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Book Title: Niels Holgerssons wonderbare reis|
The size of the: 414 KB
Date of issue: 2000
The author of the book: Selma Lagerlöf
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: 9789025720902
Read full description of the books Niels Holgerssons wonderbare reis:This children's classic, published in 1906 by future Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf, is so famous in Scandinavia that everyone knows the plot; but until now I'd never read it. Nils Holgersson, a good-for-nothing kid in late nineteenth century Skåne, angers the local tomte (a kind of Swedish leprechaun), who magically transforms him into another tomte. Nils, who's now the size of a thumb, is fortunately adopted by a flock of geese who take him to their summer nesting grounds in Lapland and back again. En route, they conveniently traverse all of Sweden, giving the author ample opportunity for an extended series of geography lessons. It sounded dull, but I was pleased to discover that in fact it's nothing of the kind. The geography is always firmly in the service of the narrative, the lead characters are well drawn, and the style is moving and poetic. But what surprised me most was that I'd never heard how it came to be written.
According to the introduction, the author's original inspiration was a terrible story she had heard from her grandmother about an incident that had occurred when the grandmother was herself a little girl. There was a white goose on the farm, and one spring day he took it into his head to fly off with a flock of wild geese who were passing by. The family was of course sure they would never see him again. But many months later, Selma's grandmother was astonished to see that the goose had returned. And he was not alone; during the summer, he had found a mate, a beautiful grey goose, and they were accompanied by half a dozen little goslings. Delighted, Selma's grandmother led the goose family to the barn, where they could eat from the trough with the other fowl. She closed the door so that they wouldn't fly off again, and ran to tell her stepmother. The stepmother said nothing. She just took out the little knife she used for slaughtering geese; and an hour later there was not one goose left alive in the barn.
For me, this resonated with what many other people also find the most memorable episode in the book. One night, Nils is woken by a stork, who says that if he follows him he will show him something important. They fly to the seashore, where there is a strange city, quite unlike anything one would expect to find on the Swedish coast. Nils goes in through the huge gate and discovers people dressed in rich clothes from a bygone age. No one seems to notice him at first. He finds his way to the merchants' quarter. People are selling all kinds of precious goods: embroidered silks and satins, gold ornaments, glittering jewels. And now he realizes that the merchants can see him. They are holding out their wares to him, offering all these treasures. Nils tries to make them understand that he could never afford any of it, he is a poor boy. But they persist, and using gestures tell him that he can have anything he wants, if he can just give them one small copper coin. He searches his pockets over and over again but finds they are empty. In the end, he leaves the city, and when he turns round again it has disappeared. "It is the lost city of the sea traders," explains the stork. "They were drowned beneath the waves long ago, but once every hundred years they come back for a single night. The legend is that if they can sell a single thing to a mortal, they will be allowed to return to the world; but they never do." Nils feels his heart is going to break. He could so easily have saved all these good people and their city, but he has failed them.
It seemed to me that both stories expressed the same feeling with quite unusual clarity. If only...
Read information about the authorSelma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf was a Swedish author. In 1909 she became the first woman to ever receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings". She later also became the first female member of the Swedish Academy.
Born in the forested countryside of Sweden she was told many of the classic Swedish fairytales, which she would later use as inspiration in her magic realist writings. Since she for some of her early years had problems with her legs (she was born with a faulty hip) she would also spend a lot of time reading books such as the Bible.
As a young woman she was a teacher in the southern parts of Sweden for ten years before her first novel Gösta Berling's Saga was published. As her writer career progressed she would keep up a correspondance with some of her former female collegues for almost her entire life.
Lagerlöf never married and was almost certainly a lesbian (she never officially stated that she was, but most later researchers believe this to be the case). For many years her constant companion was fellow writer Sophie Elkan, with whom she traveled to Italy and the Middle East. Her visit to Palestine and a colony of Christians there, would inspire her to write Jerusalem, her story of Swedish farmers converting into a evangelical Christian group and travelling to "The American Colony" in Jerusalem.
Lagerlöf was involved in both women issues as well as politics. She would among other things help the Jewish writer Nelly Sachs to come to Sweden and donated her Nobel medal to the Finnish war effort against the Soviet union.
Outside of Sweden she's perhaps most widely known for her children's book Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils).
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