A children‘s book conquers the world.
By Dr. Peter O. Büttner
Photographs courtesy Heidiseum

No other literary work has had a greater impact on the global perception of the Alps over the past 140 years than Johanna Spyri‘s Heidi. With over 100 million books sold in over 70 languages, Heidi is Switzerland‘s most successful and influential story. The novel, first published in 1879/81, is as symbolic of Swiss cultural heritage as the Matterhorn or Swiss chocolate. Numerous film and animated adaptations made Heidi one of the best-known and most popular children‘s story in around 180 countries.

Swiss author Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) achieved world fame with Heidi and made generations of children dream with her utopia of a childhood spent close to nature. But the success of Heidi, which we have perceived since 1974 as one strongly influenced by Japan, began during the author‘s lifetime when Spyri‘s story touched hearts internationally. The story was first published by Friedrich Andreas Perthes in Gotha, Thuringia, in 1880/1881 under the title Heidi‘s Lehr- und Wanderjahre (Vol. 1) and Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat (Vol. 2). Only a few women of this time were granted the opportunity to make a living from their own writing. With Heidi, Spyri achieved financial independence and an international status, while the rest of her work is now largely forgotten.

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