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Mio, My Son

Astrid Lindgren

  Astrid Lindgren

  Mio, My Son

  Translated from the Swedish by Jill Morgan

  Illustrated by Ilon Wikland





  435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

  Text copyright © 1954 by Astrid Lindgren / Saltkråkan AB

  Illustrations copyright © 1954 by Ilon Wikland

  Translation copyright © 2003 by Jill Morgan

  All rights reserved.

  Cover design by Louise Fili, Ltd.

  First published in Sweden in 1954 as Mio, min Mio by Rabén & Sjögren, Sweden. This translation first published in 2003 by Purple House Press, Lexington, Kentucky.

  All foreign rights are handled by Saltkråkan AB, Lidingö, Sweden.

  For more information about Astrid Lindgren, see

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Lindgren, Astrid, 1907–2002.

  [Mio, min Mio. English]

  Mio, my son / by Astrid Lindgren ; translated by Jill Morgan ; illustrated by Ilon Wikland.

  1 online resource. — (The New York Review Books children’s collection)

  Originally published in Swedish by Rabén & Sjögren in 1954 under title: Mio, min Mio.

  Summary: Young Anders is carried away from his bleak life as an unloved foster child in Stockholm, Sweden, to become Mio, son of the King of Farawayland.

  ISBN 978-1-59017-871-3 () — ISBN 978-1-59017-870-6 (print)

  [1. Fathers and sons—Fiction. 2. Kings, queens, rulers, etc.—Fiction. 3. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction.] I. Morgan, Jill, translator. II. Wikland, Ilon, illustrator.

  III. Title.




  ISBN 978-1-59017-871-3


  For a complete list of books in the NYRB Classics series, visit or write to:

  Catalog Requests, NYRB, 435 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014


  Title Page

  Copyright and More Information


  He Travels by Day and by Night

  In the Garden of Roses


  Do Stars Care if You Play to Them?

  The Well That Whispers at Night

  He Rode Through the Forest of Moonbeams

  The Bewitched Birds

  In the Dead Forest

  The Deepest Cave in the Blackest Mountain

  A Claw of Iron

  I Never Saw a More Fearsome Sword in My Castle

  Mio, My Son

  Biographical Notes

  Mio, My Son

  He Travels by Day and by Night

  DID YOU LISTEN to the radio on October 15th last year? Did you hear the news about a boy who disappeared? This is what it said:

  “Police in Stockholm are searching for a nine-year-old boy missing from his home, at 13 North Street, since 6 P.M. two days ago. Karl Anders Nilsson has light hair and blue eyes. At the time of his disappearance he was wearing brown shorts, a gray sweater, and a small red cap. Anyone with more information on his whereabouts should contact the police.”

  Yes, so they said. But no one had information on Karl Anders Nilsson. He simply vanished. No one knows what happened to him. No one knows, except me. For I am Karl Anders Nilsson.

  I wish that I could get hold of Ben, and at least tell him everything. I used to play with Ben. He lives on North Street too. His real name is Benjamin, but everyone calls him Ben. And of course no one calls me Karl Anders, they just say Andy.

  I mean, they used to say Andy. Now that I’ve disappeared they don’t say anything. It was only Aunt Hulda and Uncle Olaf who called me Karl Anders. Well, Uncle Olaf never actually called me anything. He never spoke to me.

  I was Aunt Hulda and Uncle Olaf’s foster child. I went to live with them when I was a year old. Before that I lived in the Children’s Home. Aunt Hulda found me there. She really wanted a girl, but there weren’t any she could have. So she took me, though Uncle Olaf and Aunt Hulda don’t like boys. At least not when they become eight or nine years old. They thought I made too much noise in the house, and that I brought in too much mud after I came back from playing in Tegnérlunden Park, and that I left my clothes lying around, and that I talked and laughed too loudly. Aunt Hulda always said it was an unlucky day when I came to their house. Uncle Olaf said nothing. . . . Well, sometimes he did say, “You there, go away! I can’t stand the sight of you.”

