Selma Lagerlöf’s two-volume story for children, translated as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and The Further Adventures of Nils, was originally written for use in schools. The Swedish National Teachers’ Society commissioned the work, with the idea that Swedish schoolchildren could more easily learn about the geography of their country by reading stories set in various regions. It was Lagerlöf who decided to place the information she collected within a unified framework, and her suspenseful story about a boy who flew over Sweden with a flock of geese became one of her most popular works, not only in her own country but throughout the world as well.
Lagerlöf’s protagonist is a fourteen-year-old boy, an only child, who is lazy, nasty, and disobedient. When he is left home alone after refusing to go to church with his parents, he is magically transformed into a tiny imp and sent to live with the animals. Befriended by a flock of wild geese, he flies on gooseback over Sweden, into Lapland, and finally back home. He does not see his country only from the air. When the geese land to eat and to sleep, Nils visits nearby places of interest and learns about local customs. Lagerlöf thereby is able to include a great deal of factual material in her account.
There is also a strong didactic element in Lagerlöf’s story. From an eagle, a raven, a stork, and a moose, as well as from the geese, Nils learns such values as...
(The entire section is 477 words.)