Astrid lindgren

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by Eva-Maria Metcalf



Astrid Lindgren by Eva-Maria Metcalf

Swedish Institute


The manuscript of The Six Bullerby Children.

© 2000, 2002 Eva-Maria Metcalf and the Swedish Institute New edition 2007 The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this publication. Editor: Eva Sigsjö Graphic design by BIGG, Stockholm Cover photo: Jacob Forsell Paper: Cover, Tom & Otto Silk 250 g. Inside, Tom & Otto Silk 150 g. Printed in Sweden by Danagårds Grafiska, 2007 ISBN 978-91-520-0931-4

Eva-Maria Metcalf teaches German and children’s literature at the University of Mississippi. She received her PhD in German language and literature from the University of Minnesota in 1989, and publishes in the field of German and Scandinavian children’s literature. Metcalf is the author of Astrid Lindgren (Twayne, New York 1995) and numerous articles in children’s literature journals.

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Contents Introduction Growing up close to nature On the way to becoming a writer Pippi Longstocking Experimenting with genres and different media Speaking up Mischief and mayhem Love and death Blueprint for the future Selected bibliography

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Her concern for humanity, her integrity, and her vision strid Lindgren is, without doubt, Sweden’s most famous and influential

author of children’s literature. A rare combination of high literary quality, great popular appeal and a propensity for innovation propelled her to that position. The book that brought Lindgren instant fame and blazed new trails for more child-oriented writing was Pippi Longstocking (1945). It has long since become a touchstone of children’s literature and has been translated into some eighty languages from Afrikaans to Zulu. Over the years, Lindgren received numerous prestigious Nordic and international awards for her fiction. Fairly early in her career, in 1958, she received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, also referred to as the Nobel Prize for children’s literature. Besides many prizes specific to children’s writing Lindgren received a number of awards normally reserved for authors of adult fiction, such as the Danish Academy’s Karen Blixen Medal, Russia’s Leo Tolstoy Medal, Chile’s Gabriela Mistral Prize, and Sweden’s Selma Lagerlöf Award. These awards clearly confirm her stature as a major author. Lindgren’s gift for storytelling is only part of the picture. As a person too, she was able to win the love and respect of millions of children and adults thanks to her concern for humanity, her integrity, and her vision. Both in her life and in her fiction she consistently sided with the powerless and abused, be they children, adults, or animals. The 1978 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade and the 1989 Albert Schweitzer Medal (awarded by the Animal Welfare Institute of the United States) recognized her humanitarian accomplishments. In addition, two prizes have been established in her name. In 1967, on the occasion of Astrid Lindgren’s 60th birthday, the publishers Rabén & Sjögren established the Astrid Lindgren Prize. After the author’s death in 2002, the Swedish government created the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (Alma), to keep Astrid Lindgren and her life’s work in the collective memory, as it inspires and fosters the development of outstanding children’s literature.


Her childhood was a happy one, filled with play and adventure

Growing up close to nature Lindgren was born Astrid Ericsson on

The Ericsson family: father Samuel August and mother Hanna with their children Ingegerd, Astrid, Stina and Gunnar.

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From the film Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (Noisy Village).

November 14, 1907 in the small town of Vimmerby in the province of Småland in southern Sweden. She was the second child of Samuel August Ericsson and his wife Hanna. Her father was a tenant farmer at Näs, the town’s vicarage, situated at the edge of town. The couple had four children, Gunnar, a son and the oldest child, and three daughters, Astrid, Stina, and Ingegerd. According to all accounts by the author, her childhood was a happy one, filled with play and adventure, only interrupted by work on and around the farm. Lindgren always pointed to her happy childhood as the ultimate source of inspiration for her work. She grew up in a home where the parents not only felt, but also openly demonstrated deep fondness for each other and their children, which was rather unusual at the time. Lindgren recounted her parents’ special relationship with much empathy and tenderness in the only

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book she did not write for a child audience, Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna in Hult (1973, not translated). Searching for an answer to the question why her childhood was such a happy one, Lindgren repeatedly stated that the siblings at Näs experi­ enced the right combination of freedom and security during their early years. The Ericsson children had to work on the farm as soon as they were able, which instilled in them a sense of duty and self-esteem, but they could also play to their heart’s content with few restrictions. Lindgren saw no better way to develop the bodies, souls, and imagination of children than free, unencumbered play lodged securely within a flexible framework of moral values. While Lindgren’s assertions about her childhood are corroborated by her siblings, difficult periods in her own adult life may have contributed to the fact that in comparison to what followed, her childhood stood out as a period of great happiness.



Lindgren’s childhood experiences play a fundamental role in her stories. The overwhelming majority of them are set in a region of Sweden very much like Småland and in small towns that closely resemble her hometown, Vimmerby. Pippi Longstocking, for example, lives at the edge of a small Swedish town reminiscent of Vimmerby, and tourists can still visit many of the sites where Pippi and other fictional child characters from Lindgren’s books (the Noisy Village/Bullerby children, the Bill Bergson gang, Mischievous Meg, Emil, and Rasmus) roamed. But these are just the props and building blocks; the actual focus of all of Lindgren’s stories is the creative power and potential that lies in a child’s playful imagination. All of her fictional characters – above all Pippi – are endowed with a lively imagination, and they grab every opportunity to playfully explore life and their surroundings. When Lindgren takes her readers back to the time and place of her own childhood, she

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takes them back to an era when everyday life was simpler and closer to nature, a closeness lost to most people who live in the post-industrial age. Lindgren grew up in the horse-andbuggy days, as she herself has pointed out in My inventions (1971, a collection of self-reflective essays that has not been translated into English). The family’s principal means of transportation was the horse and carriage, the pace of life was slower, the entertainment simpler, and the relationship to the natural surroundings was more intimate. In this setting Lindgren developed an affinity for and caring attitude toward nature that resonates in all of her writing, from her fantastic tales about Pippi Longstocking, the pirate’s daughter, to her novel about Ronia, the robber’s daughter. The stories that perhaps reflect Lindgren’s early childhood at Näs most directly and most realistically are the stories about the Noisy Village children, The Six Bullerby Children (1947) and its sequels More About the Bullerby Children


