“The wonderful adventures of Nils” by Selma Lagerlöf is the Swedish contribution to my bucket list quest of reading the world. The story was first published in 1906, and includes Swedish tales as well as geography.
Genre: Childrens/Young Fiction
The young Swedish boy, Nils/Niels, lives on a farm with his parents. He usually tortures and teases all the animals. One day, he is left home alone while his parents are off to church, and he meets a tiny “elf”. The elf asks for his help, but the boy refuses and is turned into an elf himself. What follows is then his journey through Sweden, on the back of a domestic gander from his parents farm. They get in all sorts of dangers together, meet a wide range of different animals, and somehow a lot of old Swedish folklore/fairytales, is represented in the story as well.
I love this book. I re-read it at least once a year, because the universe in it is so rich and yet simple to grasp. It is very detailed in the ways in which it describes the nature of the animals and their interactions, and they really do get a personality that is realistic within the fiction. The whole piece is very well researched, as it was part of a commisioned work, to teach young children about Swedish geography. It’s even famous enough in Sweden, that they put a picture of the cover on one of their notes;
Apart from all the geography, all the folklore stories are weaved into the boys travels, according to which region he finds himself in. It is beautifully written and I always lose myself completely in the stories within the story, some of which are my absolute favourites stories ever. The way Selma tells the stories, so lively, makes me believe I am present in the story.
I really think that this book is a class example of well written Swedish litterature, with loads to offer, both for children and adults. I can certainly recommend it to anyone who likes a story with a bit of vintage magic to it, with animals personified, folklore fairytales and scenic landscapes.
Next country up – Japan!