This is possibly one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.

By the author of the Pippi Longstocking (Puffin Modern Classics) series, and I just want to emphasize that this too is a children’s book. At least, it reads like a children’s book, and my copy is labeled ages 8-12.

Young brothers Jonathan and Karl Lion love each other very much. But little brother Karl is dying of tragic coughing (I assume consumption.) Jonathan consoles him that when he dies, he’ll go to the wonderful land of Nangiyala, and when Jonathan dies too, they’ll be together there forever.

Surprise! The house catches fire, and to save Karl, Jonathan leaps out the window and uses his own body as a landing pad for Karl. And dies. Karl is miserable and longs for Nangiyala. Several months later, to Karl’s delight, he dies.

Sure enough, the brothers are together in Nangiyala! There they have lots of adventures and save everyone from an evil king and dragon, but...



... after the great battle, Jonathan is totally paralyzed by dragon poison. He tells Karl that there’s another land, Nangilima, that you go to when you die. And if Karl will just drag him to the cliff and leap off with him, they’ll both be together in Nangilima!

Maybe this is a bad translation, but I just have to quote Karl’s thoughts on the matter: If you don’t dare now, I thought, then you’re a little bit of filth and you’ll never be anything else but a little bit of filth.

They commit suicide and land in Nangilima. I think. This is the last line:

“Oh, Nangilima! Yes, Jonathan, yes, I can see the light! I can see the light!”

Actually, I think kids can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and I doubt that anyone has ever leaped from a cliff in the hope of getting to Nangiyala.* But seriously, I think there’s a reason why this is the only children’s book I’ve ever read with the message, “Kids! Suicide is awesome!”

*Adults and teenagers seem more prone to that, actually, as proved by the number of imitative suicide after reading an adult book, The Sorrows of Young Werther (Modern Library Classics), with the same message.


View on Amazon: The Brothers Lionheart. One guy calls it "an encouraging message for our time-- not only for children." Eeek!
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From: [identity profile] magicnoire.livejournal.com


I had to use my LJ account just so I could use this icon.
ext_167: (決まっている)

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/solo____/


I used to love this book when I was a child! I still have a copy.

(Not dead yet, but maybe it explains my subsequent fondness for Heero...)

From: [identity profile] green-knight.livejournal.com


I don't know what the translation is like - I read it in the German translation when I was about the target group (probably more 8 than 12) - and I remember it as sweet and melancholic and inspiring. It's not morose at all, and the deaths merely seem to be a way to cross from one land into the next - one-way gates. You might be out of the target group, but I used to love that book when I was in it.
ext_27060: Sumer is icomen in; llude sing cucu! (Default)

From: [identity profile] rymenhild.livejournal.com


Why do I suspect that after a certain number of months in Bright Shiny Afterlife No. 2, our heroes will, er, hurry to Bright Shiny Afterlife No. 3?

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From: [identity profile] thomasyan.livejournal.com


Well, what about the books "gur tvivat gerr" (rot13) and "gur tvire"?

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Well, for the one, he's trying to escape, not trying to commit suicide, even though maybe he doesn't make it. We're certainly supposed to take the message that suicide (and euthanasia, and totalitarianism) is bad.

The other: Ha ha, you're so right! I always hated that book.

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ext_7025: (Default)

From: [identity profile] buymeaclue.livejournal.com


I won't have time to read this review until later, but this:

This is possibly one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read.

stopped me cold. That's a mighty high bar to leap!
ext_6428: (Default)

From: [identity profile] coffeeandink.livejournal.com


I read this when I was 12 and was so traumatized by all the suicide that I have never felt quite the same about Pippi Longstocking since.
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From: [identity profile] ldybastet.livejournal.com


LOL! I've never thought about it like that. It was both fun and refreshing to read your review. :D I read this as a kid. I think we even had to read it in school, or our teacher read it to us, or something like that. I have to admit I never quite noticed the suicide message... it was sort of all part of the cheesy tragic stuff that awesome!fantasy!world saved the heroes from. There was a film made from this book too... I don't think it was better.

I've never heard of any kids trying to get to Nangiyala through suicide, actually, but there's a girl in another of this author's books that has inspired a few kids to try to jump off roofs in an attempt to fly, I think... *facepalm* I really hope that was just a rumour, though.

From: [identity profile] ellen-fremedon.livejournal.com


And I thought there was nothing more cosmologically disturbing than the notion of an afterlife. But an endless succession of afterlives with no actual death in sight is-- eurrgh. Just horrific.

From: [identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com


It's like an infinite regression of post-Narnia Narnias.

WTFBBQ.

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


I was kind of creeped out by the book when I read it as a child. I don't think I even read it more than once, which was pretty unusual for me.

And it has certainly been marketed as a children's book for some time. The first chapter was printed in Cricket at one point, which is what alerted me to the existence of the book (I had read some of the Pippi Longstocking books but hadn't realised Lindgren wrote other things).