(1949), and Having Fun in Bullerby (1952). The American edition, The Children of Noisy Village (1958), consists of a thoroughly reedited selection of the three Swedish books. The Noisy Village episodes depict the fun-filled hours of play and excitement that a group of six farmer’s children from Småland experience around the beginning of the century. Lisa, Karl, Bill, Olaf, Britta, and Anna live on three neighboring farms in a setting reminiscent of Sevedstorp, a small community not far from Vimmerby where Lindgren’s father grew up. As was the norm at the time, the natural leaders are the boys. Lindgren’s brother Gunnar had been the leader for the Näs siblings and their playmates, and many of the games the Noisy Village children play were played by the Ericsson children as well. There are episodes about birthdays, Christmas and Easter celebrations, and catching crayfish in August, as well as episodes about the consequences of going shopping without a list. The children have candy-eating competitions and play

shipwreck on the mean shoemaker’s flooded meadow. There is an episode about how Olaf succeeds in transforming the shoemaker’s ugly and mean dog, Skip, into a nice, good-looking one and how Bill tricked owls to hatch a chicken, a feat that Lindgren’s brother Gunnar had performed as a boy. The fun and games, the frights and adventures may seem quite ordinary in the eyes of an adult. However, Lindgren did not write these stories for adults; for the intended audience of young children their appeal is still great. Lindgren skillfully relates the intensity of the child’s experience in an emotive yet simple language, evoking the fun and excitement that the protagonists experi­ ence in their fictional world of play. She had not forgotten how it felt to be four or seven or ten years old, and it is the four, seven, or tenyear-old within herself she conjured up as she wrote. Lindgren experienced growing up as a loss. One day, when Astrid Ericsson was a teenager, astrid lindgren


she realized she had lost the ability to play, i.e., the ability to be engrossed in play. She had become self-conscious and could no longer enter the world of make-believe unconditionally as she had done before. In retrospect, Lindgren always viewed her young adulthood as a dark period of her life. On the surface she seemed to be the same enterprising and daring young tomboy she had always been, roaming through Vimmerby when she did not have to work on the farm and seeking out thrills much like the two gangs in the Bill Bergson books. But she had mood swings and felt out of place. Later, she dressed up in the latest fashion, loved jazz and dancing, and was the first girl in Vimmerby to cut her hair short, which was quite a sensation at the time. Lindgren claimed that the joys and fresh, intense experiences of her childhood years superseded any experiences she had later in life. Writing for her thus became a very pleasurable way of immersing herself back into childhood.

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Lindgren is one of many writers who have written for the inner child, but what makes her writing special is her ability to remember vividly and in great detail what it was like to be a child and what her preferences and desires were at various ages. Lindgren never lost touch with the smells, sights, sounds, and feelings she experienced as a girl, and her writing reflects the intensity and freshness with which a child experiences the world. She combined this gift with a talent for storytelling that she inherited from her father, the Protestant work ethic she imbibed at home, and a boundless curiosity and desire for experimentation that allowed her to try many different genres and to develop her own style. Like any good author, Lindgren wrote not what fashion or her publisher demanded, but what her inner sense of urgency obliged her to express.


She was called Vimmerby’s Selma Lagerlöf

On the way to becoming a writer Lindgren became a writer fairly late in life.

She wrote her first manuscript about a crazy girl called Pippi Longstocking in her mid-thirties and saw her first book published at the age of 38. From then on she produced a steady stream of children’s books until the mid-1980s. As a child Lindgren was immersed in a rich oral culture, and many of the jokes, tales, and anecdotes she heard at home from her father or from friends and acquaintances became part of her own storytelling. Her love of reading and of books began, as she has pinpointed later, in her friend Kristin’s kitchen. It was Kristin who introduced Astrid to the world of wonder and excitement that could be entered at will by reading fairy tales. The experience itself was a revelation for the impressionable young Astrid, who later learned to harness the power and magic of words herself. Writing was Lindgren’s great gift and passion from the time she learned to write. Her talent

was obvious even when she was in grade school, where she was called Vimmerby’s Selma Lagerlöf, a designation she did not at the time feel she deserved. Instead, Astrid Ericsson embarked on a career in journalism at the age of sixteen. Her job as apprentice with the local newspaper was cut short a little more than two years later when she was forced to leave Vimmerby because she was pregnant and unmarried. The morally conservative climate in her provincial hometown made it impossible for her to stay, so she moved to Stockholm where she trained to become a secretary and later found employment. The following years were difficult ones indeed. She had little money and had to leave her beloved son with foster parents in Denmark. When she married Sture Lindgren in 1931, she was finally able to bring her son, Lars, home. She decided to become a fulltime housewife in order to take care of Lars and later her daughter Karin, who was born in 1934. In 1941, the Lindgren family moved astrid lindgren

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Astrid Lindgren with her children Lars and Karin.

into the apartment overlooking the Vasa Park in Stockholm where Lindgren lived right up to her death on 28 January 2002. She continued to do some part-time secretarial work, and by writing travelogues and rather conventional fairy tales in family magazines and Christmas almanacs she honed her writing skills. Pippi Longstocking According to Astrid Lindgren, her daughter

Karin was the source and inspiration for Pippi Longstocking (1945, English translation 1950). In 1941, Karin had pneumonia. Every evening Lindgren would sit by her bedside and tell her goodnight stories. It so happened that one evening Karin requested a story about Pippi Longstocking, a name she had made up on the spur of the moment. Since this was such a crazy name, the story about Pippi had to be crazy too, Lindgren decided, and invented a girl who defied all conventions. Since Lindgren at that time was a proponent 12 â?€

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Lindgren invented a girl who defied all conventions

of the then new and hotly debated childoriented education, defying conventions was a mental experiment that she was more than willing to undertake. If we can talk about Pippi as a construct, that construct is rooted in new ideas about child education and child psychology that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s. Lindgren followed the lively public debates about a more child-centered education and participated in them as a proponent of an education that respected children by taking into account their thoughts and feelings. This new attitude toward children had consequences for her storytelling. It resulted in the creation of a new narrator who speaks and writes consistently from the point of view of the child. Karin loved the first story so much that she demanded more and more, and the wild and fabulous redheaded Pippi entered the imaginary world of Astrid Lindgren’s children. Over the following years, Pippi became a

staple figure in goodnight stories told in the Lindgren household. An accident – Lindgren had slipped on the ice and sprained her ankle so badly that she had to stay in bed – and the occasion of Karin’s tenth birthday caused her to put pen to paper, jot down some of her stories in shorthand, and put together a homemade book for her daughter. This original Pippi manuscript, illustrated by the author, was less polished stylistically and more radical in its message. Lindgren scholar Ulla Lundqvist has compared both versions in detail and demonstrated that the early manuscript was cruder and less respectful of adults and authority figures than was the version that was published four years later. Lindgren sent off one copy of the manuscript to Bonniers förlag, a major publishing house in Stockholm. Bonniers refused it after some deliberation, a decision the publisher later had occasion to regret. Although Bonniers had refused her first book, Lindgren was not astrid lindgren

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discouraged. She realized that writing stories for children was her calling, or rather as she has said herself, she realized how much fun it was to write children’s books. In 1944, she entered a competition for the best book for girls sponsored by the relatively new and unknown publishing house of Rabén & Sjögren. Lindgren won second prize and a publishing contract for The Confidences of Britt-Mari (1944, not translated), much to the chagrin of Hans Rabén, the publisher, who would rather have awarded the prize to an established author than to someone he described as “an ordinary housewife.” But that ordinary housewife turned into someone quite extraordinary. As was true with the early fairy tales she had sold to magazines and Christmas almanacs in the 1930s and 1940s, Lindgren felt compelled to play it safe and toe the line. She thus confined herself to the expectations and limitations of the girl’s book genre when she wrote The Confidences of Britt-Mari. This was 14 ❀

