...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Acculturation as children

(P.S. added on July 9 2007)

ac·cul·tur·a·tion, n. (1) the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group. (2) the result of this process. [Origin: 1875-80, Americanism]

Post 1 out of 3 about Swedish books on culture.

I borrowed some books on Swedish culture from Karin. They are published by the Swedish Institute and feature Swedish children's books, Swedish pop and Swedish cinema. I'm going to try to write something short about each theme. You might have guessed that I will want to start on the theme closest to my heart among the three: children's books.

Swedish children's books intrigue me for one reason: they're not the children's books I grew up with. When I first saw the public library's collection here, I was first surprised that I didn't have any idea about any title or author at all. I realized that the books I grew up with (and they weren't few; I collected children's books until college) were actually mostly American, and I strangely (and naively) thought that all the world's children had the same collection in their bookshelves and libraries. Until that library trip, I actually thought I knew a lot about children's books. But there I was not able to recognize anything as belonging to my childhood memory. It was like a material reminder that I had little shared "childhood culture" with my Swedish friends.

I remembered that during my three-month stay in Holland with American dormmate Jennifer, we once quizzed each other and exchanged anecdotes about our favorite children's books and authors: E.B. White, Madeline L'Engle, Beverly Cleary, Carolyn Keene--incidentally all American. Okay, there was a Brit as well (Enid Blyton) and an Irishman (C.S. Lewis), in whose books I learned strange English expressions such as "by Jove!" and "electric torch". But anyhow, after we laughed at the stories we remembered, I remember feeling strangely like a little brown American. Good thing Jenny was of Chinese descent.

Still, it was a bit of a surprise to find out that on these parts, characters such as Ramona the Brave, Encyclopedia Brown, and (gasp!) even Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are mostly unheard of. I mean, who hasn't heard of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys? In fairness to Swedes though, we in the "Americanized" cultures, are ourselves completely clueless of what are considered to be the Swedish children's classics, of which --if I may add-- I know of no Filipino equivalent, sadly. I actually don't know of any singularly popular Filipino children's writer, but that might be partly due to my ignorance. Maybe Gabby knows of one; I believe her mother draws cartoons for such books.

There is one world-popular children's book character from Sweden though: Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump), a red-haired pig-tailed and freckled girl with superhuman strength, who lives alone with her monkey and her horse. She's only (if at all) remotely popular in the Philippines, and if so thanks even to the Hollywood movie "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" or the HBO cartoon, both of which I haven't even seen (Lalaine knows of them though, so they must exist). On these shores though, Pippi Longstocking is iconic, almost like a Swedish cult figure in the proportions of America's Mickey Mouse. You can even buy her figurines and stuffed toys alongside Swedish flags on the tourist streets of Stockholm. A children's museum in Stockholm has Pippi as one of the permanent attractions, and the original manuscripts of author Astrid Lindgren are kept in the Swedish Royal Library and protected under UNESCO's World heritage list. I guess I don't need to mention at this point which childhood author it is that every kid here reads (Astrid Lindgren was a prolific writer too); obviously the Swedish collective memory where books of childhood are concerned is different from the one I share.

Let me say though, that though Swedes are very proud over their own authors and traditions, one can still find the usual cultural imports. Harry Potter, the many Enid Blyton series, The Adventures of Tintin and even The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency series are sold in bookstores, but with one notable difference: they're all translated into Swedish, and not a copy is sold in English as far as I've seen! But that's okay. After all, do you really expect all cultures to be as American as ours?

About this series: SI (The Swedish Institute) is like Sweden's public relation's office: they disseminate information about Sweden abroad. The books I'm taking about is available for order at their site: www. sweden.se.

About the book: It was a good nighttime reading for me, with many reading suggestions on classic Swedish children's books geared for all ages, from the very young to young adults. It actually inspired me to go children's-book-borrowing this summer. Many of the books are also translated into other European languages.

P.S. Nancy Drew exists in Swedish after all! ...But not in her original name, apparently (which I imagine will sound funny in a Swedish-swedish accent). Instead, she's named Kitty, of all the possible names! Thanks, Christianne for this interesting trivia, and good luck with Kitty reading!


Blogger Cheryl said...

ha! ako din. most filipino stories i remember are "alamat ng..." types.

2:14 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick Joaquin wrote a series of children's stories called "Pop Stories for Groovy Kids". If you remember, we had a few books from the series....

5:45 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi Liz!

Hmmm.. You're right! I forgot about that and my first bet was actually that guy who wrote the Batibot theme, heheh. Well, there you go.

But I wonder if his books are still being sold. Aren't those "Pop Stories" now out of print? (despite Nick being National Artist and all too!)

9:35 PM

Anonymous pj said...

Pippi Longstocking! I never knew she was swedish!
I loved her so much, I actually wore my hair in braids for a month after i saw the movie.
Hay. Senti. hehe.

5:52 PM

Blogger vlado&toni said...

Hej Joy,

Naku, all those swedish food entries makes me hungry...i want to have one of those christmas sarsi like drink. we don't have any rootbeer here even during christmas and that rosehip soup looks interesting..i wonder if they have it in ikea like the salmiak and all those cookies?would check that out next time.( i usually hoard only the cinnamon rolls whenever we go there and forget about the rest-ok i buy the tea lights too and the scented candles :))
Pippi is so popular with the kids at work ..( i work in a kindergarden) and so is Ronja. I also didn't know them before I came here, my classmates & teachers in the german class and my husband were all shocked that Pippi didn't reach the shores of the Philippines during my childhood--it's as if i missed out on all her adventures.
Oh well, better late than later :)
p.s yup i noticed you like cats not just because of the pic here with that cat on top of your head but because of that travel blog in the philippines .. so many cat pictures :)

2:07 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

hello again Toni,

Yikes, I don't like salmiac (licorice), but believe it or not even ice creams have that flavor here, and it's extremely popular too. :-P

BTW, yes I would describe the Julmust (Christmas drink) tasting more like Sarsi or rootbeer than, for example, Malzbier. Malzbier was thick and grain-tasting; Julmust is a sweet, carrbonated concoction :-)Perhaps you'll see it in IKEA next Xmastime.

I'll post something new tomorrow. Just now I have to do groceries, haha :-)

11:01 AM


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