1 April 2018 Susannah

The Life and Writings of Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren around 1960

I have been delving into the life and writings of Astrid Lindgren, who was a remarkable woman. In the 1920s she had an illegitimate baby and had to place him in foster care for some years. This made her really think about children’s needs, and would hugely influence her writing. She was an early environmentalist, she wrote about bullying before it became fashionable to do so, and she influenced politics, animal welfare and helped shape decades of children’s fiction.

Astrid Lindgren books

Astrid Lindgren books

The first biography of Astrid Lindgren in English is Astrid Lindgren: The Women Behind Pippi Longstocking by Jens Andersen – a most interesting read. Did you know that she is the 4th most translated writer for children (after Enid Blyton, Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm) and the 18th most translated writer in the world (95 different languages). Recently the diaries she kept during the war have also been translated into English and published as A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939 – 1945.

Stieg Larsson read Pippi Longstocking and decided he would depict Pippi grown up – he did this with Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lindgren has appeared on a bank note and a postage stamp, a minor planet has been named after her, there is a Lindgren theme park, her former homes are museums, and statues of her adorn several parks. Her books about the Bullerby children (in English the first one is known as The Children of Noisy Village) have given rise to ‘Bullerby Syndrome’, which is an over-rosy view of Swedishness (coloured wooden houses, crystal lakes, deep green forests and happy blond-haired children). Astrid Lindgren’s influence has been extensive.

And now a biopic about her life, focusing on the birth of her baby out of wedlock (highly scandalous in what was then a very puritanical Sweden), has been made. ‘Becoming Astrid’ was released at the Berlin Film Festival in February with Alba August as Astrid. Hopefully we will soon get to see it in Australia.

What do you think of the Pippi Longstocking stories? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Susannah Fullerton: Literary Statue – Astrid Lindgren
Susannah Fullerton: Writers On The Money
Susannah Fullerton: Literary Travels
Susannah Fullerton: Literary Films

Susannah Fullerton Video Talk: Literary Scandinavia – Susannah’s Top Ten Places to Visit
Susannah Fullerton Video Talk: Pippi Longstocking – Astrid Lindgrent

Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
The Pippi Longstocking 4 Book Set by Astrid Lindgren
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking by Jens Andersen
A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren, 1939 – 1945 by Astrid Lindgren

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Featured image credit- Astrid Lindgren around 1960, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4568453
Body image credit- Bookcover images from https://www.goodreads.com/

Comments (18)

  1. Ruth Wilson

    I met Pippi very recently, catching up with great grandchildren on a library visit. BUT – no one can replace Judy in Seven Little Australians in my childhood literary heart. Her death scene was my absolute favourite and I sobbed over it when I need an excuse for good cry! I fell in love with the whole family of divinely naughty children. Dear Susannah, what about an Australian literary tour of billabongs and coastlines? Love every one of your literary introductions – Ruth

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Like you, I sobbed over Judy. When I read it to my daughter I could hardly read for weeping. Then we watched the TV adaptation and wept all over again! I also sobbed over the death of Bobs the horse in the Billabong books. Did you read those too?
      I have often been asked to lead an Aussie literary tour. The difficulty is that there are not that many actual places to visit – authors’ homes that are open to the public are in short supply in Australia. It is really sad that Ethel Turner’s house has been hugely changed and is in private hands. It should be a museum, as should the DH Lawrence house in Thirroul and the Patrick White house in Sydney. However, I will give your idea more thought, Ruth.

  2. Jennifer Gray

    I loved the adventures of Pippi Longstocking when I was a child. She was such a unique character, and was able to do whatever she liked! I was jealous of her freedom.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also envied her freedom, and her strength. Such a fabulous character!

  3. Angela Rodd

    I’m reading Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows” (published in about 1910) to two granddaughters aged 5 and 7, and I don’t know which of us is enjoying it most! I think they’d love “Pippi Longstocking” which I’ve never read but am now inspired to. Wish I could come on your Scandinavian tour, Susannah. Maybe next year.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Did you know that A A Milne judged people on their reactions to The Wind in the Willows? You and your granddaughters would obviously meet with his approval. It is such an utterly wonderful book. My favourite line in it is when Toad is driving and we are told that “the rush of the air intoxicated his weak brain”. I often think of that when bad drivers speed past me – their weak brains have also been intoxicated.
      I wish you were both coming to Scandinavia with me!!!

  4. I used to love the Pippi Longstocking books when I was a child. Read them in Dutch.
    High time for me te read them again ( in English this time) plus the books you mention about the author .
    Thanks for reminding me of them.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am so pleased that my piece on Astrid Lindgren is bringing back happy memories of childhood reading for so many people.

  5. Helen

    I loved every one of her books. I read them aloud to my children,and also to the children I taught over many years. I didn’t ever come across a child who felt anything other than admiration and love for this tenacious,loving and hilarious character. I still chuckle to myself at some of her outrageous exploits and her courage and daring in the face of adversity.
    Thank you for delving into the life of Pippi’s creator,whose contribution to the childrens’ literary canon must be significant.
    Now, I think I might take one of Astrid Lindren’s book off my self and immerse myself in Pippi’s adventures.

    Thank you for the recent Winston Graham talk,Susannah. It was wonderful.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for sharing your experience of teaching Pippi and the other Astrid Lindgren books. I am delighted you enjoyed my Poldark talk.

  6. Sabine

    Aside from Pippi I also lovd Ronja the robbers daughter, The brothers lionheart, Madita and the storries from Lonneberga (not sure what the English title is). Thanks for reminding me. I might have to get them out again.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The Brothers Lionheart is so sad. According to the new biography, it was also controversial. Enjoy your re-reading.

  7. The Astrid Lindgren Archive, held in the National Library of Sweden, was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register in 2005, recognising the world significance of her work.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it great when a writer’s archive is protected and appreciated like that. I will be visiting the National Library and seeing the archive in July.

  8. Nicolette

    Honestly for me it was not so much Pippi but the Bullerby children that shaped my childhood, it was not all roses in the stories (as suggested) but they had such fun, they were some of my favourite childhood companions.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I don’t know how I missed the Bullerby books as a child, but have loved discovering them as an adult. You are right – they are not unbelievably rosy and happy, so it is interesting that Bullerby Syndrome was named for them. They have great charm.

  9. Paticia Rovik

    Thanks, Susannah, for telling me about the film about the great Swedish writer ‘for children’ – who is read by people of all ages.

    I am now 89 yeas old and have been reading her books with delight for decades.



    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are quite right. Good books for children can be enjoyed as much, if not more, by adults. I still often re-read childhood favourites. I had only known Pippi Longstocking from my childhood, but have loved reading some of her other works in preparation for my tour. I thought her Kalle Blomkvist one was such fun.

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