Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari and Sissel Horndal

Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari och Sissel Horndal
Ánde Somby & Geir Anders Hætta Berg
Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari and Sissel Horndal (ill.): Arvedávgeriikii. Picture book, Davvi Girji, 2022. Nominated for the 2023 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Arvedávgeriikii (“To the Rainbow Land”, not published in English) is a Northern Sami children’s book written by Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari and illustrated by Sissel Horndal. Sombán Mari made her debut in 1976 with the children’s book Ámmul ja alit oarbmälli, which marked the publication of the first Sami children’s book. Since then, she’s been active as an author, publishing several texts for both children and adults. Her texts are often anchored in Sami mythology and the Sami way of thinking. In 2022, Sombán Mari was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize for the poem Beaivváš mánát /Leve blant reptiler


Arvedávgeriikii is a creation story about how the rainbow came to be and takes the reader into the realm of colours. Each colour has the shape of a reindeer, and the author describes each colour’s features thoroughly and playfully. All of the colours attend Rássegáldu’s party on Midsummer’s Eve. 

The party is interrupted by the arrival of Baján (Thunder) and Álddagas (Lightning), together with Gullskyen (Golden Cloud). This marks the dramaturgical climax, and Gullskyen asks the colours to hit the ground one by one. Through the will and strength of the colours, the rainbow is created, and having merged into a rainbow, friendship among the colours is forged. The rainbow becomes the jewel of the Earth and represents the values, strengths and inner forces of all the different colours.


The author is an excellent storyteller with a beautifully lively way of handling important themes such as human dignity, friendship and love. In her descriptions of each colour, she uses repetition to explain how each colour has its own nights, music and caramels. This repetition offers a lovely picture of the community, because, for all their various strengths and differences, the colours have something in common.


Horndal has given Arvedávgeriikii stunning illustrations of the colours and their properties. The illustrations are aesthetically pleasing and colourful, just like the story. Colours have a central role in Sami tradition. Traditional clothing in Sápmi is colourful, and nature in Sápmi is characterised by strong contrasts from one season to the next. The visuals complement and enhance the narrative as a whole, providing an enjoyable reading experience.


This title is deeply relevant to the contemporary social debate and takes a pleasant and playful approach to questions about the rainbow and diversity – and it’s just as sweet as you’d expect a children’s book to be. The story itself is original and with clear roots in the Sami way of thinking, values and understanding of the world. Arvedávgeriikii is a valuable and important children’s book.