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Heidi (/ˈhaɪdi/; German: [ˈhaɪdi]) is a work of children's fiction published in 1881 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, originally published in two parts as Heidi: Her Years of Wandering and Learning[1] (German: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) and Heidi: How She Used What She Learned[2] (German: Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat).[3] It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her paternal grandfather's care in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book "for children and those who love children" (as quoted from its subtitle).

Heidi is one of the best-selling books ever written and is among the best-known works of Swiss literature.[4][5]


Heidi[6] is an orphaned girl initially raised by her maternal aunt Dete in Maienfeld, Switzerland after the early deaths of her parents, Tobias and Adelheid (Dete's brother-in-law and sister). When some people ask Dete to come to the city and be their maid, Dete takes 5-year-old Heidi to her paternal grandfather's house, up the mountain from the Dörfli ('small village' in Swiss German). He has been at odds with the villagers and embittered against God for years and lives in seclusion on the alm, which has earned him the nickname 'The Alm-Uncle'. He briefly resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl's evident intelligence and cheerful yet unaffected demeanor soon earn his genuine, if reserved, affection. Heidi enthusiastically befriends her new neighbors, young Peter the goatherd, his mother, Brigitte, and his blind maternal grandmother. With each season that passes, the mountaintop inhabitants grow more attached to Heidi.

Three years later, Dete returns to take Heidi to Frankfurt to be a hired lady's companion to a wealthy girl named Clara Sesemann, who is unable to walk and regarded as an invalid. Clara is charmed by Heidi's simple friendliness and her descriptions of life on the Alm, and delights in all the funny mishaps brought about by Heidi's lack of experience with city life. However, the Sesemanns' strict housekeeper, Fräulein Rottenmeier, views the household disruptions as wanton misbehavior, and places Heidi under more and more restraint. Soon, Heidi becomes terribly homesick and grows alarmingly pale and thin. Her one diversion is learning to read and write, motivated by her desire to go home and read to Peter's blind grandmother. Clara's paternal grandmother comes to visit the children and becomes a friend to Heidi. She teaches Heidi that she can always seek relief from misery by praying to God.

After months pass, the Frankfurt household is brought near hysteria by nightly sightings of what appears to be a ghost. When Clara's father and his friend, Clara's doctor, keep awake one night to find out what is causing the disturbances, they see that the "ghost" is actually just Heidi, who's sleepwalking in her nightgown. The doctor sees that Heidi is under a great deal of stress, and warns Mr. Sesemann that if Heidi is not sent back to her mountain home promptly, she may become very ill. The very next day, a joyous Heidi returns to the Alm, where she teaches her grandfather about the comfort of prayer and reassures him that it's never too late to turn back to God. Her simple lesson prompts her grandfather to descend to the village and attend a church service for the first time in years, marking an end to his seclusion. He is heartily welcomed back by the church pastor and the villagers.

Heidi and Clara continue to keep in touch and exchange letters. A visit by the doctor to Heidi leads him to eagerly recommend that Clara visit Heidi, feeling assured that the fresh mountain air and the wholesome companionship will do her good. Clara makes the journey the next season and spends a wonderful summer with Heidi, becoming stronger on goat's milk and fresh mountain air. But Peter, who grows jealous of Heidi's and Clara's friendship, pushes her empty wheelchair down the mountain to its destruction, although he is soon wracked with guilt about what he did and ultimately confesses to it. Without her wheelchair, Clara has no choice but to learn to walk; she attempts to do so and is gradually successful. Her grandmother and father are amazed and overcome with joy to see Clara walking again. The Sesemann family promises to provide permanent care for Heidi, if there ever comes a time when her grandfather is no longer able to do so.


English: Thirteen English translations were done between 1882 and 1959, by British and American translators: Louise Brooks, Helen B. Dole, H.A. Melcon, Helene S. White, Marian Edwardes, Elisabeth P. Stork, Mabel Abbott, Philip Schuyler Allen, Shirley Watkins, M. Rosenbaum, Eileen Hall, and Joy Law.[7]


About 25 film or television productions of the original story have been made. The Heidi films were popular far and wide, becoming a huge hit, and the Japanese animated series became iconic in several countries around the world. The only incarnation of the Japanese-produced animated TV series to reach the English language was a dubbed feature-length compilation movie using the most pivotal episodes of the television series, released on video in the United States in 1985. Although the original book describes Heidi as having dark, curly hair, she is usually portrayed as blonde.

Versions of the story include:

