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Little House in the Big Woods Recap: Sundays

Maggie Mae



I remember reading about Sundays in Farmer Boy! They sounded awful and boring. 

Regardless, Laura and Mary also find Sundays to be long, since they have to stay inside and be quiet. They get to take baths on Saturday night, which is nice for them. In the winter, Pa and Ma (the text says Pa, but let's just be historically accurate) melt snow for bath water. They have a screen made out of a  blanket hung over two chairs. Laura goes first, then Mary, then Pa has to empty and refill the bath tub for Ma, then Pa. I guess Carrie doesn't have to be clean on Sundays? Or maybe Carries gets bathed as needed. 

On Sundays, they sit quietly and listen to stories. 



Laura likes to look at the pictures in the Bible, and learns that Adam didn't have clothes to wear on Sundays. Laura wishes she had nothing to wear but skins. Eventually she acts up and instead of getting  a spanking, she gets a story from Pa. 

Grandpa's Sled and the Pig 

Pa's story is about Grandpa and how Sundays used to begin on Saturday night, and no one was allowed to work or play. Everything was solemn.  I did some independant research trying to figure out what religion Grandpa was but it's not really known. Maybe if I had an Ancestry.com account, i'd be able to figure out where and when they came to the states and figure it out from there. But it's just generic Christianity. Laura ends up at a Congregational Church, which is interesting to me for personal reasons. 

Old Timey Grandpa Christian rules include going to bed on Saturday night immediately after the after-dinner prayer, sitting up straight, walking to Church (Which also led me to just delete a long, judgmental story about my Conservative Jewish college teammate) and a prohibition on smiling. I thought prayer and Jesus was supposed to bring comfort and joy? NO SMILING! (Also no working, so no horses or cooking. Cold food only.) After dinner on Sundays, they sat in a row on a bench, studying their catechism until Sunday was over. 

Grandpa's house was on a hill, so they liked to sled. Grandpa and his brothers made a new sled. They had 2-3 hours on Saturday to play. But their father kept them longer on Saturday and they missed their chance due to chores. So during church, they thought about the sled. Then at dinner, they thought about the sled. Eventually, they hear their father snoring and they sneak out to try out the sled. Just once. Be back before he wakes up. (We've all heard this story!) The sled goes faster and faster and I just realized that there was no mention of a mother :(. The sled speeds out of control and they go right under a pig, which sits on James (one of the brothers). The three boys and the squealing pig sled past the house, where the father (this would be Charles' Grandfather) is watching them from the doorway. The pig runs off without goring anyone, the sled gets put away, and the boys go back to sitting and studying. After Sundown, the father takes them out to the woodshed and "tanned their jackets" which I am going to say is a euphemism for "beat them with a stick or some plumbing line." 

Laura asks if little girls had to be good like that, and Pa said it was harder for little girls, because they were never allowed to sled.  They could only stay in and stitch. 

Much like Laura (and Arya Stark), I'm very happy to not be restricted to that. Pa brings out his fiddle and plays. Laura falls asleep to the sound, then wakes up and Pa says it's her birthday and she needs a spanking. She gets six. (Soft, not hard) She's actually five, the last one was to "grow on." I wonder how long he does this. It's weird. 

Laura is given a stick person to keep Charlotte company. Ma has five cakes for her, one for each year. Mary made her a dress. (Jesus, Mary's like, what, 7? I still couldn't make someone a wearable dress.) Although when I was 7, I did teach myself how to read music and play piano on a little keyboard, which convinced my dad that I needed to go outside more. Pa doesn't buy or make Laura anything, he just plays a song for her. 

It's pop goes the weasel. They list out the lyrics and the girls are supposed to look for the weasel and they can't find it and I'm sure this would be fun to read to a kid. 


So thinking about putting this into a historical context, this was taking place sometime around 1870; under Grant's administration. After the Civil War. Wisconsin has been a state for maybe 30 years, there is a university in Madison. The economy is centered around logging and brewing. This little family is just homesteading. There are probably miners and trappers and other resource type people.  It seems so lonely to be so far away from town. I know when I was around Laura's age, I was well aware of various states and countries and the space program,  my neighbors, different churches, towns, candy stores. 


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I always felt sorry for Laura and Mary, having to just sit there quietly.  I don’t blame her for acting up.  At least they would get to go to church and Sunday school in Walnut Grove.(It was a Congregational church, and I believe Laura was a Methodist in her later years.)

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I felt a ton of sympathy for Laura too. I had a similar upbringing in my fundie family: Sundays were awful. No toys, no playing, only the Bible and religious books to read. We spent the afternoons listening to sermons on tape and answering catechism questions. 

Are you going to recap Little House on the Prairie as well? I'm reading it aloud to my kid, and the racism is so much worse that it's really difficult to work around and explain as we go along. 

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I remember the long, boring Sunday chapters in the Little House books. In one of the later books they attend a church with a preacher Pa doesn't care for and he tells the girls they only have to pay attention to the scripture reading and then they can daydream. With a preacher he likes they have to be able to remember the scriptures along with coming home and telling what the sermon was about. 

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