  I spent most of my time at Ben’s. His papa talked to him all the time and helped him build model airplanes, and drew marks on the kitchen door to see how much Ben had grown, and things like that. Ben was allowed to laugh and talk and to leave his clothes lying around as much as he liked. And his papa still loved him. All the boys were welcome to play in Ben’s house. No one was allowed to come home with me, because Aunt Hulda said she wouldn’t have children running all around. Uncle Olaf agreed. “We’ve got as much as we can stand with one troublesome boy,” he said.

  Sometimes when I went to bed in the evening, I used to wish that Ben’s papa was my papa too. And I used to wonder who my real papa was, and why I couldn’t live with him and my real mama instead of being in the Children’s Home, or having to stay with Aunt Hulda and Uncle Olaf. Aunt Hulda told me that my mama had died when I was born. “No one knows who your father was,” she said, “but it’s easy enough to guess that he was a bum.” I hated Aunt Hulda for what she said about my father. Maybe it was true that my mother died when I was born, but I knew that my father wasn’t a bum. Sometimes I lay in bed crying for him.

  One person was kind to me, Mrs. Lundy in the fruit shop. She gave me fruit and candy, now and then.

  Now, afterwards, I wonder who Mrs. Lundy really was. Because it all started with her on that day in October last year.

  That day Aunt Hulda said several times that it was an ill wind which brought me to her house. In the evening, just before before six o’clock, she told me to run down to the bakery on Queens Road to buy some rolls that she liked. I put on my red cap and raced off.

  When I passed the fruit shop Mrs. Lundy was standing in the doorway. She touched my chin and looked at me intently for a while. Then she said, “Would you like an apple?”

  “Yes, thanks,” I said.

  She gave me a beautiful red apple that looked awfully good. Then she said, “Will you put a card in the mailbox for me?”

  “Yes, I’ll be happy to do that,” I said. Then she wrote a few lines on a card and handed it to me.

  “Good-bye, Karl Anders Nilsson,” said Mrs. Lundy. “Good-bye, good-bye, Karl Anders Nilsson.”

  It sounded so peculiar. She never used to call me anything but Andy.

  I hurried to the mailbox a block away. Just as I was going to drop the card in, I noticed that it glistened and glowed like fire. Yes, the words that Mrs. Lundy had written glowed like fire! I couldn’t help reading them. This is what the card said:

  To the King,


  The one you have long searched for is on his way. He travels by day and by night, and he carries in his hand the sign, a beautiful golden apple.

  I didn’t understand a word of it, but it sent shivers up and down my spine. I quickly dropped the card in the mailbox.

  Who was traveling by day and by night? Who was carrying a golden apple in his hand?

  Then I caught sight of the apple that Mrs. Lundy had given me. And the apple was gold. It was gold! In my hand I had a lovely golden apple.

  Then I almost began to cry. Not really, but almost. I fel
t so alone. I went and sat on a bench in Tegnérlunden Park. No one else was there. Everyone had gone home for dinner. It was almost dark among the trees and it rained a little. But in the houses around the park there were lights everywhere. I could see the light from Ben’s window, too. He was sitting inside eating pease porridge and pancakes with his mama and papa. It seemed to me that behind every lighted window children were at home, together with their mamas and papas. Only I sat out here in the darkness. Alone. Alone, holding a golden apple that I didn’t know what to do with.

  I put it carefully on the bench beside me, while I thought. There was a street light nearby, and the light from it fell on me and on the apple. But the light also fell on something else that was lying on the ground. It was an ordinary bottle, empty of course. Someone had stuffed a piece of wood into the neck of it, probably one of the little children who played in Tegnérlunden Park in the afternoons. I picked up the bottle and read the label. “Stockholm Breweries AB, Pale Ale,” it said. As I sat there and read it, I noticed something moving inside the bottle.

