'Little House on the Prairie' movie: What's behind the series' lasting appeal?

A movie based on the 1970s TV adaptation of the bestselling books is reportedly being made. What keeps people returning to Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories?

Gus Ruelas/Reuters
The 'Little House on the Prairie' TV series stars Melissa Gilbert.

Will the Ingalls family soon be coming to the big screen?

A film version of the 1970s TV series, which itself was based on the bestselling series of children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, is reportedly in the works

Sean Durkin, who helmed the film “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” is set to direct the movie and “Suffragette” writer Abi Morgan is set to pen the script. 

Wilder published the first book in her series, “Little House in the Big Woods," in 1932. Several others followed, including “Prairie” and such titles as “Little Town on the Prairie.” 

The books told the story of Wilder’s childhood and her family’s moves to areas including Wisconsin, Kansas, and Minnesota. 

The TV show, which aired for nine seasons, proved popular and the TV program is reportedly the basis for the movie.

Interest in Wilder’s stories has apparently not waned. When the South Dakota State Historical Society Press published Wilder’s autobiography “Pioneer Girl” in 2014, the book quickly went through multiple printings. 

Publishing previous works like a biography about Wilder but not written by her “didn’t really prepare us for the kind of interest that [Wilder's] name on a book would bring,” Press director Nancy Tystad Koupal told Publishers Weekly at the time.

What is behind the continuing appeal of Wilder’s stories? Toledo Blade writer Karen MacPherson writes that Wilder herself, as represented in her stories, may be part of the draw. “The reason for this popularity is, first and foremost, the timeless appeal of Laura's spirited, push-the-envelope character (a true reflection of Wilder's personality),” she wrote of the book series. “Like many children, Laura is eternally curious and restless, traits that were frowned upon at the time, but which immediately engage young readers.”

Boston Globe writer Christine Woodside, in separating fact from fiction in Wilder’s life, writes of the appeal of the book series, “Pioneers could be cold, dirty, or hungry without whining. They faced down adversity. They made do with little…. The books inspired whole generations of women, and Americans of all political persuasions admire the tenaciousness of settlers like Ma and Pa Ingalls and their four daughters.”

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