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SCAND 335 A: Scandinavian Children's Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:20pm
SMI 102
Joint Sections: 
Ann-Charlotte (Lotta) Gavel Adams

Syllabus Description:

SCAND 335 - Winter Quarter 2017      

Scandinavian Children’s Literature - 5 credits

Mondays & Wednesdays 2:30 – 4:20 in SMI 102


Instructor: Lotta Gavel Adams, Professor,

  • Office Hours: Wednesdays 12:30- 1:20 (Raitt Hall 305Z)

Teaching Assistant: Maxine Savage,

  • Office Hours: Tuesdays 2-3pm (Raitt Hall 108B)


Course Content

This course offers the opportunity to study the narrative and pictorial tradition of Scandinavian children’s literature from the 17th century to the present. The stories and picture books will be discussed in their historical, pedagogical, and social contexts, from the pre-WWII focus on moral and religious themes to the 20th and 21st centuries’ focus on the child as an individual needing to adapt to an increasingly diverse and multicultural society. The emphasis of the course will be on analysis and interpretation of texts and pictures in their esthetic, political and social contexts. Recent picture books will be analyzed in terms of their pictorial-narrative techniques, themes, and how they reflect the child’s position in society with regard to ethnicity, gender, and power constellations.  


Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able

  1. to understand and discuss the structures and changing conventions of children’s literature in Scandinavia in their historical, pedagogical and social contexts.
  2. to approach children’s literature with a critical/analytical eye towards environmental, gender, ethnicity and power issues.
  3. to demonstrate skills in interpreting, writing about, and presenting children’s literature.



Grading is based on a midterm and a final exam, a group project, and participation in class and group discussions:

30% Two-Part Midterm (short-answer quiz + short analyses of early tales and stories)

20 % Group project (writing/producing a short children’s story (either an original story or reworking a traditional fable or fairytale) making use of the narrative techniques and themes discussed in class.

40 % Two-Part Final (short-answer quiz in-class March 6, 2017 + Two short take-home reflection essays due March 14, 2017).

10% Class preparation (pop quizzes) and participation in class and small group  discussions.


Required Reading

  • Norwegian and Swedish Folk and Fairy Tales (Selections in Course Reader at RAMS Copy Center)
  • Kalevala – Finnish National Epic (Excerpts in Course Reader at RAMS Copy Center)
  • H.C. Andersen. Fairy Tales. (available as $1.99 iBook)
  • Selma Lagerlöf. The Wonderful Travels of Nils (available at UBookstore or as free iBook)
  • Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking. At UBookstore.
  • Astrid Lindgren. Ronja the Robber’s Daughter. At UBookstore.
  • Tove Jansson. Tales from the Moomin Valley. At UBookstore.
  • Maria Gripe. The Glassblower’s Children. (Course Reader at RAMS Copy Center)


Recommended picture books (will be presented in class; a selection is available at the UBookstore)

  • Der Struwwelpeter/Shock-headed Peter (1845).
  • Elsa Beskow. The Children of the Forest (1910).
  • Gro Dahle & Svein Nyhus. Sinna Mann (Angry Man; 2003). Snill (Nice; 2004).
  • Mauri Kunnas. The Canine Kalevala (2004).
  • Pija Lindenbaum, Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle (2007).
  • Ulf Nilsson, Eva Eriksson. All the Dear Little Animals (2006).
  • Ulf Nilsson, Anna-Clara Tidholm. Goodbye, Mr. Muffin (2002).
  • Sven Nordqvist. The Fox Hunt (1986).


Week 1

Jan 1

Course Introduction; History; Locke, Rousseau; Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm;

Early Fables, Moral Examples, and Legends, Urban Legends


Week 2                   

Jan 9

Folk and Fairy Tales: characters, plots, functions; Norwegian stories and tales (Asbjørnsen and Moe); Norwegian Trolls (Kittelsen, Werenskiold) (Read selection in Course Reader)

Group analysis/discussions

Jan 11

Swedish stories and tales  (Read selection in Course Reader); Swedish Tomtes and Trolls (Nyström, Bauer)

Group analysis/discussions


Week 3

Jan 16  MLK Day - No Class
Jan 18

Early Picture Books: Nature, Environment: Elsa Beskow

Week 4

Jan 23

The Finnish Oral Tradition: Kalevala

The Canine Kalevala

Jan 25

The Authored Tale: H.C. Andersen

Read: “The Princess on the Pea,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Nightingale,” “The   Ugly Duckling,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Shadow.”

Group discussion


Week 5

Jan 30

Selma Lagerlöf: The Wonderful Travels of Nils; Eco-criticism; What does it mean to be a human being?

Group discussion

Review for Midterm



Week 6

Feb 6


Feb 8

Post-WWII Children’s Literature: The child as individual

Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking

Grad student Alison Knight: “Censorship of Children’s Books in Czechoslavia”



Week 7  

Feb 13

Astrid Lindgren: Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter  


Feb 15

Representations of racism, migration, multiculturalism, gender and sexuality issues in children's picture books: Katarina Taikon, Pija Lindenbaum

Death, Grieving, Anger issues in children's picture book: Ulf Nilsson, Anna-Clara Tidholm, Eva Eriksson, Gro Dahle & Svein Nyhus.

Grad student Stina Cowan: Katarina Taikon’s Katitzi-books

Week 8

Feb 20 Presidents' Day - No Class
Feb 22

Maria Gripe: The Glassblower’s Children; critique of commercialism in children’s culture and adult self-absorption.

Grad student Sara Käkolä: “The Green Revolution” in Finland.


Week 9

Feb 27

Tove Jansson: Tales from the Moomin Valley: “The Filliyonk Who Believed in Disasters,” “The Last Dragon in the World,” “The Invisible Child,” “Cedric,” “The Fir tree."

GUEST LECTURE: Prof. Björn Meidal on the Fairytales by August Strindberg.

March 1

Review for final.

Work on Group Projects / Final Project


Week 10

March 6 Final Short-Answer Quiz
March 8 Presentations of Group Projects / Final Project


FINAL on Canvas (two 30-points reflection essays with prompts) due on or before March 14, 2017 at 2:30 on Canvas.


Catalog Description: 
The history, forms, and themes of Scandinavian children's literature from H. C. Andersen to the present. Exploration of the dominant concerns of authors, adult and non-adult audiences, and the uses to which juvenile and adolescent literature are put. Film adaptations and Scandinavian-American materials included.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 7, 2017 - 9:16pm