The Tomten

Thanks to a new paperback edition, you can now have The Tomten, the wonderful 1961 classic children’s bedtime story for the price of a hamburger.

The story of the Tomten is so gentle, so lulling, that, in less capable hands, you might easily overlook its magical charm.

Astrid Lindgren’s quiet, rhythmic narrative balances coziness with just the right shiver of mysteriousness as she tells of the Tomten, a kindly little troll who lives in the hayloft of an isolated farm.

People never see the Tomten. The only way they are aware of his presence is by spotting his footprints in the snow when they awake. At night, he moves about the farm ”on small silent feet,” cheering on the animals with encouraging verses in ”a silent little language” only they can understand. Children, too, we’re wistfully told, could understand Tomten language, ”but children sleep at night.”

Harald Wiberg’s lovely, full-page color illustrations show the friendly, gnarled troll moving softly through the moon-washed farm in his red stocking cap. Somehow, you can almost hear the drowsy rustle of the sheep and feel the warmth of the cow shed in these unassuming but deeply reassuring pictures.

Goodnight Moon is the acknowledged classic of American bedtime stories, but this Scandinavian gem — by the author of the delightful Pippi Longstocking books — deserves to be in the same stellar company. A+

The Tomten
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