torsdag 13 januari 2011

N is for Nils, Mrs. Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, Round 2 - N

N is for Nils, and not just any boy named Nils, but Nils Holgersson, the main character in the novel, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (Nils Holgerssons Underbara Resa Genom Sverige, 1906-1907) by the famous Swedish author, Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940).

Selma Lagerlöf

Among Selma Lagerlöf's many claims to fame is the fact that she is the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature (1909). The first image on this post is a scene from The Wonderful Adventures of Nils on the back of a Swedish twenty crown note (remember that Sweden said no to the euro and kept the krona. So this money is currently still in use.) Here is the front side of the same bill, showing a portrait of Selma Lagerlöf.

Once again, it's Sara Cat here, posting instead of Anna (who has her mind on other things.) I promised Anna that I'd take care of this week's post for Mrs. Jenny Matlock's inspiring alphabet-meme, Alphabe-Thursday, Round 2, with the letter N, if she would let me do it my way! And 'doing it my way' means that I need to find a cat!

Here is the illustrated cover by Lars Klinting to a picture-book version of The Wonderful Adventures of Nils:

Judging by these illustrations you can guess what this story is about: a boy who somehow gets to ride on the back of a goose and travels through Sweden from south to north (and back again). Nils' air-trip with migratory birds is not purely an act of fancy by the author. It is the answer to the need for a new school book about geography for Swedish children. Those who are interested in learning more about the background to this 'writing assignment' can go to this site: 'Background to the commission to write The Wonderful Adventures of Nils', here.

Here is a portrait of Selma Lagerlöf painted by the artist Carl Larsson. And here is a map of Sweden that shows the route that Nils takes on his trip through Sweden.

There is so much written about Selma Lagerlöf and even the novel about Nils Holgersson that I must be selective. This story, about the naughty, lazy boy, Nils, who is magically reduced in size and takes a trip on the back of a goose, is really the framework for many stories as stops along the way to visit different parts of Sweden and learn about geography, packaged with local legends, tales, traditions and folklore.

Nils Holgersson, statue by Ralf Borselius in Karlskrona.

This is how the story begins: Nils is left alone at home on the farm, while his parents go to church, leaving him behind to read the Biblical lesson for the day until they return. Nils dozes instead of reading his lesson, and when he wakes up he sees a tomte (a small elf-like creature) whom Nils trys to catch in a butterfly-net. He is knocked out by a slap in the face and when he wakes up, he is reduced in size to about three inches tall. The tomte is gone, and Nils trys to find him. He goes out to the barn and discovers that he can understand the language of the cows and chickens there. But they don't help him. The chickens are huge but he forgets his change in size and throws a rock at them. They scream and run after him, but stop when the farm cat walks by.

Selma Lagerlöf

This is what happens next (in my English translation):
'Dear Kitty', he said, 'You know where every hole and hiding-place is here on the farm, don't you? Would you please tell me where I can find that tomte?'

The cat did not answer immediately. He sat down and wrapped his tail in a pretty circle in front of his legs and stared at the boy. He was a large black cat with a white spot on his chest. His coat looked smooth and sleek in the sunshine. His claws were sheathed and his eyes all gray with only very narrow slits in the middle. The cat looked completely pleasant and trustworthy.

'I think I know where the little elf lives', he said in a smooth voice, 'but that doesn't mean that I am going to tell you.'

'But dear Kitty, you must help me,' the boy said,'Don't you see that he has cast a spell on me?'

The cat opened his eyes a little, so that the green wickedness started to show. He purred and hummed with satisfaction, before he answered.

'Am I to help you because you have pulled my tail so many times?' he said finally.
It was then that the boy became angry and forgot how little and helpless he had become. 'I can still pull your tail if I want to,' and ran towards the cat.

In the next instant, the cat was so completely transformed, that the boy could hardly believe that it was the same animal. Every hair on his body stood straight out. His back was arched, his legs were longer, and his claws scraped the ground. His tail had become short and thick, his ears lay backward, his mouth hissed, and his eyes were wide open and as red as fire. The boy did not want to be threatened by a cat, so he took one step forward. But then the cat lunged toward him, landing on top of the boy, knocking him over. The cat pressed his front paws on his chest and opened his jaws over his throat. The boy felt the sharp claws sink through his vest and shirt to his skin, and how the sharp fangs tickled his throat. He cried out for help as loud as he could. But no one came, and he thought that this was to be his last moment alive. It was then that the cat sheathed his claws and let go of his neck.

