Lagerlöf was born at Mårbacka, an estate in Värmland, as the daughter of a lieutenant. She was born with a hip injury and grew up isolated from other children. Lagerlöf was a gifted child who loved to read; at the age of ten she had read the entire Bible. She worked as a country schoolteacher in Landskrona for many years, while writing on the side, focusing on the legends she had heard as a child. She didn’t like the realism of contemporary Swedish authors, such as Strindberg. Her first novel was “Gösta Berlings Saga”, published in 1891, which she wrote while a teacher in Landskrona. She sent the first chapters of the book to a literary contest, which she won (the prize was having the entire book published).
Most of Lagerlöf’s stories are set in her childhood’s Värmland, though a trip through Europe inspired works like “Antikrists mirakler” which is set in Sicily, and “Jerusalem”, set in the city with the same name.
In 1909 she won the Nobel Prize for her “lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings." In 1914 she became a member of the Swedish Academy.
At the start of World War II, Lagerlöf sent her Nobel Prize medal and her gold medal from the Swedish Academy to the government of Finland to help them raise money to fight the Soviet Union. The Finns were so touched that they raised the necessary money by other means and returned the medals to her.
Lagerlöf’s most famous work is of course the story about young Nils who is turned into a tomte and joins some wild geese. During the trip Nils learns that if he proves he has changed for the better, he might gain back his normal size.

Det var en gång en pojke. Han var så där en fjorton år gammal, lång och ranglig och linhårig, Inte stort dugde han till: han hade mest av allt lust att sova och äta, och därnäst tyckte han om att ställa till odygd. From “Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige"