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The Brothers Lionheart

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The Brothers Lionheart (Swedish: Bröderna Lejonhjärta) is a children's fantasy novel written by Astrid Lindgren. Well established as one of the most widely read and beloved books for children in Sweden, it was originally published in the autumn of 1973 and has since been translated into 46 languages. Like several of Lindgren's works, the book has a melancholy tone, and many of its themes are unusually dark for the children's book genre. Disease, death, tyranny, betrayal, and rebellion form the backdrop of the story, against which are contrasted platonic love, loyalty, sacrifice, hope, courage, and pacifism. The two main characters are two brothers: the brave and popular Jonatan and his admiring younger brother, Karl. The two brothers' surname is originally Lion, though the courageous Jonatan is known as "Lionheart." Karl's nickname is Skorpan (Rusky) since Jonatan loves these typical Swedish toasts or crusts as much as he loves his little brother. The introduction of the story depicts a small apartment in an impoverished area of Sweden, where Skorpan is bedridden with tuberculosis and, the reader is given to understand, unlikely to survive. Jonatan seeks to comfort his little brother by telling him about Nangijala, a land beyond death, where there are "sagas and campfires." Unexpectedly, Jonatan dies in an accident, leaving his brother alone. Soon after, Skorpan dies from his disease, and is reunited with Jonatan in Nangijala, where he, too, will be named Lionheart. The brothers experience adventures: together with a resistance group, they join the struggle against the tyrant Tengil, who rules with the aid of the fearsome fire-breathing dragon, Katla. These adventures form the greater part of the book. To older readers, the book is deliberately ambiguous about how much of the plot in fact real, keeping open a possibility that it represents Skorpan's fever dreams and imagination, based on the hopeful stories told to him by his brother.
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original title: Bröderna Lejonhjärta
language: Swedish
date of publication: 1973
genre: fantasy literature, children's novel

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