Johanna Spyri (1827 – 1901) wrote stories for adults and children. I think everyone has heard of Heidi, but what people may not know is that the first story she published, A Leaf on Vrony’s Grave, was about a woman’s lifetime of dealing with domestic violence.
Today it is the norm, however in 1871 I’m sure it would have caused some ruffles, which is probably why it was published anonymously. Written in an era where women were still fighting for their rights and society still firmly believed husbands should be allowed to abuse their spouses. In fact it was often solidified in written law. I am disappointed to say that some of these archaic laws are still in existence even now.
Below is the trailer for the 1937 film Heidi starring Shirley Temple. I think it’s safe to say that other movie and TV versions are a lot less glitzy glam Hollywood and closer to the book narrative, but hey it’s Shirley Temple.
This second film Sehnsucht nach der Heimat (roughly translated A Longing for Home), was made in 1952 by the Swiss. It’s in German, but the jingling goats and jolly goat-herders are definitely a better representation of the book version. (Oh and a wee bit of yodelling) Here is the 1978 New Adventures of Heidi (in English).
Heidi is one of the books I automatically list when I think of Children’s Classics. Although the story has a slight tinge of buying a poor girl to keep the rich sickly girl entertained, that is just me being cynical.
It is of course a story of friendship and about family. I think I always identified with the way Heidi feels at ‘home’ and at ease in the mountains. Not that I feel at ease in mountains specifically, but the feeling of finding a place where you feel completely comfortable is quite hard for someone who has always moved around a lot. In the city she misses the freedom of the hills and the fresh air. At the same time she also feels guilty for leaving her sick friend behind.
It is definitely a story I would recommend as reading material for children and also for adults. It is beautifully written and I really do believe Spyri doesn’t really get the recognition she deserves for her writing and storytelling.
Read Heidi, Red Letter Stories, Heimatlos, What Sami sings with the Birds or Rico and Wiseli at Feedbooks and the Internet Archive. Alternatively you can listen to Cornelli, Heidi, Moni the Goat Boy or The Rose Child at Librivox.
Read and download The Galaxy Prime, Avoiding Germs, Service with a Smile, Corruption, The Disintegration Machine, Just a wee bit of Arthur Conan Doyle, Delightfully Dippy Detective, In the Year 2889, Them, South Sea Tales, The Master Magician, Love Insurance, Happy Turkey Day, Horror and Spice, and all things nice, Wonders of the Invisible World, Prelinger Part 2: Healthy Habits, The Last Man, Prelinger Archives Pt.1 Teen Feelings, Wuthering Heights, Classical Music and the Public Domain.