A childhood hero to a lot of us - and a true child of the 70s, like some of us - Alfons Åberg met with his first readers in 1972. Swedish author and illustrator Gunilla Bergström then published the first book about this little boy living with his father in the suburbs of some city (geography really isn't an issue in the books). Since then, more than 20 Alfons books have been published, and a number of them have been translated into more than 25 languages worldwide. To the English-reading audience, he is known as Alfie Atkins.

Alfons is a good-natured little boy, not one to fight (too scared for that, mostly) but definitely one to take his time, especially in the morning when his otherwise so laidback father is in a hurry. He's not really naughty, which doesn't necessarily mean he's so eager to do as he is told - like staying away from the see-saw when doing carpentry or not touching his father's pipe (when it makes such an excellent addition to the toy train he's made). He also has an imaginary friend, who is, of course, completely invisible to everyone but Alfons.

Alfons and his father live on their own - this would be one of the 70s-aspects of the stories. Nobody knows why, not even the author, it seems, at least she refuses to give one clear answer when asked - maybe the mother has just popped out for a while, maybe she's dead, maybe she's taken off? The main point is: She's just not there, and it doesn't even seem to be an issue. Quite a rare situation in a children's book.

I used to think Gunilla Bergström stopped writing about Alfons in the early 80s, but as it turns out, she is still writing and illustrating Alfons stories - and it was just that I thought I outgrew them at some point. To me, the earliest stories are obviously still the most treasured, and whenever I catch a glimpse of one of the brilliant cartoons made from the stories, that still run on tv once in a while, I will sit down and watch with delight, humming along with the familiar theme song after making sure I'm alone in the room. The stories are common points of reference to most people of my generation and actually coined some expressions and sayings. And given the popularity of new Alfons books, audio books, puppet shows, cds etcetera seem to indicate that little Alfons with the (literally) big head is still one of the best loved characters of Scandinavian literature for small children.

Alfons Åberg goes international:

Afrikaans: Dawie
Arabic: Burhan
Danish: Alfons Åberg
Davvi Sámi (North Sámi): Alfons Åberg
Dutch: Alfons Alfrink
English: Alfie Atkins
Finnish: Mikko Mallikas
Farsi/Persian: Alfons Åberg
French: Alphonse
Frisian : Ate Attema
Faroese: Álvur Ákason
German: Willi Wiberg
Hebrew: Eliahu
Icelandic: Einar Áskell
Japanese: Alfons
Kurdish: Alfons Oberg
Latvian: Alfons Obergu
Lule Sámi: Ábmut
Norwegian: Albert Åberg
Portuguese: Ahlo Åberg
Romani: Ardom
Serbo-croatian: Alfons Åberg
Somalian: Guuled
South Sámi: Aalfone
Spanish: Alfonso
Swedish: Alfons Åberg
Tigrinya: ?
Turkish: Alfons Åberg
Welsh: Ifan Bifan

Main source: http://www.alfons.se

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