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a self-imposed censorship which partially quashed her own voice. The Britt-Mari story and a second girl’s book, Kerstin and I (1945), soon faded in importance however, when Hans Rabén decided to publish the revised manuscript of Pippi Longstocking. In this book, that had its roots in the oral story-telling tradition of goodnight stories and was not initially meant for a wider audience, Lindgren was not bound by any norms or standards and could let her creative energy flow freely. Pippi Longstocking took her readers by storm and caused quite a stir among critics when it first appeared. The reception of the book was divided as widely as might be expected by such a watershed work. Parent organizations and educators were especially quick to condemn it. Prof. John Landquist, a professor of education, called it mediocre and uncultured, while other critics relished its revolutionary spirit and – most importantly – readers were enthralled. Pippi Longstocking, the strongest, brightest,


Ingrid Nilsson as Pippi together with Mr. Nilsson.

and richest girl in the world, was Lindgren’s answer to the fictional heroines of her youth. By all accounts, nine-year-old Pippi is quite the opposite of the ideal Swedish girl of the 1940s represented by her playmate Annika. She is anything but beautiful with her red braids that stick straight out, her potato nose, and her freckles. She is unkempt and wears clothes that neither match nor fit. Worse still, she lacks manners. She is loud and assertive – she is both seen and heard and knows what she wants. She wants to become a pirate when she grows up, just like her father, the captain, pirate, and cannibal king, whose reign, incidentally, is rather benign despite a lot of posturing. This wild redhead who lives alone with a monkey and a horse in a ramshackle old house fed readers’ dreams of omnipotence and their desire for power and independence. When Pippi moves into the house next door to Tommy and Annika she brings adventure, excitement, astrid lindgren

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and a hint of revolt into the rather mundane and boring middle-class life of these model children. In fact, Tommy and Annika could not wish for a better playmate. Pippi defends and protects her friends when they are in danger; takes them on wonderful and scary adventures in the back yard or the South Seas, and best of all, puts on a show for them and keeps them amused and entertained, not only when they go to the circus together but all the time. The world becomes a stage and a playground, and life becomes a big adventure when Pippi is around. She is strong enough to lift her horse with one hand and to wrestle down a circus strongman, various bullies, police officers, wild bulls and boa constrictors. She owns a trunk full of gold pieces and can afford to buy 36 pounds of candy to distribute to the town’s children. She has had close to no schooling but can outsmart any adult who wants to deal with her. Her most envied quality is certainly her fierce independence. In every sense of the 16 ❀

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word Pippi is strong. She can, and does, do whatever comes to her mind at any time without any repercussions, and nobody has control over her. Consequently, she sends herself off to bed whenever she pleases and occasionally gives herself a scolding. Pippi mocks convention and authority to the delight of her readers. Particularly the first generations of female readers, whose lives in fact and fiction were much more confined than those of boys, delighted in Pippi’s challenges to the status quo. Within its genre Pippi Longstocking was probably equally influential as Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. With her ultimate refusal to grow up and adapt, Pippi set the stage for female heroes in children’s fiction who would break down the narrow confines prescribed by tradition and changed the outlook of many readers. Feminists who grew up with Pippi Longstocking on their bookshelves recall how this reading experience changed them forever. For these readers Pippi became a new role model and


Ingrid Nilsson and Astrid Lindgren at Villa Villekulla.

a cradle for female assertiveness. “Isn’t it a free world?” Pippi asks, choosing to walk backwards right into the lives of Tommy and Annika, one foot on the sidewalk, the other in the gutter of the street outside her dilapidated house. Despite the serendipity and playfulness of her actions, Pippi is always on a mission that is by no means confined to rethinking gender roles. With cunning innocence and joyful purposefulness Pippi brings disorder into a world she reveals as unfair and unjust. Her antics and fibs reveal what is wrong with the world, and her actions try to improve it in a peaceful manner. The subtext of Pippi’s outrageous behavior, adventures, and tall tales is an indictment of every abuse of power and a testimony to the need to transgress boundaries in order to affect change. Pippi never abuses her power and sees to it that nobody else does either. Her savior role becomes quite pronounced when she saves children in danger (from fire, a bully, astrid lindgren

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a bull, a tiger, and sharks), and when she speaks up for the powerless and oppressed – especially in the sequels to the first Pippi Longstocking book, Pippi Goes on Board (1946), and Pippi in the South Seas (1948). It is probably not entirely coincidental that Lindgren created Pippi, the invincible and caring supergirl, in the shadow of the Second World War, during which she had worked to ease the plight of Jewish families and children. Pippi outdoes Superman in at least one aspect – she is funny. Humor in the books about Pippi comes in many shapes – word play, tall tales, slapstick, nonsense, irony, and situation comedy. Yet, whatever the kind of humor she chooses and however she tells the tale, Lindgren always thinks of her primary audience. In all of her books she gives her child readers only the humor that they can relate to and delight in. Even her irony is never aimed at adults above the heads of child readers.

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Pippi constantly tells fibs about people in Egypt who walk backwards and people in India who walk on their hands. The absurd world of the nursery rhyme is evoked in her tale about the cow that comes flying in through the train window and sits down right next to her, munching smoked herring sandwiches. Pippi keeps her audience on their toes by liberally juggling and mixing truth and lies, fact and fiction. At times, Pippi’s anarchy and absurd logic confuse Tommy and Annika, and presumably the reader. This lends a little spice and challenge to the otherwise quite perfect harmony of the playmates and provides something of a challenge to the reader as well. After Pippi, Tommy and Annika’s excursion to the attic and their scary encounter with ghosts, Pippi shoots off her gun to teach the ghosts to think twice about scaring any innocent little children again. Whereupon she states bluntly: “Because even if there aren’t any ghosts, they don’t need to go round scaring folks out of their wits. I should think.”


Extraordinarily versatile and willing to experiment

Experimenting with genres and different media In 1945 Lindgren was offered the job of chil-

dren’s book editor for Rabén & Sjögren. She accepted the position and worked for the same publisher until her official retirement in 1970. Rabén & Sjögren have also published all of her books. During her time as editor her days were long, split between her writing, editing, and household chores. Most of her stories were written during the early morning hours, often in bed and always in shorthand, before the day’s real chores began. Long workdays had been a way of life on the farm, and Lindgren continued that tradition. In spite of her workload, Lindgren was a prolific writer over the years. Including picture books she wrote some eighty books altogether. She was especially productive in the 1940s and 1950s. Between 1944 and 1950 alone, she wrote Pippi Longstocking and its two sequels, two books about the Noisy Village children, three girls’ books, a detective story, two collections of fairy tales, a collection

of songs, four plays, and two picture books. As is evident from this burst of creativity, Lindgren was extraordinarily versatile and willing to experiment with a wide variety of genres. In 1946, Lindgren published her first detective novel, Bill Bergson, Master Detective, which also earned her first prize in the last ever writing competition she entered. This work was followed in 1951 by Bill Bergson Lives Dangerously and in 1953 by Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue. With Bill Bergson, Master Detective, Lindgren wanted to give young readers a book that could replace cheap blood and guts serials that glorified killing. The opening line of the book, “Blood, no doubt!” plays to readers who would otherwise veer toward these serials. From then on Lindgren has plenty of drama and suspense in store for her readers, including gang fights, old ruins, and subterranean passages reminiscent of Enid Blyton’s fictional adventure world; but astrid lindgren

