Heidi (pronounced [ˈhaɪdi]) is a work of children's fiction published in 1881 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, originally published in two parts as Heidi: her years of wandering and learning (German: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) and Heidi : How she used what she learned (German: Heidi kann brauchen, was es gelernt hat). It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather's care, in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book "for children and those who love children" (as quoted from its subtitle).
Heidi is a girl who has been raised by her aunt Detie in Maienfeld, Switzerland after the early deaths of her parents, Tobias and Adelheid (Detie's sister and brother-in-law). Detie brings 6-year-old Heidi to her paternal grandfather's house, up the mountain from Dörfli. He has been at odds with the villagers and embittered against God for years and lives in seclusion on the alm. This has earned him the nickname Alm-Uncle. He briefly resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl's evident intelligence and cheerful yet unaffected demeanor soon earn his genuine, if reserved, affection. Heidi enthusiastically befriends her new neighbors, young Peter the goatherd, his mother, Bridget, and his blind maternal grandmother, who is "Grannie" to everyone. With each season that passes, the mountaintop inhabitants grow more attached to Heidi.
Three years later, Detie returns to take Heidi to Frankfurt to be a hired lady's companion to a wealthy girl named Clara Sesemann, who is regarded as an invalid. The girl is charmed by Heidi's simple friendliness, and delights in all the funny mishaps brought about by Heidi's lack of experience with city life. However, the Sesemanns' strict housekeeper, Fräulein Rottenmeier, views the household disruptions as wanton misbehavior, and places Heidi under more and more restraint. Soon, Heidi becomes terribly homesick, and grows alarmingly pale and thin. Her one diversion is learning to read and write, motivated by her desire to go home and read to Peter's blind grandmother. Clara's paternal grandmother comes to visit the children and becomes a friend to Heidi. She teaches Heidi that she can always seek relief from misery by praying to God.
After months pass, the Frankfurt household is brought near hysteria by nightly sightings of what appears to be a ghost. When Clara's father and his friend the doctor keep awake one night to find out what is causing the disturbances, they see that the "ghost" is actually just Heidi, who's sleepwalking in her nightgown. The doctor sees that Heidi's under a great deal of stress. He warns Mr. Sesemann that if Heidi is not sent home promptly, she may become very ill. Soon, a joyous Heidi returns to the mountains, where she teaches her grandfather about the comfort of prayer. She reassures him that it's never too late to turn back to God. Her simple lesson prompts her grandfather to descend to the village and attend a church service for the first time in years, marking an end to his seclusion. He's heartily welcomed back by the church pastor and the villagers.
Heidi and Clara continue to keep in touch and exchange letters. A visit by the doctor to Heidi leads him to eagerly recommend that Clara visit Heidi. He feels assured that the fresh mountain air and the wholesome companionship will do her good. Clara makes the journey again the next season and spends a wonderful summer with Heidi and becomes stronger on goat's milk and fresh mountain air. But Peter, who grows jealous of Heidi and Clara's friendship, pushes her empty wheelchair down the mountain to its destruction (although he later feels guilty about what he did and confesses to it). Without her wheelchair, she attempts to walk and is gradually successful. Her grandmother and father are amazed and overcome with joy to see Clara walking again. The Sesemann family promises to provide permanent care for Heidi, if there ever comes a time when her grandfather is no longer able to do so.
Film, television and theatrical adaptations
About 20 film or television productions of the original story have been made. The Heidi films were popular far and wide, becoming a huge hit, and the Japanese animated series became iconic in several countries around the world. The only incarnation of the Japanese-produced animated TV series to reach the English language was a dubbed feature-length compilation movie using the most pivotal episodes of the television series, released on video in the United States in 1985. Although the original book describes Heidi as having dark, curly hair, she is usually portrayed as blonde.
Versions of the story include:
- Heidi, a 1937 motion picture which starred Shirley Temple in the title role.
- Heidi, a 1952 film in Swiss German and German, directed by Luigi Comencini, starring Elsbeth Sigmund (filmed on location in Switzerland), and followed by a sequel, Heidi and Peter, in 1955, directed by Franz Schnyder, also starring Ms. Sigmund.
