The Best Works of Selma Lagerlöf

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But there are things indescribably wonderful in the old house where I stay. For one thing my Uncle has a. Then there is the theatre. Sometimes it is a play and sometimes an opera — a rosy world. It is fortunate that I had sat at mother's knee and read Nosselt's History, else how could I find my way. Sometimes now in foreign lands I enter a theatre and feel the old thrill of expectation. Their favourite piece — one suspects Miss Lagerlof's own favourite piece — was "My Rose of the Forest," "not," she remarks, "because it is the most interesting, but because it is the simplest, and in fact the only one we can present.

I have to rehearse them all. We have no prompt book, only my memory to guide us. It is I who, with the help of quilts and blankets, make the stage scenery and it is I who make up the actors. I am the only one with any knowledge of all these things. For the latter part, the little Swedish girl's own yellow hair was rear- ranged to imitate the locks of the aged man. Perhaps he would have been pleased. She had always in- tended to write novels and plays but now at fifteen she felt that nothing was so desirable as to write great poetry.

One evening she felt her gift of rhyming and the whole night long she lay awake composing verse after verse. But, she goes on to say, of all the verses she wrote at this period there is only one that she remembers or is pleased with. She describes her anxiety because the number of students was limited to twenty -five and there were forty taking the exam- inations.

Finally, when she hears that she is one of the fortunate twenty-five who have passed in the examinations she says that she steals off to the other end of the house to be alone. She is no longer help- less and dependent on others but has a career be- fore her and is going to manage her own life. Thus in , after a year at Sjoberg's Lyceum for Girls, in Stockholm, Miss Lagerlof entered the Teachers' College where she remained for three years, returning for all her vacations to her beloved Varmland home where, as we shall later see, she was ever living in the soul, taking deeper and deeper within herself the legends of that beautiful, mystical land, for the great book which was to turn the course of her life.

Her studies completed, she received an appoint- ment to teach in the Grammar School for Girls at Landskrona, Province of Skane. There she hoped to find time for literary work, and much that she did then was later turned to good purpose. This phase of Miss Lagerlof 's life is told by her- self in an appealing little autobiographical account of how she came to write her first book "The Story of Gosta Berling" which, of course will stand as long as her works are known as a classic of Swedish romance.

NCE there was a story that wanted to be told and sent out in the world. This was very natural, inasmuch as it knew that it was already as good as finished. Many, through remarkable deeds and strange events, had helped create it; others, had added their straws to it by again and again relating these things. What it lacked was merely a matter of being joined together, so that it could travel comfortably through the country. The story that wanted to be told had sprung up in Varmland, and you may be sure that it circled over many mills and manors, over many parsonages and many homes of military officers, in the beautiful jjrovince, peering through the windows and begging to be cared for.

But it was forced to make many futile attempts, for every- where it was turned away. Anything else was hardly to be expected. People had many things of nmch more importance to think of. Finally the story came to an old place called Marbacka. It was a little homestead, with low buildings overshadowed by giant trees. At one time it had been a parsonage, and it was as if this had set a certain stamj upon the place which it could not lose. They seemed to have a greater love for books and reading there than elsewhere, and an air of restfulness and peace always i er- vaded it.

Here there was never any rush of duties or bickerings with servants, nor were hatred and dissension given house room, either. One who happened to be a guest in this home was not expected to take life too seriously, but was made 14 SELMA LAGERLOF to feel that his first duty was to be light-hearted and to know that for one and all who lived on this estate our Lord managed everything for the best.

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Sometimes the dear adventurers came to the homestead in more tangible form. Aged and poverty-stricken army officers would drive up to the house behind rickety old horses and in rickety carryalls, and stay for weeks at a time. In the evening, when the toddy had put courage into them, they would talk of the time when they had danced in stockingless shoes, so that their feet would look small, of how they had curled their hair and dyed their mustaches.

