Swedish Language Blog

Ollie’s Ski Adventure is a Wintertime Classic Posted by on Dec 17, 2020 in Culture, Swedish Language, Vocabulary

Olles skidfärd."

“Olles skidfärd,” Elsa Beskov, 1907.

Olles skidfärd
(Ollie’s Ski Trip) is a Swedish classic. Elsa Beskow’s winter tale follows young Olle’s wish for snow and the magic that follows on his first ride with a new pair of skis. Let’s read a passage of the story, learn some wintery vocabulary, and discuss a couple of much-needed modernizations to the text. 

Pioneering Children’s Literature

Olles skidfärd was published in 1907 at a time when children’s literature was evolving. Folktales told to children taught morals and used scare tactics to encourage good behavior. But for Beskow and her peers moved away from trolls that scooped up naughty little children and replaced them with gentle talking animals and plants. Beskow pioneered this paradigm shift, creating literature purely for the entertainment of children.

Beskow’s Personification of Nature

Beskow was known for brilliantly personifying nature in her writing and illustrations. Below we will read a passage where she does just that with her characters Farbror Rimfrost (Jack Frost) and Kung Vinter (King Winter). But first, let’s set the scene:

Olle turns sex år gammal (six years old) and his father gifts him ett par nya skidor ( a pair of new skis).

Olle längtade och längtade (Olle longed and longed) for it to snow so he can try out his new skis.

Men till slut kom vintern ändå.”   “But in the end, winter came after all.”

Himlen var lysande blå, och snön glittrade som av milliontals stjärnor.”
“The sky was bright blue and the snow glistened like millions of stars.” 

Olle ate his gröt och mjölk (porridge and milk), put on his tjocka kavaj (thick jacket) and went out alone on his skis.

Now an excerpt from the book:

“Vad det var vackert i skogen! Och vackrare blev det, ju längre in i den Olle kom. Olle tyckte, att det var, som om han kommit in i vinterkungens förtrollade slott, och därför ropade han med hög röst: ‘Tack, snälla Kung Vinter, för att du har kommit till slut!’

I detsamma höll ha på att trilla baklänges av förvåning, ty framför honom stod en gubbe, gnistrande bit från topp till tå. Olle bockade sig för gubben: ‘Är du Kung Vinter?’ frågade han. ‘Neej då’ sa gubben, ‘jag är bara Farbror Rimfrost jag, tycker du inte jag har gjort fint i skogen i dag?’ 
‘Har du gjort all det här vackra som glittrar?’ sa Olle.
‘Visa mig hur du bär dig åt!’
‘Jag gör bara så här,’ och i detsamma andades gubben på Olles rock, så att andedräkten kom som ett vitt moln ur hans mun, och när molnet försvann, var rocken överdragen av vitt glitter.

Sen skrattade han och nöp Olle i örat. ‘Du är visst en duktig gosse du,’ sa han, ‘som inte är ledsen, om det biter litet i kinderna. Jag tyckte du ropade på Kung Vinter nyss, kanske du vill följa med mig till hans slott här i skogen?’

– Beskow, Elsa. Olles skidfärd. Published by Wahlström & Widstrand, 1907.


After more than a hundred years, there is bound to be some outdated language. I’ve bolded a couple of terms above for us to define.

-Instead of ty, we use för today to mean “because,” or “for.”

-Bockar sig
, to bend down or “to bow” in this case, is not something little Swedish boys and girls do anymore.

-En gosse
is an old way to say en pojke, or “a boy.”

is lite in modern Swedish to mean “a little.”

If you read the entire story, you’ll notice an entire portion that needs modernizing. Beskow describes Olle meeting Sámi people in Vinter Kung’s palace. Sámi men, women, and children “lappgubbar, lappgummor, and lappbarnen” are practicing duodji (Sámi handcraft) and described in the same way as the other mythical fairy tale characters Olle meets in the story.

Using “lapp” to describe Sámi people or activities is derogatory, and should never be used in today’s language. The indigenous people that live in Northern Scandinavia today speak Sámi and are called Sámi. Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking has a few examples of language that had to evolve with modern culture as well. Just as Lindgren approved updates to Pippi’s text, I believe Beskow would do the same if she were around today.

Swedish children’s literature is one of my favorite genres EVER. I really enjoy taking a closer look at how stories like this one manage to stand the test of time, yet can miss the mark – even brilliant authors like Beskow aren’t 100% right the first time. Fascinating, isn’t it?!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Carl:

    Så duktig!

    • Chelsea B:

      @Carl Tack, Carl!