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there is no glorification of violence. The setting for the novel is a small Swedish town modeled on Vimmerby in which a gang of three teen­ agers are drawn into life-threatening adventures when the war of roses takes a sudden turn and becomes deadly serious. Everything turns out well in the end, when Bill and his two teenage friends are instrumental in hunting down a gang of jewel thieves. The Bill Bergson books and Lindgren’s girls’ books about Kati, Kati in America (1950), Kati in Italy (1952), and Kati in Paris (1953), are aimed at a somewhat older audience and have not aged as well as her books for younger children. Lindgren subsequently turned away from youth literature and focused on children’s literature exclusively, conjuring up childhood play, imagination, and compensatory fantasies – many times with serious undertones. In 1954, Lindgren wrote Mio, My Son, the first of three fairy tale and fantasy novels. Lindgren uses the traditional tropes of the heroic tale 20 ❀

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and the fairy tale in this emotional and suspense-filled novel that tells the story of Karl Anders Nilsson, an unloved and neglected foster child. As he sits alone and dejected on a park bench in Stockholm one evening he finds a genie in an empty beer bottle who grants him a wish and takes him through day and night to Farawayland. There, all of his most ardent wishes and desires are fulfilled. He turns into Mio, is reunited with his real father, Father the King, and experiences warmth, love, beauty, and friendship in his father’s kingdom. But darkness threatens from the Outer Land where Sir Kato, a man with a heart of stone, reigns. Defeating Sir Kato and breaking the magic spell he had cast on the land becomes Mio’s quest. Together with his friend Pompoo, Mio rides through the enchanted landscape that Karl Anders had internalized by reading fantasy tales. They ride across the Bridge of Moonlight and through the Forest of Moonbeams to


Outer Land, where a window from Sir Kato’s black castle casts red, evil rays on the most desolate and blackest of lakes in the world. Mio plunges his magic sword right into Sir Kato’s heart of stone. The latter’s palace crumbles, the evil enchantment is lifted, and the bewitched birds turn into children again. Mio returns victorious to his father in Farawayland from where he sends greetings home that all is well with Mio. All is well that ends well, or so it seems. This positive fairy tale ending can also be read as a highly tragic outcome for Karl Anders, a cry for help by a child who sees no other solution to his predicament but escape into the world of the imagination. More than likely this would be an adult interpretation of the ending; children, the intended audience, are more than willing to make Farawayland a new and better reality for Mio. The tale of Mio is told in an almost lyrical archaic prose whose rhythmic language has suffered from its translation into English.

Yet Lindgren’s use of traditional metaphors from fairy tales and her gradual build-up of suspense to the point of sheer terror translate easily. “Perhaps I should never see such beautiful white apple blossoms again,” Mio reflects as he and Pompoo ride through the forest of moonbeams. Immediately thereafter, at the beginning of the next chapter, Lindgren has Mio repeat his fears, impressing upon the reader the danger of the situation: “Perhaps I should never see apple blossoms and green swaying trees and soft grass again.” Lindgren skillfully fuses elements from fairy tales and fantasy tales into a modern psychological narrative that is told by Karl Anders/Mio in the first person. The result is a hybrid form of fairy-tale novel in which Karl Anders uses the fairy tale’s archetypal struggle between good and evil to deal with his sadness, his aggression, his fears, and his desires. Lindgren used the fairy tale and fantasy tale repeatedly, both before and after Mio, My Son, astrid lindgren

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Astrid serves as a model for Hertha Hillfons.

From the film Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (Noisy Village).

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to touch on the plight of lonely and neglected children. Consoling children and helping them overcome difficult situations was one of the fundamental drives behind Lindgren’s writing. The situations may be as severe as that of Karl Anders Nilsson or as relatively benign as that of Tommy and Annika – because even Tommy’s and Annika’s excursions with Pippi into an exciting playland are a kind of escape from their rather boring, conventional, and confining everyday life. Eric and Karlsson-on-the-Roof (1955) and its sequels Karlsson Flies Again (1962) and The World’s Best Karlsson (1968) give us a fantasy playmate of the benign sort as well. This chubby, infantile, greedy, bragging, sulky, self-pitying, and self-absorbed yet seductive little man lives in a shed on top of Eric’s apartment building. His only claim to fame is his ability to fly, thanks to a propeller strapped to his back. As Eric’s fantasy friend he represents a less glorified image of childhood than does the 24 ❀

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wild and fancy-free Pippi. Eric is the youngest of three children in a perfectly ordinary upper middle-class Stockholm family, and Karlsson enters his life very concretely through his window at times when Eric feels left out, pushed aside, or belittled, that is at times when he feels sorry for himself. On these occasions, Eric’s compensatory alter ego, Karlsson, who is “the world’s best” at everything, lets him forget his disappointments. Eric and Karlsson sneak up on people, tease Eric’s siblings and housekeeper, dress up as ghosts and chase dim-witted robbers. Because of his ability to fly, Karlsson-on-theRoof invites comparison with Mary Poppins and Peter Pan. But he is unlike either of his predecessors. Buzzing around like a bumble bee or, better yet, a mini-helicopter, Karlsson is too childish to resemble Mary Poppins and looks more like a parody of Peter Pan than like the real one. He is also a lighter and more humorous version of Mr. Liljonkvast, the main


At a Norwegian daycare center.

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character in Lindgren’s fairy tale “In the Land of Twilight” from her collection Nils Karlsson Pyssling (1949). Mr. Liljonkvast, whose looks and demeanor evoke thoughts of death and magic, flies with Göran, who is ill and has lost his ability to walk, to the Land of Twilight where nothing matters any more. The flight takes Göran across Stockholm, which becomes enchanted in the twilight, and it ends back in Göran’s room. Whereas Pippi and Peter Pan roam the globe, both Mr Liljonkvast’s and Karlsson’s excursions are limited to spheres familiar to Göran and Eric. But here the similarities end, because Eric’s fantasy playmate is of a much more mundane sort than Göran’s. Karlsson’s favorite saying – “It’s a small matter!” – refers to all the damage that is done to the furniture and toys while he and Eric play, and it bears none of the weight of Mr. Liljonkvast’s “It doesn’t matter in the Land of Twilight”, a clear reference to death. In 1969, the renowned Royal Dramatic Theatre 26 ❀

