“Heidi” is a popular novel written by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, published in 1881. First publication consisted out of two separated books, “Heidi’s years of learning and journeys”, and “Heidi is using her knowledge”. The book soon became known as one of the best-selling books ever written, and one of the most popular Swiss books as well.
The story is about a girl named Heidi, who lives with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps after her parents passing away, when she was only six years old. Although her grandfather lives far from civilization, and the residents of the nearest village think of him as an eccentric and recluse, he is taking a rather good care of Heidi. Rough and inaccessible at first glance, he does everything within his possibilities to provide her all the essentials, but also teaching her about the harsh life in the mountains. Heidi enjoys living with her grandfather because she is receiving enough of love and affection, also enjoying the nature around her and the comfort of her home.
But still, Heidi keeps growing so her grandpa decides to return her back to the town of Frankfurt, where she could receive education suitable for becoming a lady. Heidi has to re-adapt to her city-life, far away from the nature, fresh air, freedom and her grandfather,which is causing her more effort then she had while adapting to the life in the mountain cabin.
The story has a lot resemblances with the book “Adealaide: The girl from the Alps” written by a German author Adam Von Kamp. These two books compared have a lot similarities between characters and the plot, so it is presumed Johanna Spiry was reading “Adelaide” while growing up and then used it as an inspiration for the character of Heidi.
Heidi has enjoyed great popularity among the readers, especially the youth, and later the book has been adapted into various tv-series and movies. There is even an amusement park in Switzerland, “Heidiland” , showing some famous locations as described in the book.
Genre: Children’s novel
Place: Swiss Alps, Dorfil, Frankfurt
Time: different time periods, the events take place within a couple of years.
Do you know it takes only a hour-long walk from the small town of Mayenfeld to the village of Dorfil? It’s the same amount of time needed for you to come to the mountain pastures, and there is Peter’s cabin at the half of the way. Peter is the character you’ll soon find out more about.
At the beginning of the novel, reader gets to know a tall and large girl Deta, who is taking by hand her little niece Heidi. Deta’s intention was to take her 5-year old niece all the way to the mountains where is her grandfather living humbly, owning only his log cabin and a couple of goats. Heidi nor the grandfather had any opinions about Deta’s decision, because nobody asked them to participate in making one for themselves.
Little Heidi began investigating her new surrounding at the very minute she arrived. Grandfather showed her the inside of the cabin, which consisted out of one room with built-in closet, a table and a chair. At the other side of the room was a bed in which grandfather used to sleep, and a large vessel, hanging above the fireplace. Heidi picked a sleeping spot at the attic, where grandpa made her bed out of fresh hay. He clearly immediately liked the girl and became fond of her. The next day Heidi met a goatherd Peter and she decided to go with him on his way to the pastures, followed by all the goats from little village of Dorfil and grandpa’s two goats – Schwanli and Baerli.
Growing stronger by each passing day, Heidi was taking all the benefits of living in the mountains.
Season changed and the winter begun, with huge amounts of snow, covering the whole mountain. Heidi was spending a great amount of time with Peter who invited her at his place so grandpa took a sleigh ride with her to his log cabin. Heidi met Peter’s family, his mother and his blind grandma, and won them with her kindness and sincerity. Especially the grandma, who enjoyed listening to Heidi’s voice. The next day Heidi persuaded her grandpa into fixing the grandma’s cabin so it won’t collapse. That was the first grandpa’s contact with another humans after his moving to the mountains. That was just the beginning of the happy days when Heidi was cheering the Peter’s family while grandpa was working around the house.
Three years passed from the day little Heidi arrived at the mountains and she learned a lot in that time period. Now she was eight years old and they started receiving messages about her attending the school, but grandpa was stubborn and refused the idea. After a while, Deta appears again and takes Heidi with her, despite the grandpa’s refusal,grandma’s pledges and Peter’s rage. She decided to take Heidi to the home of Mr. Sesemann ,where she would become a lady’s companion for his invalid daughter Clara. Heidi also met miss Rottenmeier, the head of household.
