When her guardians die, Heidi must live in the mountains with her grandfather, Alm-Uncle, who does not like people. He slowly changes and becomes more caring because of Heidi. Then, Heidi must move to Frankfurt, Germany to be the friend of Clara, a girl who is sick and cannot walk. Clara’s grandmother encourages Heidi to learn to read, and she also learns about God. She becomes very homesick, and a kind doctor says that she must return home to her grandfather. Later, Clara visits Heidi in the Alps and becomes strong enough to walk.
Johanna Spyri wrote this story for her son, Berhard Diethelm Spyri. People and places in the story come from Spyry's own life. Catherine Eayrs, a literary critic, thinks that the village of Dorfli, which is not named, may come from Jenins in Switzerland, a place that Spyri visited as a child. (In the book, only the nearby railway station of "Mayenfeld" is named.) Also, the kindly doctor is similar to Spyri's own father, and Klara's grandmother is a good storyteller, just like Spyri's own mother.
Immediately after the book was published, Heidi was popular, both with children and adults. It continues to be popular, and translations are available in more than fifty languages. About 50 million books have been sold. The story has also been told on movie and television. There is even a musical version.
Some readers think that one problem of Heidi is that the book teaches the Christian religion. Malcolm Usrey, a literary critic, thinks that nature is as important as Christianity in helping people, because Klara’s paralysis and Heidi’s home sickness are both healed in the “clean air of the Swiss mountains”.
- "Chapter 1: Up the Mountain to Alm-Uncle". http://www.authorama.com/heidi-2.html.
- Eayrs, Catherine. "Johanna Spyri." In Jane M. Bingham (ed), Writers for Children Critical Studies of Major Authors Since the Seventeenth Century
- (English)Sightseeing Switzerland on state tourism site
- Malcolm Usrey, "Johanna Spryi's Heidi: The conversation of a Byronic Hero" in Anne H. Lundin (ed), 2004, Constructing the Canon of Children's Literature, Routledge. pg 103
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