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Literature / Alfie Atkins

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Alfie Atkins (Alfons Åberg in the original Swedish) is a series of children's books, written and illustrated by Swedish author Gunilla Bergström. Alfie is an ordinary little kid who lives with his father in an apartment complex somewhere in Sweden. He goes to kindergarten (later elementary school), plays with friends, gets certain problems with going to bed and other everyday life things young children deal with.

In addition to Alfie and his dad, the books also feature several recurring characters, including his grandmother, his cat Puzzle ("Pyssel" in Swedish), his friends Victor and Milla, and his "secret friend" Malcolm ("Mållgan" in the original Swedish, "Moggie" in the English TV version).

The books have seen several adaptations to film, audio dramas, theatre plays and TV. The best known adaptation is probably the animated one — sixteen short cartoons based on the books were produced by STV in the 1980s and 1990s, and thirteen more by MAIPO in 2013, along with a theatrical animated movie called Hocus Pocus, Alfie Atkins.

Not to be confused with the film Alfie or its remake, or the NSFW webcomic.

Tropes present in the series:

  • Bedsheet Ghost: Literally, in Who's Scaring Alfie Atkins?, Alfie has been freaking himself out the whole book due to his fear of the dark, and he sees what he thinks are ghosts on the balcony, which later turn out to be bedsheets hanging out to dry.
  • Cheerful Child: Alfie, for the most part, is upbeat, good-natured and reasonably well-behaved — like any kid, he has his Bratty Half-Pint moments, or moments where he lets his emotions get the better of him, but these moments are fairly few and far in-between.
  • Comic-Book Time: The first Alfie Atkins book came out in 1972, and the last one in 2012. Over the course of 40 years in real time, Alfie has aged from being 4 years old in the earliest books to 6-7 years old in the latest ones.
  • Imaginary Friend: Malcolm is one of the most famous examples of an imaginary friend in Swedish kids' literature — despite only being in a few books.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Alfie's older cousins, Bing and Benny, are often callous and dismissive towards him because he's "too little," and can sometimes be directly mean. But when all is said and done, they're not bad kids at heart, and they come around in the end.
  • Missing Mom: Alfie's mother is completely absent from the books, and is neither mentioned nor are there any pictures of her in the apartment.
  • Mr. Imagination: Like the little kid he is, Alfie can often let his imagination run wild. Since the books are generally told from his perspective, they will occasionally feature grand adventures that he goes on, or scary monsters who lurk under his bed, or of course Malcolm. While the books make it clear that it's all in Alfie's imagination, they without fail describe the events, monsters and imaginary people as if they're really there.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The plot of Is That A Monster, Alfie Atkins?. Alfie loses his new soccer ball during a ballgame and blames a younger kid who's acting as ball boy for not finding it. Alfie ends up hitting him, and is wracked with guilt, which ends up manifesting as a fear about a monster under his bed.
  • Put on a Bus: Malcolm quietly vanishes from Alfie's life at the end of Who'll Save Alfie Atkins? when Alfie makes his first real friend, Victor. The end of the book kind of treats it as a But Now I Must Go on his part; Alfie didn't need him anymore and so he disappeared... perhaps to find some other lonely kid who need a "secret friend." He's not quite gone from the franchise, though; he's appeared in adaptations, and even had his own spin-off book where he visits Milla at night and comforts her doll who's afraid of the dark.
  • Standard '50s Father: Alfie's dad is a typical tie-and-cardigan-wearing, pipe-smoking and sage-advice-dispensing father. But he also subverts parts of the trope since Alfie's mother for some reason is nowhere to be seen in the whole series, which makes it necessary for Dad to do household chores which most 50s fathers would expect their wives to handle. Of course, the first book wasn't published in The '50s, but in 1972, when it was becoming popular to flip traditional gender roles even in works for children.
  • War Is Hell: Though it's toned down for the sake of a young audience, this is is essentially the theme of Alfie Atkins and the Soldier Dad. Alfie's friend Hambi comes from an immigrant family and his father used to be a soldier. Alfie is interested in hearing about the war, but Hambi's father doesn't want to talk about it, just saying that it was horrible.