The Long Winter reveals much about the hardships of pioneer life on the prairie. When De Smet finds themselves snowbound for many, many months and find themselves with an extreme shortage of food, something must be done to save the town from starvation. Almanzo, Laura’s future husband, and Cap Garland, risk their lives to buy wheat to save the town, and become heroes.
The Long Winter is the sixth installment in the beloved Little House on the Prairie series. First published in 1940, this historical fiction novel provides a compelling account of the hardships faced by the Ingalls family during the winter of 1880-1881. Set in Dakota Territory, The Long Winter tells the true story of the Ingalls’ struggle to survive one of the most severe winters in American history. The book serves as a testament to the resilience, determination, and courage of the pioneer spirit.
The novel begins with the Ingalls family moving to a new claim near the fledgling town of De Smet, in the Dakota Territory, following the events on the nearby railroad camp in By The Shores of Silver Lake. The story follows young Laura Ingalls, who is now 14 years old, as she, her parents, and her sisters prepare for the harsh winter ahead. The family is initially excited about the move, but as they settle into their new home, they quickly realize that they are ill-prepared for the severe weather to come. The onset of an unusually early blizzard sets the stage for a challenging season ahead.
As the winter progresses, the Ingalls family and their little town on the prairie is challenged by a repeated series of powerful blizzards, which keep them confined to their small house for days on end, as it was too dangerous to venture out. As supplies begin to dwindle, the family is forced to ration food, fuel, and other necessities. The Long Winter provides a vivid depiction of the family’s day-to-day struggles, as well as the sense of isolation and despair that pervaded the community. Laura takes on a more significant role in the family’s survival, as she and her father work together to twist hay into makeshift fuel, grind wheat using a coffee mill, and carry out other resourceful measures to keep the family alive.
Amidst the hardships and adversity, the novel also highlights the importance of family, community, and self-reliance. The Ingalls family bands together and supports each other through the difficult times, with each member playing their part to ensure the family’s survival. The tight-knit community of De Smet comes together to share resources and help those in need. These acts of kindness and cooperation illustrate the strength and compassion of the human spirit in times of crisis.
A particularly memorable scene in the book occurs when Laura’s future husband, Almanzo Wilder, and his good friend, Cap Garland, embark on a dangerous journey to find wheat for the starving townspeople. Despite the risk to their own lives, the brothers’ selflessness and courage demonstrate the values that defined the pioneer spirit and serve as an inspiration for future generations.
The Long Winter is a powerful and engrossing story that remains relevant to this day. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s vivid descriptions and engaging narrative style transport readers to a time when families faced the brutal realities of frontier life. The novel not only serves as an important historical record, but also as a timeless reminder of the strength of the human spirit, the importance of community, and the value of perseverance in the face of adversity.
- Wilder, Laura Ingalls (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 352 Pages - 04/08/2008 (Publication Date) - HarperCollins (Publisher)
For adults, there is a book The Beautiful Snow which recounts the Long Winter using Laura’s memoirs as well as historical accounts such as from newspapers published that winter to give a fuller picture of what life was like for those living in the areas that suffered through the same hard winter conditions of 1880-81.
- Cindy Wilson (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 376 Pages - 02/07/2020 (Publication Date) - Beaver's Pond Press (Publisher)
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