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'Pettson and Findus' - The Children's Book Series

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'Pettson and Findus' is a series of children's books written and illustrated by award-winning Swedish writer Sven Nordquist – who originally studied architecture. They tell the stories of the old man Pettson and his young tomcat Findus, who live somewhere in rural Sweden in what seems to be the mid-20th Century. The stories are written for children of about four years and older, although even two-year-olds can enjoy the lively and colourful pictures, which make it easy to tell simplified versions of the stories.

There is a special translation for the US where, for some reason, the main characters are called Festus and Mercury1.

Setting

All stories take place in and around Pettson's home in rural Sweden. He lives in a typical red-painted Swedish house which apparently consists of a kitchen, bedroom and living room, and an attic full of boxes and old things. Next to the house there is a wood shed and a building with a workshop on one end and a chicken coop on the other. There is also a large tree where Findus has a tree house. The only 'modern' technology seems to be an old fashioned radio. Pettson has no car and cooks on a wood stove.

Pettson's home is surrounded by fields and cow pastures and is close to a forest. There is also a village nearby and neighbours come over frequently for a visit.

Characters

Pettson is an elderly man who lives alone in his house until he gets Findus. Without him his life was boring and lonely. He is kind-hearted and friendly, but also slightly forgetful and absent-minded. He likes fishing, crossword puzzles, and inventing and building things in his workshop – you can see his often-peculiar creations all around the house.

Findus is a young, striped tomcat. He is full of energy and all-in-all acts a lot like a little boy of about four years of age. He wears green striped trousers and a tiny green hat, and walks on two legs most of the time. Findus was given to Pettson by Mrs Anderson when he was still a little kitten. He was presented to Pettson in a cardboard box which obviously once contained 'Findus2  peas' - and that's how he got his name.

Pettson also has a flock of white chickens who can talk to Pettson and Findus. They act like a combination of a typical flock of chickens and a group of excited middle-aged women. On the pictures they can often be seen drinking tea and knitting, as well as digging for worms in the garden.

Visible only to Findus (and the readers) are a large number of muckles - rat-sized creatures that live in and around Pettson's house. They come in many different colours and shapes, and while they tend to 'borrow' Pettson's things, they seem to be generally friendly. They can often be seen commenting on the ongoing story in some way, or just minding their own business. They hardly ever directly interfere with what is going on, but are present in almost every picture. It can be fun to just search for the muckles on every page of the book and see what they are up to.

Pettson's house is surrounded by farms. Quite frequently his neighbours Mr Gustavson (and his hunting dog) and Mrs Andersson make appearances in the books.

Stories

The adventures of Findus and Pettson are about the ordinary things in life, but there is always something not going as planned.

The first book in the on-going series was published in 1984 and tells about how Pettson wants to bake a pancake cake for Findus' birthday – which he celebrates three times per year. However, the flour box is empty and Pettson has to go to the store on his bicycle, but the tyre is flat and has to be repaired. Meanwhile, the workshop key is at the bottom of the well, the fishing line is in the workshop's attic and the ladder to get there is in Anderson's bull's field. Of course, in the end Findus' birthday is rescued and they have cake in the garden.

Since then Findus has, for instance, planted meatballs in the vegetable patch, gone camping in the garden, moved to live in the old privy (until he felt lonely), and Pettson has built a mechanical Santa.

Illustrations

The pages of the books consist mainly of pictures with about one paragraph of text. Illustrations may cover one page or extend over two pages of the book. They always show lots of detail, sometimes even an overwhelming amount, like when the chaos of Pettson's workshop is shown. And, of course, there is the fun of searching for muckles in every picture. Even after reading the books multiple times, new things can be detected by children as well as adults.

There are always surreal or fantastic elements in the pictures which the reader does not necessarily notice immediately. There may be a huge shoe somewhere in the landscape, birds shake out their dusty carpets in spring, butterflies have ears instead of wings and spiders wear Pettson's hat and glasses. Pettson can be seen sawing a giant carrot instead of a log, and potatoes run through the picture on four legs. Everywhere muckles are going about their business. They have little houses hidden in trees and you can see clotheslines with their washing hanging everywhere around the place. Pettson's house is full of various paintings of cows.

Depending on what is going on, Findus and Pettson may be shown multiple times in one picture. The more busy they are, the more often one of them may appear on one background. Especially, Findus can often be seen jumping around and doing all kinds of things.

Other Pettson and Findus Stuff

The books about Findus and Pettson are available as audio books. You can also get a cook book, song books and more with the old man and his cat. In addition to the books there is also a cartoon series, a number of live-action movies, and even some PC games.

Pettson's farm has been actually built with the help of Sven Nordquist. It is located south of Stockholm and is open to visitors in summer.

1There is a study about the English translation and its differences from the original.2A Norwegian company which has been producing frozen vegetables since the mid-20th Century.

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