Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ronia, The Robber's Daughter

A lesser known Astrid Lindgren book than Pippi, I think it Ronia, the Robber's Daughter is actually better in many respects. There is a very well done Swedish film of it, which I have seen probably 100 times (this happens when you live with a 4-year old), and I cannot wait to show it to Evalina (even though it is in Swedish, I think she'll understand the most of it, because the movie is very close to the book in detail.)

The Story: On the night Ronia (Ronja in Swedish) was born, there was a huge storm and a lightening bolt which ripped the fortress where her father and his band of robbers live in half. When Ronia was about 10-11, she began to explore the forests around the fort, and discovered that the other half of the fort had been occupied by a rival band of robbers, and their son Birk, who is the same age as Ronia. They began to have wonderful adventures together in the forest, meeting all sorts of trolls and dwarfs and other creatures, until the two rival bands of robbers start fighting even more, and Ronia and Birk decide to move into the forest by themselves.

The Good: It's just delightfully written. The target audience is older than Pippi - more along the lines of Narnia. I enjoyed reading it more than Pippi - not that there is anything wrong with Pippi! It's just I like Ronia more. Evalina joyed in rolling her R's in pronouncing Ronia and Birk and Borka correctly. It was fun. She does a great job with it. As far as the story goes? It's just wonderful. It's akin to Romeo & Juliet, with spunky 10 year olds instead of tragic 16 year olds, and with a non-suicidal ending. The kids are strong and independent, and decide that they do NOT want to follow in their father's footsteps to be robbers when they grow up, because they think it's wrong. The characters, major and minor, human and creature, are colorful and believable. I love this book.

The Bad: There are some really scary bits, with nasty Wild Harpies out to get Ronia and Birk, a harrowing trip down a raging river, and even a very sad death. There is some slightly bad language ("Dirty devils" being a favorite insult). Ronia and Birk have some seriously foolhardy adventures that I wouldn't want a modern 10-year old to emulate. The grown-ups are unapologetically robbers, and do not change their ways. Ronia's father disowns her (for a time) which is very sad. I don't think any of these things are enough to keep you from reading it.

The Verdict: I love Ronia. Her spunk and sense of adventure are admirable. She cares for Birk and doesn't care what her family says. She faces staying in the forest with him during the winter, and possibly dying with him, if her father and his band of robbers don't accept her friendship with him. She is true and brave and kind. Evalina really loved it, too. It's fun to read and I had her read a paragraph per page. She could have read more. Amazon has the reading level as 9-12, which I think would be appropriate for independent reading, but my 6 year old adored the story. I can't wait to share the movie (with its fabulous music) with her!

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