Friday, December 08, 2006
Laura Ingalls and Grains of Salt
I loved this show so much that my parents actually took me to Laura and Almanzo's real-life home down in the Ozarks. I loved being in the house where they lived, and being able to see some of the things they actually held in their hands so many years ago. It was like reaching across generations, and actually taking hold of a part of them. It was a surreal experience.
However, it was also on this journey that I learned some earth-shattering truths. You see, I am one of the large throng of people who has faithfully watched the "Little House" shows, but read only one or two of the books. I took for granted that most of what I saw in the show was true, and I never questioned it. Imagine my horror when these delusions slowly unravelled.
My disillusionment started when we first walked into the house. Almanzo built the house in such a way as to accomodate for his and Laura's small stature. On the show, Laura and Almanzo are both tall, strong, flourishing adults. In reality, Almanzo was not even five feet tall, and Laura was several inches shorter than that. I realize that it was not at all unusual for people of that time period to be considerably smaller than the average adult now. Somehow, though, I was still surprised to realize just how small Laura and Almanzo really were.
Still, I remained fascinated as we walked through the house, seeing furniture that Laura and Almanzo actually used, looking into the library Almanzo had built for Laura and filled with her books, seeing little figurines, clocks, etc...that had been collected by them over the years. I felt better as we walked through the house. I thought the worst of the earth-shattering revelations were over, and my family and I made our way over to the museum.
Again, we were met with artifacts from long ago. All different things that were owned not only by Laura, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, but also Ma and Pa, Mary, Carrie, Grace...Things not unlike other things from that era I had seen, but special because they were part of the lives of people that had been part of my life, despite the gap in time between us.
The two women who volunteered at the museum were happy to take us through, pointing out this and that about various items. Finally, we started asking the questions nearly every visitor must ask..."How accurate are the tv shows?". That's when it happened.
"You can't take those tv shows worth a grain of salt."
It started with a simple discussion about the floors in Ma and Pa's house.
"They never had wood floors. They had dirt floors. Those wood floors were something the writers of the show invented."
"Mary was never a teacher. She never married. She never had a baby. She lived with her family until she died."
I am sure there was more, but that was enough. My illusions had been shattered. "Little House in the Prairie" has never been the same for me since. I still watch the show, and I still enjoy it, although it is peppered with a bit of humor for me now as I see the historical inaccuracies and the plot inconsistincies in the show. (Example: Albert, the fictional child the Ingalls adopt late in the series, becomes addicted to morphine. At the end of the show, when Albert has made a full recovery, Laura's narration explains that Albert later moves to Walnut Grove and becomes the town's doctor. A few episodes later, Albert dies of a rare blood disease. Is his ghost the town's doctor? Did Doc Baker hear of Albert's plans, and decide to murder him? We'll never know.) It is still entertaining to me, but that's all it is...entertainment. I understand that the show was based on a need for ratings and commercial success, and less interested in remaining faithful to Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.
I wonder how often we do this with our faith. We follow a trend, reading the most popular books or following the most current brand of theology, taking for granted that these things are true. We trust them because they make us feel good, they do not present a challenge to us. They are easy to believe because they look so pure. Yet, I am reminded of Acts 17:11, which says, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." How many "Pauls" claim to have the truth...a truth that sounds so good, seems so pure...Is the truth we're being given worthy of the trust we've put in it, or is it like the popularized version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life..."not worth a grain of salt"?
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