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|Anni Swan (1875-1958) - Anni Emilia Manninen - used also pen name A.S.|
Finnish writer and translator, who educated as well as entertained several generations of Finnish children. Swan's fairy tales, which combined realistic elements with fantasy, were largely drawn from world literature folk tales. Often differences between social classes create conflicts - if the main character is treated wrong, she or he wins at the end like in 'Cinderella.' Swan's Christian world view reflected more or less subdued from her tales, but the pedagogical content did not have the same significance as in Topelius's work.
"Hänhän oli vain pieni poika rikoksen tapahtuessa, eihän laki voinut niin ankarasti rangaista kahdeksanvuotiasta lasta. Vanhemmat menettelivät julmasti kieltäessään hänet. Oliko heidän ylpeytensä niin paljon suurempi kuin rakkaus lapseen? ajatteli hän katkerana. Oli sydämentöntä vaatia häntä luopumaan kaikista lapsenoikeuksistaan. Miten äitikin saattoi! Äiti, joka Ollia oli niin sydämellisesti rakastanut." (from Ollin oppivuodet, 1919)
Anni Swan was born in Helsinki, but she spent her childhood first in Janakkala and then in Vanaja, in the village of Rekola. Her father, Carl Gustaf Swan (1839-1916), was a Swedish-speaking Fennomane. Emmy Malin (1836-1917), her mother, was the daughter of a teacher, also from a Swedish-speaking family. The Swans had nine daughters, Anni was the seventh among the "nine black swan's" as they were called. In her childhood Anni was a voracious reader. In the evenings her mother used to tell fairy tales for the children. Anni's imagination was also fuelled by the deep woods surrounding their house in Rekola.
Anni Swan studied for a few years in Lappeenranta, where her father edited the newspaper Lappeenrannan Uutiset. The winter of 1885-86 she spent in Lapua at a parsonage, a milieu which became the scene of several of her books. At the age of fifteen Swan was sent to Mikkeli, where she lived in town with her uncle's puritanical family while attending the lycée.
In 1895 Swan entered Helsingin suomalainen yhteiskoulu (Coeducational school of Helsinki). She worked for some time as a tutoress and at a bank in Helsinki. During this period she got to know such writers as Juhani Aho, Kasimir Leino, Ilmari Kianto and the young poet Otto Manninen (1872-1950), whom she had already met in Mikkeli. Her acquaintances also included the composer Jean Sibelius and the artist Eero Järnefelt. Manninen and Eino Leino both wrote her poems. One of Leino's pieces from 1898, written on a cigar box, was entitled 'You are like a small kitten'. Swan later married the more persistent suitor Manninen.
In 1899 Swan moved to Jyväskylä, where she studied at the teacher's training college, graduating in 1900. She then worked as a teacher in Helsinki, where she wrote for the juvenile magazine Pääskynen (1907-1918), founded by Emilie Bergbom and Julius Krohn. From 1919 she edited Nuorten Toveri (later Sirkka) for 26 years. The maganize was born in the aftermath of the bitter the Civil War of 1917-18. Partly it was aimed to act as a connecting link between different social groups. The word "toveri" (comrade) in the title turned out to be politically problematic and the name was changed into Sirkka in 1925.
Swan composed her early works for children while studying in Jyväskylä. After receiving encouraging advice from the author Juhani Aho, she published her first collection of fairy tales, Satuja lapsille luettavaksi (1901), which was illustated by Venny Soldan-Brofeldt. Juhani Aho praised its humor in his review. From this book Swan started her extraordinary career in the Finnish children's literature. Swan continued with Satuja II (1903), Satuja III (1905), and Pieniä satuja I-V (1906). Otto Manninen helped her with their poems. Her collected tales, Kootut sadut, came out in 1933, and has been reprinted since several times.
Already in her first books Swan took distance to the educational tradition of Topelius; the battle between good and evil was not her major subject. She regarded fairy tales as means to develope childrens' imagination. Swan also used erotic symbolism, but later she moved from the world of fantasy to realistic depiction of children and animals. Her favorite fairy-tale creature was a friendly forest elf. Swan's idyllic view of the common people, influenced by Topelius, was shaken when the "National Strike" of 1906 led to political riots. "It's hard to suddenly realize, how cruel the Finnish people really is, cruel, deceitful, and revengeful. Until now I have had a Topelian view of the people."
Swan dealt with the social gulf between people from higher and lower classes, but her view was more complex and realistic than in the traditional folk tales, in which rich people are usually hard-hearted and poor generous. An example is 'Joululapsi,' which tells of a young boy who spends his time on the streets on the Christmas Eve because at home his father drinks and has threatened to beat him. Christ arrives in the figure of the Christmas child and leads the boy to a wealthy couple who adopts him.
