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Russia stamp 1992 No 18.jpg
Karlsson with Svante "Lillebror" (little brother) Svanteson on a Russian stamp (1992).

Karlsson Flies Again
Karlsson-on-the-Roof is Sneaking Around Again
AuthorAstrid Lindgren
Original titleKarlsson på taket
Media typePrint (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. Translated books and cartoon adaptation of the series became popular in the Soviet Union when it was released in the 1970s. 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.[1]


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 engine with a propeller on his back, allowing him to fly.

In his own opinion, Karlsson is the best at everything. He befriends Svante Svantesson, a 7 year old boy and youngest member of the Svantesson family (who is often referred to as "Little Brother", Swedish: Lillebror, or 'Malysh' (baby, little guy) in the Russian adaptations).

Karlsson is quite mischievous and likes to make fun and prank others. He often gets Lillebror into trouble, as Karlsson usually disappears just before Lillebror's family arrives leaving him to deal with consequences of Karlsson’s actions.

At first, parents, siblings and friends of Lillebror don't believe that Karlsson is real and consider him being an imaginary friend but after they meet him in person they begin to like the little flying man.

Another character to encounter Karlsson is 'Fröken Bock' (Miss Hildur 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: Herr 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.[2][3] According to Astrid Lindgren, Mr. Lilyvale later turned into Karlsson.[4]


At first the reader is led to believe that Karlsson is just an imaginary friend to Lillebror that the seven year old boy created to relieve his isolation (his siblings are older than him) and frustration (he is not given the puppy that he wishes for); initially Karlsson tends to leave the room just before Lillebror's family is about to enter. Soon, however, friends of Lillebror see Karlsson too and at the end of the first book, at Lillebror's 8th birthday, the boy's family finally meets Karlsson. Thus the real existence of Karlsson is confirmed. Lillebror's family promise each other not to tell anybody else about Karlsson because they fear that nobody would believe them.


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


The characters from the Soviet animated film directed by Boris Stepantsev depicted on a Russian stamp, 2012.

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[citation needed] 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.