a book blog about reading all of astrid lindgren's books

Posts tagged ‘patricia crampton’

Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter

Astrid_RoniaI saved this book for last because I couldn’t imagine any other book ever living up to it.  Every time I read it, which is every couple of years, I am blown away by how incredible it is.  Really.  If you haven’t read Ronia, go do it.  Now.

Originally Ronja Rovardotter, the book was published in 1981 and translated by Patricia Crampton.  Once upon a time, it was translated as Kirsty the Robber’s Daughter.  Woffor did un do that?  Thankfully, the 1985 translation reverted the name to Ronia.

What is it that makes Ronia the best book?

There is humor: Only Noddle-Pete stubbornly refused to roll in the snow.  “I may die anyway,” he said, “and I want to do it with the dirt I’ve got on me.”

There is wonder: She laughed silently because rivers and forests were there.  She could scarcely believe it.

There is hope: She thought happily before she closed her eyes, Tomorrow I’ll be getting up again!

There is growing up: The world was bigger than Matt.  It was so big that it took your breath away.

There is friendship: She remembered how things had been before, when she was alone and the woods were enough for her.  How long ago that seemed now!  Now she needed Birk to share everything with.

There are troubles with children: “You can’t do anything with children these days. They do as they like – you just have to get used to it.  But it’s not easy.”  (Matt to Borka)

There are struggles: Then Ronia became desperate.  “Life is something you have to take care of — don’t you realize that?”

There is loss: But Matt walked up and down the stone hall weeping mightily and shouting, “He’s always been here!  And now he’s not!”

There are magical creatures: “Woffor did un do that?” say the rumphobs.

There is magic in the forest: The woods in the spring night felt full of secrets, full of magic and other strange and ancient things.  There were dangers there, too, but Ronia was not afraid.

Some combination of all this makes Ronia the most satisfying book I have ever read, and a big part of why I wanted to fully explore all of Astrid Lindgren’s works.

This book concludes the Astrid Lindgren Thru-Read of 2015.  More thoughts on completion will be coming soon.


Mardie to the Rescue

Astrid_M2TR Mardie to the Rescue (Madicken och Junibackens Pims, 1976, translated by Patricia Crampton) is the second book about Mardie, which apparently was never released in the United States.  Pictures are by Ilon Wikland.  No surprise — they’re great.

The first Mardie book is a little more whimsical, but I love this book a little more because Astrid Lindgren was not afraid to discuss uncomfortable topics:

  • Mardie’s mother suffers from depression.  “She’s just lying down, feeling sorry for herself.”  Mardie gave a sigh of relief.  Mama did feel sorry for herself from time to time, but it passed over quite soon.
  • Mr Nilsson is an alcoholic: “He never does anything but compeltate and flossifize!  Was he sober?”
    “Yes, I think so,” said Mardie uncertainly.
    “I don’t think so,” said Mrs. Nilsson.
  • Mr. Lindson has mental disorder and lives in the poorhouse and attacks Lisbet.
  • Mattie and Mia live in poverty.
  • The elite make the rules and scorn the working class, such as Mardie’s beloved Alma.

Mardie is one of the only children (maybe the only child) Lindgren wrote about who was clearly from an upper-class family.  She has a dressmaker, live-in help, modest political power due to her father’s job, and lives a much more comfortable life than her friends Abe and Mattie.

Despite being comparatively rich, Mardie in this book blossoms as a generous and caring young girl.  Because of her, Mattie and Mia get de-loused, Abe has the chance to fly, and Abe’s mother sleeps easier at night after Mardie pays off the doctor.  She also includes Lisbet in so many adventures, and their relationship blossoms.

If I could have a sister out of all the characters in Astrid Lindgren’s books, I would pick Lisbet (oh, maybe Tjorven, maybe it’s a tie).  For example, this scene makes me laugh: What Lisbet could not understand was why she not in all the pictures, when Mardie had been one and two years old.  “You couldn’t be there, because you weren’t born, there wasn’t any Lisbet in the whole of Junedale,” said Mardie.  “There wasn’t any you then.”
“Silly thing, of course there was me,” said Lisbet.  “But I didn’t want to sit next to a nasty child like you.  I was at the sweetshop buying sweets.”

