Appearing for the first time in English, this delightful story of the adventures of twelve young girls will appeal to readers of all ages. Gritta, neglected by her father, is uprooted when her new stepmother insists she enter a convent school. Strictly supervised by the nun Sequestra, Gritta slips into melancholy. A mishandled bird, however, awakens Gritta to the realization that she and her friends must flee their walled-in life. Following her heart and employing her wits, Gritta leads the escape. The runaway girls are eventually shipwrecked near the principality of Sumbona. They establish a Robinson Crusoe–like existence and later found their own cloister.
Their community is sustained by the industry and talents of each of the girls. Mayeli paints, Harmony composes, and Wildberry, an herbalist, learns nature’s secrets and gains access to supernatural powers that will guarantee the future of the community. Gritta chooses to marry Prince Bonus of Sumbona, but when she sees the twelve cells in the cloister, she realizes with a pang of longing that she will never occupy the one meant for her.
This enchanting tale, coauthored in the early 1840s by Gisela von Arnim Grimm and her mother, Bettine von Arnim, lay undiscovered in an archive for nearly a century. Through humor and delicate satire, the authors criticize the place of women and children in nineteenth-century German society.