  I once borrowed a book called A Thousand and One Nights from the library in our neighborhood, it was about a genie trapped in a bottle. But, of course, that was far away in Arabia and thousands of years ago, and I don’t believe that genie was in an ordinary bottle. It’s probably rare for genies to be in bottles from Stockholm Breweries. But here was one, in any case. It was a genie, mark my words, sitting inside the bottle. But he wanted out. He pointed to the wooden peg that blocked the neck of the bottle and looked at me pleadingly. Of course, I wasn’t used to genies, so I was almost too scared to pull out the wooden peg. But at last I did, and with a great surge the genie rushed out of the bottle and started to grow very big, so big at last, that he was taller than all the houses around Tegnérlunden Park. That’s what genies do, they can shrink so small that they have enough room to fit in a bottle, and in the next blink of an eye they can grow to become as large as a house.

  You can’t imagine how frightened I was. I trembled from head to foot. Then the genie spoke to me. His voice was a great roar, and I thought at once that Aunt Hulda and Uncle Olaf would hear it; they always thought that I spoke too loud.

  “Child,” the genie said to me, “you have released me from my prison. Tell me how I may reward you.”

  But I didn’t want a reward for pulling out a little wooden peg. The genie told me that he had come to Stockholm the night before and that he had crept into the bottle to sleep. Because bottles make the best sleeping places that genies know of. But when he slept someone had blocked the way out. And if I hadn’t rescued him, maybe he would’ve stayed in the bottle for a thousand years until the wooden peg had rotted away.

  “That would not have pleased my lord the King,” said the genie, almost to himself.

  Then I gathered my courage and asked, “Genie, where do you come from?”

  He was silent a moment. Then he said, “I come from Farawayland.”

  He said it so loudly that it rang and thundered in my head, and something in his voice made me long for that place. I felt as if I could not live if I didn’t get to go there. I raised my arms up toward the genie and shouted, “Take me with you! Oh, take me to Faraway-land! Someone is waiting for me there.”

  The genie shook his head. But then I held the golden apple out toward him and the genie gave a loud cry. “You carry the sign in your hand! You’re the one that I’ve come to bring back. You’re the one that the King has been searching for so long!”

  He bent down and lifted me up in his arms. Around us were the sound of bells and the roar of thunder as we rose into the air. We left Tegnérlunden Park far below us, the gloomy Park and all the houses where there were lights in the windows and where the children were having dinner with their mamas and papas. Then I, Karl Anders Nilsson, soared up, under the stars.

  We were far above the clouds and we traveled faster than lightning and with a roar louder than thunder. Stars and moons and suns sparkled around us. Sometimes it was all as black as night, sometimes so dazzlingly bright and white that I had to shut my eyes.

  “He travels by day and by night,” I whispered to myself. That’s what the card had said.

  Suddenly the genie stretched out his arm and pointed to something far away, something green that was lying in the clear blue water and in bright sunshine.

  “There you see Farawayland,” said the genie.

  We sank down toward the green island.

  It was an island swimming in the sea, and in the air was the scent of a thousand roses and lilies and a strange music that was more beautiful than any other music in the world.

  Down by the shore stood a huge white palace, and we landed there.

  A man came striding along the water’s edge. It was my father the King! I recognized him as soon as I saw him. I knew that he was my father. He opened his arms and I ran right into them. He held me close for a long time. We didn’t say anything to each other. I just held my arms around his neck as tightly as I could.

  Oh, how I wished that Aunt Hulda could’ve seen my father the King, how handsome he was and how his clothes shimmered with gold and diamonds. His face was like the face of Ben’s papa, but more handsome. It was a pity Aunt Hulda couldn’t see him. Then she would’ve seen that my papa was not a bum.

  But Aunt Hulda was right when she said that my mama died when I was born, and the foolish people at the Children’s Home never thought of telling my father the King where I was. He had searched for me for nine long years. I’m so glad that I’ve come home at last.

