She has a house, a monkey and a horse and is also the strongest girl in the world: the first work on Pippi Longstocking came out 75 years ago. Astrid Lindgren created a figure that has never been achieved before.
Probably the greatest success story in world children’s literature began on the bed of a seven-year-old Swedish girl. “Pippi Longstocking was born the moment I said to my mother: Please tell me more stories,” recalls Astrid Lindgren’s daughter Karin Nyman. At that time she was lying sick in bed and wanted her mother to keep her entertained.
Lindgren asked almost desperately what else she could tell her, says Nyman. «And then I said: Hmm, tell me about Pippi Longstocking! It was just a name that came to mind. »
This joke idea has become one of the most famous children’s book characters on the planet. Astrid Lindgren’s books about the adventures of the strongest girl in the world have been translated into 77 languages, almost 66 million copies have been sold worldwide, including around 8.6 million in Germany alone.
Millions of children have been inspired by Pippi’s wild stories, be it in Lindgren’s works or the equally famous Pippi films with Inger Nilsson in the leading role.
In Germany in particular, Pippi Longstocking has shaped generations of children like no other. And Pippi is still a role model for adolescents all over the world, but has also brought about feminism and respect for children.
All of this was unthinkable on the tenth birthday of Karin Nyman. At that time, on May 21, 1944, she received a very special gift from her mother. “I got the manuscript from Pippi Longstocking when I was ten years old,” says Nyman in an interview with the German Press Agency.
A year later, in 1945, “Pippi Långstrump” appeared in the Swedish first edition – that’s why Pippi Longstocking’s 75th birthday is officially celebrated this year.
The majority of the anniversary events that should take place around Karin Nyman’s birthday today, Thursday, May 21, must be canceled due to the corona pandemic or are on hold: A central festival in the Stockholm open-air museum Skansen was canceled, many planned in Germany Pippi events such as plays and readings are hoped to catch up in the second half of the year.
The season opening was postponed in the Astrid Lindgren world in Lindgren’s home province of Småland, where Villa Kunterbunt was enlarged especially for this year. Abba icon Björn Ulvaeus has also postponed his planned circus musical “Pippi in the circus” in Stockholm by June 2021.
Until all of this can be made up for, fans of Pippilotta Viktualia Rollgardina Peppermint Efraim’s daughter Longstocking still have the indulgence in old stories – and of course the browsing in the old books.
Already in the first book, which came into the German trade for 2.80 marks in autumn 1949, the reader gets to know a hitherto completely atypical and as yet unmatched children’s book figure: the red-haired and freckled Pippi Longstocking lives on the edge of a nameless small town in a large one House, the Villa Kunterbunt, which she shares with her monkey Mr. Nilsson and a mold on the veranda. The neighborhood children Tommy and Annika quickly become their friends, who Pippi takes with her crazy ideas and her loose mouth on unbelievable adventures – as well as millions of children worldwide in the coming decades.
The first child that Pippi Longstocking was allowed to read in German was Silke Weitendorf. Her stepfather, the Hamburg publisher Friedrich Oetinger, once brought Pippi Langstrumpf to Germany after visiting Astrid Lindgren in Stockholm, and her mother finally brought the manuscript home with her. She still likes the countless creative ideas of Pippi Longstocking to this day, as the 79-year-old says in an interview with the dpa – be it trying not to touch the floor while playing with Tommy and Annika or the brushed straps when cleaning in the Villa Kunterbunt.
“This free thinking of the Pippi Longstocking, the quick wit, the joke – the ambiguous joke often – all of that was described for the first time in a children’s book,” recalls Weitendorf. “I haven’t seen that in any other book, not even in Astrid’s other works.” This is also linked to the great success of the Pippi stories, says Weitendorf. «Pippi embodies everything that children have in terms of desires and desires and dreams. This manifests itself with a lot of fun – and with so many ideas that it is almost insane. »
The publishing house Friedrich Oetinger, which had already published the first German edition at the time, has now launched a series of anniversary products and new publications in time for Pippi’s 75th birthday. In addition, Lindgren’s descendants, together with Save the Children, launched the “Pippi of Today” campaign this year to draw attention to the precarious situation of girls fleeing with Pippi’s help.
Even without festive events, Pippi Longstocking will not be forgotten even after 75 years. And for the Swedes it is still a national pride: even the Swedish-American astronaut Jessica Meir read a Pippi book on the International Space Station before returning to Earth. “If a Swede was in space, it is Pippi!”, She said brightly to the Swedish broadcaster SVT.
In the Astrid Lindgren cosmos on Earth, people hope that Pippi will be able to live up to some extent despite the Corona crisis. How would the girl with the protruding red braids have reacted in this situation? “Pippi always does things the other way around,” says Olle Nyman, who is not only Lindgren’s grandson, but also the head of the family business. “Maybe we’ll do it that way and just celebrate next year.”
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