- A Gift for Heidi (1958), by George Templeton.
- Heidi (1959), music by Clay Warnick, adapted by William Friedberg with Neil Simon.
- Heidi, a 1965 German film, directed by Werner Jacobs.
- Heidi, a 1968 television movie which starred Jennifer Edwards with Maximilian Schell and Michael Redgrave. Infamous for interrupting an American football game that was broadcast the same day.
- Heidi (Disneyland Storyteller Record) a 1968 old time radio style adaptation of the story by Disneyland Records, with music by Camarata, recorded in London and starring Brenda Dunnich, John Witty and introducing (to American audiences) Ysanne Churchman as Heidi.
- Heidi, Girl of the Alps, a 1974 Japanese anime series directed by Isao Takahata for Zuiyo Eizo (later, Nippon Animation), dubbed into various languages. Compiled into an English-dubbed movie entitled The Story of Heidi.
- Heidi, a 1974 BBC adaptation starring Emma Blake.
- Heidi, a 1978 26-episode Swiss/German television series, starring Katia Polletin as the protagonist, which was dubbed into various languages, including English.
- The New Adventures of Heidi (1978), directed by Ralph Senensky.
- Heidi's Song, a 1982 American animated film produced by Hanna-Barbera.
- Heidi, a two-part American television miniseries from 1993, starring Noley Thornton as Heidi. Co-stars included Jane Seymour as Miss Rottenmeier, Jason Robards as Grandfather and Lexi Randall as Clara.
- Heidi, a 1995 animated film.
- Heidi, a 2005 animated film.
- Heidi, a 2005 British live action film directed by Paul Marcus.
- Heidi 4 Paws, a comedic 2008 adaptation featuring talking dogs with the voice of Angela Lansbury.
- Heidi (CGI series), a CGI remake of the 1974 anime series developed in 2015, made by Studio100, the same makers of Maya the Bee.
- Heidi, a 2015 German live action film directed by Alain Gsponer.
Heidiland, named after the Heidi books, is an important tourist area in Switzerland, popular especially with Japanese and Korean tourists. Maienfeld is the center of what is called Heidiland; one of the villages, formerly called Oberrofels, is actually renamed "Heididorf." Heidiland is located in an area called Bündner Herrschaft; it is criticized as being a "laughable, infantile cliche" and "a more vivid example of hyperreality."
The four sequel books, Heidi Grows Up, Heidi's Children, Heidi grand-mère (Heidi as grandmother) and Au Pays de Heidi (In Heidi's land), were neither written nor endorsed by Spyri, but were adapted from her other works by her French translator, Charles Tritten in the 1930s, many years after she died.
There are some major differences between the original Heidi and the Tritten sequels. These include;
- Heidi, the original story by Spyri, shows the simple life of Heidi imbued with a deep love of children and childhood. Spyri mentioned that the work was "for children and those who love children". The sequels portray Heidi in a different manner, as she grows up and gets married.
- Heidi in the first book, Heidi, is described as having, "short, black curly hair", when she is around five to eight years of age. In Heidi Grows Up, when she is fourteen, her hair is long, straight and fair.
- In some English editions of Heidi the names of the goats are translated into English (Little Swan and Little Bear), while other editions use their original Swiss-German names, Schwanli and Baerli. In Heidi Grows Up only the names Schwanli and Baerli are used.
In 1990, screenwriters Weaver Webb and Fred & Mark Brogger, and director Christopher Leitch, produced Courage Mountain, starring Charlie Sheen and Juliette Caton as Heidi. Billed as a sequel to Spyri's story, the film is anachronistic in that it depicts Heidi as a teenager during World War I, despite the fact that the original novel (where Heidi is only five years old) was published in 1881.
Basis for Heidi
In April 2010, a Swiss professorial candidate, Peter Buettner, uncovered a book written in 1830 by the German author Hermann Adam von Kamp. The 1830 story is titled "Adelaide: The Girl from the Alps" (German: Adelheide, das Mädchen vom Alpengebirge). The two stories share many similarities in plot line and imagery. Spyri biographer Regine Schindler said it was entirely possible that Spyri may have been familiar with the story as she grew up in a literate household with many books.