“They can’t ride on my velocipede!”
The phrase springs into my head upon the mere mention of the name Willie Oleson.
Willie is a fun character, I think. Like the character of Nellie, Willie in the book series is a composite of more than one real boy. (Although the Plum Creek Willie was surely based on Willie Owens, Nellie Owens’ little brother, remember that the Owens family didn’t continue on to De Smet as Laura portrays the Olesons as doing in the books. The boy in Laura’s class in De Smet who played foolish was therefore another child, whom Laura names as Will Bennet in Pioneer Girl.)
He’s your typical annoying little brother, a character type that could not be developed within the Ingalls family itself and works so well by putting him with an equally annoying big sister, Nellie.
Jonathan Gilbert — the brother of Melissa Gilbert, aka “Laura” — played the role of Willie Oleson on the longstanding Little House on the Prairie television series — and he played it well. We all know, of course, that Melissa has joined the world of Little House once again by playing the role of Caroline Ingalls in the musical currently touring its way across the continent. But a fun fact that some may not yet realize is that the part of Willie Oleson in the musical is played by another close male relative of Melissa’s — this time, her son rather than her brother.
Scholastic has a fun interview with Melissa’s son, 14-year-old Michael Boxleitner, on their blog this week. Grab a fistful of candy in Willie’s memory and enjoy!