Bonnie's Reviews > Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
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it was amazing
bookshelves: children-s-books, reviewed-books, recommended, fiction, novel
Read 3 times. Last read August 7, 2009.

5 stars *(My child-experience rating, though my adult rating wouldn’t differ much.)

As an adult, I find it interesting to revisit books I read as a child. Pippi Longstocking is one of two I remember most vividly; The Ugly Duckling is the other. These stories are so different from one another that I find it odd – it must say something about my personality as a child.

Rereading Pippi recently, I laughed out loud throughout the first half of the story and then I’m not sure what happened. Maybe “Monkey mind” took over my brain. (“Monkey mind” is a Buddhist term that refers to a “mental busyness that separates us from our true hearts”.) Astrid Lindgren has been quoted as saying that “if an adult reads her books, it means there’s a kid living in their souls, like it did inside hers.” So maybe the adult-I-am shut down the child-in-me after a while. Or maybe the novelty simply wore off after a hundred or so pages. But, I did keep smiling; it’s just that my rather loud laugh no longer ricocheted off the trees and mountains around me as I read outdoors on the deck.

Like children throughout the last 64 years, since Lindgren first cast her character onto the page and into the world, today’s sophisticated child will likely still be highly entertained by “Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim’s Daughter Longstocking, daughter of Captain Efraim Longstocking, formerly the Terror of the Sea, now a cannibal king” as Pippi explains to the teacher when she decides to go to school – for a day. Pippi decides she doesn’t need to learn her “pluttification tables” and so that is the end of that. Who could resist a 9 year-old girl living alone with no parents – no one is there to tell her when “to go to bed just when she’s having the most fun”? Pippi believes her father is still alive and she waits for him in their house called Villa Villekulla, along with Mr. Nilsson, her pet monkey, and her horse, that she bought with one of the many gold pieces in the big suitcase she carried from the ship. Pippi is so strong she can carry more than a suitcase of gold – she can lift a whole horse. And, as the reader finds out in Chapter 3 “Pippi Plays Tag with Some Policemen”, there is not one police officer who is stronger than she is.

Pippi’s foils come in the form of neighbours Tommy and Annika, “good, well brought up, and obedient children” who first encounter the “most remarkable girl they have ever seen” when Miss Pippi goes out for her “morning promenade.” It is through their eyes that we learn that “Her hair, the color of a carrot, was braided in two tight braids that stuck straight out. Her nose was the shape of a very small potato and was dotted all over with freckles.” Her dress was also unusual: Pippi had wanted it to be blue but ran out of cloth so had to use scraps of red. She also wore a pair of long stockings, one brown and one black, and a pair of black shoes, exactly twice as long as her feet. “These shoes her father had bought for her in South America so that Pippi would have something to grow into.” Indeed, as her two best friends come to understand, Pippi had been traveling all over world while they had been attending school. She makes up stories about the people in many of the countries, and when her friends accuse her of lying, that it’s “wicked to lie,” Pippi concedes that it is, “But I forget it now and then… and let me tell you that in the Congo there is not a single person who tells the truth. They lie all day long. Begin at seven in the morning and keep on until sundown. So if I should happen to lie now and then, you must try to excuse me and to remember it is only because I stayed in the Congo a little too long. We can be friends anyway, can’t we?”

Like children everywhere, how could these children from a conventional home resist the outrageous, uproarious, extraordinary life that defines Pippi as one of the most controversial and popular characters to enter the world scene of children’s literature? When Annika wonders who does tell Pippi when to go to bed at night, Pippi says she tells herself. “First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; and then, if I don’t mind, I tell myself again more sharply; and if I still don’t mind, then I’m in for a spanking – see?” She messily makes pancakes, and when the yolk lands in her hair, well, she always did hear that yolk was good for the hair, and soon hers will “begin to grow so fast it will crackle. As a matter of fact, in Brazil…”

Pippi Longstocking has been published in more than 100 countries and 85-plus languages, from Arabic to Zulu, winning awards in Russia, Denmark, Chili, and Sweden. Who would have believed that from the time Lindgren began writing this story in 1944, she would end up topping the list of Sweden’s best-selling authors, become the winner of the Hans Christian Anderson International Gold Medal, as well as the Smile International Children’s Award? Not Astrid Lindgren and the many readers who were shocked by Pippi. Lindgren evidently said, “I was personally quite shaken by Pippi, and I remember that I ended my letter to the company, ‘In the hope that you don’t warn the child welfare officer.’”

Two years ago, the China Children’s Art Theatre joined with Swedish artists to adapt this story into a musical to mark the 100th year of Lindgren’s birth. And when some from the “typically conservative Chinese culture” claimed Pippi a bit too naughty, the drama’s director said, “the story is just about children, and Pippi rebels against adults who do something wrong to children. Pippi is not a bad child, just humourous.” Astrid Lindgren said she wrote for children “to teach them how to be more human and understanding people.” With Pippi’s heroic acts such as teaching bullies and would-be-burglars a lesson, and saving two little boys in a house fire, made “believable” by the feats she was able to form in the circus, I think the author succeeded. Speaking of the circus, when the crowd is offered a hundred dollars to anyone who can “conquer the Mighty Adolf” Pippi knows she can do it, “but I think it would be too bad to, because he looks so nice.” When Annika tells Pippi she couldn’t possibly because Adolf is the strongest man in the world, Pippi says, “Man, yes… but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.”

No wonder I loved this book as a child! And now that I think of it, it isn’t odd at all that The Ugly Duckling and Pippi Longstocking are two of my most memorable earlier reads: the duckling discovers that the beauty he was seeking was inside himself all along; and Pippi, although unconventional, does the things she wants, but she tries always to never intentionally hurt or harm any one or any thing. She has a strong sense of self, and she proves to be a loyal and generous friend.

Pippi Longstocking will endure for many more years for the simple reason that Pippi will inspire her young readers to let their imaginations soar so high and wide that no matter what the odds, a belief in yourself will direct you onto any path you choose. It worked for me.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Started Reading
August 7, 2009 – Finished Reading
August 11, 2009 – Shelved
August 11, 2009 – Shelved as: children-s-books
August 11, 2009 – Shelved as: reviewed-books
August 11, 2009 – Shelved as: recommended
August 11, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
August 11, 2009 – Shelved as: novel

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather i really wanna read this it sounds great but i have so many books to read

Bonnie Heather, as I recall, this is a fast read and it will lift your spirits and maybe even make you feel more optimistic about people and life in general. I think that is the best thing one can hope for in reading certain books: if one wants to toss aside the way the events of the world are enfolding (or folding) around us these days and escape into something entirely otherwordly (can't think of another word at the moment), then this book may very well do that.

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