The Long Winter is the sixth book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder from the Little House book series. It was published in 1940 and originally illustrated by Helen Sewell. In later editions, new drawings by Garth Williams were added. It is the fifth best-selling book from the Little House series.
The story begins in Dakota territory on a hot August day in 1880. Laura and her father ("Pa") are working hard to bring in enough hay to feed the livestock over the winter. When they come across a muskrat's house, Pa tells Laura that he knows the winter is going to be hard because muskrats always build a house with thick walls before a hard winter, and this year, they have built the thickest walls that he has ever seen. In mid-October, the Ingalls wake one morning to find an unusually early blizzard howling around their frail claim shanty. The October blizzard lasts three days. Soon afterward, Pa receives another warning from an unexpected source: while he is talking to some men at a store in town, a dignified old Native American man enters and predicts seven months of blizzards. Impressed, Pa decides to move the family into nearby De Smet for the winter.
Until the severe weather makes it impossible, Laura attends school with her younger sister, Carrie. One day, when a blizzard strikes unexpectedly during afternoon classes, the teacher and pupils – including Laura and Carrie – head home through the blinding storm, and barely make it back to town. Meanwhile, provisions are beginning to run low; after each blizzard, the townspeople anxiously anticipate the arrival of a train filled with food and supplies, only to be disappointed when yet another storm blocks the tracks. Eventually, the railroad company suspends all efforts to dig out the train, stranding the town. For months, the Ingalls subsist on potatoes and coarse brown bread, using a small coffee mill to grind wheat into flour; for fuel, they twist hay into sticks. With even this poor provender running out, Laura's future husband Almanzo Wilder and his friend Cap Garland risk their lives to bring wheat to the starving townspeople– enough to last the rest of the winter.
As predicted, the blizzards continue for seven months. Finally, the trains begin running again, bringing the Ingalls a Christmas barrel full of good things– including a turkey, still frozen. In the last chapter, they sit down to enjoy their Christmas dinner in May.
Little House Books
- Little House in the Big Woods (1932)
- Farmer Boy (1933)
- Little House on the Prairie (1935)
- On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937)
- By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939)
- The Long Winter (1940)
- Little Town on the Prairie (1941)
- These Happy Golden Years (1943)
- The First Four Years (1968)