Classic Children’s Stories: Heidi

Children's Stories - Heidi

Set in the dreamy Swiss Alps, ‘Heidi’ is a simple but heart-warming tale of a five-year old orphan girl, her friends, her love for the mountains, her trials and tribulations with urban life and her own little set of personal values.

Heidi (1880)

Author: Johanna Spyri

Although more than a century old, this rustic tale still continues to enchant little girls, who easily identify with the sadness of relocation and leaving old friends behind.

The Plot

Aunt Dete has been taking care of little Heidi ever since her parents passed away. The aunt, however, would rather focus on her career than spend time with an orphaned child. She sends Heidi to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.

The granddad is a quirky old man who is cynical about practically everything. However, as time goes by, he begins to love Heidi and enjoy her company. Heidi finds new friends in Peter the goatherd and his grandmother. She falls in love with the fresh mountain air, the rustic life and the simple village folks.

Trouble sets in when Aunt Dete arrives after a few years to take Heidi back to Frankfurt, where she would stay with a rich but crippled girl called Clara. Heidi goes with a heavy heart – she does not want to come across as an ungrateful wretch – but feels homesick and sad amidst the synthetic city life.

She also finds it difficult to fit into the aristocratic household, where everything is so prim and proper. Fraulein Rottenmeier, Clara’s governess, does not like Heidi because she thinks that the girl is too unsophisticated and raw for blue-blooded Clara.

Clara’s grandmother is the only person who understands Heidi’s pain – she teaches her to read and advises her to pray to God. Heidi misses the carefree life in the mountains so much so that she begins to walk in her sleep. Will Heidi ever get to smell the fresh Alpine air again? Will she get to see her old friends? And can she turn her back on Clara, who needs her care and support?

Why Your Child Will Love It

The simplicity of the theme and portrayed emotions make ‘Heidi’ an easy and pleasurable read for children of all ages. Pre-schoolers as well as teens can identify with the sense of displacement and insecurity that every child experiences at some stage. However, some of the language and old-fashioned values may not gel in with modern kids’ sensibilities and could need explanation.

The characters are well etched out, with an entertaining set of idiosyncrasies – especially Uncle Alm, Peter and Clara’s governess. Though a tad lengthy, the book makes for a delightful read-aloud for younger kids.

Why You Will Love It

Through Heidi’s internal conflicts, the author has beautifully brought out the stark contrast between the rustic and the urbane – their lifestyles, value systems, faith, love for nature and emotions. The language, though often unsophisticated, abounds in literary qualities.

In short, it is the kind of book that most parents would want their children to develop a liking for. Heidi’s innocent charm has won the hearts of several film-makers and the book has inspired several movies, animated films and television series. The 1937 and 1993 movie versions are worth a watch.

Copyright © Shuchi Kalra

Shuchi Kalra is a freelance writer based in India. Her works have been published several online and print publications- both in India and abroad. She also writes content for websites, businesses and portals. She is currently working on a short-story anthology.

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