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Heidi (pronounced [ˈhaɪdi]) is a Swiss work of fiction, originally published in two parts as Heidi's years of learning and travel (German: Heidis Lehr- und Wanderjahre) and Heidi makes use of what she has learned. (German: Heidi kann brauchen, was sie gelernt hat) It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather's care, in the Swiss Alps. It was written as a book "for children and those who love children" (as quoted from its subtitle) in 1880 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri.
Adelheid ("Heidi") is a girl who has been raised by her aunt Dete in Maienfeld, Switzerland after the early deaths of her parents, Tobias and Adelheid. Dete brings 5-year-old Heidi to her grandfather, who has been at odds with the villagers for years and lives in seclusion on the alm. This has earned him the nickname Alp-Öhi ("Alm Uncle" in the Graubünden dialect). He at first resents Heidi's arrival, but the girl manages to penetrate his harsh exterior and Heidi subsequently has a delightful stay with him and her best friend, young Peter the goat-herd.
Dete returns three years later to bring Heidi to Frankfurt am Main as a companion of a 12-year-old girl named Clara Sesemann, who is regarded as an invalid. Heidi spends a year with Clara, conflicting with the Sesemanns' strict housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier and becoming more and more homesick. Her one diversion is learning to read and write, motivated by her desire to go home and read to Peter's blind grandmother. Heidi's increasingly failing health, and several instances of sleepwalking cause hysteria in the household that there is a haunting, prompt Clara's doctor to send Heidi home to her grandfather. Her return prompts the grandfather to descend to the village for the first time in years, marking an end to his seclusion.
Heidi and Clara continue to contact each other. A visit by the doctor to Heidi and her grandfather convinces him to recommend Clara to visit Heidi. Meanwhile, Heidi teaches Peter to read and write. Clara makes the journey the next season and spends a wonderful summer with Heidi. Clara becomes stronger on goat's milk and fresh mountain air, but Peter, feeling deprived of Heidi's attention, pushes Clara's wheelchair down the mountain to its destruction. Without her wheelchair, Clara attempts to walk and is gradually successful. Clara's grandmother and father are amazed and overcome with joy to see Clara walking. Clara's wealthy family promises to provide a shelter for Heidi, in case her grandfather is no longer able to do so.
About 20 film or television productions of the original story have been made. The Heidi films were popular far and wide, becoming a huge hit and an iconic animated series in several countries around the world. The only incarnation of the Japanese-produced animated TV series to reach the English language was a dubbed feature-length compilation movie using the most pivotal episodes of the television series, released on video in the United States in 1985. Although the original book describes Heidi as having dark, curly hair, she is usually portrayed as blonde.
Versions of the story include:
Heidiland, named after the Heidi books, is an important tourist area in Switzerland, popular especially with the Japanese (and also Korean because there's one in Korea). Maienfeld is the center of what is called Heidiland; one of the villages, formerly called Oberrofels, is actually renamed "Heididorf." Heidiland is located in an area called Bündner Herrschaft; it is criticized as being a "laughable, infantile cliche" and "a more vivid example of hyperreality."
The two sequel books, Heidi Grows Up and Heidi's Children, were neither written nor endorsed by Spyri, but were adapted from her other works by her English translator, Charles Tritten, many years after she died.
There are some major differences between the original Heidi and the Tritten sequels. These include;
In April 2010, a Swiss professorial candidate, Peter Buettner, uncovered a book written in 1830 by the German author Hermann Adam von Kamp. The 1830 story is titled "Adelaid: The Girl from the Alps" (German: Adelaide, das Mädchen vom Alpengebirge). The two stories share many similarities in plot line and imagery. Spyri biographer Regine Schindler said it was entirely possible that Spyri may have been familiar with the story as she grew up in a literate household with many books.