Selma Lagerlöf

'Now then.' he said, 'That's probably enough. I'll let you go this time for the sake of your mother. I just wanted you to know which one of us is in charge now.' And with that, the cat walked away looking just as sleek and gentle as he did before, when he came.
Sara Cat

First Commenter:
JDaniel4's Mom
Reviews and Giveaways

To visit other posts about the letter N, please visit this site by clicking on the image below:

Jenny Matlock

*Here is the Swedish orginal text (source):
Pojken försökte komma undan dem, men hönsen sprungo efter och skreko, så att han höll på att mista hörseln. Han hade väl aldrig sluppit ifrån dem, om inte stugkatten hade kommit gående. Så snart hönsen sågo katten, tystnade de och låtsades inte tänka på annat än att krafsa i jorden efter mask.
Pojken sprang genast fram till katten.
"Kära du Misse," sade han, "du känner väl till alla vrår och smyghål här på gården? Du får vara snäll och tala om för mig var jag kan finna tomten.
Katten svarade inte genast. Han satte sig ner, lade svansen prydligt i ring framför benen och stirrade på pojken. Det var en stor, svart katt med en vit fläck i bringan. Håret låg slätt och blänkte i solskenet. Klorna voro indragna, och ögonen voro jämngråa med bara en liten, smal springa mittpå. Katten såg genombeskedlig ut.
"Nog vet jag var tomten bor," sade han med len röst, "men inte är det sagt, att jag vill tala om det för dig."

"Kära Misse, du får lov att hjälpa mig," sade pojken. "Ser du inte hur han har förtrollat mig?"

Katten öppnade litet på ögonen, så att den gröna elakheten började lysa fram. Han spann och surrande av belåtenhet, innan han svarade. "Ska jag kanske hjälpa dig, för det att du så ofta har ryckt mig i svansen?" sade han till sist.
Då blev pojken ond och glömde alldeles hur liten och maktlös han nu var. "Jag kan allt rycka dig i svansen än en gång, jag," sade han och sprang emot katten. I nästa ögonblick var katten så förändrad, att pojken knappt kunde tro, att det var samma djur. Vartenda hår på hans kropp stod på ända. Ryggen hade krökt sig, benen hade längt sig, klorna skrapade i marken, svansen hade blivit kort och tjock, öronen lade sig bakåt, munnen fräste, ögonen stodo vidöppna och lyste av röd eld.Pojken ville inte låta skrämma sig av en katt, utan tog än ett steg framåt. Men då gjorde katten ett språng, kom ner rätt på pojken, slog omkull honom och ställde sig över honom med framfötterna på hans bröst och gapet öppet över hans strupe.Pojken kände hur klorna trängde genom västen och skjortan in i skinnet, och hur de vassa hörntänderna kittlade strupen. Han skrek på hjälp, allt vad han förmådde.Men ingen kom, och han trodde förvisso, att hans sista stund var inne. Då kände han, att katten drog in klorna och släppte taget om strupen."Så där," sade han, "nu kan det vara nog. Jag ska låta dig slippa undan den här gången för matmors skull. Jag ville bara, att du skulle veta vem av oss två det är, som nu har makten." Därmed gick katten sin väg och såg lika slät och from ut som nyss, när han kom.

11 kommentarer:

JDaniel4's Mom sa...

This book sounds like a great way to escape the cold icy weather I have here and fall into a fantasy world.

Gattina sa...

That brings back sweet memories, I have read this book in German when I was a child.

Susan Anderson sa...

What a great way to teach geography. And the story sounds quite interesting, too!


Judie sa...

Thanks for a great post! Very interesting and fun!

paige sa...

Wow this is really interesting! Thanks for sharing!

RedTedArt sa...

Oh! Thank you for the reminder of a fabulous story. It is going straight on our wish list!!

Thank you


Su-sieee! Mac sa...

Interesting! This is a great way of learning about one's geography and people.

H sa...

It's a great way to teach geography. At the moment our children who are 7 and 8 are learning about the journey a swallow makes between England and South Africa. Our topic too is based on a book.

storybeader sa...

this is neat! I'll have to look more, but my book club reads only only women authors, and they might be interested in the FIRST women to receive the Nobel Prize for literature!

Splendid Little Stars sa...

How interesting and informative! I must check this out. first woman to receive the Noble Prize in Literature, no less!

Jenny sa...

Sara, what an absolutely fascinating post about an author I know nothing about.

I am enchanted with the story and the stamps and the lovely pictures you shared.

Please tell your Mom that I think you are really nifty.

Thanks for linking to Alphabe-Thursday's letter "N".


parltradet - beautiful and easy-to-wear jewellery