Travelling with Nils Holgersson

By Henrik Rem Rasmussen

20. Nov. 2008

"In a twinkling the boy remembered all that he and the goosey-gander had suffered on ice-bound lakes and stormy seas and among wild beasts of prey. His heart swelled with gratitude; he conquered himself and knocked on the door.
-Mother you sha'n't touch the goosey-gander! Cried the boy.
-My, but you have grown tall and handsome! She exclaimed.". 

The Swedish postal service has issued several stamps inspired by Nils Holgersson's Wonderful Journey through Sweden. This stamp from 1971 is featuring Nils on the goose. Design: Petter Petterson. Engraving: Czeslaw Slania. 

In this way the spell is revoked and Thumbietot becomes again Nils Holgersson; the mischievous boy, who had been transformed so tiny that he could fly all over Sweden on the back of a goose.

Much More than a Text Book

Selma Lagerlöf had been assigned the task of writing a geography book, but she wanted to „make the map come alive" and for that reason she "invented" Nils Holgersson. It is in a dramatic coupling of fantasy and reality that Selma Lagerlöf takes the reader on a journey through all her beloved Sweden. In the book we meet Nils, a lazy and mischievous boy, who after an adventurous and educational journey gets to understand the animals and side with them instead of teasing them. A classic Bildungsroman: home - away - home again.

„To the Hills!"

The tale about Nils Holgersson can be experienced in the exhibition Magic Power - The Readers' Selma Lagerlöf. The visitors to the museum undergo a surprising transformation and see with their own eyes how the world must have looked to Nils Holgersson, who was suddenly so diminutive that all the animals were bigger than him. Now it was no longer a matter of him teasing them, but of them teasing him. In the exhibition you can meet crows, bears, eagles, cranes, rats, and not least geese. When the visitors step into the exhibition, they can follow the alluring call of the wild geese or visit the classroom and become pupils of Selma Lagerlöf for a while. The classroom is the starting point of the journey with Nils Holgersson. The journey is for everybody, and there are puzzles for children between 6 and 10. Nils Holgersson really added to his experience so our invitation to the visitors is taken right out of Selma Lagerlöf's tale: „To the hills! Now we are off to the hills." 

Comment this article

Only serious and factual comments will be published.


Other comments for this article

The Danish Royal Family - Part 2 af Alexandra Damgaard
Selma Lagerlöf was asked about the picture by the book's editor and her anwer was "just characteristic for scanian conditions". And even though the story is a call for the whole country to see the beauty and riches of Sweden, it is not a nationalistic enclosure.
A big thank You to Anne Marie Bjerg, an expert in Selma Lagerlöf.
Answer to Nick Schultze
The reason why it's the Danish Royal family on the picture is not accidental. Its due to the history of Scania. Scania was and still is a borderland between Denmark and Sweden both in the geographical and the cultural sense and has also belonged to Denmark once. So the picture shows a historical mindset represented by Nils Holgersson's parents.  
In the scene were Nils is looking for something to catch the elf, he sees his father's gun beside the picture of the Danish Royal family. Why was it not the Swedisch Royal family? 

Related articles

Spellbound - The Readers' Selma Lagerlöf
Selma Lagerlöf's Danish Breakthrough
Children's Letters to Selma Lagerlöf
Oats Force

Newest comments

(no subject)
The Danish Royal Family - Part 2
Why the Danish Royal Family - Part 1