It hasn´t escaped many that the world’s strongest girl Pippi Longstocking is celebrating her 70th birthday this year. We asked Johan Palmberg , Astrid Lindgren’s great grandson and member of the ALMA jury, to write a few lines about the celebrations:
When I am not in meetings with the ALMA jury, I work for a company called Saltkråkan AB. Our job, broadly speaking, is to make sure that Astrid’s books keep being read by children all over the world. This year, we have been celebrating the fact that it has been 70 years since the first book about Pippi Longstocking was published in Sweden. It’s been a quite hectic spring for us, sending out materials to everyone interested in joining in the celebration and trying to coordinate the publishers with the embassies and libraries in different parts of the World.
The story of Pippi Longstocking’s conception is quite well-known, but perhaps it deserves to be told here as well. Her official birthday is May 21st, which is also the birthday of Astrid’s daughter Karin. It was Karin that received the first manuscript of Pippi on her tenth birthday as a present from her mother. But it all began a couple of years earlier, when Karin was lying sick in bed with pneumonia, demanding to be entertained by her mother. After a while, when Astrid couldn’t think of any more stories to tell, she asked her daughter what she wanted to hear about. “Tell me about Pippi Longstocking”, Karin said, and, as Astrid later noted, since it was a remarkable name, it had to be a remarkable girl. Some years later, it was Astrid’s turn to be confined to her bed, after she had slipped on ice and broken her leg during one of the extremely cold war winters. To pass the time, she started to write down the stories that had entertained her children and their friends for years.
The rest is more or less history. The first book about Pippi was an immediate success, and the stories about her have since been translated into seventy languages – from Azerbaijani to Vietnamese – with new ones added every year. Here at Saltkråkan, we are of course very aware of this, but I don’t think that I had fully grasped what an international symbol she actually is until now, as photos of the celebrations are sent to us from around the world. You can see some of them here. It is amazing to think that that story about the incredibly strong girl with red braids and freckles, which started as a way to pass the time for a sick child, still resonates so strongly with children of today.
We are often asked why Pippi Longstocking is such an enduring character, what it is about her that makes generation after generation love her. Astrid once said that she thinks it has to do with the fact that she is this all powerful and completely independent child, and that independence and power is something that all children long for intensely. Pippi then becomes some sort of wish fulfilment – an opportunity to fantasize about what it would be like to not have grownups telling you what to do all the time. To be completely free. There is of course some truth to that. Although for me, the main reason is that she is endlessly funny.