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com


.....really? //looks

In 2007 the book was adapted into a musical by Bo Wastesson (music), Staffan Gotestam (manuscript) and Ture Rangstrom (lyrics), directed by Elisabet Ljungar at the Goteborg Opera House in Sweden, with the leading parts played by Hanna Brehmer (Skorpan), Alexander Lycke (Jonathan) and Annica Edstam (Sofia), orchestra conducted by Marit Strindlund, choreography created by Camilla Ekelof, costume and stage design by Mathias Clason. The musical opened on March 3, 2007.

WELL UH THEN.

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ext_51838: (Book in blue)

From: [identity profile] croaky.livejournal.com


Oh this is priceless, I've never seen someone review this book that wasn't a countryman f mine. As an added bonus you pinpoint exactly what I always found rather odd about the book (and they show the film on TV here usually every year least once after Xmas), even though as a kid I never remember thinking of it as suicide but more along the lines of Neverland or something.

Out of Astrid's books I always liked Ronia the Robber's Daughter and Mio in the Land of Faraway better (especially both combined with their films and the amazing soundtracks), but for whatever reason The brothers Lionheart is one of those reoccurring classics around here. The whole Nangilima bit just always weerded me out.

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From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com


Of all the ways to launch you into your fantasy adventure, that takes the cake. And the suicide at the end--wow--did Lindgren realize the ontological can of worms she'd opened up there?!

Never mind "It was all just a dream"--if you don't like your *actual existence*, end it! And start new in a new reality.

From: [identity profile] chibicharibdys.livejournal.com


Truly, a message that is dear to Heero's heart.
ext_6284: Estara Swanberg, made by Thao (Default)

From: [identity profile] estara.livejournal.com

somewhat off-topic bit of marvelling here


Every time I sort of think I'm acclimatized as an internet netizen on US sites (and therefore comfortable with all the US-centric references to media and culture) I get thrown when I come across posts like this.

Not because I didn't have the same reaction to this book when I read it as a teenager, but the fact that most of the commenters haven't read it, are surprised having thought that Lindgren only wrote Pippi Longstocking, considering it's common knowledge for me that she's one of the most popular children's book authors in Europe with loads of movies and cartoons or tv shows made from her books.

It's like not knowing (and I'm not talking about the quality of the work here) Kipling or Louise M. Alcott.

I just marvel at it and feel slightly stunned (and am thankful that I jumped into US and UK culture right away, otherwise I'd never be able to participate in a semi-articulate way which would have meant I would have never sought out US culture and internet to interact with anyway, heh).

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Re: somewhat off-topic bit of marvelling here


America is definitely very insular. I knew that Lindgren had other books, but I think I only ever read Ronia before.

From: [identity profile] faithhopetricks.livejournal.com


Surprise! The house catches fire, and to save Karl, Jonathan leaps out the window and uses his own body as a landing pad for Karl. And dies. Karl is miserable and longs for Nangiyala. Several months later, to Karl’s delight, he dies.

....wait, what?

Actually, I think kids can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and I doubt that anyone has ever leaped from a cliff in the hope of getting to Nangiyala.*

//grim I actually love lots of portal fantasy books, but (and I say this with some trepidation) I think they can encourage misery in kids in dire situations with overactive imaginations. Not like I ever spent hours in my backyard begging Aslan to let me into Narnia when I was nine, or anything.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I suppose the question is whether it's better to have false hope or no hope.

I was SO DESPERATE to get into some other world, any other world.

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ext_2414: Brunette in glasses looking at viewer with books behind her (Default)

From: [identity profile] re-weird.livejournal.com


They commit suicide and land in Nangilima. I think. This is the last line:

“Oh, Nangilima! Yes, Jonathan, yes, I can see the light!
I can see the light!”

Actually, I think kids can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, and I doubt that anyone has ever leaped from a cliff in the hope of getting to Nangiyala.* But seriously, I think there’s a reason why this is the only children’s book I’ve ever read with the message, “Kids! Suicide is awesome!”

Perhaps it's indicative of the mood I'm in, but that paragraph made me laugh.

From: [identity profile] seigyoku.livejournal.com


I read this as a child AND saw the (German?) movie based on it and then spent YEARS trying to recall what the heck was that movie with the brothers who ADVOCATE SUICIDE and have the most bizzare afterlives ever...

Of course as soon as I found out what it was I mention my quest to my mother who knew what it was all along and of course actively encouraged me to read it as it did not shy away from death...

From: [identity profile] foibos.livejournal.com


I'm a bit surprised that you liked Njal's Saga but found this one bizarre, since BL is essentially old Norse fate-and-duty meets modern morality, especially regarding pacifism and resisting dictatorship. Jonatan is probably the hero that Gunnar would have liked to be.

(This might indeed partly be a translation issue.)

As for the suicide part, it's fairly well-established that the whole story is Karl's death-bed fantasy, inspired by the teacher's eulogy for Jonatan. In his imagination, everyone loves and admires his brother as much as he does, and he himself overcomes his helplessness and fear to provide crucial help to his brother. And most of all: death has no power over either of them.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


The death-bed fantasy makes so much sense...

I suppose the book struck me as weird because I've read a lot of children's lit from this period, and I was thinking of it in terms of those, not as an updated saga.

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From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-09-18 07:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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