My friends at eFairies.com recently introduced to the amazing works of Elsa Beskow. The store carries reprints of many of the classic books Elsa wrote and illustrated well over a century ago. Titles such as Peter in Blueberry Land, The Flowers’ Festival, and Children of the Forest showcase Elsa’s love of children, nature, and fairy tales.
Elsa has been called the Beatrix Potter of Sweden, her beloved homeland. She was born in1874, the second of six children, and was telling fairy stories before she could speak properly. Elsa was fifteen when her father died and mother Augusta packed up the children and moved in with her own tribe of siblings. This proved to be fortunate for Elsa, for her uncle and aunts were very progressive – believing in the rights of women to vote, freedom of speech for all, and the concept that children should learn through play and enjoyment. These progressive views became a great source of inspiration to Elsa throughout her writing career.
Young Elsa loved to sketch plants and flowers, and her drawings showed great promise. In 1892, Elsa enrolled at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts, and Design where she met her future husband, Nathaniel Beskow. In 1894, she sold her first children’s works to the magazine Jultomten (Father Christmas). An old nursery rhyme her grandmother would tell of the Little Old Woman became the subject of her first book, published in 1897. After Elsa married, she would write one book a year to supplement the income of her growing family. Producing six sons, Elsa once described her married life as ‘every year another book and every other year a boy’.
Elsa’s talent was prolific as she went on to write and illustrate more than 40 books –transcending nationality, and timeless in their appeal. She has inspired a charming collection of dolls entitled Forest Gnomies, including characters such as Kirsten Strawberry Girl, Mari Mushroom Girl, and Hazel Acorn Girl. Not only have the dolls entertained and empowered children throughout the word, they are also handmade by women in Ecuador. This arrangement has provided these women a livelihood for nearly a decade, a fact that would have pleased the talented Mrs. Beskow.