"Little House on the Prairie" on television

Many readers of Laura's books become somewhat confused at the differences between the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the stories of her "Little House" books. Although the books are based upon Laura's real life, she did make some changes for various reasons.

To further complicate the issue, the "Little House" books have formed the basis for a very popular television series, several movies, and a miniseries, all of which have taken liberties to varying degrees with the stories as Laura relates them in the books, and have therefore left fans with many different views of Laura's life, none of which are entirely accurate, and some of which are so inaccurate that the Laura's stories are almost unidentifiable.

In 1974, Michael Landon's television show, Little House on the Prairie, premiered, starring Landon himself as Pa, Karen Grassle as Ma, and Melissa Gilbert as Laura. The premiere movie follows the story of Laura's book, Little House on the Prairie relatively closely, with only minor changes scattered throughout the movie. The television series begins with a couple of stories pulled from On the Banks of Plum Creek, but from then on, the show is almost completely the creation of Michael Landon and bears very little resemblance to Laura's life or to her books.

For fans of the television show who are looking to find out what happened to various characters you came to know and love from the series, such as Albert Ingalls, James and Cassandra Cooper, Dr. Baker, the Garvey family, Adam Kendall, and Percival Dalton, these characters were entirely fictional and created for the television show only. Other beloved television characters such as Miss Beadle, Reverend Alden, Mr. Edwards, and the Oleson family do have counterparts in the "Little House" books. We highly recommend that if you have not read Laura's books, you do so if you wish to learn more about the roles of these characters in the books as opposed to their role in the tv show.

If you came to find out what happened to the actors and actresses of the show, you may wish to check out our Links page for other sites that are devoted to the tv show. Several of these actors have visited or participated in events at the real Little House homesites, including Karen Grassle (Ma), Alison Arngrim (Nellie), Dean Butler (Almanzo), and the Greenbush twins (Carrie). Melissa Gilbert (Laura) will be playing the role of Ma in an upcoming musical based on "Little House on the Prairie."

Cast from "Beyond the Prairie"
In the year 2000, CBS produced a movie entitled "Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder", with a sequel following in 2002. Unfortunately, the title is misleading, and while the movie depicted the events in Laura's later books and the family's stay in Dakota Territory, which the previous television series had left out entirely, the movie took many liberties with both Laura's life and the stories told in the books, as well.

In 2005, Disney launched a miniseries based once more on the book Little House on the Prairie. Events and characters from the book that were omitted from Landon's series were included, but once again, great artistic license was taken and "Little House purists" were disappointed.

Starring Kyle Chavarria as Laura

Because all of these adaptations for television were developed long after Laura's death in 1957, fans can only speculate as to what Laura's feelings on these shows would be. However, we do know that during Laura's lifetimes, plans were made to produce a movie based on The Long Winter. Laura was agreeable to the concept, but insisted that she would sign nothing until she had read the script. Because the movie contained many alterations from the book, Laura refused to sign the contract, stating that children would read her books and watch the movie, and not know which was right.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl

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Rebecca Brammer & Phil Greetham
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