Adaptations: Little House on the Prairie

The Little House series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published between 1932 and 1943, told the story of Laura’s childhood in the American Midwest between 1870 and 1894. The series of nine books were mainly based on the idealised adventures of the Ingalls family, however Laura also wrote about the Wilder family and her later marriage to Almanzo.

The books have been adapted for television more than once and were also adapted into a musical stage show. Every now and then, rumours of a new series surface but none have materialised so far.

Little House on the Prairie (1974)

Little House On The Prairie (1974-1983) starring Melissa Gilbert as Laura, Michael Landon as Charles, Karen Grassle as Caroline, Lindsay/Sidney Greenbush as Carrie and Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary. NBC Universal Television

Little House on the Prairie first aired as a two-part pilot on 30 March 1974 and then as a network series from 11 September 1974. The series was loosely based on the books, using many of the familiar characters, but opting for more contemporary storylines to attract a modern audience.

The series begins with the Ingalls family arriving in Walnut Grove and building their house on the banks of Plum Creek. For the next eight seasons, the series would follow the various adventures of the Ingalls family and the other townspeople in Walnut Grove.

Michael Landon, who starred as Charles Ingalls, also served as executive producer, writer, and director of the series, and it was nominated for several Emmy and Golden Globe awards. The show is still widely repeated on television today and it is probably the most loved adaption of the novel.

At the end of Season 8, Landon decided to leave and the Ingalls family moved to Iowa. The show was rebranded as Little House: A New Beginning and it focused on the characters of Laura and Almanzo. The ratings began to plummet as a result of the Ingalls family’s departure and it was cancelled after one season. The storylines were then wrapped up in three movie specials: Little House: Look Back to Yesterday (1983), Little House: The Last Farewell (1984), and Little House: Bless All the Dear Children (1984).

Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2000-2002)

Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder (2000-2002). Starring Walton Goggins as Almanzo Wilder and Meredith Monroe as Laura Ingalls Wilder. CBS.

Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder was a two-part television film series made by CBS based on the later books in the Little House series, The Long Winter to The First Four Years. Laura and her family are living in DeSmet, South Dakota, where she meets Almanzo Wilder who she will eventually marry.

The films take a darker tone than the 1970s series as they follow Almanzo and Laura through the early years of their marriage and the hardships they endure with their farm. Laura and Almanzo are blessed with the birth of a daughter, Rose, but face tragedy with the loss of their unnamed son. Laura has to become a tower of strength when Almanzo is struck down with diphtheria leaving him partially paralysed and tough decisions have to be made about their future.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie (2005)

Little House on the Prairie (2005) with Erin Cottrell as Caroline Ingalls, Cameron Bancroft as Charles Ingalls, Danielle Chuchran as Mary Ingalls and Kyle Chavarria as Laura Ingalls. Touchstone Television.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie is a six-part mini-series directed by David L. Cunningham starring Erin Cottrell as Caroline Ingalls and Cameron Bancroft as Charles Ingalls. The series was broadcast on 26 March 2005 as part of The Wonderful World of Disney anthology series. 

The series attempts to portray a more realistic version of the early books and stays mostly faithful with a few changes. The most noticeable being the absence of Carrie Ingalls who presumably hasn’t been born yet. The series begins as the Ingalls family stake their claim on a piece of land on the Kansas prairie and Pa starts building the Little House in the Big Woods.

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