Flashback Fridays: How can you expect a little child whose mother is an angel and whose father is a Cannibal King and who has spent her life sailing the seas to tell the truth always? . . .

You’re a super strong girl who lives with a horse and a monkey, filling your days with all kinds of adventures–defying the authorities and flummoxing criminals.  Do you remember:

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn (Puffin, c1945)

 I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first encountered this red haired rebel and challenger of authority, but I knew I liked her.   Pippi Longstocking, the nine-year-old girl whose mother died and whose father is away at sea, lives on her own in her rambling house, Villa Villekulla.  She has has a horse living on a porch, and shares her home with a monkey . . . and has a suitcase full of gold coins.  Oh and did I mention she’s super strong? Pippi tells wild stories that may–or may not be true, but she unrelenting in her tale tellings.  She’s full of good-humored mischief and has enough impertinent questions to drive any humorless authority figure batty.  She was probably the first strong female protagonist I encountered–one who lived outside the rules of society, defied any need for protection, and did it all with a warm heart and a cheerful disposition.

Originally written in Swedish, Pippi was the brainchild of author Astrid Lindgren that started as a story for her daughter who was home sick from school.  That story evolved into a character who is beloved around the world and has remained a classic staple of children’s literature for decades.  The book has been published in 64 languages and made into a number of different movies and televisions series.   While there was a movie made in the US in 1988 (The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking)  the most iconic Pippi was played by Inger Nilsson in the Swedish television series Pippi Longstocking (1969) .    In the late 1990s, a lightweight animated television series was created by Nelvana that followed Pippi’s adventures from the books.  Interesting tidbit of trivia I found: apparently Hayao Miyazaki had expressed interest in creating an anime feature based on the books, and had gone so far as to visit Sweden and the author.  The movie was never made . . . but knowing Miyazaki’s love of strong female protagonists, it’s too bad this never was developed.

There are two more chapter books of Pippi’s adventures that can usually be found on the shelves: Pippi Goes on Board (1946), and Pippi in the South Seas (1948).  These continued our protagonists’ adventures at sea and reuniting with her papa once more–while they’re not as popular as the original story, they can usually be found on library shelves. But that’s not the end of Pippi!  There were also several shorter, picture book stories that were translated into English, and a comic book series that’s only recently become available in the US.

Astrid Lindgren wrote more than the Pippi books, although they’re less well known in the States. The other one you might spot on the shelves in the US is Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter  (1981).  I’ve yet to read this one myself, but intend to.  Especially since the book features the marvelous illustrations of Trina Schart Hyman.   Some of the others may be in print in the states, but they’re harder to find.  Judging by the reviews, some of these other titles have met with mixed success.

Upon reflection, this was probably the first translated work of fiction I read as a child.  I wasn’t actually aware it was translated at the time, and only figured that out as an adult.  But I did recognize that the story took place in a different country.  I often wished I could go visit Villa Villekulla and share dinner with Pippi.

Any other Pippi fans out there?  Comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 13, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’ve always liked Pippi, but Ronia is my favorite. I just read it with my daughter–we have the one with the Trina Schart Hyman cover, too, but I don’t know that she did any interior art for it–although I really wish she had!

  2. I love both Pippi and Ronia, though I re-read Pippi most often. I was surprised re-reading Pippi a couple years ago how episodic it is – more a collection of linked stories than I generally see in kids’ books these days. Also, a lot more fun for kids in school – I tried it on my son when he was four, but it didn’t take until he was in school himself.

    • It’s just surprising how rare it is to find a girl like Pippi even in today’s literature. Most characters who evince these sorts of traits seem to be male rather than female. Pippi operates with a firm confidence in self and ability.

      • That’s very true… and she isn’t depicted as the Rare Female Capable of Acting Like a Male, nor does she respond to the criticism of adults who’d like her to be more passive.

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