Lisbet also collects bad words and climbs into the wardrobe to say them to herself.

But there are also moments of seriousness: The fire and the song and the Spring dusk, oh, how could it be so beautiful and so splendid and so sad?  Mardie was full to bursting with something she could not quite put a name to.  Something which had no name.  Yes, of course, it was life itself she felt, but it was something more as well.

And this line: Imagine anything so wonderful being really true!

Mardie vs. Mischievous Meg Translations

Astrid_MadickenAfter reading Eva-Maria Metcalf’s book about Astrid Lindgren’s writings, I was blown away by her opinions on the vast differences between the British and American translations of the Swedish Madicken (1960).  I will present her thoughts on the translations after I discuss my own findings.

My dad, who is my most loyal follower, went online and ordered the British translation Mardie for me because my library did not have it.  Thanks Dad!

Mardie was translated by Patricia Crampton in 1979.  It includes pictures by Ilon Wikland.  It was printed in Great Britain.

Mischievous Meg was translated by Gerry Bothmer in 1962.  The pictures are by Janina Domanska.  It was printed in the USA.IMG_6907

I read these two books side by side, paragraph by paragraph.  It takes a lot longer to read two books at the same time than it takes to just read two books.  But only this way could I discover their differences.

1. Names.  It is not just the title character who has been renamed!  Here are just some of the name changes:

Main character: Mischievous Meg/Mardie
Home: June Hill/Junedale
Sister: Betsy/Lisbet
Friend: Albert/Abe
Chocolate Dolls: Perker & Smerker/Jerry & Berry
Neighbors: Karlsson Family/Carlsson Family
Neighbor kids: Tore and Maja/Tom and Marie

I’ve never been a fan of name changes in Astrid Lindgren’s works.  I believe Madicken would have been a fine name for either edition.  Neither the names Mardie nor Meg has the lilting cadence of the name Madicken.  Although I haven’t name-checked with the Swedish edition (the library doesn’t want to share their Madicken copy, sigh!) I would bet Mischievous Meg stays closer to the originals than Mardie does.  “Tom and Marie Carlsson” just screams “unnecessarily translated names!”

2. The Missing Chapter and Characters. The next most obvious difference in the two books is that Mardie includes an extra chapter.

Chapter 5 of 9, “Lisbet sticks a pea up her nose,” is a rollicking chapter that was not included in the Mischievous Meg edition, perhaps due to a fight scene deemed unseemly.  The two characters introduced in Mardie’s Chapter 5 are Mattie and Mia.  They make an additional appearance in Mardie, Chapter 8 (Christmas in Junedale), but this scene is completely omitted in Mischievous Meg.

Mattie and Mia are from a poor family.  This is obvious in the way they are described, illustrated, and in the way they act.  Mardie/Meg is much more well-off, but the discrepancy between the children is only obvious when faced with this scene with Mattie and Mia.  Mischievous Meg is weaker for losing out on this chapter.

3. How much Mardie/Meg understands. Mardie, for example, tackles the true nature of Mr. Nilsson much better than Mischievous Meg does.
Here are two translations:

Mardie: There was no sign of Mrs Nilsson, but Mr Nilsson was asleep on the kitchen sofa.  “He’s probably drunk,” said Mardie, “he usually is on Saturdays.” (page 32)

Mischievous Meg: Mrs. Nilsson wasn’t around, but Mr. Nilsson was lying on the sofa, sleeping.  “What a lazy man!” Meg said. (page 38)

I find it very interesting that although drunkenness is the topic of the Mardie translation, there is more judgment in Mischievous Meg.  In Mardie, she is aware of Mr. Nilsson’s habits but has accepted them without needing to put him down.

4. The geographical, cultural, and historical context of the book.  Often when reading the translations, I came across situations where Mischievous Meg loses a bit of context due to an omitted sentence or two that I am sure the translator thought was unnecessary or unfitting for an American audience.

Example One: “People can’t fly,” said Betsy.
“Yes, in airplanes they can,” Meg corrected her.  “Albert has told me all about airplanes.”  Meg would have given anything to see an airplane, although Ida had told her it was a sin to fly. 
“If God wanted people to fly, he would have made birds of them,” said Ida. (page 42)

Compare to Mardie’s text:
‘People can’t fly,’ said Lisbet.
‘Yes they can, in flying machines,’ said Mardie.  Abe had told her about flying machines.  There were flying machines in the war but in Sweden too they had a few.  Mardie would have given anything to see one, though Ida was sure that it was sinful to fly.
‘I tell you, I tell you, if God wanted people to fly He would have given them wings,’ said Ida. (page 36)

Including the sentence about the war and Sweden places the book firmly in a time and place, whereas Mischievous Meg is a little more open to interpretations.  I, for one, believe that the details enhance the text.  Also, notice the rhythm and character portrayed by Ida in her Mardie sentence, versus the harsh and lackluster tone of Ida in Mischievous Meg.

Example Two:  When Albert/Abe gives Meg/Mardie some money (that had supposedly been buried for ages) for her “mental anguish”/”toil and sweat,” Meg/Mardie describes the money like this:

Meg: […] it’s shiny and looks real.”  Yes, it looked exactly the way a coin should.  (page 86)

Mardie: […] yet it was so bright and looked so real.  […] And there was the king’s picture on it.  Yes, it looked just as a coin should look!” (page 97)

In this instance, Mischievous Meg’s lack of additional description is a real loss for the book, as the king’s face drives home the fact that this money was not hidden for quite as long as her friend said.  I suspect that America’s lack of a king is what killed this sentence in our translation, and that’s too bad.

5. The text coming to life. While Mardie is stuck in bed, she creates her own newspaper that, in one version, pops off the page.
In Mischievous Meg, her writings are included in the text in normal font and have been spell-checked.  In Mardie, her writings are recreated by hand with “her” misspellings and appropriate artwork “by” Mardie herself. IMG_6905 IMG_6906

Which of the following books would you rather read?  Mischievous Meg, left.  Mardie, right.

6. General translator differences.  There are so many minor differences that I can’t begin to cover them all.  In this example, compare the use of language in Chapters 4 of Mischievous Meg/Mardie (A Sad Happy Day/A Very Jolly, Sad Day).

Mischievous Meg: She just had a brain concussion, which isn’t as bad as being dead. (page 48)

Mardie: She just had [a] concussion, which is not so bad. (page 42)

In this example, I give the Whimsy Award to Mischievous Meg for the text, but the better chapter title clearly goes to Mardie.

Eva-Maria Metcalf’s opinions on the differences between the books helped spark my interest in reading all of Astrid Lindgren’s works.  There were definitely times when I would give the upper hand to Mischievous Meg – considering name changes, for example.  When it comes down to it, Mardie is a superior translation due to its inclusion of the pea chapter, its more complete translation of context, and its inclusion of Mardie’s hand-written notes.  And while Janina Domanska’s illustrations are cute and wonderful, Ilon Wikland’s absolute mastery of Lindgren characters makes this choice a no-brainer:  Mardie is better. Mischievous Meg isn’t bad – it is good.  It’s just that Mardie is excellent.

Eva-Maria Metcalf agrees in her book Astrid Lindgren: “In my estimation, Patricia Crampton’s British translation [Mardie] is far better than its American counterpart [Mischievous Meg], for it retains much of the tone and rhythm of the original.  The American version lacks much of the original’s stylistic exuberance and so does not quite reflect the original’s spirit.” (page 36)  Yup.

In closing, here is my favorite line from Mardie:
‘Mama, what would you like best of all?’
‘Two really good, sweet girls,” said Mama.
Mardie’s eyes turned shiny and her voice trembled a little.
‘But what would you do with Lisbet and me?’

Here is the same line from Mischievous Meg, because that’s how I read these books:
“Mother, what do you wish for most of all?”
“Two very good little girls,” Mother replied.
Suddenly there was a strange expression in Meg’s eyes, and her voice quivered a little.  “What will you do with Betsy and me, then?”

The Dragon with Red Eyes

Astrid_DWRE The Dragon with Red Eyes (Draken med de Roda Ogonen, 1985) is a beautiful book translated by one of Astrid’s most faithful translators, Patricia Crampton.  I cannot say enough good things about her.  Nor about Ilon Wikland’s pictures, which are, as always, phenomenal.

For an author who writes so much fantasy, magical creatures rarely make an appearance in her writing.  It was a treat to hang out with a dragon for this book.  Even though it stars a dragon, it’s a very ordinary situation: one day in the barn after the sow has birthed piglets, there is a baby dragon, as confused as its mother.  The children who discover it help it grow and take care of it.

All throughout summer it grows, but seems depressed, though there are moments of levity.  Finally it spreads its wings and finds its own life.

The book is poignant and heartfelt.  It would be a good book to read to a childAstrid_Stamps who is about to lose a pet or has lost a pet already.  It is a sad ending with goodbyes and loss, but I think picture books often sugarcoat the human experience.  Not every book needs an incredibly happy ending.  It’s a good ending, not an entirely happy one.

If the following sentence doesn’t move you, I am not 100% sure if you are human: “It was one of those evenings filled with longing – though for what, you cannot tell.”

In other news, this dragon appeared on Swedish stamps!  This website gives the background on this.  Mind-blowingly cool!

My Nightingale is Singing


My Nightingale is Singing is a terrible book.

If Werner Herzog wrote a children’s book, it would be My Nightingale is Singing.

And you wouldn’t guess it by the title, right?  Birds!  Singing!  Happiness?


I’ve been pretty open about books I don’t like . . . I was not a big fan of the Children of the World series, but that had more to do with it not aging well.  This book goes so far beyond those books.  I’d rather be subjected to a hundred pages of Randi, Dirk, Matti, Sia, and all those other losers than have to read this book again.

Check out this opening paragraph/sentence: Long ago, in the days of poverty, there was a poorhouse in every parish, where all the poor of the parish lived: the old who could no longer work, the sick, the spent and destitute, the half-crazed, and homeless children whom no one would take care of – all of them gathered together in that place of sighs which was the poorhouse.

It goes downhill from there.  Really.  It gets MORE DEPRESSING.

Maria’s parents just bit it and so now she’s gotta go live in the poorhouse.  Everything just sucks for her.  She becomes obsessed with planting a linden tree and having a nightingale come sing.  I get it, we all need escape.  Especially readers after suffering through this book.  Anyway, so Maria gets her tree but it’s not full of life and she realizes she has to give it her breath.  And poof, Maria disappears and the tree bursts into full life.  Yeah.  Whatever.  I like trees too, but. . .

The book was originally titled Spelar Min Lind (1984) and was translated by Patricia Crampton.   The pictures are by Svend Otto.  Presumably everyone involved needed therapy after working on this.

The Red Bird

Astrid_RBThe Red Bird (original title: Sunnanang) is the story of two children who find escape from a dreary existence in a magical land where all their dreams come true.  The book has a darker tone than most children’s books I’ve read.  Lindgren did not shy away from writing about the sadder parts of life but, like her other works, the shadows are soon lifted.

It was published in 1959 but I read a relatively new translation/illustrated version from 2003-2005.

Patricia Crampton, the translator who masterfully translated Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, also translated this book.

Illustrator Marit Tornqvist captures the contrast between worlds.  The regular world of Matthew and Anna is dark and dreary; Sunnymead is green and alive.

My favorite line: “All the loveliness of spring burst over them in one exultant instant: A thousand little birds sang, rejoicing in the trees; all the spring rivulets gurgled, all the spring flowers sparkled, and the children were playing in a meadow as green as the fields of paradise.”