Allison's Book Bag

The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Posted on: February 23, 2013

Imagine being nine years old and living on one’s own. However do you handle it? Well, it might help if you’re the strongest and richest girl in the girl. This week I reread The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, which contains all three Pippi novels by Astrid Lindgren, as part of my ongoing study of literary anti-heroes. Pippi does whatever she desires, whenever she wants, which is a reason her character caused controversy when first introduced and to this day appears on lists of female anti-heroes. Yet there is no reason to worry she’ll corrupt anyone, for Pippi’s heart is always in the right place.

What are some of Pippi’s more questionable habits? There is her penchant for making up stories, talking back to adults, and playing hooky from school. When Pippi first meets neighbors Tommy and Annika, she is walking backwards. In explaining her actions, Pippi declares, “Can’t a person walk any way she wants to? For that matter, let me tell you that in Egypt everyone walks that way, and nobody thinks it the least strange.” Annika reprimands her, saying it’s wicked to lie. Pippi looks sad and explains that she forgets once and awhile about the need to be honest. How could one expect anything different from a child whose mother is an angel, whose father is a cannibal, and who herself has sailed on the ocean all her life? As the two children become friends with Pippi, they come to realize that Pippi doesn’t always tell lies. When she does, it’s usually to weave a story for fun or make a point to a stranger. That leads me to her habit of talking back to adults. One day a stranger comes to Villa Villekulla and starts making plans to tear it down. When Annika and Tommy implore him to not chop down their old oak, he retorts that he doesn’t climb trees but also brushes off their concern because he intends to buy the place. When he finally starts a conversation with Pippi, he insults her red hair. Pippi in turn asks him, “Do you know in what way we are alike?” Then she tells him, “Both of us have big mouths. Except me.” Some might say that children should be seen and not heard; others might say the stranger deserved her back talk. Last, there is her truancy. Soon after Annika and Tommy meet Pippi, they convince her to attend school with them. The teacher tries to teach arithmetic to Pippi, but Pippi doesn’t understand how seven and five can equal twelve while at the same time eight and four can also equal twelve. Having tried to explain the rules of spelling to students, I can understand Pippi’s confusion: education doesn’t always make sense. Next, the teacher tries to teach reading to Pippi, but Pippi doesn’t understand how a letter that looks like a line with a fly speck over top can be an “i.” Both the teacher and Pippi decide that school is not the right choice for her. Is this ever a choice that should be made in the real word for children? No. Sometimes one has to just relax and enjoy a book’s fantasies.

What are ways in which Pippi is the perfect role model? Pippi is always a good friend. Moreover, despite her somewhat flippant attitude with adults, she is kind and courageous. How is Pippi a good friend? She regularly surprises Annika and Tommy with treats, especially at the bottom of her oak tree. When her two friends are sick and stuck indoors, Pippi climbs outside their window and amuses them. In the third book, she invites them to vacation with her in the South Seas. When they return too late for Christmas, she decorates her house and blesses them with gifts. How is Pippi kind? During a shopping spree, a large crowd of children gather to watch her in the candy store. While the children’s parents probably don’t feel great about Pippi having fed their children enough candy to make them sick, the children sure learned to keep watch for her. Pippi next proceeds to the toy store, where she bought a little of everything to distribute to the children. Pippi isn’t just tender-hearted to children. One day, two burglars attempt to rob her. After they apologize, Pippi takes pity on them. She asks them to dance with her, then feeds them food, and even allows them to take one gold piece each. How is Pippi courageous? When the town’s Skyscraper caught on fire and trapped two children, Pippi tied a rope to a nearby tree and then placed a board between the tree and the house. Without blinking an eye, Pippi walked across the board and rescued the two boys.

Few of us have the strength to attempt the latter feat. Most of us don’t have bags of gold that allows us to buy up the town. However, we can do right by our friends, stand up to mean people, and use our imagination to enrich our lives. In these ways, Pippi serves as an example of how to act. As for those other ways, well, isn’t it fun to pretend?

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

4 Responses to "The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren"

I’m not sure why, but I have never read Pippi Longstocking, either as a child, or as an adult reading to my daughters when they were small – I’ve obviously missed out, and must remedy the situation as soon as possible.

Oh, that’s like my school students never having encountered any fairy tales. Sad but true. 😦 Yes, you must read Pippi!

Reading “World’s Queen of Fairy Tales: Astrid Lindgren” stimulated me to reread the three Pippi Longstocking books. I enjoyed them as much as the first time that I read them, mainly because of Pippi herself but also because of the fantastic episodes she participated in and the exaggerated but realistic characterisations of some of the people she came in contact with. Thanks, Allison, for giving me an excuse to reread them.

When growing up, I used to read the jacket flaps of books to learn everything I could about an author. The internet sure has expanded the availability of information. I enjoyed learning more about Astrid Lindgren, who seems like a unique person herself.

Researching the topic of anti-heroes gave me an excuse to reread the Pippi Longstocking books. I’m glad to rediscover them again and am trying to decide whether to recommend them to my husband. Neither of you are fans of fantastical stories, but maybe he’d like them as much as you.

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