Literature / Heidi
, published 1880 in two parts named in full Heidi's Years of Learning and Travelnote
and Heidi Makes Use of What She has Learnednote
, is a novel by Swiss author Johanna Spyri.Heidi
, defined by its author as a book "for children and those who love children", quickly became a classic of Children's Literature
and is still one of the world's most popular books for children. Possibly it is also the internationally best known work of Swiss literature.
The novel's eponymous heroine is an orphaned Swiss
girl who, at the age of five and out of necessity, is given by her Aunt Dete into the care of her grumpy grandfather, who lives as a recluse in the Swiss Alps. The grandfather, an embittered man commonly known as the Alp-Öhi, is not at all happy about this, but eventually Heidi's blithe spirit
thaws the old man's heart. But the happiness of the two is not to last, when Aunt Dete, having received employment in the city of Frankfurt, returns to take Heidi with her to Frankfurt.
In Frankfurt, Heidi pines for the Alps, but she also finds a friend in Klara, the daughter of Aunt Dete's employer, Herr Sesemann.
Among several adaptations (even one with Shirley Temple
was adapted in 1974 as an Anime series known as Heidi, Girl of the Alps
, in 1982 as an Animated Musical
known as Heidi's Song
, and in 2008 as Heidi 4 Paws,
in which the entire story is re-enacted with dogs in costumes. The most (in)famous of these adaptations was a 1968 TV movie that interrupted the end of a football game, causing so many complaints that the network switchboard was shut down, which is the reason why sports games that go long always override regular programming now
Heidi provides examples of:
- Adaptational Heroism: The animated TV movie Heidi's Song uses the trope for Tinette the maid, who is haughty and often unsympathetic in the book but in the movie has become a sweet and kind young woman who helps Heidi escape and eventually runs off with the handsome milkman.
- Adaptational Villainy:
- In Heidi's Song, Sebastian the butler has been changed from a good-natured Servile Snarker and an ally of Heidi's to Fraulein Rottenmeier's snobbish and brutal Dragon.
- Fraulein Rottenmier herself is also an example. In the book, she's an antagonist due to her strictness, humorlessness, and being an altogether stick-in-the-mud. However, there's no hint of ulterior motives, and she genuinely wants the best (as she sees it) for Klara and the family. In the Shirley Temple version, Rottenmeir wants Klara's disability to linger so she can keep a permanent position with the family (completely irrelevant in the original, were Rottenmier was always housekeeper and Klara suffers from never having been able to walk). She also tries to sell Heidi to the gypsies out of spite.
- In the Shirley Temple version, Aunt Dete becomes a villain who actively hates Heidi, stealing her away from her grandfather, and telling Fraulein Rottenmier she could sell her to the gypsies if she so desires.
- Adaptation Personality Change: The two major movie adaptations make Spoiled Sweet Klara seem like a Spoiled Brat who uses her disability, not necessarily as a reason to be a pain, but certainly as a way to get attention and/or pity, as well as to manipulate any given situation.
- Adult Fear: Your beloved granddaughter is stolen away from you while you're out on the mountain. Poor Heidi's grandfather.
- Aluminium Christmas Trees: The concept of a person's physical health deteriorating due to being away from home may seem strange to modern audiences, but until the late 19th century, nostalgianote was considered a genuine medical condition. It was first observed among Swiss mercenaries serving abroad, and some deaths from it were even reported.
- Big Eater: Peter the goatherd. Actually, everyone who arrives or visita the Alps discover that they become Big Eaters — even Klara, who barely ate at all back in Frankfurt — which is explained as the effect of the mountain air. Peter is still the biggest eater, though; he's always hungry and never turns down food.
- Blithe Spirit: Heidi.
- Book Dumb: Peter can't read and is convinced that it's very hard and beyond what he's capable to learn.
- Cheerful Child: Heidi, of course. Klara as well...except in versions where she isn't.
