In 1914, at about the same time as The First World War broke out, Astrid Lindgren started first school. Astrid thought it was a little scary to start school and brought her mum Hanna along with her on the first day. The priest was there to call the children’s names and the moment felt so formal that many of the children got frightened and started crying. Astrid also cried a bit when her name was called, and was told that if she wanted to she could go and take a seat. She did not want to do that.
“Suddenly the tears dried. I had broken through the wall of shyness and now I just wanted to stick around with the others. I absolutely did not want to go and sit down. In front of me was a pretty, dark-haired girl in a red woollen dress. I wanted to get to know her. I started off by prodding her carefully, then I prodded a bit more. And then some more. All of a sudden she turned around and gave me such an angry and punishing look that I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. Later on we shared a school desk and became the best of friends. Her name was Märta.”
It was around this time that she met Mardie, or Anne-Marie Fries as her real name was. Mardielived next door to Näs; in the fancy house everybody called ‘the Villa’. Mardie and Astrid spent every day together, and because Anne-Marie was strong and brave she taught Astrid how to fight. But of the two it was Astrid who was the wildest one. They often played ‘indians’, climbing trees and rooftops.
The school library was full of books and Astrid practically read them all. “I had such a terrible pent-up love of reading that it’s almost strange that when I finally got hold of books I didn’t read myself into the grave.”
After three years of elementary school Astrid and Mardie continued on to secondary school. The cost of secondary school was about thirty Swedish crowns per term and going was not a given for all children, however Samuel August was able to pay the fee for Astrid and her siblings. Astrid liked secondary school very much and had a great teacher in languages, Assistant Master Tengström, who encouraged her writing and often read her essays aloud to the class. When she was thirteen she got an essay published. It was called “At Our Farm” and was printed in the Vimmerby newspaper.
It was then that people started calling her Vimmerby’s Selma Lagerlöf, and then that Astrid made up her mind to absolutely, definitely not become a writer herself.