Book Review: Mio’s Kingdom

mios kingdom

Mio’s Kingdom, by Astrid Lindgren (translated by Jill Morgan), tells the story of a nine year old Swedish boy who releases a genie from a bottle and is taken to Farawayland. Here he discovers he is the long lost child of the King. He also finds the love and friendship he has always craved. As time passes he comes to realise it is up to him to defeat the evil Sir Kato whose actions cast a shadow over the otherwise perfect kingdom.

The tale is aimed at children but has much to offer the adult reader, not least what becomes clear from the denouement. First published in 1954 (this translation 2003) it is considered a classic of the genre. From my reading I would say it has not suffered through aging and remains relevant and appealing to young readers today.

When the story opens the protagonist, Mio, is living with his foster parents in Stockholm. His name here is Karl Anders Nilsson, known as Andy. His only friend is Ben who he plays with in Tegnérlunden Park. He observes how Ben is treated by his parents, wishing that he could be loved in this way. Andy’s foster parents regularly make clear that they regret taking him from the Children’s Home where he used to live.

“Aunt Hulda found me there. She really wanted a girl, but there weren’t any she could have. So she took me, though Uncle Olaf and Aunt Hulda don’t like boys. At least not when they become eight or nine years old.”

One evening, sent on an errand to buy rolls, Andy is offered an apple by a kindly shopkeeper. He takes it to Tegnérlunden Park where, from the bench he sits on, he observes families through lighted windows sitting down to eat together. Feeling very alone he spots a stoppered bottle on the ground with something moving inside. He knows from a library book he enjoyed reading, A Thousand and One Nights, that he must release the trapped genie – a somewhat scary prospect.

Andy is taken to Farawayland where he is reunited with his father, the King, and learns his real name is Mio. He befriends another young boy, Pompoo, who helps him explore the kingdom and its welcoming inhabitants. Gradually Mio learns about the evil Sir Kato, and that it has been foretold that a boy of royal blood must defeat him in battle.

The adventures Mio and Pompoo enjoy before they travel to the Outer Land on this quest are all relevant to the eventual outcome. The boys must then demonstrate kindness and bravery. Sir Kato’s dark deeds have made the lands he rules over a terrible place – he has spies everywhere. Mio finds help where least expected.

In many ways this is quite a simple fairy tale but it offers young readers the chance to dream of living in a wondrous place that they alone can save. It is structured to retain engagement with plenty of tension. The journey undertaken may be daunting but should not be too nightmare inducing.

A book to inspire daydreams that avoids the saccharine tone of Disney and its ilk. A wholesome tale of good defeating evil, offering a poignant depth to readers who understand what is beneath the surface of the fine adventures and then quest.

Mio’s Kingdom is published by Oxford University Press.


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