The Tomten

by Astrid Lindgren

Hardcover, 1992



Local notes

E Lin




Floris Books (1992)


On a cold, snowy night, a Swedish troll walks around a farm comforting the animals with the promise that spring will come.


Original publication date


User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
I liked this because the Tomten is just kind--no crazy mishaps, no tricksterism and comeuppance, no dialogue (just "tomten language, a silent little language that (the cows, the cats, the children) can understand"), and at the same time none of the opposite kind of thing where instead of a madcap
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time we get little creatures that go around at night doing chores and making sure the world stays "proper" (I can't help but think of this in terms of a left–right political axis, from upright shoemaker elves to subversive Rumpelstiltskin, or whatever)--no, the Tomten is just kind, and reminds everyone in their sleep that spring will come again, and makes the haunted farm seem safe even while still haunting, just like its blanket of snow.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
In the quiet of a cold and snowy winter night, on a farm "deep in the middle of the woods," a tomten - tomtens (known as nisse in Norway and Denmark) are small, dwarf or gnome-like beings from Scandinavian mythology, said to guard and care for a farm and its inhabitants - makes his rounds, checking
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on all the animals, and on the human inhabitants as well. From the cows to the sheep, Dobbin the horse to Caro the dog, the tomten speaks to each in his silent tomten language, that only animals and babies can understand, offering consolation, and the promise of spring (and happiness) to come. Pondering his human charges, who (unlike the animals) sleep the night away, and never know he is there, the tomten concludes his rounds, ending up with his feline companion, who demands milk, and his company. Winters may come and summers go, the narrator concludes, but all throughout the year, in the dead of night, the tomten will be there, to ensure that all is well...

Based upon a poem by Viktor Rydberg, published in 1881 in the magazine Ny Illustrerad Tidning, this delightful picture-book from acclaimed Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren has a gentle charm that slowly and subtly works upon the reader, drawing her into its quiet, comforting world. I liked the repetitive structure of the tale - this probably owes something to the original poem - as it creates a rather soothing rhythm, and emphasizes the reassuring nature of the story itself. The tomten is there - every night he is there - and he is sure to get to all the residents of the farm, during the course of his nightly duties. The accompanying artwork, done in muted tones by Harald Wiberg, has a soft, indistinct quality to it that is ideally suited to the wintry nighttime scene, and perfectly captures the quiet feeling of enchantment to be found in the text.

All in all, The Tomten is a superb little book, and I am quite grateful to the Picture-Book Club to which I belong for choosing it as one of our selections this month. Our theme this time is "mystical/magical creatures," and this surely fits the bill! I will definitely be seeking out a copy of Lindgren's The Tomten and the Fox, as well as the Norwegian story, The Nisse from Timsgaard...
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LibraryThing member karrotab
This has become a holiday favorites at our house, as it was when I was a little girl. A cozy story for cold winter nights.
LibraryThing member Treeseed
I have loved this book for over 40 years. The copy I have was printed in Sweden a long time ago but I am very glad that this story is available as a nicely affordable paperback because it's such a sweet and comforting tale that lots of children will love. The beautiful illustrations capture
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perfectly the crisp, cold, snowy atmosphere of a still winter's night as the Tomten, a small spirit and guardian of a humble farm homestead goes about on his secret rounds doing his caretaker duties in his gentle, loving way. He whispers encouragment to the sleeping animals and children. He has seen many hundreds of winters and so he knows that "winters come and winters go, summers come and summers go" and the wheel of the year turns on and on. I encourage you to read this to children to help them feel safe and cozy and snug in their beds on a cold, dark winter's night...maybe try it this Winter Solstice and be sure to keep a look-out for tiny footprints in the snow around your home.
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LibraryThing member justineaylward
Great quiet images and lovely story! Sort of somber, but not really sad.
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
It's Astrid Lindgren's retelling of Viktor Rydberg's classic Swedish poem, The Tomten. A tomten is quite a bit like the Danish nisse -- a guardian spirit, usually depicted as a red-capped elf, who lives on a farm and, if well-treated, will ensure that things go well there. The nisse, at least, is
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especially to be propitiated at Christmastime, when he gets his own bowl of the Christmas rice porridge. The Tomten doesn't have a lot of plot, but gives a lovely, peaceful, comforting feeling, so it's a fine bedtime story, one of our family's Christmas favorites.
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LibraryThing member jarvenpa
I love this book for the sense of wonder and the sweet kindness. I don't know if my children retain the same memory of how delightful it was...but I do. If ever I have a grandchild I will indoctrinate him/her.
LibraryThing member gundulabaehre
It is a long winter's night, and the Tomten (a small, ancient gnome, who lives quietly and mostly unnoticed on a remote Swedish farm) awakens. He watches over the farm's livestock, encouraging the winter-weary animals with the promise of spring (talking to them in tomten language, a silent language
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that the farm animals, from cows to barn cats, are able to understand). The farmer and his wife, although also under the Tomten's watchful eyes, are unaware of the Tomten's presence and unable to understand his language, although if their children were awake, they would be able to both perceive the Tomten and comprehend his language. Throughout the night, the Tomten continues making his rounds, and as long as there are people and animals on the farm, the Tomten will faithfully keep watch over them, night after night, season after season, year after year.

Astrid Lindgren's The Tomten exhibits a sparse, sweetly poetic, but also somewhat repetitive narrative style. For some, the repetitiveness of the text might seem a trifle monotonous, but for me, it gives this little gem of a story a wonderful and palpable sense of security, of hope for the coming of spring. In many ways, this book reads and feels like a magical lullaby, conveying peace, love and protection (like a fluffy blanket, or cozy hearth, the Tomten's words surround the reader, the listener with magic, warmth and kindness). And Harald Wiberg's luminous, at times almost mystical illustrations are a perfect complement to Astrid Lindgren's poetically warming and calming narrative, demonstrating a similar sense of peace, of magical, fairytale-like serenity. I would recommend The Tomten for young children (and older children) interested in The Little People (it would the perfect bedtime story for a winter's evening, peaceful, relaxing, hopeful).

Astrid Lindgren adapted the text of The Tomten from Viktor Ryberg's 1881 poem Tomten (the Gnome). Although not essential (and basically this is just my own curiosity speaking), I think it would have been interesting (and rewarding) if Lindgren had included the original poem as an author's note (I did finally find the poem on the internet, in its original Swedish, with an accompanying English translation, but it took a bit of research). I also wish I were fluent in Swedish and could thus read and compare this English translation to Astrid Lindgren's original Swedish text (it is a wonderful book, with a flowing, sweet narrative, but I am always curious how translated texts, especially ones that are rather poetic, compare to the originals, and I also find it rather intriguing that there is no translator listed).
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
In The Tomten, Astrid Lindgren recounts the quiet adventures of a gnome-like mythical creature who lives on a small farm and comes out at night to keep an eye on the family and its farm animals. The story itself and its illustrations both have a laid back quality, and I could see this book making a
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good bedtime story to help the kids unwind before resting. There's a great deal of repetition in the text but not the kind of singsong repeating often seen in children's books. The repetition here instead creates a feeling of familiarity that adds to the book's comforting and cozy atmosphere. The illustrations are somewhat muted, but this also adds to the overall tone. While I wasn't crazy about this book per se, I did appreciate the texture and layers of it and how it's a calmer, quieter read for kids.
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LibraryThing member wichitafriendsschool
In The Tomten, Astrid Lindgren recounts the quiet adventures of a gnome-like mythical creature who lives on a small farm and comes out at night to keep an eye on the family and its farm animals.


(76 ratings; 4.2)
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