I’ve been reading Little House in the Big Woods to the kids before bed. Basil especially enjoys it…bears, guns, horses, fiddles, maple sugar candies. It’s totally up his alley. I haven’t read the series since I was a girl and it’s been interesting to note the change in perspective. Good stories are like that though. Was it C.S. Lewis who said something about a good book being one that can be enjoyed at ten and returned to at 40…or something to that effect? I think it was.

Anyway, I’m totally loving Ma right now. Now there’s a woman.  Remember her…Ma,  Mrs. Ingalls, Caroline??

What’s caught me is her life of loving service to her family. Rising early to tend the fire, start breakfast, then feeding everyone, wash, air the beds, mend clothes, work fields, etc. etc.

Always doing, always “on it” She knew her job and she not only DID it but she did it well. For the benefit of those around her and to the glory of God. Sure she had to do most of it so they could merely survive but she did it with some sweet prairie style.

This modern city girl needs to learn a thing or two from Ma.

Oh, and for the record…… can learn a HEAP from my Ma too :)


10 thoughts on “ma

  1. H West

    Funny, you should mention this right this moment. I’ve been contemplating how un-together I feel and I think a lot of it is due to my own laziness. I often think of women like ‘Ma’ and what a wuss I am comparatively. . .Thanks for the thought!

  2. Liz in Seattle

    The series is well worth reading…we’ve gone through it three times with our boys. The only things I don’t like about Ma is the “Indians are all wild savages” fear of hers, and the fact that I despair sometimes when I read about her character, and compare it to my own life in reality.

    FWIW, some of the characters and situations were idealized in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writings (like the amazing amount of food on young Almanzo’s table, which was a personal response to Laura’s life of relative poverty…see _The Little House Cookbook_). That having been said, there is much to be gained by reading this series; my copies are wearing out :-)

  3. aaron


    Great point! Yeah, it’s pretty well understood and should be understood, these are historical fiction and by no means some sort of detailed and accurate bio. Wilder’s real life story though is just as fascinating as the fiction she wrote.

  4. sara

    Liz, great point…..remembering that these are characters who are indeed idealized with the intentions of telling a good story and communicating life of the times. Virtuous characters, whether fiction or not are helpful in our own formation. I know you all know that and I’m just blabbering! :)

    Yeah the indians being savages thing definitely rubs me the wrong way too….maybe a good teaching point for older kids……might skip it with younger?? I don’t know….contrasting it with the Orthodox Saints and missionaries in Alaska and other parts of North America may be cool.

    ( Go to the life of St Herman of Alaksa…the “St. Herman and the Natives” section. pretty cool. Someone told me about and interesting book about the history of orthodoxy in North America which covered the topic more extensively….anyone know about it??

  5. jamesofthenorthwest

    Sara, it is definitely a great idea to teach some history from such works. Even in the stories of the Saints of Alaska we know that some (like St. Juvenaly) were martyred by the Native Americans who sometimes treated the missionaries (or white settlers in lower 48) in terms that are aptly described as savage. Which of course isn’t to say that they NA’s earned the stereotype….at least no more than white folk earn the stereotype of vicious, land-hungry, imperialistic thieves.

    Our kids will get plenty of falsehood (the other side of the false spectrum) from Hollywood and pop PC culture. Notions of the “noble” savage ala “Dances with Wolves” need just as much to be balanced as the notions of the savage savage as portrayed by “ma’s” fears. As a side I still cringe when “Lu tint tint” tries to convince us that inter-tribal Indian wars were more noble and justified that white man wars….yeah right. I’m not sure the Pawnee appreciated being the “bad” Indians in that deal. And does anyone really know what issues might have led two particular “stone-age” tribal cultures to start massacring one another?

    To be fair to Ma we should keep in mind that a woman living in a little house in the big woods had good reason to concern herself with the disposition of the natives. She no doubt heard that not a few pioneer homesteads were brutally attacked and the families savagely murdered. And while this was hyped and used as propaganda at the time…in some cases no hype was necessary.

    I think balance is found in realizing that while it SHOULD rub us the wrong way to hear the Indians stereotyped as savages, it should ALSO rub us the wrong way to hear the white men stereotyped as savages. In the clash of cultures that took place, one culture won. Blood was shed on both sides. Fears, both warranted and irrational were rampant.

    Remember, some view the work of Alaskan Orthodox Missionaries amongst the native tribes there as nothing short of cultural terrorism. Of course, we see things differently. Cultures sometimes are more brutal than others. A Muslim friend of mine once told me the story of how Islam stopped a pagan habit of burying alive unwanted daughters. Christianity has certainly had its fair share of cultural baptisms as well. And today when we look around we see cultures in which wives may be beaten (if but lightly in legal terms), slavery is tolerated, daughters may be murdered for family honor, etc etc. As you can see, I’m not a fan of cultural relativism.

    Anyway, I’m sorry to babble so much Sara….All of this to say, this is a great opportunity for older kids to wonder and explore: “Why did Ma feel this way about Indians?” And we also have the opportunity to avoid the simplicity of just writing her or the author off as a racists.

    For younger kids? Hmmm…not sure.

    Sara…go and listen to the Fr. Oleksa lectures I posted for a terrific history of Orthodoxy in North America – Alasks to be specific. Truly it is FANTASTIC!
    Also Fr. Oleksa book “Orthodox Alaska.”

  6. Liz in Seattle

    I agree, James. No person of any race, or any group thereof, has a lock on virtue or vice. “Dances with Wolves” may also have been a reaction to the times, or to the times earlier in the century (e.g. the governmental stealing of Indian children, and slapping them in a state-run boarding school to teach them to be part of the “white” culture).

    There’s also a chapter in _Little Town on the Prairie_ where Pa and a few other townsmen dress up in blackface, and act out the stereotypes of the day. The inclusion of this episode may speak to the fact that Laura spent most of her adult life in rural Missouri, in the first half of this century. For small kids, I usually skip this chapter and edit as I go.

    If I read the series out loud again, I may spend some time with Brendan (6th grade) discussing the passage, and the sensibilities of the varying times.


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