Ronia the Robber’s Daughter

I felt it was time for another reread of a childhood favourite, this time of Ronia the Robber’s daughter (Ronja rövardotter) by Astrid Lindgren. In it we follow Ronia/Ronja, daughter to the chief in a clan of robbers, as she explores the world around her and decides on her own future. A sort of bildungsroman in the shape of a middle-grade adventure novel.

Ronia’s need to balance her obligations to herself, to her family, and to her friend, forms the central conflict of the novel, with a particular highlight being the complicated father-daughter relationship. Parents in children’s fiction are usually either very good or very bad, or absent, but here we get a father who loves his child more than anything in the world, but who still manages to be a pretty terrible parent.

I guess that technically the novel would be classified a Fantasy novel, considering that the forest that Ronia spends most of her time in is full of vaguely mythological creatures, but it doesn’t feel like one. Rumpnissar, grådvärgar and vildvittror, are all the kind of creatures that almost exists, and which may perhaps still be glimpsed in the shadows on a dark night. In fact one of the things I love with this novel is how real the forest feels. My own childhood forest was a boring planted spruce forest, but exploring it I still felt much of the same sense of adventure as Ronia does in her more magical one.

Most of Lindgren’s novels have at least a small streak of darkness in them, but her Fantasy novels are among her darkest and most interesting ones. Although The Brothers Lionheart is my favourite Lindgren novel, Ronia is a close second, and is perhaps an even better, or at least less controversial, introduction to her novels. Highly recommended for both children and adults!

17 thoughts on “Ronia the Robber’s Daughter

    1. It definitely can, although with Astrid Lindgren I know that I’m in safe hands. This particular novel is one I keep coming back to regularly as it is both very good and tied up with various good memories.

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  1. The Brothers Lionheart is my favourite Lindgren as well. It broke my heart when I was a child. Mio, my Son is probably my second favourite, but I also loved Ronja (and most of her Lindgren’s other books for that matter). I would love to revisit some of them and I’ve even considered writing more about Nordic literature on my blog. But living in the UK, it isn’t that easy to get hold of a copy.

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    1. The Brothers Lionheart is even more heartbreaking as an adult, but still brilliant. I would love to hear your thoughts if you do a reread. I have found that Astrid Lindgren’s novels in general hold up well for a reread, and they are available in English from Oxford University Press, so they should be possible to find.

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    1. It sure is, and I accidentally timed my reread with the arrival of spring, so now I feel a real urge to do like Ronja and move into the woods for awhile. I won’t though, but only because I’m a sensible adult who knows that until I have upgraded my sleeping bag I won’t enjoy camping in negative temperatures…

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  2. I’ve heard glowing reviews of this book from a number of places, I’ll have to put it to my wife. We’ve a little one in need of good childhood lore. Well, he will in a few years anyhow.

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    1. Astrid Lindgren is the giant in Scandinavian children’s literature, it is hard to overstate her influence. My personal favourites among her novels are Ronia and Brother’s Lionheart, they are both brilliant but do have some dark parts so you might want to read them yourself first before reading them for your child (especially the latter one). For a younger child Pippi Longstocking or Emil of Lönneberga might be more suitable. I haven’t reread either as an adult, so I can’t recommend them as firmly, but I believe they would both be suitable to read aloud for a child who has just started to appreciate chapter books.

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      1. Believe me, I reread everything before I pass them onto Wee Lad. 🙂 Can never be too careful. In your travels, and it’s a crapshoot, have you ever come across a good children’s anthology of Norse Mythology? I understand Kevin Crossley Holland has done a children’s version of his “Norse Myths” which I read in Middle School, but it’s hardly overly kid friendly – what with all the brain splattering and gratuitous Flyting.

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      2. Sorry, I grew up with Alf Henrikson’s version, but I don’t think it has been translated. Not sure it would have passed your kid friendliness test either, these are some rather brutal tales. Perhaps you could introduce them the traditional way by retelling them yourself instead?

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      3. Ah, those must be fond memories. During the big wind storms I heard about banshees, the elves crept about in quiet nights and ghosts, they live in the fog. There was something to do with the nakedness of the trees in fall but I can’t recall. I think I shall content myself to say that it is Mother Earth making way for Wōden and the Wild Hunt.

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