No, I’m not writing about Sylvie (OMG – that was scarring), the historical inaccuracies of the show or when Pa shot Bunny the horse. The list of horrifying moments in this beloved series is pretty long – Mary going blind, Baby Charles dies, Baby Wilder dies, the wagon accident with James and Cassandra’s biological parents, Mary’s baby dies along with Alice Garvey in a fire, it was not a show for the faint hearted.
But I faithfully watched every Monday evening, usually with a babysitter because it was bingo night for my Mom. I was also reading the books. It was very enchanting and intense and vivid to me.
This episode aired in January when I was 12 years old. It was a fictionalized account of Laura becoming a published author that was its usual lovely self. But the ending! As Laura did the morally correct thing, saved someone from becoming an alcoholic and walked off-screen, the scene shifted to modern-day California. A blond girl (Shawna Landon) was running into a library, deftly negotiating the tables and displays to find just the right book – Little House on the Prairie (the second book in the series.)
Woah. Little House jumped into the future. And there was Pa telling me about Laura writing books when she was in her 60’s and this little blond girl was in a library that could have been ours. And the books had those official plasticy library covers. And woah! Olden times to future times. My head was reeling. Even though I knew the books and the television show were different, I was caught up in the magic of television and believed it was really the late 19th century.
Years later, I learned that the scenes with Shawna and the library were actually filmed in 1978 for a much earlier episode that I only saw in reruns (given that I was 7.) So that explains the slightly surreal element – styles, music, etc changed radically from 1978 to 1983, at least for a 12-year-old.
But it was this episode – this later tale – that really made me think about what television did and how it compared to books. And I was also struck by what I perceived to be Michael Landon’s genuine fondness for the actual books to promote them on his television show.
And the final thing it did was inspire me to read about the real Laura. I was convinced that the girl in the clip was a descendant of Laura or Mary or someone, but nope. I did learn that Laura didn’t die until 1957, just 13 years before I was born. My parents lives overlapped Laura’s life! She drove a car! She lives through wars.
This fractured my childish view of entertainment, but opened a whole world of possibility – I continued to love the books (and watch the show), but I started to realize that books about people didn’t tell me everything. And to grasp what it meant to creatively interpret and adapt a book for other purposes. I realized that to me reading the book first was a better choice than watching the movie and tv show first.
I could not find the clip in English. In the original version, Pa does the voiceover.
What Little House memory made an indelible impression upon you?