Summerbook #3: The Brothers Lionheart

  The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren

I guess I'm not very well up on Astrid Lindgren's body of work, because I'd never seen this book before.  

Little Karl has always been sickly, and has spent much of his life lying on the sofa while his hard-working mother sews to make their living.  He just about worships his older brother, Jonathan -- who is not only healthy and strong, but also very kind, and intelligent.  He is able to go to school and everything, so every day Karl waits for him to come home.  Jonathan affectionately calls him Rusky, and to comfort him when he is afraid of dying, he tells him tales about the wonderful land of Nangiyala, where they will go when they die.  In Nangiyala Rusky will be healthy, and they'll camp out and have lovely times.  But in a tragic accident, Jonathan dies first. Karl lives for several more months, but at last he dies and indeed, he finds Jonathan in Nangiyala, and they have a cabin, and horses, and a river.  Rusky is very happy.

But an invader has come to Nangiyala from over the sea.  Tengil is a cruel tyrant, and he has already taken over the neighboring valley and built a high wall around it, imprisoning all the people.  Tengil has a terrifying monster at his beck and call to enforce his orders, and any rebels are given to her.  Jonathan, being so brave, is part of a secret resistance, and he disappears while on a reconnaissance mission to the other valley.  Little Karl has never been brave, but he knows that he has to go after Jonathan.  Pretty soon both of them are deep into the fight against Tengil.

This is a really interesting story.  It's fascinating to me that it starts off with the boys' deaths.  It's a poignant tale, and also an exciting adventure.  Somehow it reminded me a bit of the Neverending Story, which it doesn't resemble at all, but as my kid would say, it has a similar vibe.  I enjoyed reading it a lot and I'd be happy if it was better-known.  If you come across a copy, do grab it and see what you think.


  1. You've reminded me of the very strange feel of this otherwise engaging story with the centrality of a child's death, a theme not often found in children's literature. Having just reread Lewis's The Last Battle that also has a similar vibe from dealing with the same issue, doesn't it.

    1. Very true, Chris! Thanks for pointing that out. It is so unusual to have a story that pretty much begins with a child's death.

  2. This really impressed me with its strangeness and poignancy when I read it years ago. I enjoyed other books by Lindgren too: Ronia the Robber's Daughter, Seacrow Island, and Mio My Son are all good.


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