Our girl protagonist of February is Pippi Longstocking! She is the main character in an eponymous series of children’s books by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi was named by Lindgren’s daughter Karin, who asked her mother for a get-well story when she was off school. Pippi Longstocking quickly became popular in Sweden upon publication, and by the end of the 1940s, 300,000 copies had been sold. As of 2009, the book has been translated into 64 languages.
Pippi is red-haired, freckled, unconventional and superhumanly strong – able to lift her horse one-handed. She is playful and unpredictable. She often makes fun of unreasonable adults, especially if they are pompous and condescending. Her anger comes out in extreme cases, such as when a man ill-treats his horse. Pippi, like Peter Pan, does not want to grow up. She is the daughter of a buccaneer captain and has adventure stories to tell about that, too. Her four best friends are her horse and monkey, and the neighbours’ children, Tommy and Annika.
Before we continue with more of Pippi’s stories, please be aware that from now on the post contains spoilers from the book.
The original Swedish language books set Pippi’s full name as Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump, which contains some invented words that cannot be translated directly. Consequently, English language books and films about Pippi have given her name in different forms, as well as other books in other languages.
At the start of the titular novel, the nine-year-old Pippi moves into Villa Villekulla, her house that she shares with her monkey named Mr. Nilsson and her horse, and quickly befriends the two children living next door, Tommy and Annika Settergren. With her suitcase of gold coins, she maintains an independent lifestyle without her parents: her mother died soon after her birth, and her father, Captain Ephraim Longstocking, is first missing at sea, and then, king of a South Sea island.
Despite periodic attempts by village authorities to make her conform to cultural expectations of what a child’s life should be, Pippi happily lives free from social conventions. According to Eva-Maria Metcalf, Pippi “loves her freckles and her tattered clothes and makes not the slightest attempt to suppress her wild imagination or to adopt good manners.” She has a penchant for storytelling, which often takes the form of tall tales.
When discussing Pippi, Astrid Lindgren explained that “Pippi represents my own childish longing for a person who has power but does not abuse it.” Although she is the self-proclaimed “strongest girl in the world,” Pippi often uses nonviolence to solve conflicts or protect other children from bullying. Pippi has been variously described by literary critics as “warm-hearted,” compassionate, kind, clever, generous, playful, and witty to the point of besting adult characters in conversation.
Pippi Longstocking inspires us that we could use power not to bully others, but to protect them. And even though we have power, we can still use nonviolence to solve conflicts.
Need other kinds of inspiration? Just check Adorageek’s other posts!