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I read and enjoyed Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books as a kid, but while I always saw this book listed in the works-by page at the front of those, I never ran across a copy. The library here had one-- quite a nice Trina Schart Hyman cover, too.

Ronia is the only child of a robber chieftain who lives with his band somewhere northerly enough that one keeps expecting Gerda to turn up looking for the Snow Queen, but this is not that story (which is in some ways too bad as I am curious what Lindgren would have done with it). Instead this is the story about how there's another robber band in the woods, who are rivals and deadly enemies of Ronia's father's band since time immemorial, and they have a son, born the same day as Ronia, whom she meets in the woods...

It works very well, because the two of them are young enough for it not to become melodramatic, or not overly so; and because Lindgren lets her characters have the courage of their convictions and genuinely hurt each other; and because survival in the forest is a continuous necessity and the winter a time of real privation. The forest is slightly fantastical, not much so, but one of its main dangers is harpies, who will swoop down on a human and try to carry them off or bite them to death, and there are also small grey dwarves who hate everybody, and unseen things called Unearthly Ones who lure with song. Ronia and her sworn-brother (I told you they were young) are therefore taking real risks when they break with their families, and some of the suspense is genuinely suspenseful despite the knowledge that it will inevitably work out somehow.

This was better than it had to be, better than it would have been from another writer, and reminded me in tone a little of the Moomin books, which is never a bad thing. I suspect that as a kid I would have imprinted on it something fierce, but I still enjoyed it and am happy to have come across it at last.


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March 2017

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