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Heidi, an orphan, is taken by her Aunt Dete to live with her grandfather, Adolph Kramer, because she is going to work for a rich family in Frankfurt. Kramer, a bitter recluse, has lived alone on a mountain outside the Alpine village of Dorflo since his son Tobias married against his will. Although at first Kramer, whom Heidi calls "the grandfather," does not speak to her, he gradually grows to love her. When Pastor Schultz visits to encourage the grandfather to send Heidi to school and church, he angrily sends the pastor away, but after remembering Tobias and the story of the prodigal son, the grandfather takes Heidi to church where they are welcomed into the community. On Heidi's eighth birthday, Aunt Dete abducts her and takes her to Frankfurt to be the companion of Klara Sesemann, an invalid child whose rich father is away on business. Housekeeper Fraulein Rottenmeier wants Klara to remain ill so that Sesemann will think that Klara cannot live without her and so will marry her. Because she thinks that Heidi is uncouth, she pays Dete to take her back, but after Dete leaves, Klara throws a tantrum because she likes Heidi, and Fraulein Rottenmeier agrees that Heidi can stay the night. After Heidi tries to escape, Klara promises that if she is still homesick when her father returns for Christmas in two weeks, she will ask him to send Heidi back. Meanwhile, the grandfather begins the hundred mile journey to Frankfurt on foot. On Christmas Eve, Klara, to her father's delight, walks as the result of Heidi's training and inspiration. Sesemann, having heard of the grandfather's brutal nature from Dete, refuses to send her back and, suspecting Fraulein Rottenmeier's scheme, fires her. That night, the grandfather arrives in Frankfurt, but he is arrested when he disturbs people while looking for Heidi. Fraulein Rottenmeier tries to sell Heidi to gypsies, but the grandfather breaks out of jail and rescues her. After he is arrested again, Fraulein Rottenmeier claims that he stole "her" child, but the police captain sends for Sesemann, and the matter is straightened out. Later, Heidi, Klara and Sesemann return to the grandfather's house where they eat with Heidi's friends.