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Literature / Ronja the Robber's Daughter

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

Ronja 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 Ronja 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 and animated by Polygon Pictures started airing in October 2014.


Ronja the Robber's Daughter provides examples of:

  • All Trolls Are Different: There are numerous races of trolls, goblins and Fair Folk living in Mattis's wood, most of them based on Scandinavian folklore and all of them with drastically different personalities and appearances.
  • An Aesop: Life and love are too precious to be wasted because of hatred and stubbornness.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Almost every robber. They happily sing when at home, in battle and when robbing.
  • Born During a Storm: Ronja was born during a storm so fierce that it split the castle where she was born in half.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Ronja is not happy about finding out how her father makes his living. She is even more displeased when she discovers he has kidnapped 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Birk's general attitude is a laid-back cheekiness, and he seems unable to go for long without making some kind of quip. Lovis also gets in a number of zingers, usually directed at Mattis, The biggest snarker in the book, though, is without question Skalle-Per/Noodle-Pete.
    Skalle-Per: So what about this bull you wanted to take by the horns and throw into Hell's Gap? Made a great big noise when it fell down, did it? Must have echoed through the whole castle.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Birk and Ronja pretty early, Mattis and Borka at the end.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Depending on the weather and the time of year, Ronja prefers to go barefoot. This is likely because she is an Earthy Barefoot Character.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Besides voicing Ronja in the anime's Swedish dub, Laura Jonstoij Berg sang the opening theme song.
  • 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.
  • Face Death with Dignity: From the beginning of the book, Skalle-Per knows he's more than over the hill. At the end, he spends a few days peacefully reminiscing in bed before passing away.
  • The Fair Folk: In one scene, Ronja is almost abducted by them when they hypnotize her with their songs.
  • Feuding Families: Mattis' and Borka's clans have been at war with each other for at least four generations.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The robbers hideout at Mattis's castle, for obvious reasons.
  • Honorary Uncle: All the men in Mattis' band of robbers love Ronja from the moment she is born, and care for her in their own awkward way.
  • I Owe You My Life: Birk to Ronja. Later on, when he repays her, they become friends.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Mattis refuses to acknowledge Borka and his men as a people. He calls them devils instead, and his robbers follow his example. This is also why Mattis does not understand why taking Birk hostage angers Ronja; In his eyes, the son of his nemesis is nothing more than a "Snakespawn."
  • Lighter and Softer: If Astrid Lindgrens three major fantasy works (Mio, My son, Brothers Lionheart and this one) counts as a spiritual trilogy, this one is definitely this to the previous ones, with no real Big Bad present and a much lighter tone and themes in general.
  • 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 Mattis in the movie is one of the largest and most legendary hams in Swedish cinematic history.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Ronja 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 Mattis' 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: Ronja is the Medieval European Fantasy variant, the daughter of the leader of a robber clan.
  • Mama Bear: Lovis, even when her daughter's father becomes, in her words, "More than legally insane" with I Have No Daughter Syndrome. Even though she is The Stoic to Mattis' Large Ham, she actually appears stronger than him (effortlessly lifting a heavy cauldron and a huge side of mutton that Mattis is struggling to move even in Berserker Rage). The robbers are right to fear her.
    Wolf, wolf, don't come near
    You'll never take my child
  • Manchild: Mattis.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: One of anime!Mattis' signature moves.
  • Naked People Are Funny: At one point, all of Mattis' robbers are chased out of the fort, stark naked, to "bathe" in the snow. The scene is played entirely for laughs.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Even though they are rivals, Mattis springs Borka and his men from jail at great personal risk.
  • Overly Long Scream: The film version has a memorable one.
  • Papa Wolf: Mattis.
  • Parents as People: Mattis loves Ronja with all his heart, but he's not even close to being a perfect father. His pride and pigheadedness could very well be considered the main antagonistic force of the story.
  • 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 grey dwarves like a true badass.
  • Rearrange the Song: "The Call of Spring" was re-arranged for international broadcasts of the anime adaptation.
  • Rebellious Princess: Ronja, once she learns exactly what it means to be a robber; Birk is a gender inverted version.
  • The Rival: Mattis and Borka.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Harpies aren't part of Swedish folklore. In the original Swedish version, they're called "Vildvittror" (wild wights).
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl:
    • Boisterous and impulsive Ronja is balanced out by the levelheaded and cheeky Birk.
    • Mattis and Lovis invert this; He's as Hot-Blooded as they come, while she is cool and calm enough for the whole fort. Judging by how Birk describes them, his parents, Borka and Undis, play this straight
  • Scenery Porn: The anime adaptation seems to consist of at least 50% scenery shots.
    • Not to mention the live action movie, which is filled with shots of Swedish old-growth forests, and the animals that inhabit it.
  • Separated by the Wall: Well, by the deep chasm, anyway.
  • Shipper on Deck: Lovis knows perfectly well what's going on between Ronja and Birk, and is fairly OK with it; Undis notices as well, but isn't as pleased.
  • Skinny Dipping: Ronja and Birk in the movie adaption.
  • Wealthy Ever After: Implied in the final chapter. The children have decided to not grow up to be robbers, and encourage their fathers to become honest men as well, which lead to the question of where they will get their incomes from then on. On his deathbed, Skalle-Per reveals to Ronja where to find a cache of silver ore in the mountains that he discovered decades ago. Ronja tells Birk the secret, and they agree to go find the silver when they're older.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Mattis and Borka played together as boys, but their potential friendship ended when Mattis' father threw young Borka out of the fort and beat him for good measure.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: In the anime, the fight between Mattis and Borka features suplexes, choke holds, one fighter getting thrown out of the ring and the fight continuing on the floor, and in the end Mattis somehow wins by fall.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Borka, when he and his henchmen are dressed in women's clothing to ambush Mattis.
  • Women Are Wiser: Lovis is the only female among the robbers, and the most sensible by a significant margin. Ronja becomes similarly practical as she grows out of her naiveté, and while not given much focus, Undis appears to be this for Borka's band as well.
  • Young Love Versus Old Hate: Ronja and Birk's friendship vs their fathers' rivalry. The kids cannot stand to be without each other, and run away from home for months when their parents try to separate them. Young Love ultimately wins in the end when Mattis and Borka make up. As deep as their hatred goes, the men would rather be partners with happy children than enemies with miserable children.

Alternative Title(s): Ronja The Robbers Daughter, Ronia The Robbers Daughter