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in Stockholm staged performances of Karlssonon-the-Roof. At the time, this was a most unusual undertaking. Now, plays based on Lindgren’s texts are performed regularly at large and small theaters all over Sweden, Scandinavia, Europe, and the United States. In Russia, where Karlsson-on-the-Roof has enjoyed an immense popularity over the years, it was staged as early as 1968 at the Teatr Satyry in Moscow and remains part of the repertoire still. Whereas adaptations of her books for the stage brought Lindgren greater publicity, her popularity in Sweden grew exponentially with the production of films and television series based on her stories. The first of Lindgren’s books to be adapted for the big screen was Bill Bergson, Master Detective. The film was released at Christmas time in 1947. Two years later, the first of four film versions about Pippi Longstocking appeared. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the well-known Swedish film director Olle Hellbom directed seventeen films based on Lindgren’s stories. With their timeless beauty and sensitivity to


From the film Nils Karlsson Pyssling.

the original texts Hellbom’s visual interpretations have become classics of Swedish children’s film. In the 1960’s, Lindgren entered the media age for good by writing scripts directly for Swedish television. Her first television series, Seacrow Island, was broadcast on Swedish television in 1964 and immediately became a tremendous success. The same year, Lindgren turned the script into a novel of the same name, depicting the adventures of the Melkerson family as summer guests on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. The story is somewhat unusual for Lindgren because of its setting. It has remained the only book by Lindgren that does not in some way have Småland or Stockholm connections. But after having spent about thirty summers in her summer cottage in the archipelago, Lindgren was quite familiar with this setting and comfortable enough to weave stories around it. It was not, however, the landscape of her childhood, the setting to astrid lindgren

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Illustration from Seacrow Island by Ilon Wikland.

which she then returned in almost all of her subsequent stories. Lindgren also wrote scripts directly for the big screen. In 1955, the film Rasmus and the Vagabond was released, and again Lindgren turned the script into a book. Lindgren’s creative talent encompasses many genres, from picture books to television scripts and mystery and fantasy novels, and she moved freely and skillfully between genres. She also felt free to play with traditional genres, to mix, expand, and alter them, thereby opening new dimensions and creating a new narratives. Rasmus and the Vagabond is successful merger of orphan and road story, extolling the beauties of a Swedish summer. Rasmus, who runs away from the orphanage to find a family that will take him in, hooks up with Paradise-Oscar, a hobo. The two start forming a close friendship while roaming through Småland. Spiced with drama and adventure and images of misery and sublime beauty, this story is, like many of Lindgren’s 28 ❀

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From the film Rasmus and the Vagabond.

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later stories, about friendship, love, and wish fulfillment. In the end, Rasmus finds his home when he is taken in by Paradise-Oscar and his wife. Oscar turns out to be a subsistence farmer with a hankering for the life of a vagabond during the summer. Presented with the choice of living with Oscar and his wife or with Oscar’s rich landlord and his wife, Rasmus chooses the former. His choice is based entirely on intuition, but readers “know” it is a wise choice. Rasmus could have had much greater material wealth, had he accepted the rich farmer’s offer to become his adopted son, but he chooses to stay with the person he loves and trusts. Intuitively, he knows about the unique combination of freedom and security he will experience there and the love of life, the appreciation of nature, and the respect for the otherness of others that characterize ParadiseOscar and his wife.

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The tale was a scantily veiled, scathing attack

Speaking up Rasmus’s choice does not just conform to ethi-

cal guidelines prevalent in children’s literature; it is also typical for Lindgren herself, because she was a non-materialistic person through and through. Lindgren made millions on all the rights to her books, films, television series, audio tapes, videotapes, and CDs with her songs and her own recordings of her stories, yet she maintained the same lifestyle throughout her life. She remained in her relatively modest Stockholm apartment and preferred to give her money away instead of increasing her own wealth. Only once, in 1976, when the tax levied on her income that year amounted to 102% did Lindgren protest. On March 10, 1976, she went on the offensive, writing an open letter to the Stockholm daily Expressen. The letter contained the fairy tale about “Pomperipossa in Monismania”. This tale addressed primarily adults, and the narrative stance is reminiscent astrid lindgren

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Astrid Lindgren in her workroom at home on Dalagatan in Stockholm in 1997.


Swedish finance minister Gunnar Sträng reads Astrid Lindgren’s tale about Pomperipossa in the Expressen newspaper.

of the Emperor’s New Clothes. As does Andersen, Lindgren uses the naïve viewpoint of a child and outsider to her advantage in order to reveal flaws and pretense in society. The tale was a scantily veiled, scathing attack during an election year against what Lindgren perceived as a thoroughly bureaucratized, conceited and self-serving Social Democratic party apparatus and regime that had been in power in Sweden for more than 40 years. The powerful and popu­ lar minister of finance, Gunnar Sträng, at first scoffed at her and ridiculed her, but fervent public discussions ensued, the law was changed, and many believe that Lindgren played a role in the Social Democrats’ loss in that autumn’s parliamentary elections. Lindgren was a Social Democrat all of her adult life and remained so after 1976. What she reacted against was above all the fact that the party had strayed too far from the Social Democratic movement and ideals she remembered from her youth. Asked once about what career she would 32 ❀

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have followed had she not become a famous writer, Lindgren answered without hesitation that she would have wanted to be a member of the early Social Democratic movement. Its values and idealism as well as basic humanitarianism were deeply anchored in Lindgren’s character. A fundamentally egalitarian and caring attitude allowed her to deflate pretentiousness and erase barriers erected by status and prestige. Lindgren treated everybody with equal warmth and respect, be it the Swedish prime minister, a foreign head of state, or one of her many child readers. In other words, Lindgren practiced what she preached, and both as preacher and practitioner she was the recipient of considerable and sustained admiration and respect from the public in Sweden and abroad. Her open letter with the tale about Pomperipossa carried such weight because by 1976 Lindgren was more than just a famous author; she was known and respected throughout Sweden. What had turned her into a VIP,

a public person known to all Swedes, were her numerous appearances on the radio and on television. Thousands of Swedish children had grown up listening to the sound of Lindgren reading her own stories on the radio. Her voice, her looks, her opinions, her wit, and her humor were familiar to the majority of Swedes since the time she had participated in quiz and talk shows on both radio and television during the 1950s and 1960s. And Lindgren had struck a chord with the Swedish public by giving voice to something characteristically Swedish, a commonly shared love and respect of nature and its beauty. When Lindgren, the farmer’s daughter from Småland, spoke out publicly again about the abuse of domesticated animals in the spring of 1985, Sweden’s prime minister listened. Lindgren had heard about widespread abuse in large animal farms in Sweden and other industrialized countries from Kristina Forslund, a veterinarian who taught at Uppsala astrid lindgren

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Opposi te page

Åsen’s village, Haurida Småland.

University. At age 78, Lindgren wrote an open letter to major Stockholm newspapers with yet another little tale, about a lovesick cow, protesting against the mistreatment of farm animals. With it she started a campaign that lasted for three years. In June 1988, an animal protection act referred to as “Lex Lindgren” became law, though it was much too wishy-washy and ineffective for the likes of its instigator. As was true of her previous engagement in matters concerning the well-being of children, society, and the environment, Lindgren’s protest was fed by personal experience. It was something she was emotionally deeply involved in. She knew that the small-scale animal husbandry she had witnessed in her childhood and youth on her parents’ and neighbors’ farms was no longer possible in the late twentieth century. What she demanded was something much more basic – respect for animals because they are living creatures with feelings.

