10 Reasons to Love Pippi! Posted by Chelsea B on May 20, 2020 in Culture, Current Events, education, Film, History, Swedish Language, The Swedish blog team
“Tjolahopp tjolahej tjolahoppsansa!” Här kommer Pippi Långstrump! Astrid Lindgren’s beloved character Pippi Longstocking turns 75 this year. First published in 1945, Pippi Långstrump was an instant hit in Sweden and since then, the work has been translated into 92 languages. This exceptional figure has inspired children, and adults alike, all over the world.
I adore Pippi! But I really only got to know her as an adult. I remember seeing one of the Pippi films when I was young, and loving it, but that was the extent of it for many years. It wasn’t until I took a university course entitled “Children’s Literature in Scandinavia” that I understood why Pippi was so special.
Astrid Lindgren is credited with creating space for the voices of children unlike anyone before her. Lindgren’s craft was unique because she told unconventional stories of extraordinary child-protagonists; all while tackling heavy themes like loneliness, even death, and the afterlife.
The character was “born” in a feverish stupor, when Lindgren’s sick daughter asked her mother to tell her about “Pippi Långstrump,” a never-before-mentioned figure. Lindgren took the cue, and created the remarkable, adventurous 9-year-old Pippi that we know and love today.
But not everyone was initially a fan of Pippi. Lindgren first pitched the book to Albert Bonniers Förlag, who rejected the project, claiming the protagonist was too unlikely a character. Lindgren then gave the manuscript to a little known company at the time, Rabén & Sjögren. They took a chance on the book, publishing it to great success. Initially though, it did ruffle a few feathers and some even sought to ban it in libraries around Sweden.
And that’s why I love her! Here are some more reasons why you should love this feather-ruffler too!
- Pippi challenges hierarchy. While kids are expected to be obedient and do as they are told, Pippi questions why. School is touch and teachers aren’t really her thing. (I’m sort of a rule follower so I admire this about Pippi.)
- She’s creative. Whether she’s using her imagination to dream about faraway lands where people walk around on their hands, or she’s cleaning her floor by skating with scrub brushes on her feet, she follows the beat of her own drum.
- She’s physically strong. Known for routinely lifting her horse above her head, she defies the odds that girls are weaker than boys. This message inspires me still today, because being a sporty gal myself, striving to be strong often feels out of place.
- She acts like a child. 1940’s post-war Sweden was a very orderly place, and children were more or less expected to act like little adults. Pippi’s playfulness is much needed in her small town, and she often creates nonsense games for her neighbors Tommy and Annika to enjoy!
- Pippi’s appearance is unconventional. Those braids are on-point, right? She turns quite a few heads walking backwards down the street with shoes “twice and long as her feet,” mismatched stockings, and a patch work dress.
- She’s generous. Although Pippi may be a little stubborn, she likes to show the people around her that she cares. Whether it’s lending someone one of her gold coins, or putting on a fancy fika, Pippi likes to give.
- “Hon klarar sig själv / She takes care of herself.” Although it’s a bit sad that Pippi lives alone with no parents, she makes the best of it and provides for herself.
- She’s not into bad guys. Me either Pippi, me either. Pippi believes in the good nature of people, and doesn’t like those who take advantage of others. Pippi has several run-ins with the town “crooks” and bullies, and doesn’t back down until justice is served.
- Pippi likes cooking. Although she hasn’t quite mastered the pancake flip, she does it her way! It’s okay, Pippi, I’ve got American pancakes down but svenska pannkakor are another story entirely.
- Basically, Pippi is a “rebel role model,” as coined by Sweden.se. They remark:
“Astrid Lindgren was not exactly proceeding from an explicit feminist agenda when she wrote her wonderful stories about this remarkable girl and her two close friends. That, however, has not prevented Pippi from becoming a source of inspiration in the struggle for gender equality. She is still the hero of the day.”
Looking to brush up on your Pippi? Listen to Astrid Lindgren reading the first chapter of Pippi here or watch the popular tv show from the 1970’s on SVTplay.se, here. Have a favorite Pippi story? Tell me below!