Vi på Saltkråkan

  • Country in which the text is set
    Sweden
  • Featured locations
    Stockholm
    Norröra
    Stockholm Archipelago / Stockholms skärgård
     

    In the original tv series and the later novel the “Seacrow”, actually the “Salty Crow”, is a small island far out in the Stockholm archipelago as well as the name of the ferry who carries summer guests into the archipelago. In reality the Salty Crow was the name of director Olle Hellbom's private boat. The tv series was shot mainly on an island in the northern part of the Stockholm archipelago called Norröra (Northern ear) as well as it's sibling Sydöra (Southern ear). Many scenes were also filmed at Åland, i.e. Finland. Some good forty years later, particularly Norröra still draws some profit from this fact. Astrid Lindgren was familiar with this part of the archipelago and in the novel names of other islands located there for real, for example Gräskö, are mentioned.

  • Impact

    “Seacrow Island” is the story of widowed father Melker Melkerson who has rented a house for himself and his four children on an island in the far out Stockholm archipelago during summer. The novel depicts the interactions between Melkersons as “summer guests” – a term that was coined in the era between the two world wars, when the Swedish middle class started using the archipelago as their summer retreat - and the islands year-round inhabitants. It is the only work of Astrid Lindgren that was written directly for television. At first there was a manuscript, turned into a much beloved and well known tv series by Olle Hellbom and Olle Nordemar. The book was published in 1964, after the series had already run. Unlike most of Lindgren's books the novel is not told consequently from the viewpoint of children. Instead it is partly written in diary form and the events are recaptured by Melkersons' 19 year old daughter Malin, who assumes the role of the mother in the family.

    Melkersons' main counterpart among the islanders is the family Granqvist: father Nisse, mother Märta and their three daughters. The soon to be teenage girls Teddy and Freddy quickly pair up with Melkersons' boys Johan and Niklas. Grankvist's youngest girl Tjorven befriends both Melkerson himself and his boy Pelle, who is an animal-lover and in awe with Tjorven's huge St. Bernhard dog, Boatsman. Among the smaller children is also Stina, granddaughter of a grumpy but warmhearted old man called Söderman. The novel focus on the children's adventures on the island itself and at sea. The failures of father Melkerson trying to tackle the practical sides of life in the archipelago functions as a running gag. Melker is an unhandy dreamer, an author who's biggest trait is the intense love he displays for his children. He is not a very stereotypical man. Likewise Teddy and Freddy, with strikingly gender confusing names are presented as more skilled than Melkersons boys at rowing, fishing, etc. Not to speak of their little sister Tjorven, who is the story's main problem solver and presented as an embodiment of the archipelago itself. Half a century later it is mainly the character Malin, who carries the role of the stand in mother with much too perky ease for a 19-year-old, that reminds us this story was originally set in the early sixties. With these characters, Astrid Lindgren did not merely display a progressive understanding of gender roles, but created a symbolic difference between islanders and summer guests.

    In the early 20th Century the perception of the archipelago as a landscape to which man retreats, i.e. of nature that is to be enjoyed rather than survived, was still an elite notion, beheld by the wealthy enough citizens who could afford mansions on a small island or coastal strip of their own. But when Lindgren wrote the “Seacrow Island” in 1964 the colonization of the archipelago had changed its face. The islands were quite literary within reach of ordinary people and many permanent inhabitants lived off the incomes from summer guests. In reality the relationship between the islanders and city dwellers was not always easy. In the 1970s the last generation who had led a self-sustaining existence in the archipelago started dying, and the Swedish middle class began traveling abroad during summer holidays. Today the year-round life on the islands that Lindgren idealizes is an exception, but it does exists – unlike the cod that the children of the novel are fishing and eating together. Environmental pollution has changed underwater life in this part of the Baltic Sea forever.

    In the end of the original story Melker Melkerson is able to buy the small house on Seacrow Island for his family. The episode is symptomatic of the prevailing idea of that time, when the archipelago was considered an idyll within reach for everyone. In the novel, a man who has never set foot on the Seacrow island wants to buy the very same house. But the islanders, especially Tjorven, rise to help their friends keep their paradise. With Astrid Lindgren, the summer guests who have come to love the archipelago get rewarded, while the stranger who behaves like a colonialist has to leave. Apparently the author herself felt that she was up to portraying life in the archipelago to a broader audience only since she had gathered some 30 years of her own experience. Astrid Lindgren was that humble summer guest herself, one might argue.

    After the tv series ran in Sweden in 1964 the characters quickly gained a life of their own. In the 1960s and 70s the series was broadcasted in many other countries as well, and still today people tend to associate the different characters with the respective actors. The novel was published later during 1964, and has since been translated into 19 languages. During the 1960s four further movies were shot for the cinema, based on some of the youngest characters. In 1968 the original tv series was cut into a movie as well.

  • Balticness

    Life in the archipelago, i.e. the immanent presence of the Baltic sea, is the very core of “Seacrow Island”. The islanders know how to deal with this presence, the summer guest has yet to learn how to fish, how to row, and how to keep calm when the fog rolls, etc. It is a symbolic, and romanticized, portrait of the relationship between the natives of that particular landscape, and the summer guests who are at once colonialists and neighbors.

    Unn Gustafsson

  • Bibliographic information
    Astrid Lindgren, Vi på Saltkråkan. Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren 1964, p. 5-18
  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    Danish 1965 Ellen Kirk
    English 1968 Evelyn Ramsden
    Estonian 1969 Vladimir Beekman
    Finnish 1965 Laila Järvinen
    German 1965 Thyra Dohrenburg
    Icelandic 1979 Silja Ađalsteinsdóttir
    Latvian 1970 Elija Kliene
    Lithuanian 1987 Eugenija Stravinskiene
    Norwegian 1965 Jo Tenfjord
    Polish 1972 Maria Olszańska
    Russian 1971 Ljudmila Braude & E. Milëchinoj
  • Year of first publication
    1964
  • Place of first publication
    Stockholm
  • Link

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