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Heidi - Hardcover - Germany - 1880.jpg

First volume - Hardcover - Germany - 1880.

Author Johanna Spyri
Published 1881-??-??
Type Fiction
Genre Drama
Themes Farm, Friendship, Religious Fiction
Age Group Children

Heidi is a children's story written by Johanna Spyri and published in two volumes: Heidi: Her Years of Wandering and Learning in 1880 and Heidi: How She Used What She Learned in 1881, though the two are now typically published in a single volume. The story is one of the most well-known Swiss stories and one of the best-selling books in history.

The story revolves around a precocious orphan girl named Heidi who is sent to live in multiple places through her childhood, but she feels most at home with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. While living in Frankfurt Germany, Heidi is indoctrinated into Christianity and her blind faith comforts her and those around her.


Read?Audiobook read by Frances Cassidy.

Having a general fondness for children's literature I made it a point to read Heidi when I found an audiobook of it. I was disappointed.




— This section contains spoilers! —


  • From reading the book you get a general idea of what life was like for a child living in rural Switzerland and urban Germany in the late 1880s.


  • The story takes a long time to get interesting. Heidi is a fearless and outspoken child, but nothing really comes of it until well into the book when she's sent to live with Klara where her innocent shenanigans terrorize Fräulein Rottenmeier.


  • I was dismayed when the book, which I assumed was going to be a wholesome childhood story, slowly devolved into a religious tall tale where belief in the Christian god cures all ails, physical and societal. It's basically a manual for converting impressionable children with a story wrapped around it:
    • Grandfather lives in the mountains and is angry at all the horrible rumors the nosy townsfolk have concocted about him, but Heidi reads him the parable of the Prodigal Son, and he instantly stops being cynical, starts attending church again, and moves back into the town where everyone else stops spreading rumors about him and becomes his friend.
    • Doctor Classen is growing old and frail, but, when Heidi describes her unwavering blind faith, he becomes healthy and energetic the next day.
    • Klara's legs have been paralyzed for years, but a few days in the mountains around faithful Christians and lots of goat's milk has her shrived legs strong and walking within a week.
    • Peter is jealous and selfish and destroy's Klara's valuable chair, but, once he finally comes clean, he is not punished, but rewarded. He's then told, as long as he admits when he does something wicked, everything will be all right.
    • I was honestly expecting Peter's grandmother to regain her sight, but at least Spyri didn't go that far!
  • Frau Sesemann pushing her particular religious beliefs onto the trusting Heidi is angering. To her credit, Heidi very quickly realizes that the god Frau Sesemann believes obviously can't exist because it doesn't answer prayers the way Sesemann said it would. But Sesemann uses the typical Christian apologetics on Heidi in order to get her to believe again. Unfortunately, this turns Heidi into a true believer who, regardless of evidence to the contrary, gains an unquestioning blind faith in Sesemann's god. Later in the book, Klara wisely realizes, if the Christian god only allows things to happen when it wants and how it wants, then prayer is futile. But Heidi uses her newfound apologetics to dismiss the logical conclusion.


Strong female character?PassHeidi and Klara both exhibit a little strength and growth.
Bechdel test?PassThere are several named women, and they frequently talk to each other about various things.
Strong person of color character?FailEveryone in the book is white.
Queer character?FailNone of the characters appear to be queer.


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