There’s nothing weirder than discovering that among your favorite stories didn’t really happen that way. Because that the thousands of committed fans of the Little home on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (who to be born on February 7, 1867), that trouble is specifically acute. After ~ all, the books are based on real events—but events that are also largely fictitious. Wherein does background end and fiction begin? 

1. THE INGALLS household DIDN"T constantly HEAD WEST.

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From the moment the Ingalls family sets the end in their wagon and also leaves the tiny House in the huge Woods, the Little House books show one unceasing push West. Real life and Manifest Destiny don’t always line up, though, and also in reality the Ingalls family tracked earlier and forth numerous times before setting down in De Smet, south Dakota.

The Ingalls family’s first stop ~ Wisconsin was Independence, Kansas (with a possible stop in Missouri), where they constructed a “little house” top top the open prairie. But the soil was not theirs come settle: It to be owned by the Osage people and the Ingalls family, prefer thousands of various other settlers, were squatters waiting for the Osage come be propelled out so that the unified States might take it over. That not entirely clear why the Ingalls family members left, but instead of continuing west they went back to Wisconsin.

Next, they walk west again, this time settling near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Then, financial difficulties, illness, and also a afflict of locusts forced them to move on. They went to visit family somewhere else in Minnesota, yet while there, Laura’s 10-month-old brother, Freddie, passed away after a suddenly illness. Then they ongoing on come Burr Oak, Iowa, wherein they ran a hotel. The Ingallses then backtracked come Walnut Grove, wherein Mary lost her vision, then went west again and eventually settled in what is currently South Dakota.

Nonetheless, Laura and also her daughter increased Wilder Lane, who heavily edited and helped develop the an initial books, decided that the fictitious Ingallses should always move West. The result is a sense of wanderlust and also movement that gives the series its structure.


Aw, Jack! Laura’s happy little puppy pal! despite faithful Jack tracks the fictitious Laura through the books until she becomes an adolescent, Laura revealed in Pioneer Girl, the initial autobiography that created the basis for the books, that he was actually left behind in Kansas once Pa traded him for some horses and also ponies. When writing the book, Laura decided to have Jack dice peacefully in his sleep—perhaps in a means she could control, as opposed come the unsure fate of she real-life dog.

3. Mar INGALLS probably DIDN"T have actually SCARLET FEVER.
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Everyone to know the story of exactly how Mary Ingalls contract scarlet fever and lost her vision permanently. Except she probably didn’t. Dr. Beth Tarini, a professor and pediatric and also adolescent medication specialist, obsessed end Mary’s diagnosis from the moment she to be a child, then uncovered in med school that scarlet fever can’t remote someone.

But famous meningoencephalitis can—and Tarini thinks the Laura and her daughter, Rose, attributed the remote to scarlet fever either to make the story more accessible to youngsters or since the condition may have already been familiar from other novels favor Little Women. She even published an academic file about it . (In actual life, Laura composed Mary had "spinal meningitis," i beg your pardon she overcome out and replaced with "some type of spinal sickness. I am not certain if the Dr. Named it.” She likewise wrote that the remote was led to by a stroke, but Tarini reputed a stroke unlikely since there to be no other signs of one.)

Mary might not have actually gone blind from scarlet fever, however she did shed her sight. She ended up attending the Iowa College for the Blind, whereby she could take classes prefer civil government, botany, and also piano tuning. Mary was an adept student and put the commercial training she acquired there to good use: after ~ Pa died, she made paris nets to aid the household earn an ext money.

4. THE INGALLS household HAD GUESTS throughout THE lengthy WINTER.

Houses were small in the pioneer era, however that didn’t average that they were all specialized to single-family living. Throughout the “hard winter” that 1880-81, the Ingalls family took in a pair named Maggie and also George Masters. George to be the boy of a household friend and Maggie to be his brand-new wife, who had actually married that in an obvious shotgun wedding situation. “Maggie didn’t want the infant to it is in born at she folks’ and also disgrace them,” Laura composed in a letter to she daughter, Rose. “George’s folks were mad due to the fact that he married her.”

The Masters household were not the finest of houseguests. In she notes to Pioneer Girl, Ingalls scholar Pamela smith Hill describes that Maggie had her baby in the home without the help of a doctor, and also the newlyweds ran the end of money and also kept wearing out their welcome. “Times choose this test people,” created Laura, “and us were acquiring to understand George and Maggie.”

So why aren’t they in The long Winter, the award-winning publication that relates the story that a winter for this reason extreme, the blizzards lasted 6 months? Chalk it as much as authorial savvy: Laura feel it would dilute the strength of a family members stuck inside their house, forced to face the elements as a unit.

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If yes a rogue in the Little House books, the Nellie Oleson, the snooty brat who torments Laura once they"re girls and also tries come steal Almanzo native Laura once they"re young women. In reality, though, over there wasn’t a single Nellie Oleson. She is believed to have actually been a composite of 3 real-life world named Genevieve Masters, Nellie Owens, and Stella Gilbert. Laura had unpleasant run-ins with all three, interaction she apparently never ever forgot.


Laura gives her beau, Almanzo, a sweet nickname in the books: Manly. (She also referred come him as “the guy of the place” in genuine life.) that’s for good reason—his name was express Al-MAN-zo, no Al-mahn-zo.

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The not correct pronunciation apparently took organize through the confounding influence that was the Little residence on the Prairie TV show—a polarizing pop society phenomenon that also introduced inaccuracies and anachronisms like embraced children and also basketball right into the fictitious Ingalls family.