Ah, Heidi, that brings light to the heart! What comfort you have brought me!Peter’s Grandmother in ‘Heidi’ (Johanna Spyri)
Heidi is a child who warms the heart of each and everyone she meets, be it the beautiful characters she meets and interacts with or the readers who only meet her through the words of Johanna Spyri. A girl so pure and untainted that all you want is a happy ending for her.
Reading the book as a 12-year-old brought me immense joy and happiness. From the moment we first met her, a bundle of clothes being taken up the mountains to live with her gruff grandfather because her aunt couldn’t care for her, her aura shone through the pages and made you feel like you were actually accompanying her. I felt bad for her when her aunt was describing the rumors about ‘Uncle Alp’ her grandfather, felt happy for her when ‘Grandfather’ turned out to actually be the most caring and kind human being who loved Heidi with all her heart. I could almost see the beautiful sunset that lit up the mountain tops that she saw on her first trip up with the goats and her excitement dripped off the pages every time she did something new.
Reading the book again as an adult brought me the same happiness. The same sense of wonder and sympathy. I was hooked once again and dragged into the Swiss world of Heidi, the moment I opened the first page. I experienced anew the fear and confusion she felt at suddenly being sent away to Frankfurt, a city that was so much of a contrast from the mountains and nature she had gotten used to. At the same time, I laughed along with Sara, the invalid she was sent to accompany, at the ridiculous exploits she still got up to. I laughed at Miss Rottenmeier, the housekeeper’s, dismay at having to deal with a child who seemed to know nothing of the basic alphabet let alone etiquette.
As any children’s book, Heidi gets her happy ending when she is sent back to her Grandfather in the alps by Mr. Sesemann, Clara’s father, when he sees how homesick she is. She returns home a changed girl though. While still maintaining her innocence and carefree nature, she has grown into quite a capable young woman who brings a lot of change in her mountain friends, getting even Peter, who hated studying, to read a hymn a day for his poor old, blind grandmother.
‘Heidi’ is a book that I think I will enjoy reading even when I am much much older. A book that will bring back the feelings I felt as a child every time I read it. Well-written and a timeless classic, it is a book that captures the innocence of child, the confusion they face when put in an unfamiliar environment, the ease with which children adapt. It is also a book that poignantly captures the homesickness any human feels in a place they don’t belong and the beauty that is nature. It is a book filled with a lot of emotions while still remaining light-hearted. Many things made an even more profound impact on me when I read it as an adult. A lot of themes like the power of rumors and the misconceptions of people about ‘Uncle Alp’ hit me more as an adult. The helplessness Clara feels, stuck in a wheelchair all her life, and the immense happiness she experiences at being able to walk again. The resignation with which Peter’s grandmother accepted her fate and the peace she felt when her days were filled with the light that Heidi brought in with her every time she visited. While I did feel happy reading all the good things and sad at all the bad things, reading them again at a much more mature age put them in a different light.
This is a book, I feel that everyone must read at least once if not twice. A book that will bring you so much joy no matter your age. A book that reveals a lot more layers than you would expect from a children’s book. A book I am sure I will pick up once again to read the next time I come across it on my shelf. A book I will fall in love with all over again no matter how many times I have read it.