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Little House in the Big Woods – the fictional story

A Little Gray House Made of Logs. Charles and Caroline Ingalls live in the Big Woods of Wisconsin with daughters Mary, Laura, and baby Carrie. The family gets ready for winter through hunting, harvesting, preserving and storing of provisions. Everything from butchering to bullet-making is seen through five-year-old Laura’s eyes.

Pioneering isn’t only about hard work. Laura and Mary play with their dolls in the spacious attic. Ma makes paper dolls for them, they bake cookies, and they use Ma’s thimble to make patterns in the frost on the window. The best time of all is at night, when Pa comes home from hunting or trapping and he plays games with the girls or settles them on his knees before the fire and tells them stories – stories about when he was a little boy or even when his own father was young. Then Pa plays the fiddle and sings.

Family Visitors. Even though the Ingalls family seems isolated, there are plenty of family members close enough to visit. Uncle Peter’s family comes for Christmas, and the Ingalls family shares harvest-time with Uncle Henry’s family. Best of all is the sugaring-off in Grandpa and Grandma’s big log house deep in the Big Woods, with music and dancing and plenty of good food.

A Visit to Town. In the spring, Laura sees the town of Pepin for the first time. She sees more houses than she can count, and a big store full of interesting things to look at, where Ma and Pa buy tea and sugar and other things they can’t grow or hunt for in the Big Woods. Laura and Mary collect pebbles along the shore of Lake Pepin, then the Ingalls family returns to the little log cabin, where the weather is again getting colder and it’s time to prepare for another cosy winter.



Publishing History. Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932. There are several surviving portions of drafts of this manuscript, owned by the Laura Ingalls Wilder / Rose Wilder Lane Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri. A copy of this manuscript is on microfilm at both the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, and at Western Historical Manuscripts at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

The text of Little House in the Big Woods was copyrighted April 6, 1932 by Laura Ingalls Wilder for an original term of 28 years. The copyright was renewed by Roger Lea Mac Bride in 1959 for another term of 28 years. The Copyright Act of 1976 extended the renewal term from 28 to 47 years. Mac Bride renewed the copyright again in 1987. Public Law 105-298, enacted on October 27, 1998, further extended the renewal term of copyrights still subsisting on that date by an additional 20 years, providing for a renewal term of 67 years and a total protection of 95 years. Currently, the text of Little House in the Big Woods is protected by copyright until the end of the year 2027.

The first illustrations for Little House in the Big Woods were by Helen Sewell for the 1932 publication. Illustrations for the uniform edition of the Little House books were by Garth Williams and published in 1954; his illustration copyright was renewed in 1981. Both are protected for 95 years, or the years 2027 (Sewell/Boyle) and 2049 (Williams).



Characters in Little House in the Big Woods.
* The Ingalls family: Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie.
* Animals with names: Jack (brindle bulldog), Black Susan (cat), Prince (Uncle Peter’s dog), Sukey (cow)
* Relatives: Uncle Henry’s family (Aunt Polly, Cousin Charley and unnamed cousins); Grandpa Ingalls’ brothers: James and George; Grandpa Ingalls’ family (Grandma, Aunts Ruby and Docia, Uncle George); Uncle Peter’s family (Aunt Eliza, Cousins Alice, Ella, Peter, and Dolly Varden); Uncle James Ingalls family (Aunt Libby and Cousin Laura); Aunt Lotty
* Friends: Mr. and Mrs Huleatt, Clarence and Eva; Mrs. Peterson
* Residents and businesses in town: Storekeeper
* Fantasy: Jack Frost, Old Grimes
Places Mentioned in Little House in the Big Woods.
* In Wisconsin: the town of Pepin
* In Minnesota: Lake City
Family Stories from Little House in the Big Woods.
* The Story of Grandpa and the Panther (Chapter2)
* The Story of Pa and the Voice in the Woods (Chapter 3)
* The Story of Grandpa’s Sled and the Pig (Chapter 5)
* The Story of Pa and the Bear in the Way (Chapter 6)



Music from Little House in the Big Woods.
Songs (and the chapter in which they appear) include:
Chapter 2, “Winter Days and Winter Nights” — Yankee Doodle
Chapter 4, “Christmas” — Money Musk, The Red Heifer, The Devil’s Dream, Arkansas Traveler, Darling Nellie Gray
Chapter 5, “Sundays” — Rock of Ages, Am I a Soldier of the Cross, Pop! Goes the Weasel, Uncle Ned
Chapter 6, “Two Big Bears” — Kitty Wells
Chapter 7, “The Sugar Snow” — Captain Jinks
Chapter 8, “Dance at Grandpa’s” — Buffalo Gals, Irish Washerwoman, Arkansas Traveler
Chapter 9, “Going to Town” — Home Sweet Home
Chapter 10, “Summertime” — Old Grimes
Chapter 13, “The Deer in the Wood” — Oh! Susanna, Auld Lang Syne


Little House in the Big Woods, the fictional story