Little House on the Prairie is the third book of the Little House Series. It was first published in 1935. The first book of the series, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932, and Farmer Boy was published in 1933.
In Little House in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family lived in the Big Woods region of Wisconsin. The date was 1817. Little House on the Prairie is about the family’s leaving their log house in Wisconsin and moving westward toward Kansas. “Pa said there were too many people in the Big Woods now.” page 1.
Descriptive Writing In Little House on the Prairie:
Leaving the Little House in the Big Woods
“There was thin snow on the ground. The air was still and cold and dark. The bare trees stood up against the frosty stars.” pages 3 – 4 …
“So they all went away from the little log house. The shutters were over the windows, so the little house could not see them go. It stayed there inside the log fence, behind the two big oak trees that in the summertime had made green roofs for Mary and Laura to play under. And that was the last of the little house.” pages 5 – 6
“Kansas was an endless flat land covered with tall grass blowing in the wind. Day after day they traveled in Kansas, and saw nothing but the rippling grass and enormous sky. In a
perfect circle the sky curved down the level land, and the wagon was in the circle’s exact
All day long Pet and Patty went forward, trotting and walking and trotting again, but they couldn’t get out of the middle of that circle. When the sun went down, the circle was still around them and the edge of the sky was pink. Then slowly the land became black. The wind made a lonely sound in the grass. The camp fire was small and lost in so much space.
But large stars hung from the sky, glittering so near that Laura felt she could almost touch them.”
Crossing the River – pages 17 – 19
“The wagon went forward softly in mud. Water began to splash against the wheels. The splashing grew louder. The wagon shook as the noisy water struck at it. Then all at once the wagon lifted and balanced and swayed. It was a lovely feeling.” …
“She felt cold and sick. Her eyes were shut tight, but she could still see the terrible water and Pa’s brown beard drowning in it.
For a long, long time the wagon swayed and swung, and Mary cried without making a sound, and Laura’s stomach felt sicker and sicker. Then the front wheels struck and grated, and Pa shouted. The whole wagon jerked and jolted and tipped backward, but the wheels were turning on the ground. Laura was up again, holding to the seat; she saw Pet’s and Patty’s scrambling wet backs climbing a steep bank, and Pa running beside them, shouting, “Hi, Patty! Hi, Pet! Get up! Get up! Whoopsy-daisy! Good girls!”
At the top of the bank they stood still, panting and dripping. And the wagon stood still, safely out of that creek.” p. 19
Supper in the Prairie – pages 25 -26
“Then Pa brought water from the creek, while Mary and Laura helped Ma get supper. Ma measured coffee beans into the coffee-mill and Mary ground them. Laura filled the coffee-pot with the water Pa brought, and Ma set the pot in the coals. She set the iron bake-oven in the coals, too.
“While it heated, she mixed cornmeal and salt with water and patted it into little cakes. She greased the bake-oven with a pork-rind, laid the cornmeal cakes in it, and put on its iron cover. Then Pa raked more coals over the cover, while Ma sliced fat salt pork. She fried the slices in the iron spider. The spider had short legs to stand on in the coals, and that was why it was called a spider. If it had had no legs, it would have been only a frying pan.
“The coffee boiled, the cakes baked, the meat fried, and they all smelled so good that Laura
grew hungrier and hungrier.
“Pa set the wagon-seat near the fire. He and Ma sat on it. Mary and Laura sat on the
wagon tongue. Each of them had a tin plate, and a steel knife and a steel fork with white bone handles. Ma had a tin cup and Pa had a tin cup, and Baby Carrie had a little one of her
own, but Mary and Laura had to share their tin cup. They drank water. They could not drink coffee until they grew up.
“While they were eating supper the purple shadows closed around the camp fire. The vast prairie was dark and still. Only the wind moved stealthily through the grass, and the large, low stars hung glittering from the great sky. The camp fire was cozy in the big, chill darkness. The slices of pork were crisp 25
and fat, the corncakes were good. In the dark beyond the wagon, Pet and Patty were eating, too. They bit off bites of grass with sharply crunching sounds.
“We’ll camp here a day or two,” said Pa. …
“He lighted his pipe with a hot coal, and stretched out his legs comfortably. The warm, brown smell of tobacco smoke mixed with the warmth of the fire. Mary yawned, and slid off the wagon tongue to sit on the grass. Laura yawned, too. Ma quickly washed the tin plates, the tin cups, the knives and forks. She washed the bake-oven and the spider, and rinsed the dish-cloth.
“For an instant she was still, listening to the long, wailing howl from the dark prairie. They all knew what it was. But that sound always ran cold up Laura’s backbone and crinkled over the back of her head.”
“They washed their hands and faces in the tin washbasin on the wagon-step. Ma combed every snarl out of their hair, while Pa brought fresh water from the creek. Then they sat on the clean grass and ate pancakes and bacon and molasses from the tin plates in their laps.
