THE THIRTEENTH OF DECEMBER
Behind one of the doors in the advent calendar that Quirinius gave her, there is another identical tiny advent calendar whose doors won’t open. The wise men explain the word-puzzle involving the words Elisabet, Roma and Jesus. The strange band of pilgrims runs down into Italy and they soon reach the Po Valley
Joachim finally decides to admit that John came to see him. Papa is even more determined to find the mysterious flower-seller but he is no longer at the market and seems to have vanished into thin air.
THE TWELFTH OF DECEMBER
Joachim’s father continues to look for the mysterious John. He went back to the bookshop to get the photo that John had once left there. It was taken in the 1950s and shows a fair-haired girl called Elisabet standing in the road that leads to St. Peter’s Square.
The band of pilgrims races past Lake Geneva and Martigny before they climb up to St. Bernard’s pass. They get there in 1045 and see the hospice where the Benedictine monks, helped by their big dogs, organise a rescue service for lost travellers. At the pass they meet a “living road sign”, the eccentric Roman governor of Syria, called Quirinius. He joins them on their journey to Bethlehem and gives Elisabet an advent calendar.
THE ELEVENTH OF DECEMBER
The ferryman waiting to take them across the Rhine is none other than Balthazar, the King of Sheba and the Second Wise Man. They travel through Worms and reach Basle in 1119, before starting the climb up into the Alps.
Joachim feels much better now that his parents know all about the Advent Calendar. He doesn’t need to keep it secret any more (apart from his meeting with John the flower-seller). Joachim believes 100% in the story of Elisabet and the journey to Bethlehem, Mama seems to believe bits of it and sensible papa remains very sceptical!
THE TENTH OF DECEMBER
The group is joined by an impulsive young cherub, the angel Impuriel. They pass through the old Roman city of Cologne and start going up the beautiful Rhine valley.
That morning Joachim reveals too much information about the calendar and his parents become really suspicious. When he gets home from school, Joachim is furious to find that his mother has opened his secret box and read its contents. She had broken a solemn promise! The magical calendar had suddenly become ordinary! But he soon calmed down, his parents apologised, he forgave them and they start to enjoy the story together. Phew!
THE NINTH OF DECEMBER
The procession of pilgrims is moving fast through Germany, back through the 14th Century. They visit Hanover and Hamelin where Elisabet learns the story of the Pied Piper and what happens when you break your promises. Another sheep joins the flock.
Joachim’s parents are worried: he keeps saying such strange things and telling stories he couldn’t possibly have learned at school – they need to find out what or who is behind it.
THE EIGHTH OF DECEMBER
One of the lambs goes missing and it is found by the new addition to the pilgrimage, Jacob the Second Shepherd. It’s 1402 and they enter Germany.
Joachim stops his mother from opening a door of the calendar, just in time! And Joachim meets John the flower-seller and hears the mysterious words Sabet-Tebas for the first time. He doesn’t tell his parents about the meeting and feels his head is splitting because he has so many secrets to keep.
THE SEVENTH OF DECEMBER
They reach the time when Copernicus discovers that the earth is as round as a ball, and the invention of printing leads to the Bible being produced in many different languages. Elisabet learns that it’s important to be happy with the little you have “because it’s infinitely bigger than nothing”.
Joachim realises, with every passing day, that the big picture on the Advent Calendar is becoming clearer and clearer. His mother nearly catches him with the piece of paper hidden in his hand.
THE SIXTH OF DECEMBER
The first Wise Man, Caspar the King of Nubia, joins the group and teaches Elisabet that there are two ways to become wise: you either travel and see as much of the world as you can, or you stay in one place and observe everything that happens there in great detail. They see Copenhagen in 1648.
Joachim’s mother continued to be puzzled by all the strange things he’s saying: “But Joachim, where do you get all this from?”.
THE FIFTH OF DECEMBER
Every time Joachim looks at the Advent Calendar, he sees things that weren’t there the day before. But he still hasn’t told his parents what’s going on.
The Third Sheep arrives. In Lund Cathedral Elisabeth hears “the most beautiful music she had ever heard”, composed by J.S.Bach. With Ephiriel, Joshua and the three sheep she reaches the border with Denmark in about 1700.
THE FOURTH OF DECEMBER
As they travel through Sweden, they meet the shepherd Joshua who will know be able to take care of the ever-growing flock of sheep and encourage everyone to hurry on “To Bethlehem, to Bethlehem!” They are in Gothenburg early in the 19th Century.
Joachim decides he has to meet John the flower seller in order to find out more about this amazing advent calendar.
THE THIRD OF DECEMBER
The Second Sheep joins Elisabet, the lamb and the angel as they reach the Norway-Sweden border at the beginning of the 20th Century. Ephiriel explains to Elisabet that they are travelling back in time.
And Joachim is still keeping his discoveries secret from his mother and father, but decides to collect all the pieces of paper from the advent calendar and give the story to them as a Christmas present.
THE SECOND OF DECEMBER
Elisabet, who still hasn’t caught up with the lamb, is joined by the angel Ephiriel, who tells her that the lamb is on its way to Bethlehem. Elisabet decides to go too, and off they run with the angel dancing behind them.
Joachim notices that the big picture on the advent calendar has changed – the lamb is now part of the scene and it wasn’t there yesterday. He is tempted to open the window for the 3rd of December but says that cheating over Christmas would be like stealing from yourself.
THE FIRST OF DECEMBER
In this delightful story by Jostein Gaarder, a young Norwegian boy, Joachim, reads a story hidden behind the windows of an old, home-made advent calendar that he found in a bookshop. A piece of paper falls out of the first window and he reads the beginning of an extraordinary story about Elisabet Hansen, a small girl who chases a toy lamb that has come to life in a department store. She, and an ever-increasing cast of sheep, shepherds, wise men and angels travel across Europe and back in time to be present at the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.
As Joachim opens more doors on the magic calendar, he and his parents try to find out about the mysterious flower seller, John and about a girl who disappeared in Norway on Christmas Eve many years earlier. Adding to the mystery is a photograph taken in Rome of a young woman. On the back of the photograph is the name ‘Elisabet’ – could she be the same Elisabet?
Try listening without subtitles but, if it’s too hard for you to understand, click on the subtitles button at the bottom of the screen. Or, even better, buy the book; in English, in Italian or in the original Norwegian!