, as it were, scapegoating her for the chaos. It doesn't work; the board fires her or she resigns from the disgrace of all the boys rebelling because they made the choice to undermine Ms Wilder's authority. If you can't manage your students, as Laura notes in the next book, then you're not fit to be a teacher. Even though Ma and Pa tell Laura she needs to respect her teacher, they get her side of the story and admit that it wasn't her fault because Nellie decided to cause trouble.
    • Almanzo as a wedding present to Laura buys her a new house with many fancy fixings and supplies for cooking. She appreciates it. Come the next book, they're in heavy debt from all of the purchases. Laura lampshades it as she's calculating their losses. (This also helps to explain why she gets so upset in The Rose Years at Almanzo buying her a new stove.)
  • Taking the Heat: The boys decide that if Miss Wilder is going to scapegoat Laura and Carrie, then perhaps she ought to deal with real troublemakers rather than go after two innocent students. So they start disrupting class on purpose to shift the blame from the girls and throw the young teacher off her game. Laura and Carrie can't show their appreciation, since maintaining decorum in school are Serious Business, but the school board gets the memo and Miss Wilder leaves after they make a surprise visit. Later, Laura admits she feels sorry for the woman when teaching and understanding what she was going through (although she, unlike Miss Wilder, ultimately finds ways to earn her students' respect).
  • Tempting Fate: Laura is amused when Ma reminds her that getting married in a black dress is bad luck. She reassures Ma that she'll follow all the other traditions with Old, New, Borrowed and Blue so as to negate the potential disasters. The next book has the newly-married Wilders end up in debt due to hailstorms destroying their crops, Laura losing her second baby (she never has any other children after that either, leaving Rose as an only child), and their second cabin burns down due to an accident with the hay sticks they were using for fuel. Coincidentally, this is where the main series ends unless you read Laura's diary in On the Way Home. Maybe Ma was Properly Paranoid, and Laura ought to have worn her sprigged lawn dress for the wedding instead.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Mary and Laura have this dynamic when it comes to school. They're both incredibly smart girls, but Mary is more Literal-Minded, she's very serious, unsentimental, and unromantic, especially after she goes blind. Laura is friendlier and more imaginative. When she's seeing out loud for Mary, her descriptions are very poetic and evocative, but Mary often corrects her "queer notions," because what she's describing is impossible. Mary doesn't like metaphors, either, and Laura has to stop herself from using them.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine:
    • True to the cliché, tomboy Laura hates sewing and ladylike Mary has no problem with it. Averted when Laura realizes with surprise that feminine, Proper Lady Ma hates it too and just never complains.
  • Theme Naming: Among the authors of the books. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maria D. Wilkes, Celia Wilkins, Melissa Wiley, and... Roger Lea MacBride? If you're looking for these books in a library, Rose's will probably be shelved a little ways off from the others. The Theme Naming was deliberately Invoked by the publishers — when the Rose years gave bookstores and libraries fits over where to shelve them (as a sequel series, should they go by Laura's books? or should they go under "M"?), they specifically requested that the author of the Martha and Charlotte years take a penname beginning with 'Wil-'.
  • This Means War!: The boys in Laura's class when Eliza Jane sends Laura and Carrie home after the chair-rocking incident; they see the unfairness in the situation. Their subsequent campaign leads to the school board visiting the class, and Ms. Wilder leaving abruptly.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Eliza Jane Wilder, when you compare her character in Farmer Boy to Little Town on the Prairie. She goes from being a Jerk with a Heart of Gold big sister to a Sadist Teacher, in part due to Nellie telling her that Laura was being arrogant and also in part to being new at teaching.
  • Thumbtack on the Chair: Invoked in Little Town on the Prairie as part of the campaign of misbehavior Laura's classmates stage in rebellion against Miss Wilder. One of the schoolboys plays the victim of a version of the prank involving a bent pin, leaping up out of his seat with a yelp; when Miss Wilder goes to hit his palm with her ruler as punishment for making a scene in class, she finds that her ruler is missing, and sends him to stand in the corner instead (where he stands humorously rubbing his backside).
    • This later exchange:
      Pa Ingalls: I heard you were punished for sitting on a bent pin.
