Once, when Jesus was only five years old, he sat on the doorstep outside his father’s workshop, in Nazareth, and made clay cuckoos from a lump of clay which the potter across the way had given him. He was happier than usual. All the children in the quarter had told Jesus that the potter was a disobliging man, who wouldn’t let himself be coaxed, either by soft glances or honeyed words, and he had never dared ask aught of him. But, you see, he hardly knew how it had come about. He had only stood on his doorstep and, with yearning eyes, looked upon the neighbor working at his molds, and then that neighbor had come over from his stall and given him so much clay that it would have been enough to finish a whole wine jug.
On the stoop of the next house sat Judas, his face covered with bruises and his clothes full of rents, which he had acquired during his continual fights with street urchins. For the moment he was quiet, he neither quarreled nor fought, but worked with a bit of clay, just as Jesus did. But this clay he had not been able to procure for himself. He hardly dared venture within sight of the potter, who complained that he was in the habit of throwing stones at his fragile wares, and would have driven him away with a good beating. It was Jesus who had divided his portion with him.
Selma Lagerlöf, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1909, was the first woman to be elected a member of the Swedish Academy. Her first novel, The Story of Gosta Berling (1891), assured her position as Sweden's greatest storyteller. She retold the folk tales of her native province, Varmland, in an original and poetic prose. As a woman writer, Lagerlöf gained a reputation as a naive purveyor of native traditions, but she herself compared writing a novel to solving a mathematical problem. Her artistry entails making her stories seem simple, but they are told with great attention to symbolism, psychology, and narrative technique. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (1906) is a delightful fantasy written to teach children about Swedish geography, but it has found an international audience. Her third novel and masterpiece, Jerusalem (1901--02), the story of farmers from Dalarna who follow their faith to the Holy City, was widely praised for its insights into the lives of peasants searching for a spiritual ideal. During World War II, Lagerlöf helped many German artists and intellectuals escape the Nazis, even donating her gold Nobel Prize medal to a benefit fund to help Finland. She died of a stroke on March 16, 1940.