Little by little, Ronja is learning that growing up as an only child has its drawbacks, of which the most glaring might be a shocking inability to share. In Episode 7 of Ronja the Robber’s Daughter, Song in the Mist, Ronja is once again miffed that she must share her beloved forest with Birk Borkas, son of her father’s worst enemy. Birk thoroughly ruffles Ronja’s normally stoic and even-tempered energy; it is with Birk that we see Ronja most like her father, Mattis. When Ronja angrily accuses Birk of stealing the fox kits from her forest, Birk calmly informs her that the forest belongs to no one and all of its inhabitants belong to themselves alone. Birk mansplaining self-determination to Ronja might be bothersome if he weren’t so right.

Still, Ronja is obstinate, refusing to share her beloved woodlands. She runs ahead of him on her way back home just as the forest begins to fill with a fine mist. Birk runs after her, remarking that the fog is scary, to which Ronja readily ridicules him. “You’ve got a head harder than rock, Robber’s Daughter. Like your father,” Birk says, then asked if he might hold her tunic until they’re both safely out of the mist. Ronja, cantankerous as ever, instead proffers one end of her rope—presumably the same rope that once saved Birk from the yawning maw of Hell’s Gap.

The mist thickens as Ronja and Birk make their way through the forest. They pass a rock Ronja marks as a signpost once, twice, then a third time. They’re moving in circles. Surrounded by opaque fog, Ronja hears a giggle and sees the shadowy silhouette of a child scampering in the distance. The rope extends no more than a foot behind her before disappearing in the whiteout. She calls for Birk, tugging on the rope, but there is no response. More giggling follows as she sees more childlike shadows encircling, dancing and singing a non-lexical melody. Irises dilating, Ronja is enchanted. She succumbs to their siren song, abandoning the rope to follow them just as Birk bounds out of the fog, calling her name. He pleads with her to never follow the unearthly ones or else she’ll be lost forever. But she’s already halfway gone. Birk grabs her wrist, momentarily shaking her from her stupor before she starts frantically struggling with him, desperate to escape after the unearthly ones. Birk physically restrains her, holding her in an embrace as she cries and thrashes, raking her nails across one of his cheeks and biting the other. He hugs her tighter and she collapses into resigned sobs.

The mist retreats, driven by a clarifying sun. Ronja awakens and berates Birk for standing so close to her. She sees his injured face and asks if a fox bit him. He chortles (this kid has the best attitude of all time, sign me up for his zen retreat). She finds, oddly, that she hates him less, though she doesn’t understand why.

Back home, Ronja again asks her father if he ever takes things without asking. When Ronja expresses concern for the victims, Mattis informs her it’s the way things have always been. His great grandfather, grandfather, and father were robbers, and soon Ronja will join their ranks. Ronja is horrified, refusing her destiny: “Never! Not on my life! If it means people are made to be angry and cry, I’ll never steal.” Lovis breaks up their fight, tucking Ronja into bed and singing Ronja’s birthright lullaby. As Ronja is lulled to slumber, she murmurs that chieftain or robber, Mattis will always be her father. She dreams of the unearthly ones in the woods, tempting her with song. Except this time, she follows.

Flossie Arend
Flossie is a freelance raconteur and editor living in New York City. A seasoned bibliophile, she loves gorging on sci fi, comics, and video games and is thrilled that her passions now loom so large in the cultural zeitgeist.

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