Swan rejected Manninen's proposal in 1904. His disappointment Manninen poured into bitter poems, among them 'Kuin kaksi vihamiestä' and Swan replied with a remorseful short story entitled 'Autiossa talossa' (In an empty house). However, they married three years later in 1907, and were happily married over fifty years. After Otto Manninen received a grant to translate Iliad and Odyssey into Finnish, they travelled in 1910 in Greece and Italy. Manninen made a highly acclaimed career as a translator and taught at the University of Helsinki. Swan left her full-time work in 1916 and devoted herself entirely to her family and writing.
Tottisalmen perillinen (1914), Swan's first juvenile novel, was set in Tottesund manor, which had also fascinated the dramatist Gustaf von Numers - he was Swan's cousin. However, Swan never visited the manor. In this Dickensian story, partly based on her father's recollections, an orphan farm-hand Yrjö turns out to be in reality a heir to a large fortune.
Swan's most popular book, Iria rukka (1916), was a modernized version of 'Cinderella.' The protagonist is a poor girl, Iris, who is suffering from humiliating treatment in a rich family. Finally she is rescued by her father, an artist, who returns from abroad after becoming wealthy. In the newspaper Uusi Suometar the penname R.F. (Rafael Forsman, later Koskimies) praised its "glittering intellectual joy" and humor. The book was filmed in 1962, starring Nora Haque, who had played Helen Keller in a National Theatre production in 1961. Critics considered Nora Haque's performance charming but Iris was her last film role.
In a few of her stories a boy is the protagonist, but for the most part Swan wrote for the girls. Ollin oppivuodet (1919, Olli's apprencticeship) was originally written for educational purpose for her own children. Olli is a rich and spoiled boy, but he learns his lesson while struggling alone in the world. Usually Swan did not moralize, but stressed such values as friendliness, tolerance, and love of nature.
Pikkupappilassa (1922) and its sequel Ulla ja Mark (1924) were partly based on Swan's own happy childhood memories. These works offer a lively portrait of life at the end of the 1800s. Me kolme (1937) took the form of a detective novel.
After her son Sulevi died in 1936, Swan wrote the story Kaksi pikku miestä (Two little men), an idyllic adventure in the nature with elves and goblins. The central characters were her own sons, Antero and Sulevi. Swan died on March 24, 1958, in Helsinki. Several of her juvenile novels have been adapted into screen. Her books have been illustrated among others by such forefront artist as Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, Rufolf Koivu, and Martta Wendelin. Swan's youngest son Mauno (1915-1969) married in 1965 Lina Heydrich, the widow of the assassinated Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, known as "The Hangman" or "The Butcher of Prague."
Swan translated into Finnish works by Lewis Carroll, James Fenimore Cooper, H. Rider Haggard, Jules Verne, Franz Teller etc. She first tried her hand as a translator at the age of eleven. Carroll's famous children's fantasy, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Liisan seikkailut ihmemaassa), Swan translated at the age of 30. Swan was faithfull to the original although Alice's name was changed to Liisa. Carroll's poems from the book were rendered into Finnish by her husband Otto Manninen.
For further reading: Satukuningatar Anni Swan: elämä ja teokset by Sirpa Kivilaakso (2009); Lumometsän syli: Anni Swanin satusymbolismi 1896-1923 by Sirpa Kivilaakso (2008); Swanin tytöt: kulttuurihistoriallinen kertomus autonomian ajalta by Hellevi Arjava (2007; Suomennoskirjallisuuden historia I, ed. by H.K. Riikonen et. al (2007); Silkkihienot siteet. Anni Swanin ja Otto Mannisen kirjeenvaihtoa 1898-1908, ed. by Antero Manninen and Hellevi Arjava (2000); A History of Finland's Literature, ed. by George C. Schoolfield (1998); Yhdeksän mustaa joutsenta: Swanin sisarusten kirjeitä: kokemuksia, elämyksiä ja ajatuksia autonomian ajan Suomessa, edited by Antero Manninen (1993); Suomalaisia kirjailijoita Jöns Buddesta Hannu Ahoon by Lasse Koskela (1990); Sata vuotta sadun ja seikkailun mailla by Jorma Mäenpää (1958); Anni Swan by Maija Lehtonen (1958); Aleksis Kivestä Olavi Siippaiseen, ed. by Martti Haavio (1944) - Bestselling children's books in Finland. Author / title of the book / copies printed: 1. Laura Latvala: Pikku-Marjan eläinkirja, 292 300 2. Anni Swan: Iris rukka, 129 00 3. Anni Swan: Olli oppivuodet, 129 50 4. Kirsi Kunnas: Tiitiäisen satupuu, 124 50 5. Anni Swan: Tottisalmen perillinen, 116 80 6. Jalmari Finne: Kiljusten herrasväki ja Kiljusen uudet seikkailut, 98 800 7. Anni Swan: Kaarinan kesäloma, 95 40 8. Yrjö Kokko: Pessi ja Illusia, 92 00 9. Tove Jansson: Moomin books / vol., 80 000 (Source: Suomalaisten suosikkikirjat by Juhani Niemi, 1997)