As time was passing by, Heidi’s long lust for pastures and nature only increased. She was using every opportunity for searching for the right spot from where she could observe the nature. One day she saw a church tower from her room window. She went outside with an intention to find that tower, but soon got herself lost. She asked a young street organ player for help, promising she’ll pay him forty pfenings for his assistance. When she finally got to the tower she was disappointed because she still could not’t see the pastures nor the valley from the tower top.
The church bell ringer gave her two kittens which she humbly took home with her. After a couple of unpleasant encounters with miss Rottenmeier,who can’t stand the animals, Heidi and Clara, with the help of the servant Sebastian found the safe place for the kittens inside the house.The next day the street organ player appears, demanding the money Heidi promised him. At that very moment miss Rottenmeier enters the room and trips at the player’s pet turtle. She demands from Sebastian to take out the intruder, but her problems are only beginning because Sebastian appears with a basket full of kittens. Miss Rottenmaierwas terrified so Sebastian took them to the safe spot in the attic.
Although Heidi was getting along with Clara, neither teacher nor miss Rottenmeier liked her so they used very available opportunity to make fun of her. When Mr. Sesseman finally returned home they accused her for being mentally retarded. He come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with the girl, finding her an excellent companion for his daughter. Mister Sesseman went on another journey, but he announced his mother’s visit. Clara’s grandma was a kind woman with a soft heart who immediately liked Heidi, and found the way to win Heidi’s trust and motivate her for learning how to read. Although Heidi gained yet another friend, she still lusted for mountains which resulted her becoming weaker every day. Her skin color became paler by every passing day, and her appetite for food decreased as well.
Odd events started to take place in the house, and the idea that there is a ghost present got all of them scared because the main house doors got mysteriously open wide every morning. Fortunately, mister Sesseamn returned and with the help of his good friend doctor Classen solved the mysteries. Heidi was moon walking and unconsciously opening the doors. Doctor diagnosed her illness as homesickness and proposed Heidi getting back home to mountains as the only valid treatment and cure for her condition. Heidi got on the train for Mayenfled next morning from where she continued her trip to Dorfil with a local baker in his carriage. Once she arrived, she immediately ran to visit Peter’s grandma, giving her a couple of buns as a present so she wouldn’t have to eat stale bread anymore. Everyone was happy because of her coming back home, but mostly her grandfather who became aware of his misconclusions, restoring again his faith in people. He decides to move to Dorfil every winter, so Heidi could attend school on regular basis. Soon the letter from Clara arrives, with the message they’ll all come to visit.
In the passing months, doctor Classen got torn by the great tragedy, death of his only daughter. Unfortunately, Clara’s health got worse so they had to postpone their journey to Switzerland, but doctor Classman took the trip instead. He enjoyed many benefits of this journey, got his appetite back and found a true friend in Heidi’s grandpa. He even managed to find a closer accommodation in Dorfil instead of hotel in further town of Ragaz, so they could hang out more.
After once invited, doctor started to spend every day at the pastures with Heidi and Peter. At first jealous, Peter later accepted the foreign guest who once even gave him his meal. Doctor asked Heidi to visit him back in Frankfurt and nurture him if he gets ill. He went back home hardly leaving the wonderful place in the mountains.
In October, before snow storms, grandpa and Heidi moved to Dorfil with their goats. Heidi started attending class, and Peter used to cut class. Grandfather got really mad, treating with beating him, and Heidi taught him how to read by tricking him into paying attention.
Heidi received another Clara’s letter, which triggered Peter’s jealousy so he was beating the poor goats. Finally, the Clara and her grandma arrived. Delighted with the natural beauties, Clara stayed as a guest at Heidi’s cabin in the mountains. Grandfather took care of Clara, assisting her and feeding her and Heidi with delicious goat milk. Klara was growing stronger, and Peter was becoming madder because he was jealous at Clara who got to spend more time with Heidi then he did. One morning at the peak of his rage he pushed the Clara’s wheelchair down the mountain. Grandpa went to find the remaining parts of the chair, and Heidi persuaded Peter into helping her to get Clara on her feet so she started to make first steps.Finally, she was able to walk on her own.
