Thursday 27 September 2012

Spyri, Johanna "Heidi"

Spyri, Johanna "Heidi" (German: "Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre" and "Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat") - 1880-1881

I think everyone remembers their first books. In my case, it was "Heidi". We didn't have that many books at the time, I had to spend a week in hospital when I turned seven, I got my appendix out. I don't remember any of the other presents I received but I clearly remember "Heidi". The very first book I owned. I still have the copy today and it looks pretty well read.

Heidi was everything I wasn't. She lived in the mountains, I lived in Northern Germany where the highest elevation was probably just a little over 100 meters. She loved the outdoors, I loved sitting inside reading my books. She was an orphan, I had my parents and three brothers and hundreds of cousins (well, "only" fifty, but who's counting).

Still, I loved Heidi, maybe because she was so different from me. We all have to have our fictional heroes, Heidi was mine. If I had had a daughter, I might have been able to transfer my love for this book to her but my two boys were not too keen. (I suppose that weird Japanese cartoon series didn't help, either.)

I recently asked my friends what their favourite childhood book was and "Heidi" was the most popular answer.

In any case, give this to your children, it's like time travelling for them, to a country that existed a long long time ago.

From the back cover:

"A classic tale of childhood joys and friendships, it has delighted and inspired generations of children."

Orphaned Heidi lives with her gruff but caring grandfather on the side of Swiss mountain, where she befriends young Peter the goat-herd. She leads an idyllic life, until she is forced to leave the mountain she has always known to go and live with a sickly girl in the city. Will Heidi ever see her grandfather again?"


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  2. In a way, the book begins rather like "Little Lord Fauntleroy". There's the lonely child who is practically handed over to a grim old man and is completely at his mercy. This was not a quite unusual reality in those times (another example was orphan "Pollyanna" by Eleanor Hodgman Porter). In all cases, the grim adult is won over by the sheer naivety and friendliness of the child; the books may have been used as guides for how to treat the adults.
    People who have liked "Pollyanna" or "Little Lord Fauntleroy" might like "Heidi" as well.

    1. So true. They all do have a lot in common. Like in the fairy tales where a lot of kids had a bad stepmother. Many children used to grow up with a stepmother because so many women died in childbirth.

      Unfortunately, not all the stories have such a great ending as the ones you mentioned, sometimes the adults are not won over as we can see in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

      Nevertheless, "Heidi" has always had a special place in my heart as the first one I ever owned. I still have it today and will cherish it forever.

      Thanks for your comment,

  3. It is great to hear this is so many of your friend's favourite childhood book too! I also pray you may one day have a granddaughter to pass on your love of this novel to.

    Love & Blessings, Jessica đź’Ś

    1. I thought so, too, Jessica. I guess a lot of Germans grew up with this book.
      Thanks for your good wishes, who knows, I might have a granddaughter one day but first, I need at least one daughter-in-law for that and there is none in sight at the moment. ;)