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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Glassblower's Children (The)
by Maria Gripe
Age Range: 9-11
Albert, the glassblower, his wife Sofia and their two children Klas and Klara live in the village of Nőda, in the country of Diseberga. They are very poor and while Albert spends most of the time in his workshop making beautiful glass bowls and vases, which unfortunately are so impractical that no one wants to buy them, Sofia toils in the fields to support the family.
Every year Albert goes to the local fair to try and sell his wares and sometimes Sofia and the children go with him. At the fair they meet Flutter Mild weather, a weaver of magical carpets that foretell the future. Each pattern has a special theme which mirrors and predicts the life of the people of the village. Flutter has a one-eyed raven called Wise Wit who can only see the good in the world.
Klas and Klara come to the attention of the wealthy Lord and Lady of All Wishes Town, who have everything they want except for one thing: children. The Lord decides to kidnap the children to give as a present to his unhappy wife in the hope that they will make her happy again. Klara and Klas find themselves prisoners in an impressive and desolate mansion located by the River of Forgotten Memories. It is not long before the Lady tires of the children and employs a controlling and evil governess, Nana, whose piecing song can shatter glass, to look after them. Their parents don’t know where they are and they cannot escape. What will become of them?
The Glassblower’s Children by Swedish author Maria Gripe is a thrilling fantasy novel full of puzzling questions, curious and vivid characters and use of allegory. Beautifully told and narrated Gripe has drawn on fairy tales and Norse myths which are sometimes scary and disturbing and at other times atmospheric and magical. The many elements of the story slowly unravel as the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are put together. As with most good stories there is also an underlying message: the difference between what you want and what you need and to be careful what you wish for.
The story has been masterfully illustrated by Maria’s husband the talented artist Harald Gripe. His black and white etchings are highly atmospheric and offer a good representation of the dark, eerie and fantastical nature of the story.
For her lasting contribution to children’s literature Maria Gripe received the Hans Christian Anderson Award in 1974.