- Composite Character: In the 1968 TV movie, Miss Rottenmeier is essentially Miss Rottenmeier in appearance, but Klara's grandmother in personality, to the point where she even becomes a surrogate mother to both Heidi and Klara.note
- Cool Old Lady:
- Klara's grandmother, so much. She's young in spirit and everybody respects her. She's wonderful to Klara and Heidi.
- Peter's grandmother is a sweet old lady. In the 1993 film adaptation, she's also a Blind Seer who helps Heidi learn to stick up for what she wants.
- Country Mouse: Heidi doesn't like the life in the city at all. She misses her dear mountains.
- Cute Kitten: Heidi and Klara like them and probably Sebastian too. Fraulein Rottenmeier, on the other hand, can't stand them. Justified in the 1993 film, as she appears severely allergic to them (and animals in general; she sneezes like crazy when she encounters mountain goats in the second half).
- Death by Adaptation: Peter's blind grandmother in the 1993 miniseries.
- Disabled Means Helpless: In most adaptations, Herr Sesemann and Fraulein Rottenmier react to Klara like this. Her grandmother on the other hand is aware of Klara's fragility but doesn't buy the helplessness angle.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Everyone Calls Him Alm-Uncle Or "Alp-Öhi" in the original German. We never learn his real name. He's named in at least two adaptations — the 1993 film gives us a first name of Tobias. The 1937 version with Shirley Temple calls him Adolph. A perfectly fine name, but then World War II rolled around...
- Fish out of Water: Heidi when she is forced to move to Frankfurt and become Klara's playmate.
- Food Porn: Admit it. You want the cheese toast.
- Gossipy Hens: The village below the mountain is full of these. Especially on the matter of Heidi's grandfather and the myriad possible reasons for his seclusion. In some versions of the book, one of the village women (Elisabeth) even talks to Dete on their way up there so Dete can become Ms. Exposition and explain Heidi's backstory.
- Green-Eyed Monster:
- Peter smashes Klara's wheelchair on purpose, pretty much just because he's jealous of another playmate taking all of Heidi's time. His conscience and fear of being caught catches up to him, though.
- Klara shows jealousy (at first) because Heidi can walk.
- Grumpy Old Man: Grandfather. He gets better.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Heidi goes into these more and more as she can't adapt to city life, to the point of starting to sleepwalk.
- Ill Girl:
- Klara, also a Lonely Rich Kid.
- Heidi's mother Adelheid, and according to Dete she had what sounds a lot like epilepsy ("curious attacks, during which no one knew whether she was awake or sleeping").
- In Harmony with Nature: Alm-Uncle has many elements of this (with the comeuppance that he is not a people person). Heidi manages to live in harmony with the goats and charm everyone around her. She also suffers in city environments.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Klara, the Ill Girl. Doubly so because she learns to walk at the end.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold
- Grandfather is revealed to be this after Heidi comes to live with him.
- Peter is selfish, temperamental and lazy, but at the end of the day he's not a bad person.
- Kick the Dog:
- While not a horrible person per se, Aunt Dete gets two instances of this: First when she forces her niece to live with an old man everybody believes is insane and possibly dangerous just so she has time to further her career, and secondly a few years later when she then drags off the same niece, unwillingly, to do a job she doesn't want in a city she doesn't want to live in. Dete also suggests to Alm-Uncle the chance that Klara (whom the audience has not yet met) will die and then Heidi will be adopted by Klara's father. She looks forward to the prospect with distinct pleasure because it will work out better for her.
- Fraulein Rottenmeier's treatment of the kittens and her abusive behavior towards Heidi is horrible. Dete didn't relish on her own behavior, unlike her.
- Last Name Basis: We never learn Miss Rottenmeier or Mr. Sesemann's first names.
- Loners Are Freaks: Until Heidi comes in...
- Lying on a Hillside
- Madden Into Misanthropy: The implied reason for Grandfather's long years of seclusion up a mountain.
- Meaningful Name: Is it any wonder that someone with the name "Rottenmeier" isn't such a nice person?
