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SCAND 335 A: Scandinavian Children's Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
ARC G070
Ann-Charlotte (Lotta) Gavel Adams

Syllabus Description:

SCAND 335 - Winter Quarter 2020    

Scandinavian Children’s Literature - 5 credits

Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30 – 2:20 in SMI 102


Instructor: Lotta Gavel Adams, Professor,

  • Office Hours: Tuesdays 11:00-12:00  (Raitt Hall 305 T)


Course Content

This course offers the opportunity to explore the narrative and pictorial traditions 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 in class + two short analyses of early tales and stories on Canvas) .

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

40 % Final: two shorter reflection essays on Canvas, due March 19, 2020 or earlier.

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


Required Reading

Files available on Canvas

  • Norwegian Folk Tales
  • Swedish Fairy Tales
  • Kalevala – Finnish National Epic
  • Maria Gripe. The Glassblower’s Children

At University Bookstore, some also available as iBooks, and in the Library

  • H.C. Andersen. Fairy Tales.
  • Selma Lagerlöf. The Wonderful Travels of Nils
  • Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking.
  • Astrid Lindgren. Ronja the Robber’s Daughter.
  • Tove Jansson. Tales from the Moomin Valley.


Recommended picture books (these will be presented in class and some will be available on Canvas; 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).


*Please visit Modules for easiest access to course materials.


Week 1

Jan 7

Course Introduction; History; Locke, Rousseau; Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm; Early Fables, Moral Examples, and Legends, Urban Legends

Jan 9

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

Group analysis/discussions

Norwegian Folktales Reading


Week 2

Jan 14

Swedish Fairytales; Swedish Tomtes and Trolls (Nyström, Bauer)

Group analysis/discussions

Swedish Fairytales Reading

Jan 16

Trolls in the Nordic Imagination:  From Folklore - to Children's literature - to media for grown-ups


Week 3

Jan 21

Picture Books: Nature, Environment, Death, Grieving, Anger
(Else Beskow, Ulf Nilsson, Anna-Clara Tidholm, Eva Eriksson, Pija Lindenbaum, Gro Dahle & Svein Nyhus)


Jan 23

The Finnish Oral Tradition: Kalevala

The Canine Kalevala

Kalevala Reading



Week 4

Jan 28

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 analysis and discussion


Jan 30

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

Group discussion



Week 5

Feb 4

Review for Midterm


Feb 6


MIDTERM (short-answer quiz in class + two short analyses, due at 11PM on Canvas)


Week 6

Feb 11


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

Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Reading


Feb 14

Astrid Lindgren: Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter


Week 7  

Feb 19

Lindgren: Ronja, wrap-up.

Feb 21

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

The Glassblower's Children



Week 8

Feb 26
Tove Jansson: Tales from the Moomin Valley: “The Filliyonk Who Believed in Disasters,” “The Last Dragon in the World,” "The Hemulen Who Loved Silence," “The Invisible Child,” “Cedric,” “The Fir Tree."                                  
Feb 28

Tove Jansson, Moomin Valley, continued.


Week 9

March 5

Representations of multiculturalism in children's picture books.

March 7

Group Projects


Week 10

March 12

Group Projects

March 14

In Class Presentations of Group Projects

Prompts for Final Reflection Essays will be handed out.


FINAL: TWO SHORTER REFLECTION ESSAYS on Canvas, due March 20, 2019, but may be completed earlier.


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: 
January 30, 2020 - 9:23pm