A short reflection on Nils Holgersson´s Wonderful Journey Through Sweden: The complete Volume (Vol.1 & 2).

During my last 30 years in Sweden, I read many of the Swedish recent and classical works.

One of the authors I read was noble prize winner Selam Lagrlöf. In addition to reading some of her books, I also saw some of her stories that were turned into plays and movies. 

About a decade ago, I worked at Karlstad University located in Selam Lagrlöf´s home region Värmland. This gave me the opportunity to visit the farmyard Mårbacka where she was born and grown up. The theater scen where  her works are shown, berattarlådan (the story Barn), is not far from her childhood home. 

Many years ago, good friends ( a spouse) gave me a complete edition of the book, Nils Holgersonsson´s Wonderful Journey Through Sweden. In this book there is a stamp in the first page that reads, “Harvard College, 1908”. It is the same year the book was first published. The two volumes are in one binding (the first volume has 285 pages and the second one 486 pages) totally 771 pages. The text is written in bigger alphabets and there are some  photos of birds, different animals, castles, houses in cities as well as rural natural environments are included.    

Nils Holgersson´s Wonderful Journey Through Sweden was written as a geography school book for elementary school children. Swedish regions and major cities are described well. The young boy, Nils Holgersson on the back of birds was looking down to natural environments and Swedish major cities. He mainly transported by geese but when there are emergences, a crow and an eagle were in his service.  

Nils was enchanted to a dwarf because of his mean behavior to animals and disobedience to his parents. As a dwarf he flew all over the country. At the end when he returned to his parents´ farmyard, he became human again because of good things he did during his adventures.

In this adventurous book, Selam Lagrlöf gives a leading role to a female goose with the name Akka. Akka is the oldest in the group and the wisest of all. She is alert, she is sympathetic and she is fair. she gathered important and relevant information that was necessary to protect the flock. In addition to that she was giving well-grounded decisions for the seek of the flock. 

This book is providing information and knowledge beyond the geographical description of Swedish regions. The economic basis of the regions such as mining, cattle breading and deer herding, and other main bread winning businesses of the people in the regions were provided. Exceptionality of each region is remarked. 

While harmony was characteristics of the stories, also conflicts are described. These conflicts are between birds, between birds and a fox, between Nils and an owl and so on. But all the conflicts are resolved without a blood shade or damage to any part.   

One interesting point is how  Selam Lagrlöf made Nils Holgersson on his way from northern Sweden to his parents´ home in Skåne, land at Mårbacka, a farmyard where she grew up. She took this opportunity she created, to think back to her childhood in this area. She described the farm work, the work in the household and how different major holidays are celebrated in her parents’ home when she was a child.

I am impressed by Selam Lagrlöf´s creative ability. How she created the characters for the stories in the book, birds, other animals and human beings. How she created the context for the animals and human beings to understand each other. It is equally impressing how she was finding stories from different regions on various subjects and create special characters tell these stories. I am glad to see Sweden in stories written more than 100 years ago by a Noble lorette of high caliber.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *