Karlson has been spotted! In this final Karlson book (Karlsson pa taket smygar igen, 1968, translated by Sarah Death) he and Smidge evade the bad guys who are out to get him and they play some tricks on the wretched Uncle Julius and Creepy Crawley.
Karlson remains a bully as ever, but the family has learned to deal with him — Mother has learned to keep buns around for him and Smidge has learned not to show Karlson his favorite toys – for he knows that as soon as Karlson sees Smidge’s coolest things, he will demand to have them. But underneath the family’s frustrations with Karlson, there is acceptance and even a blossoming care for the little man.
Even Miss Crawley seems to have come around. When Smidge and Karlson make a loud noise one night, awakening both her and Uncle Julius, she seems to cover for them:
“What a dreadful storm,” said Miss Crawley. “What a crack of thunder, eh? No wonder the power’s gone off.”
“Was that really thunder?” said Uncle Julius. “I thought it sounded like something quite different.” But Miss Crawley assured him that she recognized thunder when she heard it.
“What else could it have been?” she asked.
As if she doesn’t know! Yet she doesn’t rat Smidge and Karlson out and she doesn’t turn Karlson in for the reward. In fact, Karlson’s identity is revealed in a much more Karlson-like manner, which I won’t spoil: it’s a fitting end to a fun series.
Karlson Flies Again (Karlsson Pa Taket Flyger Igen) was translated by Sarah Death, who has one of the most unfortunate last names ever invented.
Lillebror’s name has been translated in this edition to Smidge as opposed to Eric. Betty and Bobby are Sally and Seb. Bimbo the dog is now, thank God, Bumble. Cheers to Sarah Death despite her own terrible name. These are fabulous improvements on the names. Well done.
In this Karlson edition, the flying man continues to be a bully but it seems like he does so for better causes this time around. The way that Karlson and Smidge gang up on the creepy Miss Crawley is admirable; that she is such a worthy opponent and can more or less handle Karlson’s antics makes it seem like Karlson has met his match.
Two stories from this book remind me of other children’s books: the first, when Miss Crawley gets her toe stuck in Smidge’s mousetrap – this hearkens back to Emil’s disastrous mousetrap that his father stepped into. The second seems to foreshadow a memorable scene in Roald Dahl’s Matilda. In both stories, a tyrant (Miss Trunchbull for Dahl, Miss Crawley for Lindgren) is taken down several notches by mysterious writing appearing from a “ghost” (Karlson masquerading as a ghost for Lindgren, Matilda’s eye-power for Dahl). Indeed, this is perhaps the most Dahl-like book of Lindgren’s that I have real, in no small part due to the illustrations by Tony Ross which are so much like Dahl’s frequent illustrator Quentin Blake’s artwork that I had to look it up to make sure they weren’t really the same person.
This book is magical. Yes, Karlson is still a bully, but in this translation, his antics help Smidge and he’s much more tolerable than his original book. I wonder how much of it is the translation and how much of it is simple evolution of the character.
“If you ring once,” said Karlson, “It means, ‘Come straight away,’ and if you ring twice, it means ‘Don’t come whatever you do,’ and three times means ‘Just imagine there being somebody in the world as handsome and perfectly plump and brave and great in every way as you, Karlson.'”