Fans who have been binge-watching old episodes of the beloved NBC frontier drama Little House on the Prairie are freaking out on social media over two episodes that aired more than 40 years ago that are eerily similar to today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Little House on the Prairie ran from 1974 to 1983, and it was based on the popular series of children’s books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She told the story of her family’s struggles during the late 19th century.
The 1975 Little House On The Prairie episode Plague saw Charles Ingalls isolated from his family after a virus outbreak https://t.co/yzksHfrOUI
— Metro Entertainment (@Metro_Ents) April 30, 2020
Two episodes of the series, titled “Plague” and “Quarantine” focused on the typhus epidemic and a mysterious mountain fever, respectively, which were both common occurrences at the time. “Plague” features citizens of Walnut Grove suffering from burning fevers as typhus makes it way through the town. As the townspeople quarantine and the death rate rises, everyone is paralyzed by fear and confusion.
In “Quarantine” there is a mysterious mountain fever that forces Walnut Grove to lock down and everyone goes into quarantine. Fans who are watching the episodes can’t believe the similarities to today’s pandemic, and they are making their feelings known on social media.
“Thought I would take some time away from the news and constant coronavirus coverage,” tweeted one fan. “Turned on an old rerun of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and it is about a FLU EPIDEMIC — really?” Another added: “I’ve been preparing for the #Coronavirus since watching the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ episode ‘Quarantine’ as a kid.”
— Melissa Gilbert (@MEGBusfield) April 30, 2020
Melissa Gilbert, who played the role of Laura Ingalls Wilder, tells the New York Post that she has been thinking a lot about how Little House on the Prairie approached the topic of life in isolation during the episodes.
“I realized how prescient it was,” says the 55-year-old. “We can all learn something from what happens in that episode (Plague). Even on that tiny scale, so much of what they were doing is now applicable. The town mitigated the situation by getting everyone to quarantine at home, putting the sick in one place and trying to find the source.”
The tear-jerker episode “Plague” first aired on January 29, 1975, and it tells the story of how Laura’s dad, Charles Ingalls, the local pastor, Reverend Alden, and the town physician, Doctor Baker, try to contain the typhus outbreak.
The three men convert the local church into a temporary hospital and morgue for the people who are infected while they try to figure out where the disease came from. At the beginning of the episode, viewers are shown a cornmeal warehouse with rats running around sacks of flour, but Mr. Peterson – the owner of the warehouse – doesn’t notice.
Melissa Gilbert says that Little House on the Prairie is about “love and community,” and she says that the “Plague” episode centers on “self-sacrifice for the greater good.”
Little house on the prairie in on TG4 and guess what…they have a pandemic. Watch this. pic.twitter.com/pOPGc2goSv
— Sir Marc Blah Blah (@marcblah) April 26, 2020
“Just like now, the residents of Walnut Grove were all in it together,” Gilbert says. “They didn’t have the scientific advances we have or any kind of real treatment, but they bonded as a community to get through the crisis.”
At the end of “Plague,” Charles and Doc Baker discover the source of the typhus and burn down the warehouse. Gilbert says that she wishes we could find a warehouse full of rats and just light it on fire so the coronavirus would be over.
“It is incumbent on us to help,” says Gilbert. “Even if that is reading a book to someone who is shut in, running errands or even sending a letter to a person who is home and not expecting it. We have to find a way out of this together.”
All seasons of Little House on the Prairie are available on Amazon Prime.