Clara decided to keep her recovery a secret, so she could surprise her grandmother when she returns. Grandfather, Heidi and Clara were equally happy with her recovery and current life events. Soon the Clara’s grandmother returns, taking Clara’s father with her.They were both shocked and astonished by wonderful news of Clara getting her health back. Peter, unaware that mr. Sesseman is Clara’s father, fell down the mountain trying to escape him, convinced he was the police officer taking investigation about broken wheelchair.
At the end everything was fine. Peter confess his guilt for breaking the wheelchair and he was forgiven because of the positive results his actions led to. Grandmother even gave him a lifetime money-rent as a prize. Grandpa got a promise that the Sessemans will take care after Heidi after his death, and Heidi was happy because she got a new bed for Peter’s grandma. The whole Sesseman family returns back to Frankfurt, but with promise to be back in the mountains again next spring.
Characters: Heidi, Clara, grandpa, Peter, Peter’s mom, peter’s grandmother, Mr. Sesseman, doctor Classen, Clara’s grandmother, miss Rottenmeier
The character analysis
The main character in this novel. Becoming orphan at a young age, she was living with her aunt in the valley of the Alps. Afterwards she moved to her grandfather’s place in the mountains. Change of the environment was something completely new for her, she was frightened and astonished at the same time.
When she moved to Frankfurt, she missed her life with her grandpa so much that she even tried to escape once. She enjoyed living in the mountains, although there she had only basic food and clothes, while in Frankfurt she was living in abundance. Heidi is emphatic, noble and nice. She is sincere, out-going and cheerful, always on the move. She is an optimist and tried to find a sliver lining in every negative situation.
She is very communicative, and her storied are very interesting or funny, because she always tries to make people around her happy, because of her natural state of joy and radiating optimism. Her playful spirit helps everyone in getting into good mood because that’s what makes her happy.
Older man in his seventies who lived alone in a cabin in the mountains. Beside Heidi, he owns two goats since many years ago he gambles away all his properties, and lost his son in an accident afterwards. Disappointed and grieving, he moved in the mountains keeping himself unattached from others. By meeting Heidi, he starts to gradually change his life.
Grandfather is a genuinely good person, hard worker, full of strength and vitality. After a while, he starts to get back into society and the people gladly accept him back.
A boy, described as a eleven-year-old at the beginning of the novel. He is six years older than Heidi, living with his mother and blind grandmother halfway between Dorfil and grandfather’s cabin. He is a hardworking goatherd, taking goats everyday to the pastures early in the morning and coming back home late in the evening.
He is very possessive about Heidi, showing jealousy and anger if anyone else tries to fill his place or only communicate with her in any way. At the end of the novel, he becomes aware of his flaws and genuinely tries to make some changes in his behavior. He avoids studying until Heidi persuades him, explaining him the importance of education.
A girl who spent her entire life in a wheelchair, but always ready for having fun and making jokes. She is the only child of widower Mr. Sesseman and she was described at the age of twelve (four years older than Heidi). As a result of her being in the wheelchair, she was weak and ailing, pale and tired. Although Heidi was complete opposite to her, uneducated and completely unladylike, she became instantly very fond of her. With Heidi by her side, she learned a lot about nature and her beauties.
Johanna Spyri Biography
Johanna Heusser-Spyri was a well-known author, born in Switzerland June 12., 1827. Because of her literal work, she became one of the most popular authors in Switzerland.
Johanna had a very happy childhood, as a contrast to the rest of her life. She grew up in a family with a lot of siblings. Although she was born beside a lake in Zurich, she spends the rest of her childhood in a house in the mountains, always filled with children laughter and many other guests and visitors.
She got married early, but soon she lost her husband nad their only child. In need, she turned herself to writing, probably somewhere around the war between France and Prussia 1871., affected by the huge amount of human grief and sorrow in her environment.
She created the character of a girl who liked living in the mountains, as a projection of her wish to have a daughter herself. Except writing, she enjoyed time spent in nature so she was spending a lot of her spare time in the Alps, convinced in the healing power of nature, as visible in “Heidi” as well.
She died in 1901., in her hometown Zurich.