The Tale of the Tiny Man

h1 May 5th, 2022 by jules

” … he woke to find a cold nose in his hand! Beside him was a big dog with a beautiful curve in its tail. The dog looked at him kindly and then
laid its heavy head on his shoulder.”


Barbro Lindgren’s The Tale of the Tiny Man, illustrated by Eva Erikkson, is evidently a classic Swedish picture book. Lindgren wrote it in 1979, and it’s been read and loved for nearly 45 years and has even been adapted to the stage. Last month Gecko Press released a new edition, translated by Julia Marshall.

And o! The drama! The pathos! The desolation! The joy! It’s ALL THE FEELINGS. And if the children in your life ask you to read it to them over and over and then some more, don’t be surprised.

The tiny man of the book’s title is nameless. He’s also misunderstood and essentially unloved. In fact, people go out of their way to be mean to him. He’s kind but ignored. People think he’s small, slow, and that his hat is ugly. Some men on the street even intentionally trip him on his morning walk. As the classic 1990s bumper sticker put it so bluntly, mean people suck. And the tiny man’s life is plagued by them.

The tiny man sheds tears over this. I am kind, he thinks, so why don’t people like me? He even pins a “FRIEND WANTED” sign to the tree by his house. I told you this story holds nothing back, right?

But then a dog appears, and the two are immediate friends. The man fervently hopes the dog will return each day, and his wish comes true. As you can see below, the dog even moves in. Better yet, in a pleasing circle of events, it growls at the men in bowler hats who like to trip our protagonist. Months pass, and all is well. But. When spring arrives — a year later — so does a child, who immediately endears herself to the dog. (She boldly walks right up to the man’s front porch and becomes the dog’s new BFF.) Instead of seething with jealousy, the man despairs, even heading into the forest to wander for seven days. “The dog doesn’t like me anymore,” he thought. “It likes the child better.” (There will never be a second book, I’m sure, about the trauma this poor guy has clearly experienced earlier in his life, but I do wonder.)

When he returns home, not only does the dog run with joy to his friend (they “fell into each other’s arms”), but the girl is still here and also happy to see him. Now he has two new friends and was “never lonely again.”

Anyone who has ever felt insecurities (and young children feel them often, particularly over friendships) will relate to the emotional highs and lows of this tale. And the humor is in the details, such as the small illustration of the dog peeing on the man’s front fence and lines like:

The tiny man thought about life, and what fun it was to have a friend. The big dog thought about holes, and how good it was to have bones.

There’s also the fact that every Sunday (on a tiny table in the tiny man’s yard) the man and dog share pastries, and on Thursdays they eat peas and bacon. Oh, and don’t forget the pleasing curve in the dog’s tail. I think that’s my favorite detail.

I don’t know about you, but I always love to see the work of illustrator Eva Eriksson, so here are some illustrations from this emotional roller coaster of a story from beautiful Sweden.



“At night, the tiny man felt so lonely that he cried.
Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a kind person, he thought.”


“As soon as the tiny man sat back on the step, the dog put its head on his shoulder and — BINGO! — off he rolled again. It was fun falling over backwards —
the most fun in forty years!”


“By now all the tulips were blooming and blackbirds were gathering twigs.”


“That night, the dog went into the bedroom and lay down at once on the tiny man’s bed. The tiny man was delighted that the dog liked his bed. He slept in a drawer on the floor.”


“The child sat on the steps and leaned against the dog. The dog shivered
with happiness and put its muzzle in the child’s hand instead of the man’s.
The tiny man’s chest tightened and the world went blurry.
He sat on the very edge of the steps and looked away.”


“For seven days, the tiny man roamed the woods and wept.”


* * * * * * *

THE TALE OF THE TINY MAN. Text © Barbro Lindgren 1979. Illustrations © Eva Eriksson 2010. English-language edition © Gecko Press Ltd 2022. Translation © Julia Marshall 2022. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gecko Press.

3 comments to “The Tale of the Tiny Man

  1. As I read your post I thought, hmmm this may be too sentimental, too “Little Match Girl” for me. But then you shared some of the charming details and now I can’t wait to read it. I just put in a request for the book through my library’s interlibrary loan system.

  2. Let me know what you think!

  3. Oh my goodness. I have loved many of this pair’s books, but have not yet seen this one—and I know I will love it too!

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