The gospel of reconciliation and healing in the Alps: Johanna Spyri’s <i>Heidi</i> reconsidered


Swiss Literature


Johanna Spyri’s renowned novel of 1880, “Heidi”, is best known internationally through countless translations, abridgements, cultural adaptations, and film adaptations since the late nineteenth century. In many of these permutations of the original German text, the fundamental Christian message has been either significantly reduced or eliminated entirely. As an active member of the Reformed Church in Zürich whose early life was influenced by Pietism, Spyri imbued many of her works for children and adults with explicitly religious dimensions. In “Heidi”, these are manifested in the protagonist’s spiritual maturation, her grandfather’s reconciliation with God and his neighbours through the parable of the prodigal son, and the restoration of health and mobility aided by Christian charity and a wholesome lifestyle. It is argued that the religious currents in “Heidi” and Spyri’s other works have been fundamentally misunderstood by earlier critics such as Wolgast and Doderer.

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