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: In the 1993 film, at least. Fraulein Rottenmier is portrayed by Jane Seymour, who in real life is a very classy, polite lady.
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Grandfather.
- Morality Pet: Heidi seems to have this effect on her grandfather.
- Matron Chaperone: Fräulein Rottenmeier's role seems to be preventing Heidi from having too much influence on Klara.
- Obfuscating Disability: Klara does this in the 1993 film. Not only is she in a wheelchair, but she appears to have fragile lungs. This can cause her to experience what look like severe asthma attacks, which then causes Fraulein Rottenmier and the servants to rush to get her a breathing treatment. Even when these attacks are real, the servants and family (except Grandma) treat them as catastrophic and give in to Klara whenever it looks like she's having one. Klara catches on; from that point, it's hard to tell what's real and what isn't because she conveniently starts breathing heavily whenever Heidi or someone else mentions leaving.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Heidi's real name is Adelheid, like her mother. Everyone who cares the slightest bit about her calls her Heidi.
- Parents as People: Mr. Sesemann does love his girl, but can't be with her as much as he likes.
- Parental Abandonment: Quite a bit
- Heidi: Her father Tobias died in a work accident, which was the last straw for Grandfather and prompted him to live in the mountain. Later, his wife Adelheid dies of illness, and Adelheid's sister Dete acts as a Parental Substitute until she dumps Heidi on the old man.
- Peter: His father is never mentioned, so he lives with his mother and his blind grandmother.
- Klara: Her mother died and her dad is always out in business so she's taken care of by Rottenmeier and Sebastian, and sometimes by her grandmother.
- Pet the Dog: Grandfather gets more and more moments like this as time goes by. Fixing Peter's grandmother's rickety shack for the sake of it was just the start.
- Puppy Love: In-universe: Heidi and Peter. Aww. (They do, in fact, get married in the sequel by Charles Tritten.)
- Religious Edutainment: Well, not really, but the 1968 TV movie has enough religious referencesnote that it occasionally appears on religious based TV networks and stationsnote
- Rich Bitch: Averted by Klara and pretty much the entire Sesemann family, who are rich but pretty nice. Their head housekeeper, on the other hand, is not. In the 1993 adaptation, Klara shows shades of being a Rich Bitch, but gets over it pretty quickly.
- Scare 'Em Straight: This is the tactic employed by Heidi (and to a lesser extent her grandfather) in order to motivate Peter to learn to read — she tells him about the horrible schools in Frankfurt and that he'll have to go there unless he learns... and then follows up with teaching him the letters through a series of verses that warns of the terrible things that'll happen to him if he doesn't learn. It works, to the extent that he does learn to read, but the weakness of the tactic becomes apparent when it's made clear that he still hates doing it and tends to skip words that look like they'll be too difficult.
- Scenery Porn: The Alps.
- Servile Snarker: Sebastian. Tinette, the maid, has her moments as well, but is played less sympathetically.
- Sleepwalking: During her stay in Frankfurt, Heidi misses her home in the Alps so much that it causes nightmares, and eventually this. Fraulein Rottenmeier and Sebastian initially mistake her wanderings for a ghost.
- Spell My Name with an "S": In some editions, "Detie" instead of "Dete" and "Clara" instead of "Klara" are used.
- Spoiled Sweet: Klara, who comes from a very rich family, but is polite and friendly. The only times she shows genuine selfishness is when she insists that Heidi stay in Frankfurt permanently, despite how clearly miserable her friend is without her beloved Alps.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Klara.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomboy Heidi likes playing with the goats and being outdoors, snuck in some kittens and a turtle into the Sessemann house, and asked quite a few impertinent questions. Girly Girl Klara was always prim and proper- and had to be motivated to go outdoors and try to walk again.
- Unnamed Parent: Mr. Sesemann, Klara's father. There are also two unnamed grandparents: Klara's grandmother and Peter's grandmother.
- Yodel Land