Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Connecting Free Land and The Long Winter

A strange thing happened to me last night as I sat in the tub reading Free Land. I actually thought for several pages I was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter. While the names and some of the events were portrayed differently, there were many of the same details Laura had spoken of in her novel.

It was freaky to hear of David Beaton and his friends the Peters family--who he lived with during that hard winter--hauling hay from claim shanties, twisting the hay for fuel, hovering around the stove for warmth as the blizzards raged outside, constantly grinding seed wheat in the coffee mill, and even making a lamp made from a rag dipped in axle grease. All of these things happen in The Long Winter within the Ingalls' house.

Now, we writers know that ideas are a dime a dozen and that there are no patents on them, but in The Ghost in the Little House, Holtz claimed Laura may have had a problem with Rose using what Mama Bess saw as "her" material. So, I find it odd that Rose would use this part of family history and publish it in 1938, while Laura was working on her own books and The Long Winter was published in 1940.

I can't imagine that readers at the time didn't make some kind of connection between the two--maybe they did. Granted, the Hard Winter is only part of Free Land, whereas Laura's book is entirely focused on that one winter and the hardships the town endured.

One good thing about Rose using this material--I was able to get all the way up to page 171 in Free Land because I liked the story.

Look for more comments about Free Land as I read through to the end.

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