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Why are there Warhammer 40k Orks in a Swedish kids book?

When a Swedish Warhammer 40k fan shared these images of Orks in a kids' picture book on Instagram, we had to find out how they got there.

An illustration of Warhammer 40k Ork models by Sven Nordqvist, bandy-legged green-skinned humanoids in clunky black and white armor with big guns, big toothy grins, supported by round yellow bases

If you’re on wargaming social media, you may recently have seen a post by August Wertin sharing screenshots of illustrations from the Swedish picture book ‘Lisa väntar på bussen’ – ‘Lisa waits for the bus’ – featuring the distinctive spiky silhouettes of a unit of Warhammer 40k Orks. Wargamer contacted author Sven Nordqvist to find out why he put these belligerent fungus aliens into a kids’ book.

‘Lisa waits for the bus’ has a pretty self-explanatory premise – it’s about what happens while a little girl waits with her mum to catch a bus. The Warhammer 40k Orks appear when Lisa asks an older boy, Johan, if she can see what he’s got in a bag. It turns out he’s moving his Warhammer 40k faction collection around!

Scene from "Lisa Waits for the Bus" by Sven Nordqvist - a little blonde girl in a pink shirt takes a Warhammer 40k Ork model from Johan, a black-haired boy in jeans, greenjacket, red cap, who has a cardboard box of figures packed in bubble wrap

Here’s how author and illustrator Nordqvist describes the miniatures:

“It was a little plastic monster. It held an axe in its hand. Johan said he had painted them himself. Lisa thought they were quite nicely painted. Although a bit messy. They looked [evil/cruel/bad/awful] with large teeth, axes and skulls.”

We’re thankful to Wertin for translating the text of the story book – you can find his original post with more of the story on his Instagram.

We asked Nordqvist what inspired him to add the Warhammer-playing boy to the story. He says it was one of his sons, who “has been collecting Warhammer figures for some 25 years, mostly because he likes to paint them, and he also plays quite often”. Nordqvist used a figure catalogue for reference to create his illustrations.

A black haired boy, Johan, in a green jumper, red cap, and blue jeans, stretches out a tape measure, explaining to a blonde-haired girl in a pink shirt how to play Warhammer 40k

In the book, the boy Johan gives one of the most succinct summaries of how to play Warhammer 40k that we’ve ever read: ”You line them up in armies and roll dice and they die.”

Nordqvist says he doesn’t have any strong feelings about the game of Warhammer itself: “I have only admired the skill in making those detailed monsters and the way my son can paint them”. He acknowledges “wargames seem to be important for many boys and men”.

We’re sure a lot of our audience can relate to Johan and his army packed into a cardboard box and bubble wrap – it’s nice to see our childhood, or the childhood of our own children, reflected back in contemporary media.

The book is not available in English, and publisher Opal states there aren’t plans to translate it. There has been a German language edition, though, so who knows – it could happen.

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Want to share the joy of miniature gaming with your kids? Mantic Games is releasing Dungeon Saga Origins this month, aiming to make the dungeon crawler board game genre more family-friendly. You could also check out our Snap Ships Tactics review, a spaceship battling game that is also a construction toy!