One of them told of how he had once tried to take a pretty young girl back to her sweetheart, and of being hunted by wolves on the way; another THE STORY OF A STORY 15 had been at the Christmas feast where an an- gered guest had flung all the hazel-grouse at the wall because some one had made liim believe they were crows; a third had seen the old gentle- man who used to sit at a plain deal table and play Beethoven.

It must have been because so many legends and traditions hovered about the farm that one of the children growing up there longed to become a narrator. It was not one of the boys, however, for they were away at school almost the whole year and the story did not get much of a hold upon them. But it was one of the girls — one who was delicate and could not romp and play like other children, and who found her keenest enjoyment in reading and hearing stories about all the great and wonderful things which had happened in the world.

However, at the start it was not the girl's in- tention to write about the stories and legends surrounding her. When she tried to write, she chose ma- terial from her books, stringing together stories of the Sultans in "Thousand and One Nights. But this very naturally she herself did not see. She went about at home on the quiet farm, filling every scrap of paper she could lay her hands on with verse and prose, with plays and romances.

When she was not writing, she sat and waited for success. And success was to consist in this: Some stranger who was very learned and influential, by some rare freak of fortune, was to come and discover what she had written and find it worth printing. After that, the rest would come of itself. Mean- while nothing of the sort happened. And so, one autumn, when she was two-and- twenty, she went to Stockholm to prepare herself for the vocation of teacher.

She wrote no more, bnt went in for studies and lectures. It actually looked as though the story would lose her altogether. Then something extraordinary happened. This same autumn, when she had been living a couple of months amid gray streets and house walls, she was walking one day up Malmskillnad Street with a bundle of books under her arm. She had just come from a lecture on the history of literature. The lecture must have been about Bellman and Runeberg, because she was thinlving of them and of the characters that live in their verses. She said to herself that Runeberg's jolly warriors and Bellman's happy-go-lucky roisterers were the very best material a writer could have to work with.

And suddenly this thought flashed upon her: Varmland, the world in which you have been living, is not less remarkable than that of Fredman or Fanrik Stal. If you can only learn how to handle it, you will find that your material is quite as good as theirs. Thus she caught her first glimpse of the story. And the instant she saw it, the ground under her seemed to rock. She stood still a long while, until the street had settled itself. She gazed with astonishment at the passers-by, who walked calmly on, appar- ently unconscious of the miracle that had taken place.

Then and there the girl determined that she would write the story of Varmland's Cavaliers, and never for an instant did she relinquish the thought of it; but many long years elapsed before the determination was carried out. During these years things were constantly happening which helped mould it. One morning, on a school holiday, as she sat at the breakfast table with her father, the two of them talked of old times.

He was telling her of an acquaintance of his youth, whom he described as the most fascinating of men. This man brought joy and cheer with him wherever he went. He could sing; he composed music; he improvised verse. If he made a speech, one had to laugli or cry, whichever he wished. If he drank himself full, he playetl and talked better than when he was sober, and when he fell in love with a woman, it was impossible for her to resist him.

If he did foolish things, one forgave him; if he felt sad, one wanted to do anything and everything to see him glad again. But anv great success in life he had never had, despite his wealth of talents. He had lived mostly at the foundries in Viirmland as private tutor. Finally, he was ordained as a minister. This was the highest that he had attained. After this conversation she saw the hero of her story better than heretofore, and with that a little life and action came into it. One fine day a name was given to the hero, he was called Gosta Berling.

Selma Lagerlöf: "Gösta Berlings saga"

Whence he got the name she never knew. It was as if he had named himself. Another time she had come home for the Christ- mas holidays. One evening the whole family went off to a Christmas party a good distance from home in a terrible blizzard. It turned out to be a longer drive than one would have thought. For several hours she sat in the sleigh in the blinding snowstorm thinking of the story. When they at length reached their destination, she had thought out her first chapter.

It was the one about the Christmas night at the smithy. And what a chapter!

