Author and great human being, purveyor of sunshine, forever.
She made Sweden a superpower in the ﬁeld of children’s literature and lives on through her fantastic characters and stories. Renowned author Astrid Lindgren passed away peacefully in the beginning of 2002 at home in her Stockholm apartment, where she had lived since 1941, at the age of 94.
Throughout the world, generations who had grown up with her stories expressed sadness, although many who were interviewed in bookstores and schools across Europe were surprised to learn that their favorite children’s author was Swedish, not of their own nationality. The unusual twist underlined the universal appeal of her tales.
Words of praise, gratitude and admiration came from public ﬁgures worldwide, including King Carl XVI Gustav and Prime Minister Göran Persson, as well as from the common folk who gathered to pay their respects outside Lindgren’s apartment.
“For my family and myself, meetings with Astrid Lindgren in real life as well as in her stories have been festive occasions,” wrote King Carl XVI Gustav. “We will all miss Astrid Lindgren, but we are happy that she will live on in the form of Pippi Longstocking, Madicken, Mio My Son, the Brothers Lionheart and other ﬁgures.”
A story for Karin
Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson was born on Nov. 14, 1907, the second of four daughters of a farmer, in the two-story, wood frame house that she later devoted to Pippi Longstocking. She began writing at an early age. Her ﬁrst published piece was an essay written for the local Vimmerby News in 1921, at age 13; she later worked as a proofreader at the publication. Her ability to use a typewriter got her ofﬁce jobs, and in a short documentary ﬁlm produced by the department of labor at the time, she was ﬁlmed as an example of the modern “working girl.” During World War II, Lindgren served as a correspondence censor in the Swedish Department of Intelligence.
In 1944 she began writing again, and the oft-retold story behind her ﬁrst great work, “Pippi Longstocking,” was recounted regularly on Swedish television during the days after her death.
“Karin was ill and asked me to tell her a fairy tale. I asked her what about, and she said ‘about Pippi Longstocking.’ So I did,” Lindgren explained simply.
What she did was spin a yarn about the strongest girl in the world, an independent spirit with her own home (“Villa Villa Kulla,” left by her ship’s captain father, off sailing the South Seas) who could lift policemen and horses over her head, who feared nothing and no one, who didn’t go to school, who had a bag full of gold coins to buy anything which she wanted, who carried a personable monkey called Mr. Nilsson on her shoulder...and who bounced on beds, walked on ceilings, ate candy and cakes at will and slept with her feet on her pillow.
Pippi as “Threat to society”
Containing hand-typed sheets interspersed with sketchy illustrations of the freckled Pippi, with her unmistakable braided red hair and mismatched stockings, Lindgren’s ﬁrst manuscript was rejected by Swedish publishing magnate Bonniers. The editors objected that it was too violent, would instill dangerous behavior among children and, moreover, poked fun at parents and other adult authority ﬁgures.
But by then, Lindgren had rediscovered the joy of writing. Her ﬁrst book, published in 1944, was a story for teenage girls called “Britt-Mari Opens Her Heart,” and it won second place in a literature competition by publishers Rabén & Sjögren. In 1945, “Pippi” took ﬁrst place in the same contest, and Lindgren persuaded the company to publish the work. It was a smash, and successive manuscripts launched a writing career that continued up until 1987, when Lindgren wrote her last manuscript, a short mystery story.
In 1968, the ﬁrst ﬁlm version of “Pippi Longstocking” was released, starring eight-year old Inger Nilsson in the title role. The ﬁlm, like her book, met with both praise and searing critical controversy. Determined by leftists and protectionists alike as depicting reality in a manner that threatened youngsters’ conformity to socialistic norms, the ﬁrst printing of “Pippi Longstocking” in French was severely censored.
Criticism of her fables was to follow Lindgren throughout her writing career, although no evidence that the concern was warranted was ever produced. The author herself retorted to critics once that her own daughter would never dream of sleeping with her feet on her pillow like Pippi!
While her characters’ rowdy mischief unquestionably bordered on youthful insurrection at times, Lindgern’s works broke ground untouched by traditional children’s stories in that they dealt in an entertaining, yet straightforward manner with realities of everyday contemporary life, portraying death, alcoholism, unemployment, poverty, tyranny, cruelty, sexuality and numerous other issues that children’s literature had long avoided.
Amazingly, despite the modern themes, clear symbolism and well-developed plots in her books, Lindgren said that she never made notes or outlines of her manuscripts beforehand. She simply sat down and wrote.
“I write to amuse the child within me and can only hope that other children may have some fun that way too,” she said. And that she did.
I met Astrid Lindgren for the first time through a mutual friend at her home in central Stockholm. She was petite but, it was immediately clear to me and anyone who met her that beneath her physical appearance, was a giant in person as well. As she hugged me when I was about to leave, she barely reached my chest. I kept thinking that if I scratched her skin just a tiny little bit, sunshine would come pouring out. All the sunshine her stories spread came from a source deep within an extraordinary human being. She continues to make the world a little bit richer every day. And she will forever.
Ulf Barslund Mårtensson
Astrid Lindgren's early life becomes a movie: http://www.nordstjernan.com/news/people/2073/
Pippi Goes Abroad
The colorful character Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump in Swedish) is loved by children the world over—here’s what some of them call her:
Finnish: Peppi Pitkätossu
French: Fiﬁ Brindacier
German: Pippi Langstrumpf
Greek: Pipe Phakidomyte
Hungarian: Hariesnyás Pippi
Indonesian: Pippi Si Kaus Panjang
Icelandic: Lina Langsokkur
Japanese: Nagakutsushita no Pippi
Polish: Pippi Pónczoszanka
Serbian: Pipi Dugacka Carapa
Spanish: Pippa Mediaslargas
Thai: Pippi Thung-taow Yaow
Turkish: Pippi Uzuncorap issiz köskte
Astrid Lindgren Remembered the World Over—in 90 Languages
How far-reaching are the beloved characters and tales of the late Astrid Lindgren? Consider this: Her works have been translated into 90 languages, with about 30 added in the 1990s alone (see “Pippi Goes Abroad.”) To put that accomplishment into perspective, compare Lindgren to some of her best-selling Swedish peers:
32 languages Marianne Fredriksson (Simon och ekarna/Simon’s Family)
30 languages Ingmar Bergman (Laterna Magica/The Magic Lantern)
28 languages Kerstin Ekman (Händelser vid vatten/Blackwater)
28 languages Sven Nordqvist (the Pettson books)
27 languages Torgny Lindgren (Hummelhonung/Sweetness)
26 languages P.O. Enquist (Livläkarens besök/The Royal Physician’s Visit)
24 languages Maria Gripe (Agnes Cecilia)
23 languages Henning Mankell (the Wallander books)
22 languages Göran Tunström (Juloratoriet/The Christmas Oratorio)
22 languages Jujja and Thomas Wieslander (the Mamma Mu books)
21 languages Lena Anderson and Christina Björk (Linnea i målarens trädgård/Linnea in Monet’s Garden)
17 languages Jan Guillou (the Hamilton books)
Of course, this was written in 2002 pre-Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy had been fully exploited.