Monday, December 10, 2007

Ronia the Robber's Daughter

by Astrid Lindgren

This book deserves all the superlatives that have become cliches, and then a whole new set of superlatives again. It is that good. Set in a fantastical landscape of wild mountain woods habited by dwarves and harpies in addition to bears and wild horses, this book celebrates the beauty of nature just as Rasmus and the Vagabond does.

Its basic story is old as the hills: boy and girl from warring clans meet and join forces. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, they swear kinship, not love. Roaming through the magical forest where they live, each finds themselves up against dangers they cannot survive alone. Fortunately, the other is always close to hand. It is this chain of chance encounters that forges their relationship. In the end, they are the catalyst that brings their two clans together again. This is not a simple story, nor is it heartwarming in the cloying Disney sense. Instead it is human, and recognizable, and believable in spite of its surreal elements.

This book is written in a multi-level kind of way, so that a preteen interested in first love could find traces of it here, but a child interested in adventure would probably not even notice. There is, it seems, something for everyone here, and it is written, as usual, in a clear, matter-of-fact style that still manages to be lyrical and full of the joy of life.

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