I posted about this before, sharing excerpts from two different versions of Heidi. Here’s another example:
Much later in the book, Heidi at last gets to return home. She has come home with a fair sum of money the grandfather wishes her to put away to save. She asks instead if she can’t use it to buy daily white bread for Peter’s grandmother, and she talks about how good it was of God to let her be able to make this plan. You don’t read about most of that in the Illustrated classics, though. You just read of Heidi’s plan to buy the grandmother bread and of how proud her grandfather is of his grand-daughter’s generosity…. Nobody thanks God or even mentions Him.
“That evening at dinner, as Heidi chatted about her life in the city and how kind everyone had been to her, a change came over Grandfather. For the first time in a very long while, he saw the goodness in other people. And he saw this goodness through Heidi’s eyes. He realized what a gift this child was and that his life of bitterness was not good for him and certainly not good for Heidi.. That night Uncle Alp make an important decision. He decided to return to a life that included other people.
The next day was Sunday, and Grandfather told Heidi to get dressed in the clothes Clara had given her…
(they go to church, the people are friendly, the pastor talks him into moving down during winter months so Heidi can go to school, they return home and chat more)
He had finally give up the bitterness that had made him a lonely old man without friends or neighbors. now, thanks to Heidi that was all over. He had begun a new life.”
Thanks to Heidi?
Here’s what the original version says:
At this the child gave a bound, shouting: “Oh grandfather, now grandmother won’t ever have to eat hard, black bread any more. Oh, everything is so wonderful now! If God Our Father had done immediately what I prayed for, I should have come home at once and could not have brought half as many rolls to grandmother. I should not have been able to read either. Grandmama told me that God would make everything much better than I could ever dream. I shall always pray from now on, the way grandmama taught me. When God does not give me something I pray for, I shall always remember how everything has worked out for the best this time. We’ll pray every day, grandfather, won’t we, for otherwise God might forget us.”
“And if somebody should forget to do it?” murmured the old man.
“Oh, he’ll get on badly, for God will forget him, too. If he is unhappy and wretched, people don’t pity him, for they will say: ‘he went away from God, and now the Lord, who alone can help him, has no pity on him’.”
“Is that true, Heidi? Who told you so?”
“Grandmama explained it all to me.”
After a pause the grandfather said: “Yes, but if it has happened, then there is no help; nobody can come back to the Lord, when God has once forgotten him.”
“But grandfather, everybody can come back to Him; grandmama told me that, and besides there is the beautiful story in my book. Oh, grandfather, you don’t know it yet, and I shall read it to you as soon as we get home.”
The grandfather had brought a big basket with him, in which he carried half the contents of Heidi’s trunk; it had been too large to be conveyed up the steep ascent. Arriving at the hut and setting down his load, he had to sit beside Heidi, who was ready to begin the tale. With great animation Heidi read the story of the prodigal son, who was happy at home with his father’s cows and sheep. The picture showed him leaning on his staff, watching the sunset.
“Suddenly he wanted to have his own inheritance, and be able to be his own master. Demanding the money from his father, he went away and squandered all. When he had nothing in the world left, he had to go as servant to a peasant, who did not own fine cattle like his father, but only swine; his clothes were rags, and for food he only got the husks on which the pigs were fed. Often he would think what a good home he had left, and when he remembered how good his father had been to him and his own ungratefulness, he would cry from repentance and longing. Then he said to himself: ‘I shall go to my father and ask his forgiveness.’ When he approached his former home, his father came out to meet him—”
“What do you think will happen now?” Heidi asked. “You think that the father is angry and will say: ‘Didn’t I tell you?’ But just listen: ‘And his father saw him and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck. And the son said: Father, I have sinned against Heaven and in Thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called Thy son. But the father said to his servants: Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet; and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”
“Isn’t it a beautiful story, grandfather?” asked Heidi, when he sat silently beside her.
“Yes, Heidi, it is,” said the grandfather, but so seriously that Heidi quietly looked at the pictures. “Look how happy he is,” she said, pointing to it.
A few hours later, when Heidi was sleeping soundly, the old man climbed up the ladder. Placing a little lamp beside the sleeping child, he watched her a long, long time. Her little hands were folded and her rosy face looked confident and peaceful. The old man now folded his hands and said in a low voice, while big tears rolled down his cheeks: “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and Thee, and am no more worthy to be Thy son!”
The next morning found the uncle standing before the door, looking about him over valley and mountain. A few early bells sounded from below and the birds sang their morning anthems.
Re-entering the house, he called: “Heidi, get up! The sun is shining! Put on a pretty dress, for we are going to church!”
That was a new call, and Heidi obeyed quickly. When the child came downstairs in her smart little frock, she opened her eyes wide. “Oh, grandfather!” she exclaimed, “I have never seen you in your Sunday coat with the silver buttons. Oh, how fine you look!”
The old man, turning to the child, said with a smile: “You look nice, too; come now!” With Heidi’s hand in his they wandered down together. The nearer they came to the village, the louder and richer the bells resounded. “Oh grandfather, do you hear it? It seems like a big, high feast,” said Heidi.
When they entered the church, all the people were singing. Though they sat down on the last bench behind, the people had noticed their presence and whispered it from ear to ear. When the pastor began to preach, his words were a loud thanksgiving that moved all his hearers. After the service the old man and the child walked to the parsonage. The clergyman had opened the door and received them with friendly words.
“I have come to ask your forgiveness for my harsh words,” said the uncle. “I want to follow your advice to spend the winter here among you. If the people look at me askance, I can’t expect any better. I am sure, Mr. Pastor, you will not do so.”
When they had parted at last, the uncle looked after them with his face shining as with an inward light. Heidi looked up to him and said: “Grandfather, you have never looked so beautiful!”
“Do you think so, child?” he said with a smile. “You see, Heidi, I am more happy than I deserve; to be at peace with God and men makes one’s heart feel light. God has been good to me, to send you back.”
This is a story worth telling. In the first version, the focus is on what a wonderful person Heidi is, and those around her on thankful to her and proud of her. It is true that she is a precious little girl. But in the true version, she is also conduit of God’s grace and mercy, and those around her are, grateful to God. Most particularly the hard hearted and embittered by grief Grandfather is deeply expressive of his relief and his gratitude to God.
It is not an insignificant difference. One has to wonder why the producers of Illustrated Classics work so hard to eliminate the religious themes of the classics they reproduce, because Heidi is not the only one.
Another change which also seems small but is odd to me, is the issue of schooling for Heidi. In the real version, it is a demonstration of the Grandfather’s converted heart and repentance that he goes to the Pastor and on his own, immediately asks if he can still send Heidi to school, and makes plans to do so. In the Illustrated Classics version for some reason, this does not occur to him. In his visit with the Pastor it is the Pastor who again broaches the subject and asks the Grandfather to change his mind.
Once again, people often recommend these books as stepping stones to greater reading later, but I see no point.
Commented Chrissy in the previous post: “I think that anyone who would say that you interest a child in something delicious but unknown by giving them a dry cracker and then saying the unknown thing is just like it, only better, is a crazy person. ”
They do not need to read this gutted, diluted, watered down and butchered version of Heidi in order to appreciate Heidi later, nor do they need this kind of thing to build up their reading skills. To build their reading skills so they can later appreciate the complex themes, language, syntax, and ideas of Heidi they can be reading excellent quality books already suited to their age and reading ability.
I’ll share some titles and tips later.