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Literature: Ronja the Robber's Daughter

A Swedish novel about a robber's daughter, originally written by Astrid Lindgren in 1981.

Ronia is the daughter of Mattis, the chief of a group of bandits living in a fort hidden in the woods.One day she journeys out on her own and meets Birk, the son of Borka, the chief of a rival bandit clan. While competing over who can leap over a chasm the best, Birk is rescued by Ronia from falling to his death and they secretly become friends.

The extremely faithful movie version, directed by Tage Danielsson, was made in 1984 and became the highest-grossing film in Sweden that year, that was later expanded to a four-part TV Mini Series. There is also a musical (by Axel Bergstedt) and a stage adaptation (by Barbara Hass), both of them German. A Japanese animated TV series co-produced by Studio Ghibli started airing in October 2014.

Ronia the Robber's Daughter provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: The things Mattis warns Ronja about when he sends her into the woods alone for the first time are just as worrying to a modern parent. Having your child get lost, fall into a river and drown, be taken by a predator (human or otherwise) or fall off a cliff is just as much a terror to a modern parent as it is to poor Mattis.
  • All Trolls Are Different: There are numerous races of trolls, goblins and Fair Folk living in Matt's wood, most of them based on Scandinavian folklore and all of them with drastically different personalities and appearances.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Almost every robber. They happily sing when at home, in battle and when robbing.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ronia is not happy about finding out how her father makes his living. She is even more displeased when she discovers what he has done to Birk.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue:
    • When Ronja finds Birk floating in the rapids, he is very collected about it:
    Ronja: Birk! I thought you drowned!
    Birk: Not yet, but soon. Do you hear the waterfall?
    • When Ronja tries to save Birk after he falls into Djävulsgapet, he is fairly calm about it:
    Ronja: Hold on!
    Birk: Yeah, there's not much else to occupy oneself with down here.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Birk and Ronia pretty early, Mattis and Borka at the end.
  • Dub Name Change: There are two English translations: the 1983 Methuen Children's Books' The Robber's Daughter and the 1985 Puffin Books' Ronia, the Robber's Daughter. Both versions made some changes in the character names, the former being far more drastic. In the Methuen version, Ronja is called "Kirsty" while Puffin simply modified the spelling to "Ronia". The Other Wiki has a more extensive list of name-changes.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Mattis is about as far from The Stoic as you can get, but it doesn't detract from his badass credentials in any way.
  • The Fair Folk: In one scene, Ronia is almost abducted by them when they hypnotize her with their songs.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Well, it's Swedish, so the radar is calibrated differently, but in the movie, when the robbers are celebrating Ronia's birth, Matt is laughing because Borka doesn't have any children and "probably doesn't even know how to make 'em." The great belly-laugh from the other robbers leave the adult viewer with no doubt as to what Matt is talking about here.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The robbers hideout at Matt's castle, for obvious reasons.
  • I Have No Daughter: Matt's reaction when Ronia tells him she doesn't want to be his daughter after he kidnaps Birk.
  • Inevitable Waterfall
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Discussed. When Ronja calls her father on his robbing lifestyle, he defends himself with that he gives to the poor as well. He is immediately called on it - the last time he did that was ten years ago.
  • Large Ham: Börje Ahlstedt as Matt in the movie is one of the largest and most legendary hams in Swedish cinematic history.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Ronia and Birk begin to call each other "brother" and "sister" as a sign of their friendship despite their fathers being bitter enemies. Possible subversion in that they're only around 10 years old, so there's no romance yet. Birk's mother Undis even lampshades it:
    Birk: She is my sister.
    Undis: Sister? (scoffs) Well you know how that's going to turn out in a few years.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: In the very first chapter, lightning strikes Matt's castle and splits it and the mountain beneath it in two, creating a deep chasm.
  • Low Fantasy: Somehow still manages to be a pleasant children's book.
  • Mafia Princess
  • Mama Bear: Lovis, even when her daughter's father becomes, in her words, "More than legally insane" with I Have No Daughter Syndrome.
  • Man Child: Matt.
  • Naked People Are Funny: At one point, all of Matt's robbers are chased out of the fort, stark naked, to "bathe" in the snow. The scene is played entirely for laughs.
  • Not So Different: Matt and Borka. Once they stop fighting, they get along quite well, in their own way.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Even though they are rivals, Matt springs Borka and his men from jail at great personal risk.
  • Overly-Long Scream: The film version has a memorable one.
  • Papa Wolf: Matt
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Anime!Mattis rocks a pair of pink trousers and at one point cancels a raid so that he can feed his baby girl dinner. He also fights knights, harpies and greydwarves like a true badass.
  • Rebellious Princess / Rebellious Prince: Ronia and Birk.
  • The Rival: Matt and Borka
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Harpies aren't part of Swedish folklore. Maybe that's why Lindgren didn't even call them "harpies". She called them "Vildvittror" (wild wights), which is a much more generic term.
  • Separated by the Wall: Well, by the deep chasm, anyway.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Borka, when he and his henchmen are dressed in women's clothing to ambush Matt

Pippi LongstockingNon-English LiteratureThe Sword Does Not Jest
Repo ManFilms of the 1980sRunaway
The Robots of DawnLiterature of the 1980sRose of the Prophet
The Roman Mystery ScrollsChildren's LiteratureRowan of Rin

alternative title(s): Ronia The Robbers Daughter; Ronja The Robbers Daughter; Ronja The Robbers Daughter; Ronia The Robbers Daughter
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