“Pick up the pretty pebbles, Laura,” Ma said. “and another time, don’t be so greedy.”
So Laura gathered up the pebbles, put them in the pocket, and carried the pocket in her lap. She did not mind very much when Pa laughed at her for being such a greedy little girl that she took more than she could carry away.
Nothing like that ever happened to Mary. Mary was a good little girl who always kept her dress clean and neat and minded her manners. Mary had lovely golden curls, and her candy heart had a poem on it. ~Little House in the Big Woods, p. 175
After a moment Mary said, “I think it is a good idea. It will help us to learn self-denial.”
“I don’t want to,” Laura said.
“Nobody does,” said Mary. “But it’s good for us.”
Sometimes Laura did not even want to be good…. ~The Long Winter, p. 175
We are watching the first season of Little House on the Prairie on DVD right now. Don’t get me started on how utterly different the charming books, and the over-dramatic series are; that will have to be another post. But we watched the episode “The Lord Is My Shepherd” last night, and I got to thinking about how the writers of the tv show did almost get one thing right: Laura’s constant self-incrimination. When she compares herself to Mary, she almost always comes up lacking in character. This particular show, in case you don’t know, is when Ma has a baby boy, and Laura gets jealous of her brother getting all Pa’s attention. When the baby gets sick, Laura refuses to pray for him. He later dies, and Laura thinks it is her fault, and proceeds to find a way to ‘trade’ herself back to God for her brother, thinking that Pa would rather have him. Late seventies drama at its finest- they haven’t succeeded if you aren’t shedding tears- but I digress.
The way I see it, Laura is rather normal as far as behavior goes, from what I have read of her in her books. It is Mary who I would wonder about, rarely acting up, “always doing what she was told” (from Little House in the Big Woods). And, in Laura’s defense, I would much rather read of her growing up years from her perspective, than Mary’s any day. Not that Mary wouldn’t have stories of her own that were just as interesting. I’m grateful for Laura just as she was.
There wasn’t anything in the books that gave me indication that the Ingalls were born-again Christians. If they were, maybe Laura would not have wrestled with this problem of ‘being bad’ so much. As it was, they served their religion as well as they could by trying to ‘be good’, when all that worthless effort could have been laid at Jesus’ feet, and a relationship taken up with Him that would enable them to live full abundant lives.