Chapter 2 - The Brothers Lionheart Fairy tale by Astrid Lindgren

Now I’m coming to the difficult part, the part I can’t bear thinking about, the part I cant help thinking about.

My brother Jonathan; it might have been that he was still with me, sitting talking to me in the evenings, going to school and playing with the kids in the yard and boiling honey water for me and all that. But it isn’t like isn’t.

Jonathan is in Nangiyala now.

It’s difficult, I can’t, now--I can’t tell you. But this is what it said in the paper afterwards:

A terrible fire swept through the Fackelrosen building here in town last night. One of the old wooden buildings was burned to ground a life was lost.

A ten-year-old boy, Karl Lion, was alone when the fire broke out, lying ill in a second-floor apartment. Soon after the outbreak, thirteen-year-old Jonathan Lion, returned home, and before anyone could stop him, he had rushed into the blazing building to rescue his brother. Within seconds, however, the whole of the staircase was a sea of flames, and there was nothing to do but for the two boys trapped by the flames to try and save themselves by jumping out of the window. The horrified crowd that had gathered outside was forced to witness how the thirteen-year-old unhesitatingly took his brother on his back, and with the fire roaring behind him, threw himself out of the window. In his fall to the ground, the boy was injured so badly that he died almost instantaneously. The younger brother, on the other hand, protected by his brother’s body in the fall, was uninjured.

The mother of the two boys was on a visit to a customer at the time--she is a dressmaker--and she received a severe shock on her arrival home. It is not known how the fire started.

On another page of the newspaper, there was more about Jonathan, which the schoolteacher had written.

This is what it said:

Jonathan Lion dear, shouldn’t your name really have been Jonathan Lionheart? Do you remember when we read in the history book about a brave young English king whose name was Richard the Lionheart? Do you remember how you said, “Just think of being so brave that they write about it in the history books afterward; I’d never be like that!” Dear Jonathan, even if they don’t write about you in the history books, you were just as brave at the critical moment and you were a hero as great as any other. Your old schoolteacher will never forget you. Your friends will also remember you for a long time. It will be empty in the classroom without our happy and beautiful Jonathan. But the gods love those who die young. Rest in Peace, Jonathan Lionheart.


She’s pretty silly, Jonathan’s schoolteacher, but she liked Jonathan very much, just as everyone else did, and it was good that she thought up that business about Lionheart. That was really good.

There probably isn’t a single person in town who doesn’t grieve for Jonathan, or who doesn’t think it would have better if I had died instead. At least, that’s what I gather from all the women who come here with their materials and muslins and stuff. They sigh and look at me when they go through the kitchen, and they say to Mother, “Poor Mrs. Lion! And Jonathan too, who was so exceptional.”

We live in the building next door to our old building now, in an apartment exactly like the old one, but it’s on the ground floor. We have been given some second-hand furniture by the parish, and the women have also given us some things. I lie in a sofa-bed almost identical to my old one. Everything is almost like it was before. And yet everything--absolutely everything--is not like it was before. For there’s no Jonathan any longer. No one sits with me and tells me things in the evenings. I’m so lonely that it hurts inside me and all I can do is to lie and whisper to myself the words that Jonathan said just before he died, that moment when we lying on ground after we had jumped. He was lying face down, of course, but someone turned him over and I saw his face. A little blood was running out of the corner of his mouth and he could hardly speak. But it was as if he were trying to smile all the same, and he managed a few words. “Don’t cry, Rusky. We’ll meet in Nangiyala.”

He said just that and nothing more. Then he closed his eyes and people came and took him away, and I never saw him again.

I don’t want to remember the time just afterward. But you can’t forget anything so terrible and painful. I lay here in my sofa-bed and thought about Jonathan until I thought my head would burst, and no one could possibly long for someone as I longed for him. I was frightened, too. I kept thinking, suppose all that about Nangiyala wasn’t true, suppose it was just one of those things that Jonathan used to think up? I cried and cried.

But then Jonathan came and comforted me. Yes, he came and oh, it was marvelous. Everything was almost all right again. He probably knew over there in Nangiyala what it was like for me without him and thought he ought to come and comfort me. So he came to me and now I’m not sad any longer; now I’m just waiting.

It was one evening a little while ago that he came. I was alone at home and I was lying in bed crying for him and I was more frightened and unhappy and ill and wretched than I can say. The kitchen window was open because it’s fine arm spring weather now. I heard the pigeons cooing out there. There are lots of them here in the backyard and they coo all the time in the spring.

Then it happened.

Just as I’m lying there crying into my pillow, I hear a cooing quite close to me, and when I look up, there’s a pigeon sitting on the windowsill, looking at me with kind eyes. A snow-white pigeon, please note, not one of those gray ones like the ones in the yard. A snow-white pigeon; no one can imagine how I felt when I saw it, for it was just like in the song--”when a snow-white pigeon comes.” And it was as if I heard Jonathan singing all over again; “my little Rusky, I know, dear, that your soul is here,” but now it was he who had come to me instead.

I wanted to say something but I couldn’t. I just lay there and listened to the pigeon cooing--or who shall I put it?--I heard Jonathan’s voice, though it didn’t sound as it usually did. It was just whispering all over the kitchen. Perhaps this sounds a bit like a ghost story, and perhaps I should have been frightened but I wasn’t. I was just so happy, I could have jumped up to the ceiling, for everything that I heard marvelous.

Then it was true, all that about Nangiyala. Jonathan wanted me to hurry there, because everything there was good in every way, he said. Just think, there was a house waiting for him when he arrived; he had been given all his own in Nangiyala. It’s an old farm, he said, called Knights Farm, and it’s in Cherry Valley. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? And, just think, the first thing he saw when he got to Knights Farm was a little green notice on the gate, and on that notice was painted: The Lionheart Brothers.

“Which means we’re both to live there.” said Jonathan.

Just think, I will too be called Lionheart, me, when I get to Nangiyala. I’m glad about that, because I’d prefer to have the same name as Jonathan, even if I’m not so brave as he is.

“Come as quickly as you can,” he said. “If you can’t find me at Knights Farm, I’ll be sitting fishing down by the stream.”

Then it was quiet and the pigeon flew away, right over the roofs and back to Nangiyala.

And now I’m lying on my sofa, just waiting to fly after it. I hope it’s not too difficult to find my way there. But Jonathan said it wasn’t at all difficult .I’ve written down the address, just to be sure: The Lionheart Brothers, Knights Farm, Cherry Farm, Nangiyala.

Jonathan has lived there alone for two months now. For two long, terrible months, I’ve had to be without him. But I’m soon going to Nangiyala. Soon, soon, I’ll be flying there. It feels as if it’s going to be tonight. I’ll write a note and put it on the kitchen table so that Mother finds it when she wakes up tomorrow morning:

Don’t cry, Mother. See you in Nangiyala.