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Lively, smart, curious, and enterprising children

Mischief and mayhem Lindgren returned to the Småland of her

childhood again in her stories about Madicken (1960; Mischievous Meg or Mardie in English) and Emil in the Soup Tureen (1963), Emil’s Pranks (1966), and Emil and Piggy Beast (1970). Mischievous Meg lives with her middle-class parents and her little sister Betsy in a comfort­ able and idyllic environment in a small Swedish town much like Vimmerby. Meg’s father is a journalist with social democratic, sometimes radical, ideas whom the town’s people call “gentleman socialist”. Her mother is more conservative and prone to headaches. But the parents are marginal characters as they are in almost all of Lindgren’s books. At the center of the narrative is the imaginary play world of the two sisters, which is portrayed with warmth and realism. The imaginative and enterprising seven-year-old Meg gets into mischief once in a while. One example is the rooftop picnic she has organized with her little sister, which ends in a dangerous flight experiment. Meg jumps

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from the roof, using an umbrella as a parachute, and ends up in bed with concussion. The episodes from Meg’s life are lighthearted and largely lack the social criticism that characterizes the second book about Meg (1976), translated as Mardie to the Rescue. Not only in this story, but in the books about Rasmus and Emil as well, social inequalities, meanness, and ugliness are not swept under the rug. Instead, they are addressed openly. Rasmus, Emil, and Meg learn about the ugliness and sour smell of poverty, the destitution of old people in the poor house, about alcoholism and how it tears at the family fabric, and about lice, and vice, and double standards. Like Meg, Emil is a well-intentioned genius at inventing pranks. In fact, both Emil and Meg are lively, smart, curious, and enterprising children who just happen into situations; or as Emil says, he never knows that what he plans to do will end up as another prank. The books about Emil are some of Lindgren’s most loved books in Sweden. Surely, their humor and the film


From the film Emil i Lönneberga (Emil).

and television series based on the books have contributed to their popularity, but in these books Lindgren also presents a vivid tapestry of life in pre-industrial Småland. She uses the narrative device of a diary that Emil’s mother keeps to relate his pranks. The real informant, how­ ever, was Lindgren’s father, a gifted storyteller in his own right, whose stories and anecdotes she has woven into the warp of the story. Its slapstick character is heightened and visualized in Björn Berg’s accompanying illustrations. Emil’s enterprising spirit gets him into trouble almost every day. He sticks his head into the soup tureen and pours blood pudding batter and blueberry soup over his father, who also gets his toe stuck in a rat trap that Emil has placed under the table. Emil hoists his little sister Ida up the flagpole and gets drunk on fermented cherries. The punishments would probably have been severe in those days, but Lindgren’s Emil escapes beatings because his mother rushes him to the toolshed every time he has done something astrid lindgren

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wrong. Beating children or animals is left to villains in Lindgren’s writing. Lindgren’s deeply held belief in non-violence extends to children and animals, indeed, it begins there. “Never Violence” was the title of Lindgren’s accept­ance speech upon receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1978, in which she eloquently defended her pacifist convictions and promoted the need to raise children without violence and corporal punishment. We all know that children who are beaten and abused will beat and abuse again, so let us stop this vicious cycle, Lindgren admonished her listeners. In the toolshed Emil can think things over and redirect his anger into creative energy by carving little wooden men. Emil’s mother, a representative of the modern empathic child education that was not practiced at the time depicted in the story, defends him even under the most harrowing circumstances. Emil has a good heart, his mother assures the reader. How else but out of the goodness of his heart did Emil 38 ❀

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put on a feast on the Second Day of Christmas for the poorest of the poor in the community, inviting the miserable, destitute souls who live in a poor house in the vicinity of their farm. As a result Emil cleans out his mother’s larder the day before holiday guests are to arrive. Emil may not have enough foresight yet, but he is generous and strong-minded. The pranks and merrymaking in the Emil books float lightly on the surface of a strong undercurrent of feelings of love and trust. Lindgren expresses this with exquisite economy of style in the brief exchange between the farmhand Alfred and Emil one lovely summer evening as they are swimming among white water lilies in the cool waters of the lake. “You and I, Alfred,” says Emil. “Yes, Emil, you and I.” Nothing more need be said to convey the deep bond between the two. These same words are repeated at another crucial point in the story when Alfred is close to death. Here too, Emil shows his caring determination when he rescues his friend by taking him to the doctor in a raging blizzard, thereby risking his own life.


A deep desire to make life happier for all children

Love and death Overcoming death through bonds of love is

a motif that Lindgren treated repeatedly in her stories, above all in her fairy tales and fantasy novels. Over the course of her long life she lost a number of good friends and close relatives. Her husband died in 1952, her mother in 1961, her father in 1969, and her brother Gunnar and some of her closest friends in 1974. Lindgren had occasion to confront and ponder the enigma of death many times. Her parents had been devout Lutherans who believed in a life hereafter, but Lindgren considered herself an agnostic. Agnosticism and scepticism, however, belong to the adult world in Lindgren’s mind. Children need stories they can cling to if they have to confront death, stories that can alleviate their fears and anxiety, and she gave them these stories. “Squire Nils of Eka”, the last tale in the collection South Wind Meadow (1959), is Lindgren’s only fairy tale about children close to death in

which the fear of death remains pervasive and tangible throughout and in which the protagonist, and the reader with him, are never fully transported into dream-fulfilling other-worlds. For this reason it is also her only fairy tale in which the main protagonist recovers from his life-threatening illness in the end. Nils, a poor farmer’s son, is seriously ill and fighting for his life. In his feverish dreams he sacrifices his life for that of his king, while the cuckoo outside his room calls equally feverishly, foreboding death. Yet, against all expectations, Nils re­ covers and is soon able to enjoy the beauties of spring outside his window. Göran in the tale The Land of Twilight, who flies through the Land of Twilight with Mr. Liljonkvast, experiences death as the fulfillment of his dreams and desires. So too do the two poor, abused, and exhausted children who work for a brutal farmer and who freeze to death in the snow on their way home from school in the tale South Wind Meadow.

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The artist Ilon Wikland has illustrated the great majority of Astrid Lindgren’s books.

