One of Iceland’s best known authors of children’s books, Guðrún Helgadóttir, passed away yesterday at the age of 86, Morgunblaðið reports. She was born September 7, 1935. When presenting her with a prize in 2018, President Guðni Th. Jó
hannesson said to her, “You are our Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson,” referring to the famous children’s authors.
Not only was she a well-known author, but also very active in politics. She represented the People’s Alliance in the Reykjavík City Council 1978-82, and was a member of parliament from 1979 till 1995, and again in 1999. She served as speaker of Alþ
ingi, the Icelandic parliament, from 1988 till 1991.
Her first children’s book, Jón Oddur og Jón Bjarni , came out in 1974 — the first of three about very active and adventurous twin brothers, which became immensely popular in Iceland. More than 20 children’s books, which delighted Icelandic youth,
Guðrún was praised for her respect for children and her ability to always see the humorous side of things. According to publishing house Forlagið, her works have been translated into nine languages and published in Europe, the US, and Asia.
Among the many awards she received was the Nordic Council Children and Young People's Literature Prize in 1992. In 2005, she received the Jónas Hallgrímsson Prize for her contribution to the Icelandic language.
Among her best-known books is A Giant Love Story , illustrated by Brian Pilkington, which describes the magical world of Icelandic legends and folklore.
About A Giant Love Story, aka Flumbra: An Icelandic Folktale (1981):
"I love it when folk/fairy tales truly reflect their country of origin with settings in deep, dark forests, or villages by the seaside. Flumbra's story is indeed part of Iceland's volatile landscape. It is the tale of two giants in love, and their long
distance relationship. Keep in mind that giants cannot be caught out in the sunlight or they will turn to stone, so that makes for some rather tricky booty calls.
"Brian Pilkington's illustrations are fun, making the giants more silly than fearsome."
But...it apparently has a typical Northern European ending, if you know what I mean.
Pleasure’s Mine! (Ekkert að þakka! 1995)
"Pleasure’s Mine is a wonderful story of a boy and a girl, Eva and Ari Sveinn, who find a bag containing lots and lots of money, which was thrown from a speeding car by some shady characters fleeing from the police. They start giving the money to
people who need it very badly, like their parents, without letting anyone know who the donor is! A great mixture of suspense and humour."
About the movie "The Twins" (1981):
"Based on the classic novel by Guðrún Helgadóttir, this film is still very funny and has wide appeal to audiences of all ages. It is somewhat dated, but that only serves to make it funnier. The film covers the adventures of twin brothers Jón Oddur
and Jón Bjarni, who get up to a lot of mischief - not Home Alone style, but rather real things that real kids might do."
"...Helgadóttir´s first novel was published 25 years ago. It was the story of the twins Jón Oddur and Jón Bjarni. They live in an apartment building with their father and mother, their younger sister Magga and Anna Jóna, who is their half-sister and
suffers from a terrible disease called " the terrible teens" which young readers understood as little of as the brothers. The domestic help, Soffía, takes care of the children during the day, while their parents are at work, and Amma rep., who is a
representative for the radio and has opinions about everything, also appears in the story. Two other novels about the brothers followed and in 1981 Thráinn Bertelsson did a popular movie about Jón Oddur and Jón Bjarni and their family.
"From 1974 to 1980 when the novels about the brothers appeared, there was a strong demand for political and even radical children´s books. The novels about Jón Oddur and Jón Bjarni are in many ways in line with the ideas of the time. Both parents work
outside the home and are active in politics. We even get a hint at political struggles lurking in the background, understandably enough since the grown-ups are all members of different political parties and do not always agree with each other. Helgadó
ttir´s novels encourage the readers, children as well as grown ups, to think about the society and its rules, while the author avoids presenting her own political views.
"Many children´s books that were written at the time have aged badly. They are a heavier and more serious reading than most children´s books today and are too much concerned with problems. What is so interesting about Helgadóttir´s novels is that
they are, unlike most books from that time, just as entertaining today as when they first appeared. The magic lies, among other things, in the point of view.
"One of Helgadóttir´s distinctive features as an author is the child´s point of view. She has the ability to be able to place herself in the shoes of a child and show the world as it sees it. The child´s vision is always fresh and thus her work ages
so well. There is often a delightful discrepancy between what the children in the stories feel and reality. For example, Simbi, Anna Jóna´s (the brothers´ half-sister) boyfriend, always has one pimple in his face. The brothers think this is always the
same pimple and watch closely as it travels around Simbi´s face while those who are older understand the true nature of the matter. Whether the reader understands or not, Simbi´s pimple is interesting and humorous and it is one of the innumerable
things in Helgadóttir´s novels which is amusing to both children and adults, though in different ways. The child´s eye can approach its subject in a different way than that of adults´ and thus Helgadóttir´s characters often point out various evils
of society, which the grown ups take for granted..."