Bookhound said he got fed up with all these feisty women a while back but I didn't and there's one more heroine I completely forgot in my Heroine-orama and yet another memory triggered by finding the book in the Great Children's Book Shift.
I clearly remember the day I got this book because the Tinker had bought it for me on his way home from work and suddenly, in the middle of tea, told me to go and look in his coat pocket and there it was.I must have been about 6.
It's a pop-up book that has been popped up so many times it is falling apart and you can be sure I would have taken this book everywhere with me.
Originally written in 1880 by Johanna Spyri and published in England in 1884, it was top of the bestsellers that year alongside Treasure Island. With no seperate children's lists the assumption must be that it was read by adults too.I was unware that the sequels to Heidi were in fact written by the book's English translator, Charles Tritten.
This book was a visual treat and I spent hours looking at these pictures.Aunt Dete, Peter and grandfather, the blind grandmother with the spinning wheel and Clara in Frankfurt were all engraved forever in my memory as looking like this.Shirley Temple starred in a film version but to no avail, for me Heidi was the little blonde girl with plaits not curls and grandfather wore blue overalls.
But it was the wonderful ending that I couldn't wait to get to every time, Heidi returns home,and gruff grandfather, overjoyed at being reunited with her, gives up his reclusive life and takes Heidi to Church.
Little is known of Johanna Spyri, she refused to write an autobiography and demanded the return of most of her letters which she then destroyed.This on the basis that they had been meant for the recipient and not the public at large.
As Lisa Ohm elaborates in this fascinating article Johanna Spyri was "reclusive, serious-minded, socially reserved, intelligent, and acutely observant. She was particularly tormented by the misfortunes of children and families caught in the ever-widening zone of conflict between growing urbanization and rural isolation, which was prominent in late nineteenth-century Switzerland."
Then of course we're back in the realms of not only orphans like Heidi, but sick children like Clara.
Lois Keith in her book Take Up Thy Bed and Walk : Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls makes excellent comparisons with the plight of Colin in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Books that "celebrate life, the freedom of the spirit and the restorative powers of the open air" But Lois Keith makes another interesting point about the messages transmitted by the inclusion of "the miraculously walking child" to create a happy ending.These children may be pitied and cared for but final recovery is essential if they are to be accepted and move into adulthood.Being reconciled to the impairment was never a possibility.
Then there are a whole raft of messages about the goodness of the mountain air and new insights into links between mind and body in the healthy child, faith in God as a means to cure and redemption and so it goes on until you realize the book is laden with the attitudes and mores of the time making it all the more fascinating as an adult read 120 years later.
But of course I was blissfully unaware of any of that when I read as a child and that's the joy of it all.