Created by TV legend Michael Landon, who also starred as Charles Ingalls, Little House on the Prairie is one of the most beloved family shows of all time. Based on the “Little House” series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the TV series was notorious for emotionally charged episodes that often left viewers in tears.
Episodes were stuffed with hugs, kisses, triumphs, tragedies and life lessons that could reduce an otherwise restrained viewer to a blubbering mess. Here are 10 episodes of Little House On The Prairie that will make you cry.
10 THE RACCOON
Against his better judgment, Pa allows Laura to keep an orphaned raccoon which she names Jasper. The animal causes more trouble than he’s worth but ultimately becomes part of the family.
Jasper bites the Ingalls loyal dog Jack after feeling threatened and also bites Laura during the fracas. The animal runs away but appears to come back a few nights later, at which point Charles kills him after the raccoon attacks. Further investigation reveals the dead raccoon to be rabid which means both Laura and Jack could have rabies. A week later Charles reluctantly goes to the barn with his shotgun after hearing Jack barking wildly – a sign the disease has arrived. Charles discovers Jack was actually barking at Jasper who had returned, meaning the dead raccoon was an imposter. The family tearfully celebrates with hugs and laughter.
Laura is jealous of her newly adopted “brother” – an orphan named Albert. Pa seems to be spending all his time with the boy and Laura feels left out. After gifting Albert a bull calf he calls Fagin, Laura completely turns on him, wishing that he never came to live with the family.
Feeling guilty about causing trouble between Laura and her Pa, Albert runs away. Charles searches but is unable to track him down. Laura and Pa eventually bring Fagin to the county fair where he is entered in a competition and wins. While accepting the award Laura tells the crowd the prize really belongs to Albert, whom she finally refers to as her brother. Surprisingly, Albert had been watching the competition and finally reveals himself after hearing Laura’s acceptance speech. They embrace and everyone goes home together.
8 COUNTRY GIRLS
Laura is nervous about an essay she has to read in front of her class on parents night. Her mother encourages Laura to simply do her best, noting that no one expects her essay to be like Mary’s until she’s older.
After Laura reads a seemingly well-written essay about her wonderful mother it is revealed that the story was from memory and her essay contained only brief sentences about Ma. After discovering the truth Laura’s mother encourages her to show the real essay to her teacher, Ms. Beadle -who smiles thoughtfully upon seeing the actual writing and tells a beaming Laura to keep up the good work.
7CHRISTMAS AT PLUM CREEK
While everyone else is excited as Christmas approaches, Laura has the holiday blues because she has no money to buy her Ma a Christmas gift. She eventually works out a deal with the town’s kindly shopkeeper, Mr. Oleson.
On Christmas morning Caroline is shocked after opening a brand new stove from Laura who confesses to trading her beloved horse, Bunny to Mr. Oleson in exchange for the stove. It gets worse for Laura after she opens a gift from Pa – a saddle he made for the horse. While sad for their daughter, Charles and Caroline are extremely touched at the sacrifice Laura made.
6 I’LL BE WAVING AS YOU DRIVE AWAY
Often cited as the best episode in the series the season four finale deals with Mary’s blindness. With dreams of becoming a teacher and marrying her sweetheart, Mary’s eyesight begins to deteriorate. The Ingalls worse fears are confirmed when an eye doctor informs them Mary is going blind. In Little House’s most chilling moment Mary soon wakes up screaming for her Pa, terrified to be completely blind.
The Ingalls send Mary to a special school for the blind where she slowly comes to grips with her condition. She meets a caring teacher, Adam Kendall, who will later become her husband. Mary eventually returns home but only to say goodbye, since she is joining Adam in Winoka, South Dakota to teach at his blind school.
5 REMEMBER ME
It’s left up to Charles to find a home for three children after their mother passes away. In the meantime, the kids are cared for by Grace and Mr. Edwards. They are happy together until Charles informs everyone the children will be split up into separate families since no one in the area is willing to adopt all three.
On the day of the adoption, as the siblings are saying their goodbyes, Mr. Edwards finally speaks up. He tells everyone he is tired of being alone and has grown to love the three children. He then asks Grace to make it official and become his wife. They all head into the church as a family for the impromptu wedding.
4 JOURNEY IN THE SPRING
This episode features one gut-buster after another. Charles breaks down sobbing after learning of his mother’s death. Then after traveling hundreds of miles to visit his widowed father, he has to pull him out of a burning fire after the elder Ingalls attempts suicide. He’d rather be dead than live without his wife. Charles eventually convinces his Pa to come back to Walnut Grove with him.
Things are going smoothly until Charles is forced to shoot Laura’s horse after Bunny runs into a barbed-wire fence. Laura blames her grandfather for not stepping in. Feeling guilty, Grandpa Ingalls attempts to leave Walnut Grove. Eventually, Laura realizes Pa had to put Bunny out of her misery and she convinces her grandpa to stay a while longer.
3 MAY WE MAKE THEM PROUD
Perhaps the most shocking episode in the history of the show, May We Make Them Proud featured the death of two main cast members – Alice Garvey and Mary and Adam’s baby boy – who both perished in an accidental blind school fire.
Shortly after the fire, the Ingalls adopted son Albert runs away after it’s revealed he accidentally caused the blaze from smoking a pipe in the basement. Charles, along with Alice’s widowed husband Jonathan, track Albert down. Jonathan forgives him, telling the boy he doesn’t blame him and they all return home.
2 THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
Laura resents the Ingalls new baby because of all the time Pa spends with him. Feeling neglected she wishes the child had never been born. Sadly the baby dies from a mysterious illness a short while later. Racked with guilt, Laura runs away to a mountain top where she asks God to take her instead.
Eventually, Laura meets a mysterious traveler, Jonathan, played by guest star Ernest Borgnine. Jonathan appears to have a connection with God and convinces Laura she belongs at home with her Pa. Charles finally finds his daughter and she runs into his open arms.
1 AS LONG AS WE’RE TOGETHER
Hard times have fallen on Walnut Grove causing the Ingalls family to relocate to Winoka where Mary and Adam have just opened a blind school. They are soon joined by the Garveys and Olesons. Charles and Caroline manage to find work at a local hotel but city life takes some getting used to.
After selling his precious fiddle to buy Mary a birthday gift the Ingalls and their friends gather at the hotel for a birthday celebration. Charles is shocked when Mary opens her present revealing the fiddle. She found out what her Pa had done and bought it back. Mary tells her father the best present is hearing him play his fiddle. She then forgoes making a birthday wish because she has everything she could ever want right in that room. Hugs are exchanged and the episode ends with Charles playing his beloved fiddle as everyone claps along.