One of Astrid Lindgren’s most effective techniques is to let imagination engulf reality. The interpretation of the world by a ‘lying’ child triumphs. The most extravagant childish dream of omnipotence comes true in the story of Pippi. With irrefutable logic, Lindgren demonstrates what a solitary child needs to avoid being crushed in a world of hard-headed pragmatism.Most of Lindgren’s writing inhabits the borderland of reality and fantasy. While some of her works are demonstrably realistic, they are nevertheless about the ability of fanciful children to live in a world of play and imagination. Lindgren’s sensitivity to children’s feelings and perspectives, along with her uncompromising willingness to take their side, is a modernist trait that links her work to the radical psychology of permissive child rearing that made inroads in Sweden between the wars.
Korpfolksungen (The Raven People’s Child) is the Finland-Swedish author and artist Irmelin Sandman Lilius’s fortieth book. She made her debut aged nineteen in 1955 and has since then established herself as one of Finland’s internationally best known writers of children’s books. Korpfolksungen unites several of the typical elements in Irmelin Sandman Lilius’s oeuvre: sliding between the real and the fantastical, between childhood and the world of the adult, between mythical time, historic time, and the present makes her a boundary-breaking, multi-layered writer for readers of all ages.In the society that Irmelin Sandman Lilius builds in book after book the protagonists are the poor of the back lanes. The world of the poor is a minutely described women’s world, wherein the girls take on the tasks of women, take on adult responsibilities, and provide for themselves. In her later works, Irmelin Sandman Lilius far more often steps into a more autobiographically determined reality. In exquisite little illustrated books, she returns to her childhood and youth.
Tora Dahl certainly paid her dues before becoming a widely read author. She began writing in her late teens but did not publish her first book until the age of forty-nine. Her real breakthrough, which greatly expanded her readership, came after the age of seventy. The first part of her eighteeen-volume autobiography appeared in 1954. It is a unique project in the history of Swedish literature.Dahl’s books span nearly an entire century. The story starts in the late nineteenth century. The long chronicle of a woman’s progress as Sweden modernises is not only a unique cultural document, its consistent feminine perspective is new, fascinating, and provocative from the standpoint of literary history. While chronicling her labyrinthine road to a successful writing career, the series also reflects her growing disillusionment. The history of a struggle to be heard.
The Danish author Karen Blixen’s writing career came late and against a backdrop of heavy personal losses: financial problems forced her to abandon the coffee farm in Kenya, and the great love of her life, Denys Finch-Hatton, died in a plane crash. The losses are not just something linked to personal biography. In her re-workings, they grow into manifestation of a modern experience of loss of worth, a divided mind, and emptiness.Although Karen Blixen’s losses were profound and concrete, her realisation of life was also extraordinary and rich. This combination makes for a conflict that prompts her to go behind the tradition of realism and back to a narrative tradition stemming from the Arabian Nights, from Boccaccio, and from Cervantes’s stories in Don Quixote (1605 and 1615). A tradition which she combines with the eighteenth-century philosophical novels that have a narrator who deliberately plays with illusion and story, as we see in, for example, Diderot’s Jacques le fataliste et son maître (1796; Jacques the Fatalist and his Master). Furthermore, she finds inspiration in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tales with their compressed accounts of human psychology and transformation.Alongside the general atmosphere of loss and interruption and distorted human relations, the characters have an incentive in the question of where and how humankind can find hope.
The writing of Regine Normann (1867-1939) lent a new dimension to the Norwegian region of Nordland. She fused folklore with authentic depictions of everyday life. Her innovative idiom normalises the Nordland dialect in a way that permits the rhythmic narrative style to bring out the region’s mystical and popular mentality.Her many collections of legends, a number of which she had already used in her novels, place her as a folklorist who passed down the oral tradition. Many of Normann’s books revolve around conflicts and power struggles between different generations of women. The autocratic, vindictive, and pietistic mother figure reappears in various guises.The female characters in her Nordland tales have been spared a conventional, middle-class upbringing. Getting pregnant by your fiancé is no sin. In the Nordland of yore that Normann depicts, the natural, unbridled urges of the flesh can find satisfaction. However, Normann’s later works exhibit a pronounced religious tone.
In the course of a long life the Norwegian author and pastor’s wife Hanna Winsnes wrote – both for entertainment and edification – poetry and religious texts in verse, novels, short stories, and tales for children. She had no real artistic ambition, but liked to tell her ‘stories’ within the family circle and was always interested in the communication of ideas. Hanna Winsnes was well-read and well-versed in the literature of the past and of her modern day. Hanna Winsnes’s written world is generally harmonious and well-arranged, because she never expresses doubt as to the foundation for what is right and what is wrong. She repeatedly returns to the fact that love – between mother and child and between man and woman – along with belief in God and humility have the highest priority in life. Above all, Hanna Winsnes is famous, loved – and criticised – as Norway’s cookbook writer. From its very first edition in 1845, her Lærebog i de forskjellige Grene af Huusholdningen (A Guide to the Various Aspects of Housekeeping) proved to be popular reading.
Female writers of the Romantic movement did not have the academic training in literary tradition enjoyed by the majority of their male colleagues; this did not, however, mean that they approached literature with no prior aptitude whatsoever. If anything, being voracious readers they were stuffed with the male writers’ descriptions of the world and of themselves. They had an overwhelming urge to supplement and correct these pictures of women and the world according to their own minds. The female writers displayed a strong sense of having something new to tell.They were, naturally, aware that they were inscribing themselves in a literary institution that neither bid them welcome to the profession nor accepted their texts as authoritative. It was not easy to win readers for the images of woman and world that the female writers were attempting to project. Furthermore, the gender dualism and idealisation of intimate sphere-femininity of romanticism meant that the women writers struggled to integrate their writing self in their female self-image.
The Female Pattern in Folk Poetry and Folklore Collection
In earlier times the folktales known as “Narrationes Lubricae”, salacious stories, were narrated by adult informants in the rural areas of Norway, in the villages. There are many women registered among the adult informants. The crude stories were/are by no means the sole reserve of male company.We know the names of approximately two-thirds of those who narrated the comic erotic material, and of these exactly one half are women. This is perhaps surprising. Many consider the folktale and, one would have thought, the cruder type in particular, to be more of a male-centric form. We connect female informants primarily with ballads, in which music and aesthetics are in the foreground.
The most renowned female author of the Swedish Romantic period was Euphrosyne, the pseudonym of Julia Christina Nyberg. She made her debut in 1817 with a couple of poems in Poetisk kalender, one of the most important literary journals of the Swedish Romantic movement. The critics who swore to the aesthetic ideals of Romanticism usually spoke about her texts with sympathy and appreciation. Her literary fame seems to have been at its peak in the 1820s.She often found her motifs in fairy tales, folk tales, and myths – completely in agreement with the taste of the period. Nature was another source of inspiration to her. Flowers, birds, and the changing seasons became the subject of several of her most beautiful poems. It was love that she by preference and most ardently sung about, but in several poems Euphrosyne also wrote about the contemporary literary establishment, often satirically. The only prose text that she published was “Den sköna Cunigunda” (The Fair Cunigunda). To a modern reader, this is perhaps the most interesting of her texts. Here, she lets a number of female figures, taken from the Bible and ancient Egyptian mythology, from contemporary literature, and from the contemporary literary debate, mirror, amplify, or counterbalance each other.