  I’ve been here quite long now. Every day is full of fun. Every evening my father the King comes to my room and we build model airplanes and talk to each other.

  I’m growing and I’m fine here in Farawayland. My father the King marks the kitchen door each month, to see how much I’ve grown.

  “Mio, my son, how much you’ve grown again,” he says when we measure. “Mio, my son,” he says, and it sounds so warm and comforting. It turns out that my real name isn’t Andy at all.

  “I searched nine long years for you,” says my father the King. “I used to lie awake at night saying to myself, ‘Mio, my son.’ So I’d know your name well.”

  That shows you. Calling me Andy was a mistake, like everything else when I lived on North Street. Now it’s all been set right.

  I love my father the King, and he loves me.

  I wish Ben knew about all this. I think I’ll write to him and put the letter in a bottle. Then I’ll put a cork in the bottle and throw it in the blue sea that surrounds Farawayland. When Ben is with his mama and papa at their summer place in Vaxholm maybe the bottle will come sailing along just when he’s swimming. That would be good. I’d like Ben to know about all the remarkable things that have happened to me here. He could call the police too, and tell them that Karl Anders Nilsson, whose real name is Mio, is safe in Farawayland and all is fine, so fine with his father the King.

  In the Garden of Roses

  I DON’T QUITE know how to explain it to Ben. What’s happened to me isn’t like anything that’s happened to anyone else. I don’t know how to explain it so Ben would really understand. I’ve tried hard to think of a word that would describe it, but there isn’t one. Maybe I could write, “Something tremendous has happened to me.” But Ben still wouldn’t know what it’s like here in Farawayland. I’d need to send him at least a dozen bottles to tell him all about my father the King and his Garden of Roses, and about Pompoo and my beautiful white Miramis, and about cruel Sir Kato in Outer Land. No, I could never tell him about everything that has happened to me.

  On the very first day, my father the King took me to see his Garden of Roses. It was in the evening, and the wind rustled through the trees. As we walked toward the garden I heard strange music that sounded like a thousand glass bells ringing all at once. The music was faint but very clear, so that I shivered when I heard it.

  “Listen to my silver poplars,” said my father the King.

  He held my han
d as we walked. Aunt Hulda and Uncle Olaf never held my hand; no one had ever held my hand before. That’s the reason why I loved to walk there holding my father the King’s hand, although I was really too old for it.

  There was a high wall around the Garden of Roses. My father the King opened a little door, and we went in.

  A long time ago, I stayed with Ben at his family’s summer place out in Vaxholm, and we sat on some rocks and fished as the sun was going down. The sky was red and the water was so still. It was the time of year when the wild roses were blooming and so many of them were growing close to the rocks. Far away, on the other side of the bay, a cuckoo called loudly. I thought to myself that this was the most beautiful sight in the world. Of course I didn’t see the cuckoo because it was so far away, but its cries made everything else seem even prettier. I wasn’t foolish enough to tell Ben, but I kept thinking the whole time, silently to myself, “I’m sure this is the prettiest place in the world.”

  But back then I hadn’t seen my father the King’s Garden of Roses. I hadn’t seen his roses, all of his beautiful, beautiful roses that flowed as if from a stream, or the white lilies swaying in the breeze. I hadn’t seen the poplars with the silvery leaves, so tall that stars were twinkling in the treetops when evening came. I hadn’t seen the white birds that flew through the Garden of Roses. I hadn’t ever heard anything like their songs or the music of the silver poplars. No one could’ve ever heard or seen anything as beautiful as what I heard and saw in my father the King’s Garden of Roses. I stood still and held my father the King’s hand. I wanted him there because it was too pretty to look at all alone.

  My father the King touched my chin and said, “Mio, my son, what do you think of my Garden of Roses?”

  I couldn’t answer. I felt so strange, almost as if I was going to cry, and yet I wasn’t sad; I felt quite the contrary.