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Book Title: Brødrene Løvehjerte|
The author of the book: Astrid Lindgren
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Reader ratings: 7.1
Date of issue: 1984
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 795 KB
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There are times when reality is hard to bear!
There are times when you wish you would not have to face what is actually happening. For all those times, Astrid Lindgren wrote The Brothers Lionheart. I must have read it about ten times by now, several times as a child, and several times with my own children, and students. I have watched the film, listened to the magical audiobook in which Astrid Lindgren herself reads the story, in that slow, humoristic voice of hers, indicating her Småland dialect ever so little. And I have read quite a few reflections on the book, as well - mostly discussions about whether or not she was right to break the taboo of death in a children's adventure book.
What remains with me are two things: the power of storytelling to make life bearable, and the recurring pattern of human society, regardless of plot, setting, characters and purpose of the story.
The first chapter is of the kind that makes you cry helplessly: a poor boy with a deadly illness, probably tuberculosis, overhears his mother talking about his expected death. Devastated, he confides in his older brother Jonathan, who reassures him that there is a wonderful adventurous life after death, in Nangijala, and that he will just be waiting there until Jonathan joins him. Things develop differently, however, and Jonathan dies himself, trying to save his brother from a fire. And shortly afterwards, the boys reunite in the wonderful fairytale world of Nangijala. So far, so kitsch.
But of course Nangijala is a dark place as well, with a village behind a wall, reigned by the evil Tengil and his soldiers, supported by a superpower weapon, a dragon called Katla. Nobody will be surprised to hear that the novel was published at the height of the Cold War.
I still feel a shiver down my spine when I think of the boys sneaking in behind enemy lines, using the password:
All makt åt Tengil, vår befriare!" "All power to Tengil, our liberator!"
Is it not a universal habit of tyrants that they proclaim themselves liberators? From what, I would like to ask: from freedom of movement? Freedom of choice? Peace?
In the black and white world of Astrid Lindgren's fairytale, the brothers set out to save their world out of the glorious conviction that there are things you have to do, regardless of the danger you encounter:
“Men då sa Jonatan att det fanns saker som man måste göra, även om det var farligt. ’Varför då’, undrade jag. ’Annars är man ingen människa utan bara en liten lort’, sa Jonatan.”
'I don't know if it was such a good thing to do,' said Jonathan. 'But there are things you have to do, otherwise you're not a human being, just a piece of dirt.'
They win in the end, and the evil powers of Nangijala are defeated, but at a cost: Jonathan was hurt by Katla.
And this is where the story loses its magical power and credibility for me, and where I feel Astrid Lindgren does not face up to reality, even if it is just the reality you find in a story universe.
The boys decide to commit suicide to move on to the next world, Nangilima, where the stories are better and life is easier. In a chain of eternal worlds, there can be multiple happy (or sad) endings. But I don't particularly like that message, and have always found it hard to convey to my children. Not because of the theme of death, but because of the careless attitude towards the reality we currently live in and can't stomach.
If we just move on whenever life does not turn out the way we expect it, and move from adventure to adventure, ignoring the fallout of the reality we dodge by seeking an easy way out, there is no real incentive to change the premises of the world we live in for the better, or to try to figure out the reasons for the problems we have, in order to prevent them from getting worse.
Close your eyes and jump!
I always thought that was contradictory to the message that you are a piece of dirt if you do not do what you think is right.
But then again, Astrid Lindgren might have seen clearly what humanity does all the time: building walls, fighting over ideology, ignoring bad signs, denying reality and jumping blindly into the future, hoping for the best without ever turning around to learn from history, believing in an afterlife that will be different and better, despite being populated by the same set of characters that populate earth.
There is one beautiful idea expressed in the story, that I love reading over and over again:
"Men jag kan inte döda någon’, sa Jonatan, ’det vet du, Orvar!’ […] ’Om alla vore som du’, sa Orvar, ’då skulle ju ondskan få regera i all evinnerlighet!’ Men då sa jag att om alla vore som Jonatan, så skulle det inte finnas någon ondska.
“But I can't kill anyone,' said Jonathan, 'you know that Orvar!' 'If everyone were like you,' said Orvar, 'then evil would rule for all eternity!' But then I said that if everyone were like Jonathan, then there would be no evil.”
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Read information about the authorAstrid Anna Emilia Lindgren, née Ericsson, was a Swedish children's book author and screenwriter, whose many titles were translated into 85 languages and published in more than 100 countries. She has sold roughly 145 million copies worldwide. Today, she is most remembered for writing the Pippi Longstocking books, as well as the Karlsson-on-the-Roof book series.
Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing (1958)
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