“All around them shadows were moving over the waving grasses, while the sun rose. Meadow larks were springing straight up from the billows of grass into the high, clear sky, singing as they went. Small pearly clouds drifted in the intense blueness overhead. In all the weed-tops tiny birds were swinging and singing in tiny voices. …
“There was only the enormous, empty prairie, with grasses blowing in waves of light and shadow across it, and the great blue sky above it, and birds flying up from it and singing with joy because the sun was rising. And on the whole enormous prairie there was no sign that any other human being had ever been there.
“In all that space of land and sky stood the lonely, small, covered wagon.”
“Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. Grasshoppers’ rasping quivered up from an the immense prairie. A buzzing came faintly from all the trees in the creek bottoms. But all these sounds made a great, warm, happy silence. Laura had never seen a place she liked so much as this place. …
“That was a wonderful supper. They sat by the camp fire and ate the tender, savory,
flavory meat till they could eat no more. When at last Laura set down her plate, she
sighed with contentment. She didn’t want anything more in the world.
“The last color was fading from the enormous sky and all the level land was shadowy. The warmth of the fire was pleasant because the night wind was cool. Phoebe-birds called sadly from the woods down by the creek. For a little while a mockingbird sang, then the stars came out and the birds were still.
“Softly Pa’s fiddle sang in the starlight. Sometimes he sang a little and sometimes the fiddle sang alone. Sweet and thin and far away, the fiddle went on singing: “None knew thee but to love thee, Thou dear one of my heart ….was
“The large, bright stars hung down from the sky. ower and lower they came, quivering with music. Laura gasped, and Ma came quickly. “What is it, Laura?” she asked, and Laura
whispered, “The stars were singing. …
“But the fiddle was still singing in the starlight. The night was full of music, and Laura was sure that part of it came from the great, bright stars swinging so low above the prairie.
Early next morning Mr. Edwards came. He was lean and tall and brown. He bowed to Ma
and called her “Ma’am,” politely. But he told Laura that he was a wildcat from Tennessee. He wore tall boots and a ragged jumper, and a coonskin cap, and he could spit tobacco juice farther than Laura had ever imagined that anyone could spit tobacco juice. He could hit anything he spit at, too. …
Mr. Edwards said he would go home now, but Pa and Ma said he must stay to supper. Ma had cooked an especially good supper because they had company. There was stewed jack rabbit with 51 white-flour dumplings and plenty of gravy. Therewas a steaming-hot, thick cornbread flavored with bacon fat. There was molasses to eat on the cornbread, but because this was a company supper they did not sweeten their coffee with molasses. Ma
brought out the little paper sack of pale-brown store sugar.
Mr. Edwards said he surely did appreciate that supper.
Then Pa brought out his fiddle. …
Mr. Edwards rose up on one elbow, then he sat up, then he jumped up and he danced. He
danced like a jumping-jack in the moonlight, while Pa’s fiddle kept on rollicking and his foot kept tapping the ground, and Laura’s hands and Mary’s hands were clapping together and their feet were patting, too. ..
Even the firelight danced, and all around its edge the shadows were dancing. Only the new house stood still and quiet in the dark, till the big moon rose and shone on its gray walls and the yellow chips around it.
Pa went on playing, and everything began to dance. Mr. Edwards rose up on one elbow, then he sat up, then he jumped up and he danced. He danced like a jumping-jack in the moonlight, while Pa’s fiddle kept on rollicking and his foot kept tapping the ground, and Laura’s hands and Mary’s hands were clapping together and their feet were patting, too.
“You’re the fiddlin’est fool that ever I see!”
Mr. Edwards shouted admiringly to Pa. He didn’t stop dancing, Pa didn’t stop playing. He played “Money Musk” and “Arkansas Traveler,” “Irish 53
Washerwoman” and the “Devil’s Hornpipe.” Baby Carrie couldn’t sleep in all that music. She sat up in Ma’s lap, looking at Mr. Edwards with round eyes, and clapping her little hands and laughing.
Even the firelight danced, and all around its edge the shadows were dancing. Only the new house stood still and quiet in the dark, till the big moon rose and shone on its gray walls and the yellow chips around it. …
When Pa’s fiddle stopped, they could not hear Mr. Edwards any more. Only the wind rustled in the prairie grasses. The big, yellow moon was sailing high overhead. The sky was so full of light that not one star twinkled in it, and all the prairie was a shadowy mellowness.
Then from the woods by the creek a 55
nightingale began to sing. Everything was silent, listening to the nightingale’s song. The bird sang on and on. The cool wind moved over the prairie and the song was round and clear above the grasses’ whispering. The sky was like a bowl of light overturned on the flat black land.
The song ended. No one moved or spoke. Laura and Mary were quiet, Pa and Ma sat
motionless. Only the wind stirred and the grasses sighed. Then Pa lifted the fiddle to his shoulder and softly touched the bow to the strings. A few
notes fell like clear drops of water into the stillness. A pause, and Pa began to play the
nightingale’s song. The nightingale answered him. The nightingale began to sing again. It was singing with Pa’s fiddle.
