Little House on the Prairie begins as Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie—the Ingalls family—are heading from the "big woods" of Wisconsin to Indian Territory. They decide to leave because the woods of Wisconsin have become too crowded. Their trip to their new house in a covered wagon is adventurous, and they cross the Mississippi and a creek, accidentally leaving behind their dog, Jack. Later, Jack miraculously finds them as they camp in their wagon on the prairie.
When they find the place on the prairie where they will live—where there is ample game and fish—Pa, helped by Ma, builds their new house out of logs, and Ma sprains her ankle while doing so. They meet a neighbor named Mr. Edwards, who sings and dances with them to Pa's fiddle music. Pa constructs the roof of the house out of the canvas top of the wagon. He also constructs a stable for their horses, Pet and Patty, and then helps Mr. Edwards build his house. Pa sees a pack of 50 wolves on the prairie, and they later come near the house, where Laura sees them out on the prairie. Later, Laura helps Pa build a door for the house.
One day, two Indians arrive at the Ingalls's house while Pa is out hunting. Ma feeds them cornmeal, though she is afraid of them. The Ingalls are later able to acquire a cow from passing cowboys, and they visit an Indian camp that the Indians have temporarily left, stealing beads from the camp.
Later, the whole family feels sick, incredibly thirsty and unable to get out of bed. A neighbor nurses them back to health and tells them the sickness was from eating watermelon seeds. Pa heads to town in Independence and returns with glass panes for their windows. One day, an Indian enters the house, and Pa has a peaceful meal with him and enjoys a pipe with him afterward. Pa believes the Indians are peaceful if they are left alone, while Ma is afraid of them.
The family hears drums and cries from the Indian camp for days. An Indian tells Charles that the Indians have been arguing about how to handle the white settlers. The Osage, who believe in not attacking the settlers, prevail, and the family watches as the Indians leave the prairie.
All is peaceful until the Ingalls's neighbors hear that the government is going to send soldiers to make the settlers leave because they are on Indian land. In the end, the family leaves the prairie in their wagon.
As the second book of the series begins, Ma reluctantly agrees to leave the sheltering woods and house for the frontier. The family is to cross the Mississippi River in the cold, early spring, before the ice breaks. Despite her reservations, she nurtures her girls. “In firelight and candlelight she washed and combed them and dressed them warmly” for the trip. Family as the heart and source of security continues to anchor the story to come. After their wagon nearly capsizes crossing a stream, and their dog Jack is feared drowned, the isolation and vastness of the prairie emerges in stark contrast to the last safe morning at home. “Not even the faintest trace of wheels or tracks could be seen. That prairie looked as if no human eye had ever seen it before. Only the tall wild grass covered the endless empty land and a great empty sky arched over it.”
Chronologically, the prairie adventure covers a year, this time from spring to spring. However, the narrative relates far more strenuous activities, focusing on rudimentary survival. For the first five chapters, the Ingallses trek cross-country by wagon, camping. They live in a tent home while Pa builds their log house literally from the ground up. Before the house has a solid door or windows, a wolf pack surrounds the...
(The entire section is 960 words.)