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Nancy, a.k.a. Kitty, Susanne, Alice—in Norway and Other European Countries

From: The Lion and the Unicorn
Volume 18, Number 1, June 1994
pp. 70-77 | 10.1353/uni.0.0327

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Nancy, a.k.a. Kitty, Susanne, Alice—in Norway and Other European Countries

Nancy Drew in her little red car—the translator apparently found red a more exciting color than blue—ran straight into Norwegian girls' literature during World War II and has been there ever since. The year was 1941, and Norway was occupied by German forces who had arrived on April 9, 1940, and had brought with them long lists of anti-German books to be confiscated. It seems those lists were insufficient, and in February, 1941, the "Norwegian" government (installed by the Germans) issued a decree for "the safeguarding of Norwegian literature," according to which an evergrowing number of books was forbidden. In October of the same year, a proclamation that accused English and American literature of corrupting the Norwegian national spirit followed. A new list was issued covering titles denied translation, and on this list, Nancy Drew found herself, probably for the first and only time, in the company of such children's classics as Robinson Crusoe, The Children of the New Forest, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Three Musketeers, and The Jungle Book.

Before the decree against translation, six Nancy Drew books had been published in 1941. Interestingly, in spite of the decree, two of those books were reprinted in 1942, along with two new titles, both of which were on the list of forbidden books. However, none of these was registered in the National Bibliography until after the war, and these books were not to be found on the lists issued to police commissioners all over Norway ordering them to confiscate books in libraries and bookshops. The only author of children's books regarded dangerous enough to be confiscated was the Austrian children's author, Lisa Tetzner.

The most likely explanation for the fact that Nancy Drew books could [End Page 70] still appear in 1942 is that established publishers were not usually censored in advance; but, in order to get their quota of paper, which was strictly rationed, publishers were required to prepare a list of books they intended to publish. If the publisher's supply of paper was large enough, or if the new editions had been printed at the end of 1941, probably no one would take notice. Even after Frithjof Saelen's Snorre the Seal, an attack on the Nazis disguised as a children's picture book, had been confiscated and prohibited in 1941, the author was able to publish another picture book with a hidden message in 1942. When Saelen had to escape to England in 1944, it was because of his activities in the resistance movement and not because of his books.1

When Nancy made her appearance in Norway, America was still looked upon as a country where dreams came true—of course even more so in the dark hours when the lights went out in Europe. For the rest of the war years, few translations of children's books were published, and no new Nancy Drew books were issued until 1947. The delay of two years after the war ended was probably due to shortage of paper. Even so, Norwegian girls seem to have been among the first, perhaps the first, in Europe to make the acquaintance of the American girl detective. Nancy did not reach Denmark and Sweden until the 1950s, by which time the first 26 books in the series were already on the Norwegian market.

Nancy's first Norwegian publisher, Damms forlag, had published children's books for almost a hundred years, and the translator of the first books, Eugenie Winther, was herself a writer of children's books as was her sister Wenche Norberg Schulz, who translated most of the later books in the series for Damm. Thus, Nancy's introduction took place in quite respectable company, although the names of the translators probably did not mean much to readers or reviewers.

The sisters also wrote books together, although Eugenie Winther was better known, and most girls had read some of her books. Her characters were mostly spirited girls who played pranks and experienced more or less dangerous adventures in everyday life. The independent girl was a typical...