A black curly-haired orphan resides in my heart. Her name is Heidi, short for Adelaide. Her joy, her spontaneity, and her resiliency drew me into this 1880 children’s classic, of the same name, written by the renowned Swiss author, Johanna Spyri. It is set in Switzerland’s Ulm Mountains and in Frankfurt, Germany.

Abandoned by her parent’s deaths when a toddler and later, when five years old, by her Aunt Dete, she thrives under the care of her grandfather atop the Ulm. It is summer. Winds whistle through old fir trees behind his hut; the warm sun enlivens primroses, gentians, and rockroses and nudges succulent herbs from rocky crevices; and the goatherd, Peter, introduces her, by name, to each of his goats. Her grandfather’s goat, Schwanli (little swan), provides rich milk and cheese, eaten each day with thick slices of bread and dried meat.

From the outset, Heidi’s black eyes dance with spirit, uplifting the heavy impoverished hearts of her grandfather, Peter and his blind grandmother, and later, the invalid Klara when she companions her in Frankfurt. Indeed, Heidi’s selflessness bespeaks a spiritual power that transforms and heals those open to receiving her gifts.

This spirit has been variously identified as the Archetype of the Divine Child, as the children Jesus loved. (Matthew 18:3): “Unless you change and become like the little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is much mystery here, one that subverts the rutted worlds in which many find themselves.

It is interesting that Heidi is recommended reading for children from the age of five and up.

 

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