      Charlie: Oh no, sir, I was not punished for sitting down on it, sir, but for getting up off it.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl:
    • Laura and Mary respectively, when they're little. Mary enjoys sewing and knitting, whereas Laura would much rather be outside, either playing or helping Pa. When neighbors come to visit in Little House in the Big Woods, Mary and the neighbor girl play nicely in the house, while Laura and the boy go climb trees. Laura becomes less of a tomboy as she grows up, but she never does learn to like sewing - although she took a lot of seamstressing jobs to help her family financially. In The Rose Years, whistling is mentioned as something Laura enjoys, though it's not considered very lady-like.
    • In the prequels, Caroline and her sister Martha. One is neat, bookish, quiet, and is concerned with keeping her clothes pretty and not worn out looking; the other is boisterous, outdoorsy, and impulsive. That said, Martha pines after her future husband and settles as a housewife while Caroline goes to school and teaches before settling down with Charles Ingalls.
  • Tomboy: Laura, as mentioned above.
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: During a cold snap in Farmer Boy, Almanzo muses that some kids are foolish enough to take the dare to lick a pump handle, but he knows better.
  • Tropey, Come Home: In Little House on the Prairie, Jack gets separated from the family when they cross a river that's stronger than Pa realized, and they think he's dead. He catches up with them that night.
  • True Companions: Laura comes to befriend Mary Powers, Minnie, and Ida Brown while attending school with them. They start sledding together in the winter and exchanging notecards. The boys in class also see Laura as this, taking offense on her behalf when Miss Wilder tries to scapegoat her and Carrie; though Laura is embarrassed they would cause trouble on her behalf, they succeed in exposing the young teacher as a bully.
  • Tsundere: Laura puts up a sharp front because she doesn't dare show much affection for Almanzo. This changes after he proves himself by saving the town... and she proves herself extremely handy at outmanoeuvring her rival Nellie.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Subverted: for the majority of the series, Laura is portrayed as the spunky, assertive, tomboyish Ingalls daughter. When she marries Almanzo in ''The First Four Years," she starts looking like the more conservative half of the pair, while Almanzo is restless and prone to risk-taking (particularly when it comes to his health and their bank account).
    • Implied to be the dynamic between itchy-footed playful Pa and prim, mannerly Ma as well.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story:
    • The original books broadly parallel the courses of the various Ingalls' lives, but enough details are changed and rearranged to have the series firmly classified as fiction.
    • The prequels vary in their closeness to historical evidence. The Caroline Years are based on accounts of Caroline's childhood written by her older sister Martha to Laura, so do include some real events.
    • The Charlotte Years have a rough framework of Charlotte and her sibling's ages, her early job as a seamstress, a little about her husband, and general information about her hometown of Roxbury.
    • With The Martha Years the only facts are Martha's birth and death date, that she was the daughter of a Scottish laird who emigrated to America, and married a blacksmith. Everything is fictional.
    • The Rose Years were written by Rose's close friend and heir, based on stories she told him of her childhood, although he embellished events at times in order to portray Rose as the central hero. For example, in Little House on Rocky Ridge, after the Wilders lose the hundred dollar bill they saved as a down payment for their land, Rose finds it stuck in between the drawers of Laura's writing desk. In the afterward of On the Way Home, written by the historical Rose Wilder Lane, she talks about a dark period where they lost it, but Laura simply wakes her up one day to tell her they found it stuck in the desk.
  • Western Union Man:
    • The telegraph is coming into town in the later books, and Laura goes to dinner at the operator's house. He demonstrates it for the guests, and they're fascinated. He also gets them all to hold hands in a circle and then gives them the first real electric shock of their lives.
    • Towards the end of "The Rose Years", Rose takes a job for the telegraph office.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Apparently all the Ingalls girls possessed remarkable blue eyes: Mary's eyes are constantly described as serene, while little sister Grace's eyes are said to be as blue as violets. In These Happy Golden Years, Almanzo admires Laura's deep blue eyes against her white hood, and in The First Four Years and On The Way Home, Laura's eyes are said to be so rich a blue that they're nearly purple.
  • Winter of Starvation: In The Long Winter, the Ingalls and their neighbors have to face a long winter, complete with deprivation. Eventually two of the young men make a long trip in snowy weather to get food for the town.
  • Yawn and Reach: When Laura notes that the back of the seat of the buggy they're riding in is lower than normal, Almanzo rests his arm along the top so he's "not exactly hugging" her. She responds by shaking the whip to scare his colts so they start running and he has to use both hands to control them.