Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brothers Lionheart)

So, I feel like blogging about this despite the fact that it isn’t inside my usual blog-subjects. But—oh, well.

So, I’ve been a huge Astrid Lindgren fan for a long time. It started out with Pippi Longstocking and watching all the badly-dubbed old movies where Pippi somehow has a Brooklyn accent (go figure) and Annika sounds like she has a perpetual cold. Despite this, I wanted to be Pippi when I was a kid.

So, I’ve been meaning to read The Brothers Lionheart for a longtime, but the trouble with that is I can’t find it at my library and also I’m a purist. I don’t believe in changing characters’ names and such when they are translated out of one language and into another. The fact that Skorpan is named Scotty in the English books irritates me no-end.

But I digress: I watched Bröderna Lejonhjärta last night…in Swedish (with my limited knowledge of Swedish) and loved it. So, Bröderna Lejonhjärta is the story of young Karl “Skorpan” Lion and his older brother, Jonatan (in the book they’re ten and thirteen, in the movie they’re like ten and twenty). Skorpan is dying slowly of an illness and to quell his brothers fears Jonatan tells him stories of Nangijala (or Nangiyala in the English version), the land beyond the stars where all stories come from and where you go when you die.

While Jonatan is out one day, they’re house catches fire and Jonatan races inside to save Skorpan. He gets his younger brother on his back and jumps out the window in an effort to save him. Skorpan lives, but Jonatan dies in the fall.

A little while later, Skorpan dies of his illness. He wakes up in Nangijala and finds Jonatan there, fishing, and then they have a great time together and are happy and it’s all very lovely. But all is not well in Nangijala! The evil Tengil has taken slaves of the people, forcing them to build his castle and is keeping them in fear with a big dragon named Katla (built in England for 100,000 Swedish crowns and looking kinda corny, but whatever this movie was made in the 70s). When Orvar, the leader of the resistance movement Jonatan is part of, is captured by Tengil and imprisoned in Katla’s cave, the brothers set out to free him and save Nangijala.


Okay, the movie can be looked at as a straight-up children’s movie, except for all the death. The book itself was disliked by some because of its dark themes and its use of suicide (I’ll get to that in a bit). Though, apparently, Astrid Lindgren said that she got the quickest and most excited response from this book more than any of her others.

So, in the end, the brothers go to destroy Katla after beating Tengil. Jonatan calls it to him with the horn that Tengil used to control it. And…it breathes fire on him. So, yes, they are able to defeat Katla, but Jonatan is injured. At the campfire that night, Jonatan tells Skorpan, “Katla burned me. I’m becoming paralyzed. I can’t feel my legs and, soon, I won’t be able to feel my arms.”

Sidenote to reader: Dragon burns make you paralyzed. Also, my online translator is crappy, so these translations aren’t spot-on.

Skorpan: Won’t you get better, after you rest a few days?

Jonatan: This isn’t something you better from. [pause] Do remember the fire?

Skorpan: I never forgot it.

Jonatan: Remember when we jumped out the window, and I came to Nangijala [i.e: died]? I was thinking we could do that again, off that precipice over there, to go to Nangilima.

Skorpan: [blahblahblah something about the spirit of Nangijala] Then I will do it, like you did for me, so it’ll be like-wise.

Jonatan: Do you dare, Skorpan Lionheart? [or perhaps: Dare you, Skorpan Lionheart]

So, yeah, they jump and as they’re falling Skorpan shouts: “I see it! I see the light, Jonatan! It’s Nangilima!"

I really like this movie, despite the fact I had no idea what people were saying most of the time. You really didn’t need the words. I understood that the brothers really, really loved each other and I got that we had to save Orvar and that Tengil was bad and Katla was fearsome.

In the end, I really was moved by the fact that Skorpan chose to sacrifice himself, like Jonatan did for him in the beginning, so that they’d be together in Nangilima. I disagree with the critics who argue that this makes it seem that suicide is okay, because that’s not the point. The point was that they loved each other, and that love trumped everything, so that nothing else mattered. I think that’s an amazing thought, an amazing point: love is better than life. If goes beyond our own selfish desires. I love that.

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