Heidi by Johanna Spyri cover art
Childrens | Classics

Heidi | Johanna Spyri

After finishing up Tom’s Midnight Garden and then Goodnight Mister Tom I found myself wondering what other classics I have missed. Following some research online I stumbled across Heidi. It’s not a book I was aware of before now but having finished it I have discovered it is one of the biggest selling books of all time, having sold around 50 million copies since its release in 1881. It was originally written in German by Swiss author Johanna Spyri.

The Plot

The story starts with the titular character at the age of 5. She is marched up the Swiss mountains by her aunt Detie and dumped with her miserly grandfather, Uncle Alp. Detie has the promise of a new job and no time for her orphan niece.

Heidi immediately takes to her grandfather and soon makes herself at home. Uncle Alp, whom we are led to believe is widely disliked, appears to thaw in her presence. Heidi falls in love with her new life on the mountain. She relishes the fresh mountain air, the snowcapped mountains, the flowers and the soaring eagle that screeches. Most of all, she loves the sound of the wind through the fir trees.

Other than Uncle Alp, Heidi forms a relationship with the local goatherd, Peter. Every day he ushers the goats up the mountain, past Uncle Alps ramshackle residence and up to the pasture above. Heidi loves to go with him and watch the sun setting across the tops of the mountains.

Three years pass before Aunt Detie returns. She informs her father, Uncle Alp, that Heidi shall be moving to Frankfurt with her, to be companion to a poorly young girl. Uncle Alp accepts this but threatens that if she takes Heidi she must never show her face again.

And just like that, Heidi is whisked away to Frankfurt and left with the Sesemann family. She initially enjoys the adventure of it all but eventually longs to return to the mountains.

My Thoughts

Although originally written in 1881, I read the English translated version of 1958. Despite still being an old text it reads exceptionally well. For my taste, it’s a little on the childish side. It’s very much a fairytale in which the ever optimistic Heidi moves from one scene to the next.

I enjoyed my time in the Swiss alps and with Heidi and her grandfather but I’m not sure it’s something I would go back to and read again. It’s also not something I would recommend to my children.

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