What the Scandinavians Know about Children's Literature
First broadcast: BBC Radio 4, 26 Mar 2012
From the super-human strength of Pippy Longstocking by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren to the strange Finnish animals dreamt up by Tove Jansson in the Moomin stories, and the anarchic Wild Baby created by Barbro Lindgren and Eva Eriksson, Scandinavian children's literature 'punches above its weight' in terms of worldwide sales. Why is that, and why does it have a particularly unique voice?
It began with probably the best known storyteller for children - Hans Christian Andersen - and continued with the work of Elsa Beskow, the Swedish Beatrix Potter. It's still alive today in the books of authors like Gro Dahle.
According to Professor Maria Nikolajeva, a senior editor for the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Children's Literature, Scandinavian books are not rooted in the world of fantasy, like other children's stories, but are often grounded in a slightly skewed reality in which the childlike characters exhibit 'magical' talents. She claims that the Scandinavian culture of respect for the child, the history of the region and those long winters have all had a profound effect on the character of its literature.