Selma Lagerlöf: Biography
16 nov 1858
Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf was a renowned Swedish author, born in Marbacka, Sweden in 1858. She was born with severe injuries to her hip, and as a child she was unable to walk. This often kept her inside and unable to join in activities with other children. She therefore developed a passion for reading and writing from a very young age.
Before becoming a writer, Lagerlöf taught at a girls’ school where she was able to test out her stories on the children she taught. She eventually submitted the first chapters of a book she had been working on to a competition and was awarded a prize to finish the novel. It wasn’t an instant hit but after a famous Danish literary critic praised her highly, her popularity suddenly increased dramatically.
In 1902, The National Teacher’s Association of Sweden as her to write a book about Swedish geography for children. She cleverly weaved facts about different landscapes in the country into a narrative about a boy who got into trouble everywhere he went and therefore had to keep moving to different parts of Sweden. This book, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils, remains her most well-known to this day.
Lagerlöf continued to write and publish more important works, leading to international recognition. She is famous for having been the first ever female writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, winning it in 1909. In addition to her writing she was also politically active. She was a campaigner for women’s suffrage and intervened with the Swedish government and royal family to help individuals escape from Nazi Germany to Sweden.
Selma Lagerlöf died at the age of 81 in March 1940.