Karl Lion in The Brothers Lionheart (1973), who is also sick and close to death, is another one of Lindgren’s protagonists for whom death means liberation from suffering. In each of her tales, but especially in her latter ones, Lindgren created a true children’s paradise. Her Land of Twilight, South Wind Meadow, Farawayland, and Nangiyala may differ in the details of topography, but all contain pastoral scenes in which love, warmth, friendship, beauty, adventure, and food abound, and in which the main characters are transformed into strong, healthy, and courageous heroes. Lindgren was a writer who depended on inspiration and intuition. Not an idea or a concept, but a feeling or an image would cause a story to well up within Lindgren. Names like Pippi Longstocking or Mr. Liljonkvast – both invented by her daughter Karin – opened up a world of images and stories. A lonely little boy sitting alone on a bench in the park close to her house became the opening scene and inspiration for 40 ❀

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Mio, My Son. The Brothers Lionheart congealed from an unearthly experience of beauty on a crystal clear winter morning in northern Sweden and the impression of a gravestone at Vimmerby cemetery with the inscription: “Here lie the two young brothers Fahlén.” Empathy with children who are deprived in one way or another and a deep desire to make life happier for all children were driving forces in Lindgren’s writing. Children who are wellcared for like Tommy and Annika or Eric in the Karlsson-on-the-Roof books are allowed to stay in their environment but are given a playmate who will add excitement and wonder to their lives, counteracting momentary doldrums and fits of anger and anguish. On the other hand, Mio and Karl Lion, who is the younger of the two brothers Lionheart, need Farawayland and Nangiyala to escape their misery. Their excursions into the realm of fantasy are not a matter of whim or a desire for entertainment, but a necessity in coping with


loneliness, lovelessness, and impending death. Their heroic struggles in life are sublimated in the heroic tales about Mio and the brothers Lionheart, which are drawn in stark images and powerful language. The Brothers Lionheart is a variation on the theme and structure of Mio, My Son and de­velops it further. It spans the full range of expression from the gripping and exhilerating to the funny and lyrical. The opening lines “Now I am going to tell you about my brother. My brother Jonathan Lionheart is the person I want to tell you about”, are characteristic of Lindgren’s use of oral tale-telling techniques, such as the direct address of the reader, repetition, and simplicity of sentence structure. With narrative devices like these Lindgren immediately establishes a closeness and personal rapport with readers who will empathize and identify with the ailing Karl Lion who is confined to the kitchen sofa bed. Karl lost his beloved brother, who had taken care of him and had

told him stories before their apartment caught fire. Jonathan died as he tried to save his brother from the fire by jumping out of a second floor window with his brother on his back. Karl is distraught by feelings of guilt, by thoughts of his own impending death. He misses his brother terribly until his fantasies carry him off to Nangiyala, a place already familiar to him from Jonathan’s stories. There the two brothers re­ unite. Like Mio, they too have to confront an enemy, Lord Tengil. However, in The Brothers Lionheart it is not fate but individual responsibility that counts. Whereas Mio in true fairytale fashion was helped by magic, the Brothers Lionheart have to rely on individual courage. Only their courageous action can eventually free Wild Rose Valley from the rule of cruel Lord Tengil and his fire-spewing dragon Katla. In the decisive battle the dragon’s fire paralyzes Jonathan, and it becomes Karl’s task to save his brother by jumping into the abyss, carrying his brother on his back, in order to reach the new paradise, Nangilima. astrid lindgren

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The double suicide that concludes this novel became quite controversial when the novel appeared in Sweden in 1973. What critics overlooked was the wonderfully redemptive quality of Karl’s final jump and the novel’s life-affirming qualities evident in its prominent themes of non-violence and love. Jonathan’s adage and demanding ethical guideline for Karl (and readers) is quite simply that you have to care and to rally the courage to fight evil if you want to call yourself a human being and not “just a piece of filth”. Opposi te page

From the film The Brothers Lionheart.

The jury for the Peace Prize of the German 42 ❀

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Book Trade, however, recognized Lindgren’s message in The Brothers Lionheart and her liter­ ary efforts on behalf of peaceful coexistence and a dignified way of life for all men and creatures in her overall work by awarding her the prestigious Peace Prize. In The Brothers Lionheart the issue of violence versus non­violence is presented with greater complexity than in Mio, My Son. In order to oust the tyrant Tengil, a battle seems unavoidable. In an argument over strategy between the freedom fighter Orvar and Karl Lion, Orvar’s position to undo violence with violence is contradicted by Karl’s statement that violence would no longer exist if everyone would be and act like his pacifist brother Jonathan. But that remains a projection into the future. At present, viol­ ence is ubiquitous. Consequently, a gruesome battle takes place in the novel and many people give their lives in order to save Wild Rose Valley from Tengil’s powerful grasp. However, Jonathan, like Pippi, finds a non-violent way to defeat the tyrant by outsmarting him.



A life that does not depend on the exploitation of others

Blueprint for the future Everything that happens in real life must

Opposi te page

From the film Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter.

have happened in someone’s imagination first, Lindgren believed. She hoped that non­violence as a concept would enter her readers’ imagination and, eventually, their shared imagination and culture. In forty-five years of writing this was a consistent message and driving force. In her last great novel, Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (1981), peaceful cooper­ ation and a life that does not depend on the exploitation of others and of nature is again a prominent theme. Ronia is the grand tale of resistance and empowerment that Lindgren told in so many ways in chapters and episodes of her fantastic and her realistic books, beginning with Pippi Longstocking. Pippi and Ronia, two strong female protagonists, demarcate the beginning and the end of Lindgren’s career as a children’s author. They initiate and conclude a string of strong and enterprising fictional characters that are lodged in-between, such as Kajsa Kavat (1950, not translated), 44 ❀

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Lisa, Bill, Rasmus, Meg, Jonathan Lionheart, and Emil. All of them represent the new role model for children; no longer the well-behaved, meek Annika, but a curious, rough and ready child full of enterprising spirit and caring determination. In Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, Lindgren combines the wisdom of old age and the wisdom of the ages with modern feminist ideas as she blends a variety of genres including folktale, robber’s tale, heroic quest, female Bildungsroman, and love story to make it a narrative uniquely her own. Fundamental existential concerns about life and death, war and peace, and nature and civilization are raised in a dramatic, suspenseful and at the same time highly poetic narrative spiced with wit and humor. The struggle between good and evil that has to be resolved by open confrontation remains, but takes a back seat in this novel to Ronia’s struggle to find peaceful resolutions through negotiation.



Born during a fierce thunderstorm into a robber family of strong-willed people, Ronia, a humanized version of Pippi, is destined to become strong and fiercely independent. One of the most important lessons Ronia has to learn is overcoming fear as she grows up in one half of the robbers’ fort deep in the forest. During her explorations of the forest she meets Birk, the only son of the enemy clan of robbers that has moved into the other half of the fort. A close friendship and budding love develops between Ronia and Birk, who save each other’s lives and decide to move away from home together. This is their first step toward a life together, refuting the values of their respective parents, who are constantly at war with each other and with society beyond the forest. These two young people vow not to perpetuate the violence inherent in the robber’s way of life. Ronia’s and Birk’s decision not to continue in the footsteps of their parents by becoming robbers is a message of non-violence that can be detected in all of Lindgren’s writing, 46 ❀

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but she had not stated it as forcefully before as on the last pages of her last great novel. Characteristically however, Lindgren leaves a little opening for doubt in her grand vision at the end of the book. The new life Ronia and Birk envision is as yet only a promising possibility that may or may not be a fairy tale that Noddle Pete, the oldest and wisest robber – and Lindgren’s mouthpiece in the novel – had whispered in Ronia’s ears before he died. Lindgren herself always possessed in large measure the agility, energy, curiosity, wit, courage, and caring attitude that characterizes Ronia and many of her fictional heroes and heroines, and she remained active and involved right up into her late eighties. In Sweden, at least, she became a living legend, because she entertained, inspired, and consoled generations of readers, influenced Swedish politics, changed laws, and, last but not least, had a major impact on children’s literature.


SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY english title (title in brackets = not published in english)

swedish title

The year of publication refers to the Swedish title.

1944 1945 1945 1946 1946 1947 1948 1949 1949 1950 1950 1951 1952 1952 1953 1953 1954 1955 1956 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1966 1968 1970 1971 1973 1973 1976 1981 1984 1985 1986 1987

(The Confidences of Britt-Mari) (Kerstin and I) Pippi Longstocking Pippi Goes on Board/Aboard Bill Bergson, Master Detective The Six Bullerby Children Pippi in the South Seas (More about the Bullerby Children) (Nils Karlsson-Pyssling or Simon Small) (Kajsa Kavat) Kati in America Bill Bergson Lives Dangerously (Having Fun in Bullerby) Kati in Italy Bill Bergson and the White Rose Rescue Kati in Paris Mio, My Son Eric and Karlsson-on-the-Roof (UK), Karlson on the Roof (US) Rasmus and the Vagabond (US), Rasmus and the Tramp (UK) The Children on Troublemaker Street (US), The Mischievous Martens (UK) South Wind Meadow Mischievous Meg (UK), Madicken (UK), Mardie (UK), Mardie’s Adventures (UK) Lotta on Troublemaker Street (US), Lotta Leaves home (UK), Lotta (UK) Karlsson Flies Again (UK) Emil in the Soup Tureen Seacrow Island Emil’s Pranks (US), Emil Gets into Mischief (UK) The World’s Best Karlsson Emil and His Clever Pig (UK) (My Inventions) (Samuel August from Sevedstorp and Hanna in Hult) The Brothers Lionheart Mardie to the Rescue (UK) Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (US), The Robber’s Daughter (UK) Emil’s Little Sister (UK) Emil’s Sticky Problem (No Stinginess, said Emil from Lönneberga) (Assar Bubble)

Britt-Mari lättar sitt hjärta Kerstin och jag Pippi Långstrump Pippi Långstrump går ombord Mästerdetektiven Blomkvist Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn Pippi Långstrump i Söderhavet Mera om oss barn i Bullerbyn Nils Karlsson-Pyssling Kajsa Kavat Kati i Amerika Mästerdetektiven Blomkvist lever farligt Bara roligt i Bullerbyn Kati på Kaptensgatan or Kati i Italien Kalle Blomkvist och Rasmus Kati i Paris Mio min Mio Lillebror och Karlsson på taket Rasmus på luffen Barnen på Bråkmakargatan Sunnanäng Madicken Lotta på Bråkmakargatan Karlsson på taket flyger igen Emil i Lönneberga Vi på Saltkråkan Nya hyss av Emil i Lönneberga Karlsson på taket smyger igen Än lever Emil i Lönneberga Mina påhitt Samuel August från Sevedstorp och Hanna i Hult Bröderna Lejonhjärta Madicken och Junibackens Pims Ronja rövardotter När lilla Ida skulle göra hyss Emils hyss nr 325 Inget knussel, sa Emil i Lönneberga Assar Bubbla

In addition, there are a large number of feature films, television programs, picture books, plays and songbooks, some of which are based on these books.

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Picture credits Cover photo: Jacob Forsell page 2 Astrid Lindgren’s archive, photo: Jonas Ekströmer/SCANPIX © Pressens Bild page 3 Astrid Lindgren’s bookshelf, photo: Jan E Carlsson © Pressens Bild page 4 photo: Jacob Forsell © Pressens Bild page 6 photo: Bonnier Archive © Pressens Bild page 7 photo: from the film Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (Noisy Village) © 1986 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Åke Ottosson/Denise Grünstein page 9 illustration from Springtime in Noisy Village by Ilon Wikland page 11 photo: © Pål Nils Nilsson page 12 photo: © Pressens Bild page 14 illustration from Pippi in the South Seas by Ingrid Vang-Nyman page 15 photo: Jan Delden, Pressens Bild © AP pages 16 and 18 illustration from Pippi Longstocking by Ingrid Vang-Nyman page 17 photo: © Pressens Bild pages 21 and 47 illustrations from Mio, My Son by Ilon Wikland page 22 photo: from the film Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn (Noisy Village) © 1986 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Åke Ottosson/Denise Grünstein page 23 photo: © Jacob Forsell page 24 illustration from Eric and Karlsson-on-the-Roof by Ilon Wikland page 25 photo: Bjørn Sigurdsøn © SCANPIX page 27 photo: from the film Nils Karlsson Pyssling © 1990 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Janne Rydqvist page 28 illustration from Seacrow Island by Ilon Wikland page 29 photo: from the film Rasmus and the Vagabond © 1981 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Olle Nordemar/ Torbjörn Andersson pages 29 and 30 illustrations from Rasmus and the Vagabond by Eric Palmqvist page 31 photo: Jonte Wentzel © Pressens Bild page 32 photo: Sven-Erik Sjöberg © Pressens Bild page 34 photo: Göran Gustafson © Pressens Bild page 35 photo: Olle Wester © Pressens Bild page 36 illustrations from Mardie to the Rescue by Ilon Wikland page 37 photo: from the film Emil i Lönneberga (Emil) © 1971 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Lars Erik Svantesson pages 37 and 38 illustrations from Emil and His Clever Pig by Björn Berg page 39 illustration from South Wind Meadow by Ilon Wikland page 40 photo: Jan E Carlsson © Pressens Bild page 42 illustration from The Brothers Lionheart by Ilon Wikland page 43 photo: from the film The Brothers Lionheart © 1977 AB Svensk Filmindustri pages 44 and 46 illustrations from Ronia, the Robbers’s Daughter by Ilon Wikland page 45 photo: from the film Ronia, the Robbers’s Daughter © 1984 AB Svensk Filmindustri. Movie still: Joakim Strömholm/Denise Grünstein page 47 illustration from Mio, My Son by Ilon Wikland All illustrations are taken from the Swedish editions.



ASTRID LINDGREN is far and away Sweden’s best-known author internationally. Her books have been translated into some eighty languages, and the cavalcade of memorable characters she created over the years — Pippi Longstocking and Karlsson-on-the-Roof, to name but two — have delighted generations of children around the world.

In her homeland, however, Astrid Lindgren was more than just a much-loved writer. She was a cherished national icon, a public figure known for her conscience and integrity. In 2007, the 100th anniversary of her birth will be celebrated all over the world.