  • Heidi, a 1937 motion picture which starred Shirley Temple in the title role.
  • Heidi, a 1952 film in Swiss German and German, directed by Luigi Comencini, starring Elsbeth Sigmund (filmed on location in Switzerland), and followed by a sequel, Heidi and Peter, in 1955, directed by Franz Schnyder, also starring Ms. Sigmund.
  • Heidemarie S'Waisechind vo Engelberg, 1956 movie of Austria directed by Hermann Kugelstadt
  • A Gift for Heidi (1958), by George Templeton.
  • Heidi (1959), music by Clay Warnick, adapted by William Friedberg with Neil Simon.
  • Heidi a six-part 1959 BBCtv series starring Sara O'Connor in the title role, with Mark Dignam as her grandfather and Lesley Judd as Clara.[8]
  • Heidi, a 1965 Austrian film, directed by Werner Jacobs.
  • Heidi, a 1968 television movie which starred Jennifer Edwards with Maximilian Schell and Michael Redgrave. This was the version that became infamous for interrupting an American football game that was broadcast the same day. The game between the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets was cut off a few minutes before the end of the game when it looked like the Jets were winning. However, after the cut off, the Raiders made a comeback and beat the Jets with TV viewers missing out on the action. TV channels displayed the final score during the movie further enraging viewers. This incident lead to a policy of not ending coverage of football games until after their conclusion.
  • Heidi (Disneyland Storyteller Record) a 1968 old time radio style adaptation of the story by Disneyland Records, with music by Camarata, recorded in London and starring Brenda Dunnich, John Witty and introducing (to American audiences) Ysanne Churchman as Heidi.
  • Heidi, Girl of the Alps, a 1974 Japanese anime series directed by Isao Takahata for Zuiyo Eizo (later, Nippon Animation), dubbed into various languages. Compiled into an English-dubbed movie entitled The Story of Heidi.
  • Heidi, a 1974 BBC adaptation starring Emma Blake.
  • Heidi, a 1978 26-episode Swiss/German television series, starring Katia Polletin as the protagonist, which was dubbed into various languages, including English.
  • The New Adventures of Heidi (1978), directed by Ralph Senensky.
  • Heidi's Song, a 1982 American animated film produced by Hanna-Barbera.
  • Climb a Tall Mountain, a Christian film from 1987 that uses the story's characters to illustrate a message about the importance of love and forgiveness,
  • Courage Mountain, a 1990 American adventure drama film and serves as a sequel to Johanna Spyri's novel Heidi, directed by Christopher Leitch.
  • Heidi, a two-part American television miniseries from 1993, starring Noley Thornton as Heidi. Co-stars included Jane Seymour as Miss Rottenmeier, Jason Robards as Grandfather and Lexi Randall as Clara.
  • Heidi, a 1995 animated film.
  • Heidi, a 2005 animated film.
  • Heidi, a 2005 British live action film directed by Paul Marcus.
  • Heidi 4 Paws, a comedic 2008 adaptation featuring talking dogs with the voice of Angela Lansbury.
  • Heidi, a CGI remake of the 1974 anime series developed in 2015, made by Studio 100 Animation, the same makers of Maya the Bee.[9]
  • Heidi, a 2015 Swiss live action film directed by Alain Gsponer.
  • Heidi, bienvenida a casa from Argentina

A stage musical adaptation of Heidi with book and lyrics by Francois Toerien, music by Mynie Grové and additional lyrics by Esther von Waltsleben, premiered in South Africa at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in 2016. Directed by Toerien with musical direction by Dawid Boverhoff, the production starred Tobie Cronjé (Miss Rottenmeier), Dawid Minnaar (Mr Sesemann), Albert Maritz (Grandfather), Ilse Klink (Aunt Detie), Karli Heine (Heidi), Lynelle Kenned (Clara), Dean Balie (Peter), Jill Middlekop and Marlo Minnaar. Puppets for the production were created by Hansie Visagie.[10]

There have been two Heidi computer games released for mobile devices, with the most recent being Heidi: Mountain Adventures. Both games are based on the Studio 100 TV series of 2015 and are aimed at young children, with educational elements and a series of mini-games.[11][12]


Heidiland, named after the Heidi books, is an important tourist area in Switzerland, popular especially with Japanese and Korean tourists.[13] Maienfeld is the center of what is called Heidiland; one of the villages, formerly called Oberrofels,[14] is actually renamed "Heididorf".[15] Heidiland is located in an area called Bündner Herrschaft; it is criticized as being a "laughable, infantile cliche"[13] and "a more vivid example of hyperreality."[16]


The five sequel books, "Heidi and Her Friends", Heidi Grows Up, Heidi's Children, Heidi grand-mère 1941 (Heidi as grandmother) and Au Pays de Heidi 1952 (In Heidi's land), were neither written nor endorsed by Spyri, but were adapted from her other works by her French translator, Charles Tritten in the 1930s, many years after she died.[17][18][19][20]

There are some major differences between the original Heidi and the Tritten sequels. These include;

  • Heidi, the original story by Spyri, shows the simple life of Heidi imbued with a deep love of children and childhood. Spyri mentioned that the work was "for children and those who love children". The sequels portray Heidi in a different manner, as she grows up and gets married.
  • Heidi in the first book, Heidi, is described as having, "short, black curly hair", when she is around five to eight years of age. In Heidi Grows Up, when she is fourteen, her hair is long, straight and fair.
  • In some English editions of Heidi the names of the goats are translated into English (Little Swan and Little Bear), while other editions use their original Swiss-German names, Schwanli and Baerli. In Heidi Grows Up only the names Schwanli and Baerli are used.

In 1990, screenwriters Weaver Webb and Fred & Mark Brogger, and director Christopher Leitch, produced Courage Mountain, starring Charlie Sheen and Juliette Caton as Heidi. Billed as a sequel to Spyri's story, the film is anachronistic in that it depicts Heidi as a teenager during World War I, despite the fact that the original novel (where Heidi is only five years old) was published in 1881.

Basis for Heidi

In April 2010, a Swiss professorial candidate, Peter Buettner, uncovered a book written in 1830 by the German author Hermann Adam von Kamp. The 1830 story is titled "Adelaide: The Girl from the Alps" (German: Adelaide, das Mädchen vom Alpengebirge).[21] The two stories share many similarities in plot line and imagery.[22] Spyri biographer Regine Schindler said it was entirely possible that Spyri may have been familiar with the story as she grew up in a literate household with many books.


The book has been criticised, even in its day, for its religiously conservative positions,[23], and later for black-and-white character portrayals and an idealization of pastoral life.[24]

In Japan, since its first Japanese translation in 1906, the book has been influential upon the general, stereotypical image of Switzerland for the Japanese, especially its tourists, many visiting the Heidi's Village park.

See also

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