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Five Swedish children’s songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

You can't hide, and you can't even run. Sooner or later, even international parents will learn these Swedish children's songs. You may as well start now.

Five Swedish children's songs international parents will inevitably have to learn
Babblarna. Extra points if you can name the characters. Photo: Hatten Förlag

Babblarnas vaggvisa

“Kom lilla du, kudden väntar nu. Inte läsa mer, Babba, dags att lägga sig.”

Come little one, the pillow awaits. No more reading, Babba, it’s time to go to bed – this repetitive modern lullaby is deceptively simple and soothing, loved and hated in equal measure by parents in Sweden. 

Loved, because it puts the most energetic of babies to sleep. Hated, because afterwards, you’ll be lying there in the dark in your own bed, the lyrics playing softly but insistently on repeat in your head. When you finally remember the order of the characters and their pre-bedtime activities (hint: it’s Babba [reading], Bibbi [listening], Bobbo [playing], Dadda [climbing], Diddi [drawing], Doddo [getting up to mischief]), congratulations, you’ve made it as a parent in Sweden.

The characters were originally created in the 1980s to facilitate children’s language development, but they got a rebirth in the 2000s with a television series for SVT and several new songs. Your children will be able to name them all and they will expect you to do the same. Who knew parenthood was this joyous.

Ekorrn satt i granen

Alice Tegnér is a name you need to know, because she’s the woman who’s to thank or blame for most of the Swedish children’s musical canon. Born in 1864, she was a music teacher from the town of Karlshamn in southern Sweden and composer of some of the country’s most well-known children’s songs. 

This one is about a squirrel who, just as he was sitting down in a spruce to peel some pine cones, gets startled by the sound of children, falls from his branch and hurts his fluffy tail. That’s it, that’s the plot.

Mors lilla Olle

Another one of Tegnér’s greatest hits, this one tells the story of Olle, who runs into a bear when out picking bilberries. To cut a long story short: he feeds the bilberries to the bear, his mother screams and the bear runs off, Olle gets upset that mummy scared his ostensibly only friend.

It’s based on a true story. In 1850, newspapers wrote about how Jon Ersson, then one year and seven months, met a couple of bear cubs at Sörsjön, Dalarna, and fell asleep next to them in the lingon shrubs. Ersson in his 30s emigrated to Minnesota where he was hit by lightning and died. Luck only lasts so long.

Prästens lilla kråka

Prästens lilla kråka, the priest’s little crow (optionally mormors/farmors lilla kråka – grandma’s little crow, or whoever wants to claim the crow), wanted to go for a ride but no one was around to give her a lift. So she took matters into her own hands, but, presumably lacking a driving licence, she slid THIS way and then she slid THAT way and then she slid DOWN into the ditch. Sung while rocking the child to one side, to the other side and then playfully dropping them to the floor.

It often also makes an appearance as a dance around the Maypole on Midsummer’s Eve. 

Lille katt

Astrid Lindgren is not only one of the world’s most famous children’s authors, she is also behind many of the most well-known Swedish songs for children, featuring her beloved characters.

This one starts off “Lille katt, lille katt, lille söte katta. Vet du att, vet du att, det är mörkt om natta” (little cat, little cat, little sweet cat. Do you know, do you know, it’s dark at night – it rhymes in Swedish), followed by similar verses about other animals and family members. It is sung by Ida, the little sister of prankster Emil in the books and films about Emil of Lönneberga. Jazz musician Georg Riedel composed the music, as well as the music for several other Lindgren movies.

Other famous tunes by Lindgren include Här kommer Pippi Långstrump, Idas sommarvisa, Luffarvisan, Jag är en fattig bonddräng, Mors lilla lathund and Världens bästa Karlsson.

These five songs do not even begin to form an exhaustive list of Sweden’s wide, wide, wide repertoire of children’s songs. Which ones can you not get out of your head? Let us know in the comments below!

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Why we could see more cross-Nordic TV shows like The Bridge

Television networks in Norway, Sweden and Denmark have signed a deal to increase Nordic collaboration on Scandinavian drama shows.

Why we could see more cross-Nordic TV shows like The Bridge

Denmark’s TV2, Swedish channel TV4 and TV2 Norge in Norway have come together in an agreement to produce more drama shows aimed at Scandinavians, the Danish broadcaster said in a press release on Thursday.

The aim of the collaboration will be to create shows which “speak to a broad audience and have high cross-Scandinavian societal relevance”, TV2 said.

“When we join forces we can become stronger, both creatively and financially,” TV2’s head of fiction Mette Nelund said in the statement.

The most successful collaboration between Nordic broadcasters in the past is Broen, also known as The Bridge, a police drama set in Copenhagen and Malmö that was produced by Denmark’s and Sweden’s public broadcasters DR and SVT, and aired from 2011-2018.

The Bridge became a huge hit in the Nordics as well as in other countries, notably in the UK where it was shown on BBC Four and later BBC Two.

READ ALSO: Why do Swedes and Danes insist on pretending they speak the same language?

A deal between the three commercial Scandinavian broadcasters has been in the making for some time, with a desire from all three to make more series that appeal to Norwegians, Swedes and Danes.

“We share culture, history and political rifts, so there’s rich potential to create new interesting and relevant stories that speak to all that we share,” Nelund said.

The storylines and characters will have connections to all three countries, according to TV2, while the series could be based on real or fictional events, including adaptations and original productions.

“Our shared ambition is to strengthen Scandinavian fiction and raise up stories with a strong Scandinavian core narrative, which engages broadly and has a clear premise,” Nelund said.

“The work begins now to find projects which have identification and fascination in each of Denmark, Sweden and Norway,” she said.

The first co-produced Scandinavian shows to result from the agreement could be broadcast by 2026.