Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Heritage of Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow wrote the stories that I loved to read, filled with tomtar, troll, älvor, and maror, that is gnomes, trolls, elves, and spirits--myths that had lingered from the times of Beowulf, creatures that lived in the dark woods of the North, flickering from behind mossy stones, hovering over fields in twilight, burrowing deep and disappearing fast in mists that thickened as the night lowered its black belly over the land.

Tomtebobarnen, or Children of the Forest (1910)

Beskow was a Swedish author and illustrator, known for her beloved children's stories. She received her education at the Tekniska skolans högre konstindustriella avdelning (Technical School for Higher Art) and became a teacher at the Whitlockska school from 1894 to 1879. In her lifetime, she wrote and illustrated over forty books, up until Röda bussen och gröna bilen (The Red Bus and the Green Car) in 1952, which was published the year before her passing. 

 Beskow was known for her keen attention to detail, especially in plants and animals, as her stories often involved pint-sized heroes.

 Tiny royalty

Olles skidfärd, or Olles Ski Trip (1907)

 "There was great confusion among the creatures of the forest the day they found a golden sphere in their path. What could this be? It was so beautiful it had to be an egg from the sun itself!"

 The Sun Egg

She also illustrated several of Alice Tegner’s songbooks and drew the classic pictures now associated with Jeanna Oterdahl’s texts in Blommornas bok (The Book of Flowers); Mors lilla Olle, a Swedish nursery rhyme; the school songbook Nu ska vi sjunga (Now We Will Sing); and the ultimate school reader--which I myself read from--Vill du läsa? (Do you want to read?). 

 Cover of Vill du läsa?

Stories that we read in childhood stay with us forever. Long live the nursery rhyme, the fairy tale! Long live the high imagination that flings us up and out into far greater worlds!

No comments: