I have wanted to read it Astrid Lindgren’s ‘Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter’ ever since Bina (from ‘If You Can Read This’) told me that it is one of her favourite books. Happily, I got a chance to read it this week. Here is what I think.
‘Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter’ is about Ronia who is born to the robber chieftain Matt and his wife Lovis on a stormy day. She brings happiness and delight to her parents and to everyone who is part of the robber gang. She grows up into a young girl who is very active, energetic, intelligent and adventurous. Then the time comes for her parents to let her go outside the fort and spend time in the woods by herself. Her father gives her a list of things that she should be careful about. Then Ronia sets out for the woods, spends time exploring and discovering new things, plays and comes back. She also discovers a boy there called Birk who is also exploring the woods. When she discovers that he is from a rival robber gang headed by Borka, there are some initial word-wars between them but gradually Ronia warms up to Birk and he does so too and they become friends, like a sister and a brother. When Ronia gets into trouble with the Unearthly Ones, Birk saves her. But, unfortunately, Ronia’s and Birk’s fathers don’t see eye-to-eye and are fierce enemies. And Birk’s father’s robber gang has moved into the adjacent part of Matt’s fort which heightens the tension between the two families and gangs. One thing leads to another and things come to a crisis point. It leads to Ronia leaving her home and going to the forest, finding Birk there and living there with him in the BearCave. They have some beautiful adventures, some wonderful times and some dangerous scrapes. What happens to them and whether they are able to get back to their families and whether Matt and Borka reconcile with each other form the rest of the story. I won’t tell you more. You should read the book and find out the rest of the story yourself.
I loved ‘Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter’. It was charming and beautiful. I enjoyed reading about Ronia’s time at home and the delight and joy she brings to her parents and the robber gang which is like her family. I also loved reading about the adventures that Ronia has in the forest with Birk. I loved the way the story depicts the relationship between parents and children when children start growing up and start asking uncomfortable questions and having opinions of their own.
I loved most of the characters in the story – Ronia, her parents Matt and Lovis, her brother Birk. One of my favourite characters was old Noddle-Pete, an old man who used to be a robber in Matt’s gang, but who is now an old wise man who shares his wisdom with the robber gang. One of my favourite scenes is the one in which Noddle-Pete says that he doesn’t have much time left and he is going to die soon and Matt asks him to stop talking like that. The description of that scene goes like this :
“But I’m going to leave my own two little tufts of hair alone. No unnecessary fuss, for I’ll soon be under the ground,” he said, stroking his bald pate contentedly.
Then Matt flung his might arms around Noddle-Pete and lifted him a good way off the floor. “You stop that about dying! I haven’t lived a day of my earthly life without you yet, you old fool, so you can’t just go and die behind my back, as you very well know!”
“We shall see, little boy, we shall see,” said Noddle-Pete, looking thoroughly pleased with himself.
I also loved the animal characters in the story – the mare Lia and the young wild horses Villain and Savage and the fox cubs which play around and bring a lot of joy to Ronia and Birk. One of my favourite parts of the book was when Ronia and Birk save Lia the mare, and Lia allows them to milk her and nearly becomes a tame horse and then one day she is pregnant again and she stops giving milk and she goes back to her herd and to being a wild horse. I loved the description of the parting scene between the two children and the mare :
They stayed with the mare a long time, and when they left her she followed them a little way through the light summer night. It was almost as if she understood that it was over now, this strange time she had been living through, which was not at all like the rest of her life as a wild horse. The little human beings who had made strange things happen were now going away from her and she stood there for a time, watching them until they disappeared among the spruce trees. Then she turned back to her herd.
I also found it interesting that the magic creatures depicted in the book are mostly nice and harmless (except the harpies) while real danger comes from real animals like bears and wolves and the sheriff’s men.
One of my favourite passages from the book was this – it made me think of Ray Bradbury’s delightful ‘Dandelion Wine’.
“I’m drinking in the summer like the wild bee sucking up honey,” she said. “I’m gathering it together in a big lump of summer, to live on when…when it’s not summer any more. Do you know what there is in it?…It’s a whole batch of sunrises, and blueberry bushes covered with berries, and the freckles you have on your arms, and moonlight over the river in the evening, and starry skies, and the woods in the noonday heat when the sun is shining on the fir trees, and the small rain in the evening, and squirrels and foxes and hares and elk and all the wild horses we know, and when we swim and when we ride in the woods – well, it’s a whole batch of everything that is summer.”
“You’re a good summer baker,” said Birk. “Keep it up!”
I can’t believe that I waited so long to read ‘Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter’. I loved it. It is one of my favourite reads of the year and it is a book that I will read again. I think I must be the last person on the planet to read it, but in case that is not true and you haven’t read it yet, I would heartily recommend it.
Have you read ‘Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter’? What do you think about it? Which is your favourite Astrid Lindgren book?