When the strings were silent, the nightingale went on singing. When it paused, the fiddle called to it and it sang again. The bird and the fiddle were talking to each other in the cool night under the moon.
” It was a pleasant house. A soft light came through the canvas roof, wind and sunshine came through the
window holes, and every crack in the four walls glowed a little because the sun was overhead.”
“Mary and Laura lay in their little bed on the ground inside the new house, and watched the sky through the window hole to the east. The edge of the big, bright moon glittered at the bottom of the window space, and Laura sat up. She looked at the great moon, sailing silently higher in the clear sky.
Its light made silvery lines in all the cracks on that side of the house. The light poured
through the window hole and made a square of soft radiance on the floor.” …
“…nd Laura heard Pa singing:
“Sail on, silver moon!
Shed your radiance o’er the sky–was
His voice was like a part of the night and the moonlight and the stillness of the prairie. He
came to the doorway, singing:
“By the pale, silver light of the moon–was”
“Terrible howls curled all around inside the house….
“There in the moonlight sat half a circle of wolves. They sat on their haunches and looked
at Laura in the window, and she looked at them. She had never seen such big wolves. The biggest one was taller than Laura. He was taller even than Mary. He sat in the middle, exactly opposite Laura. Everything about him was big– his pointed ears, and his pointed mouth with the tongue hanging out, and his strong shoulders and legs, and his two paws side by side, and his tail curled around the squatting haunch. His coat was shaggy
gray and his eyes were glittering green. …
“They were just in time to see the big wolf lift his nose till it pointed straight at the sky. His mouth opened, and a long howl rose toward the moon.
Then all around the house the circle of wolves pointed their noses toward the sky and answered him.Their howls shuddered through the house and filled the moonlight and quavered away across the vast silence of the prairie.”
Trip to Get the Materials for the Fireplace
“The rising sun was shortening all the shadows. Hundreds of meadow larks were rising from the prairie, singing higher and higher in the air. Their songs came down from the great, clear sky like a rain of music. And all over the land, where the grasses waved and murmured under the wind, thousands of little dickie-birds clung with their tiny claws to the blossoming weeds and sang their thousands of little songs. …
“They went down between the bare, reddish-yellow walls of earth, all ridged and wrinkled by forgotten rains. Then they went on, across the rolling land of the creek bottoms. Masses of trees covered some of the low, rounded hills, and some of them were grassy, open spaces. Deer were lying in the shadows of the trees, and deer were grazing in the sunshine on the green grass. They lifted their heads and pricked their ears, and stood chewing and watching the wagon with their soft, large eyes.
All along the road the wild larkspur was blossoming pink and blue and white, birds balanced on yellow plumes of goldenrod, and butterflies were fluttering. Starry daisies lighted the shadows under trees, squirrels chattered on branches overhead, 87
white-tailed rabbits hopped along the road, and snakes wriggled quickly across it when they heard the wagon coming.
Deep in the lowest valley the creek was running, in the shadow of dirt bluffs. When Laura looked up those bluffs, she couldn’t see the prairie grass at all. Trees grew up the bluffs where the earth had crumbled, and where the bare dirt was so steep that trees couldn’t grow on it bushes held on desperately with their roots. Half-naked roots were high above Laura’s head. …
“They watched long-legged water-bugs skate over the glassy-still pools. They ran along the bank to scare the frogs, and laughed when the
green-coated frogs with their white vests plopped into the water. They listened to the wood-pigeons call among the trees, and the brown thrush singing.
They saw the little minnows swimming all together in the shallow places where the creek ran sparkling. The minnows were thin gray shadows in the rippling water, only now and again one minnow flashed the sunshine from its silvery belly.
There was no wind along the creek. The air was still and drowsy-warm. It smelled of damp roots and mud, and it was full of the sound of rustling leaves and of the water running.
In the muddy places where deer’s tracks were thick and every hoofprint held water, swarms of mosquitoes rose up with a keen, sharp buzzing.
Laura and Mary slapped at mosquitoes on their faces and necks and hands and legs, and wished they could go wading….
” Up through the woods and hills they rode again, to the High Prairie where the winds were always blowing and the grasses seemed to sing and whisper and laugh. They had had a wonderful time in the creek bottoms. But Laura liked the High Prairie best. The prairie was so wide and
sweet and clean.”
Inside the House
“They sat at table, by the western window. Pa had quickly made the table of two slabs of oak. One end of the slabs stuck in a crack of the wall, and the other end rested on short, upright logs. Pa had smoothed the slabs with his ax, and the table was very nice when Ma spread a cloth over it.
The chairs were chunks of big logs. The floor was the earth that Ma had swept clean with her willow-bough broom. On the floor, in the corners, the beds were neat under their patchwork quilts. The rays of the setting sun came through the window and filled the house with golden light.
Outside, and far, far away to the pink edge of the sky, the wind went blowing and the wild grasses waved.
Inside, the house was pleasant.”