Selma Lagerlof

It was her first and for many years her only one. It was written in verse, for the original plan was that it should be a romance cycle, like "Fanrik Stal's Sagas. The Christmas night was worked over to go in as the first act. But this attempt was not successful, either; at last she decided to write the story as a novel.

Then the chapter was done into prose.

It grew enormously long, covering forty written pages. In the final revision it took up only nine. A few years later came a second chapter. As a matter of fact, all this occurred during the 'eighties, when stern Realism was at its height. For her own part, she liked the romanticists better, hut ro- manticism was dead, and she was hardly the one to think of reviving its form and expression!

Although her brain was filled to overflowing with stories of ghosts and mad love, of wondrously beautiful women and adventure-loving cavaliers, she tried to write about it all in calm, realistic prose. She was not very clear- visioned.

Selma Lagerlof Biography

Another would have seen that the impossible was im- possible. The longing came over her in this manner: The homestead where she had grown up was sold. She journeyed to the home of her childhood to see it once again before strangers should occupy it. As she was leaving, perhaps never more to see the dear old place, she decided in all meekness and humility to write the book in her own way and according to her own poor abihties. It was not going to be any great masterwork, as she had hoped. It might be a book at which people 22 SELMA LAGERLOF would laugh, but anyway she would write it — write it for herself, to save for herself what she could still save of the home — the dear old stories, the sweet peace of the care-free days, and the beautiful landscape with the long lakes and the many-hued blue hills.

But for her, who had hoped that she might yet learn to write a book people would care to read, it seemed as if she had relinquished the very thing in life she had been most eager to win. It was the hardest sacrifice she had ever made. A few weeks later, she was again at her home in Landskrona seated at her desk. She began writing — she did not exactly know what this was to be — but she was not going to be afraid of strong words, of exclamations, of interrogations, nor would she be afraid to give herself with all her childishness and all her dreams!

After she had come to this decision, the pen began to move almost of itself. This made her quite delirious. She was carried away with enthusiasm. All, this was writing! Unfamiliar thoughts and things, or, rather, things she had never surmised were stored away in her brain, crowded down upon the paper. What had hitherto required months — no, years — to work out, was now acconipHshed in a couple of hours. That evening she wrote the story of the young countess's tranij over the ice on Lake Loven, and the flood at Ekeby. The following afternoon she wrote the scene in which the gouty ensign, Rutger von Orneclou, tries to raise himself in bed to dance the Cachuca, and the evening of the next day appeared the story of the old Mamsell who went off to visit the parsimonious Broby clergyman.

Now she knew for a certainty that in this way she could write the book; but she was just as cer- tain that no one would have the patience to read it through. In the spring of Idun invited prize com- petitors to send in short novelettes of about one liundred i ages.

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Here was an opening for a story that wanted to be told and sent into the world. It nmst have been the story itself that prompted her sister to suggest that she make use of this oi portunity. Here, at last, was a way of finding out whether her story was hopelessly bad! There were only twenty-four hours of the prec- ious time left, and still twenty pages to be written. On this the last day they were all invited to a house party, and were to be away over night. Naturally, she too had to go.

When the party was over and the guests had retired to their rooms, she sat up in the strange house the whole night, writing. At times she felt very queer. The place where she was visiting happened to be the estate on which the wicked Sintram had once lived. Fate, in a singular way, had brought her there on the very night that she must write about him who sat in the rocker and rocked. Now and then she would look up from her work and listen in the direction of the drawing-room, for the possible sound of a pair of rockers in mo- tion; but nothing was heard. In the morning, at the stroke of six, her five chapters were finished.

Toward the end of August Idiin contained a notice to the effect that something over twenty manu- scripts had been received by the editors, but that one or two among them were so confusedly written they could not be counted in. Then she gave up waiting for results. She knew, of course, which novelette was so "con- fusedly written" that it could not be counted in. One afternoon in November she received a curious telegram. It simply contained the words "Hearty Congratulations," and was signed by three of her college classmates.

