Karlsson with Lillebror (little brother) on a Russian stamp (1992).
Karlsson Flies Again
Karlsson-on-the-Roof is Sneaking Around Again
|Original title||Karlsson på taket|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
Karlsson-on-the-Roof (Swedish: Karlsson på taket) is a character who figures in a series of children's books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. A cartoon adaptation of the series became popular in the Soviet Union when it was released in the 1970s. These adaptations are still celebrated as an integral part of the Russian cartoon industry. Karlsson, together with Cheburashka and other such characters, are recognized as a national icon. Lindgren may have borrowed the idea for the series from a similar story about Mr. O'Malley in the comic strip "Barnaby" (1942) by Crockett Johnson.
Karlsson is a very short, plump and overconfident man who lives in a small house hidden behind a chimney on the roof of 'a very ordinary apartment building on a very ordinary street' in Vasastan, Stockholm. When Karlsson pushes a button on his stomach, it starts a clever little motor with a propeller on his back, allowing him to fly.
Karlsson is the best at everything, at least in his own opinion. He becomes the best friend of Svante (who is usually referred to as "Little Brother", Swedish: Lillebror, or 'Malysh' (baby, little guy) in the Russian adaptations), who lives in an apartment with his family.
Karlsson is quite mischievous, eating all the food, scaring some robbers and walking/flying across the roof. He often gets Lillebror into trouble, as Karlsson always disappears just before Lillebror's family arrives leaving him to answer. The only other character to encounter Karlsson is 'Fröken Bock' (Miss Bock), a mean nanny (presumably in her late 40s or 50s), who undergoes an emotional transformation after meeting Karlsson.
Karlsson's predecessor is Mr. Lilyvale (Swedish: Mr. Liljonkvast). Mr. Lilyvale was a small, flying, friendly old man and fantasy friend of Lindgren's daughter Karin. In the evening he visited her in her room. Lindgren's daughter explained that Mr. Lilyvale could not be seen by anyone else because he flew away or hid as soon as someone entered the room. Astrid Lindgren wrote the book In the Land of Twilight about Mr. Lilyvale. At that time, Mr. Lilyvale was friendlier, less selfish, bossy or self centered. He also had no propeller. According to Astrid Lindgren, Mr. Lilyvale later turned into Karlsson.
Karlsson can be read as a Freudian imaginary friend, revealing Little Brother's isolation. Karlsson makes uncanny repetitions of phrases spoken by Little Bro's parents, and disappears when Little Brother is given a dog (who becomes his new friend.) 
Karlsson's unrestrained hooliganism juxtaposes with Lillebror's shy and repressed self, which finds an outlet through Karlsson's antics.
There are three Karlsson-on-the-Roof books:
- 1955: Karlsson-on-the-Roof (ISBN 0670411779)
- 1962: Karlsson Flies Again
- 1968: Karlsson-on-the-Roof is Sneaking Around Again
There have been several film versions of the series. A live-action version, Världens bästa Karlsson, was released in Sweden in 1974, as was an animated film in 2002.
The two Soviet animated films, directed by Boris Stepantsev at Soyuzmultfilm studio in 1968 and 1970, are among the most celebrated and loved cartoons in Russia and other ex-Soviet countries. Karlsson was voiced by Vasily Livanov and Malysh by Klara Rumyanova in both animated films, while Fröken Bock was voiced by Faina Ranevskaya in the second film. In 1971, the character was also adapted for the Soviet stage at the Moscow Satire Theatre, where Karlsson was portrayed by Spartak Mishulin.