Selma Lagerlöf Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

By the last decade of the nineteenth century, Swedish literature was following the lead of the realistic movement. The style and subject matter had been set by Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Émile Zola, and serious artists were seeking ways to express the latest scientific discoveries in literary form. Into this cultural situation came a woman whose sensibility had been shaped by the folk legends of agrarian Sweden and who was not at all concerned with demonstrating scientific truths in literature. With The Story of Gösta Berling, Selma Ottiliana Lovisa Lagerlöf (LAH-gur-lurv) began a long career as Sweden’s leading Romantic novelist.

One of a large family, Selma, born at Mårbacka on November 20, 1858, was a sickly child. At the age of three she was stricken with a disease, possibly poliomyelitis, that left her lame for the rest of her life. Unable to play with the other children, she read all the books on her father’s large estate and absorbed the folk legends of Värmland from her grandmother and the servants. At fifteen she began to write poetry; at twenty-two she went to Stockholm to study for a teaching career. In 1882 she entered the Royal Women’s Superior Training Academy and in 1885 began teaching at a girls’ school at Landskroiva in Skåne.

Thinking about the legends of her Värmland home, in 1890 she began writing The Story of Gösta Berling in her spare time. She reworked the material many times, even experimenting with a poetic version,...

(The entire section is 619 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Selma Ottiliana Lovisa Lagerlöf was born on November 20, 1858, at Mårbacka in Värmland, Sweden. Her parents, both members of aristocratic families, had moved to the estate of Mårbacka after Selma’s father, Lieutenant Erik Gustav Lagerlöf, had failed to inherit the important post of Regimental Paymaster from his father. Lieutenant Lagerlöf became a gentleman farmer with many progressive ideas, few of which proved practical. Lack of success at farming seemed relatively unimportant to the Lieutenant, who, according to various memoirs, was a true son of the gay-hearted Värmland gentry. Among other celebrations held at Mårbacka, Lieutenant Lagerlöf’s annual birthday party, enlivened by pageants, theatricals, poetry recitations, dancing, and singing, became a social affair famous throughout the province. Adolph Noreen, later a noted philologist, attended some of these holiday affairs at Mårbacka and remembers how Lieutenant Lagerlöf, in his office as host, made everyone feel “what an unspeakable happiness [it was] just to live!” Selma herself, as her fiction widely attests, shared this exuberant perspective. Her father’s character plays a part in her creation of the cavaliers in Gösta Berling’s Saga.

As a child, the future writer was more aware of such doings than other children because she was more observer than participant. At the age of four, the little girl had been stricken by a paralysis that left her lame, although she regained the ability to walk. The special care dictated by her condition allowed her to ripen her natural inclination for intellectual and imaginative pursuits. Lagerlöf later noted that the greatest sorrow of her childhood came with the death of her grandmother, who, as she remembered, had told her stories “from morning until evening.” Other family members, particularly a sister of Lagerlöf’s father, were also gifted storytellers.

Tales told from memory and read aloud at night—from local legend, from Hans Christian Andersen, and from Scandinavian sagas—were the essence of Selma Lagerlöf’s early education; neither she nor her sister attended school. By early adolescence, Lagerlöf had determined that she would be a writer. During...

(The entire section is 905 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111228242-Lagerlof.jpg Selma Lagerlöf Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Selma Ottiliana Lovisa Lagerlöf (LAH-gur-lurv) was born at Mårbacka in Värmland, Sweden, on November 20, 1858, the daughter of Lieutenant Erik Gustav Lagerlöf, member of a landed family, and Louisa Wallroth Lagerlöf, whose father was a well-off ironmonger. Selma was the fourth of five children. The large Lagerlöf household also included an aunt and a beloved grandmother, who was always telling stories to the children gathered around her. Although Selma was only five when her grandmother died, she was to write of that loss as the profoundest sorrow of her life.

At three, Selma was struck by what was probably infantile paralysis. For some months, she was unable to walk, and despite two periods of therapy in...

(The entire section is 872 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Selma Lagerlöf broke free of the literary conventions of her era to write works that she believed reflected country life as she knew it. Her rural characters may depend for their survival on hard work in the everyday world, but they are keenly aware of the power of the unseen, the supernatural, the spiritual.The lasting popularity of Lagerlöf can be attributed in part to her skill as a storyteller, as seen in her accuracy in the minutest matters, in her adeptness in plotting, and in her ability to develop vivid characters. Her works are also valued because of their underlying optimism. When many writers lament that life is meaningless, it is refreshing to read about human beings who, despite their shortcomings, can be transformed and redeemed through the efforts of a merciful God.


(Short Stories for Students)

Lagerlöf was born on November 20, 1858, on her family’s farm estate, Mårbacka, in the province of Värmland, Sweden. She was tutored at...

(The entire section is 499 words.)