The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

Selma Lagerlöf



Book Description

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (orig. Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige; literally Nils Holgersson's wonderful journey across Sweden) is a work of fiction by the Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf. It was originally published in two books, 1906 and 1907, and was first published in English as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils in 1907 and Further Adventures of Nils in 1911. The two parts are usually published together, in English as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, but that name may also refer to the first part alone. The book is about a young lad, Nils Holgersson, whose "chief delight was to eat and sleep, and after that he liked best to make mischief". He takes great delight in hurting the animals in his family farm. Nils captures a tomte in a net while his family are at church and have left him home to memorize chapters from the Bible. The tomte proposes to Nils that if Nils frees him, the tomte will give him a huge gold coin. Nils rejects the offer and the tomte turns Nils into a tomte, which leaves him shrunken and able to talk with animals, who are thrilled to see the boy reduced to their size and are angry and hungry for revenge. While this is happening, wild geese are flying over the farm on one of their migrations, and Martin, the farm's white goose attempts to join the wild ones. In an attempt to salvage something before his family returns, Nils holds on to Martin's neck as he successfully takes off and joins the wild birds. The wild geese, who are not pleased at all to be joined by a boy and a domestic goose, eventually take them on an adventurous trip across all the historical provinces of Sweden observing in passing their natural characteristics and economic resources. At the same time the characters and situations he encounters make him a man: the domestic goose needs to prove his ability to fly like the experienced wild geese, and Nils needs to prove to the geese that he would be a useful companion, despite their initial misgivings. During the trip, Nils learns that if he proves he has changed for the better, the tomte might be disposed to change him back to his normal size. The book also includes various subplots, concerning people and animals whose lives are touched in one way or another by Nils and the wild geese. For example, one chapter centers on a young provincial man who feels lonely and alienated in the capital Stockholm, is befriended by a nice old gentleman who tells him (and the reader) about the city's history - and only later finds that it was none other than the King of Sweden, walking incognito in the park.







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