To her it seemed a terribly long wait until noon of the following day, when the Stockliolm papers were distributed. When the paper was in her hands she had to search long before finding anything. Finally, on the last page she found a little notice in small type which told that the prize had been awarded to her. To another it might have not meant so much, perhaps, but for her it meant that she could devote herself to the calling which all her life she had longed to pursue. Now it was to be written, at least, though it might take a few years to complete it.

She who was writing the story had gone to Stockholm about Christmas time, after she had received the prize. The editor of Idun volunteered to publish the book as soon as it was finished. If she could ever find time to write it!

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The evening before she was to return to Lands- krona she spent with her loyal friend, Baroness Adlersparre, to whom she read a few chapters aloud. After the reading she sat quietly thinking. The next morning, two hours before she was to leave Stockholm, she received a message from Esselde, asking her to come to her before leaving town. At one o'clock she was happily seated in the railway carriage. But now she was going no farther than Sormland, where she had good friends who lived in a charming villa.

And so they — Otto Gumaelius and his wife — gave her the freedom of their home — freedom to work, and peace, and the best of care for nearly a year, until the book w'as finished. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils May Get it by Monday, Jul 08 Only 4 left in stock more on the way. Schoolfield , Paul Norlen. Get it by Monday, Jul 08 Only 1 left in stock more on the way. Christ Legends and Other Stories Nov Usually dispatched within 2 to 3 days.

Christ Legends Mar What the Shepherd Saw Nov The Holy Night Sep Holy Night by Selma Lagerlof Jan L'empereur du Portugal French Edition May Mass Market Paperback. Privacy Policy More info. She stood in front of a large audience, which included the King and Queen of Sweden, and delivered her Nobel Prize Banquet Speech, a speech which to many epitomized who she was, a charming and humble sagotant, a quaint, sweet storyteller aunt, who received her inspiration from Wermland and in particular, her father.

Moreover, in the past few months she had lived in solitude and had become shy. She dispelled her anxiety, though, by thinking of those who would be happy for her. This was when she had thought of her father and wished that he were still alive to see the moment. It eventually becomes clear that this debt is what she owes to those who have contributed to and supported her as a writer: the vagabonds who gave her stories to tell through their actions, the Swedish language and those who taught it to her, the great authors of Sweden, her readers and most of all the Academy which has placed its trust in her.

In a less flattering light, the contemporary Swedish writer, P. Nor did she concentrate on the fact that her father was completely against her furthering her education; and in direct defiance of his wishes, she did so anyway. Does this indicate repression and co-dependence, as Enquist argues? And she was correct. Following this recognition, the full manuscript was published by Fritiof Hellberg in Stockholm. Critics quickly jumped on the fairy tale definition. However, it is perhaps her most internationally famous work, The Wonderful Adventure of Nils , published in , that cemented the image, both at home and abroad.

She spent three years learning about the landscape, animals and plant life, industry and folk life of Sweden and then interwove these facts into the story of Nils Holgersson, a young boy who is punished for his bad behavior by the farm tomte. He is shrunken to a small size. In this form, he is able to talk and understand the animals around him and he ends up flying across Sweden on the back of a goose. During the trip, the reader learns about each province and the geography of Sweden. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils was an instantaneous success, not only in the public schools and Sweden, but across the world.

Indeed, still today it is probably her most famous work. Her work, Herr Arnes Hoard , is a good example of such a story— a ghost story which is thrilling to read, but which, if one understands the ghost as human conscience, is an in depth study of guilt and love. Detail from an A. Yet, beneath the surface, she was an exceptionally well-read woman who clearly drew from the classic literature of the Western world.

Finally, although she was clearly indebted to her country for many stories, she did not simply retell them. She created new masterpieces in the Swedish language, in-depth studies of human nature and psychology.