Recently I stumbled across an article about Astrid Lindgren. In the beginning I didn’t even bother to read it. But then I thought that Astrid Lindgren has shaped a huge part of my childhood, so it might be interesting to know who this person is. It took me a while to recognize the genius of this woman but then I was fascinated. Now, I see her as a great role model for respect, humanity and woman’s right.
Her books and movies are inspired by the happy childhood she has spent with her loving family in Vimmerby, a small village in Sweden. Although she helped a lot at the farm, Astrid enjoyed the freedom and adventures that the countryside had to offer. In these years the Do-not-touch-the-ground-game was invented, a game that Pippi Longstocking enjoyed to play with Thomas and Annika (and even I was jumping around on the furniture with my friends, trying not to touch the ground).
In a few interviews Astrid describes, how devastated she was when a friend came over and they couldn’t play anymore because it just felt wrong. She realised that she was growing up. So, she spent an unhappy adolescents missing her childhood and dreaming about love and adventure.
The 19 year-old Astrid, who worked at the local newspaper at that time, accidentally got pregnant from her 49 year-old boss. But instead of surrendering to gossip, she refused his proposal and left Vimmerby. In an interview she said later that she would have rather died then becoming his wife. Instead she moved to Copenhagen where she found a lawyer for woman’s rights. The lawyer brought her to a hospital that didn’t report pregnant unmarried women, so she could give birth to her son, Lasse, and find a foster family for him. 2 weeks later, Astrid started to work as a secretary in Stockholm and spent all of her money on visits to her son. Back then, women didn’t make much more than a pocket money and Astrid was poor, lonely and often hungry. When Lasse was 3 years old, she couldn’t bear to be separated from him and took him to Stockholm. Soon, she dared to bring him to Vimmerby, despite all the gossip, and her parents started to take care of both of them.
Astrid started to write travelling reports for the national automobile club, where she met the friendly and funny Sture Lindgren. They got married and soon had their daughter Karin. Astrid lived as a stay-at-home-mom and never had plans to write. One night her daughter asked her to tell the story about “Pippi Longstocking”. That night, her most famous book character was born. “She had a funny name, so she became a funny little girl.” Still, it took her three more years, until she was lying in bed with a broken ankle, when she started to write the story down. “Pippi embodies my own childish longing to meet someone who has power but doesn’t abuse it”. Astrid said once that she only writes for her own pleasure but if children learn something from her books, she hopes that it is a human and democratic attitude towards life.
I admire the strength and confidence that Astrid had. In the 1920s it was such a brave step to refuse a marriage proposal, move to a foreign city on her own as a single mother and to live in independent life. It is even braver to move back to her childhood village despite all the gossip which used to be more than cruel at this time. Astrid Lindgren was confronted with oppression and the disadvantages of women from an early age on. Still she managed not to be bitter towards men. Her niece once said that Astrid never thought in male or female. She thought in human. “In my whole childhood I never heard her talk about feminism. She simply demanded her place and was treated accordingly”.
This confidence is also reflected in the book characters. Every girl in Astrid Lindgrens books has a strong character and a lot of self-confidence. Pippi Longstocking, Lotta from the Troublemaker street and Ronia the Robber’s Daughter all embody strong girls who don’t even bother to worry about gender roles. Like Astrid Lindgrens niece said, they simply demand their place in life and are treated accordingly. At the same time Astrid writes about caring and brave boys like Emil from Lönneberga or Karlsson-on-the-Roof, so it is not just strong girls who are glorified. Bravery and friendliness are qualities that both boys and girls have. In Astrid Lindgren novels, gender is nothing that can hold you back or bring you further. I feel that sometimes we pay too much attention to gender roles and gender discrimination in our society. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of equal right, salary and opportunities. Still, I find myself expecting a lower income, only because I know that women make less money than men. Sometimes I wonder, how much further women could get, if we weren’t constantly told that we have a disadvantage because of our gender.
Another thing I love about Astrid Lindgren novels is that the morals don’t scream you in the face. Instead, the books talk about lovely and friendly kids who mess up sometimes just like every child does. Whether it is Pippi Longstocking, who accidentally glues a man’s beard to the table, Emil of Lönneberga who accidentally locks his father into the outhouse or Lotta from the troublemaker street who steals a bike because she wants to be grown up; all kids mean well but cause trouble sometimes. Today in I feel that children are supposed to obey and perform well all the time and must not disagree but once they turn 18 and leave home they are supposed to become independent people, with reflected opinions and leading qualities. These two things don’t really go together in my opinion. But I know that children’s education is a sensitive topic to many people, so I will say no more. “Give the children love, more love and again love. Then good manners follow naturally.” This was Astrid Lindgrens guideline for children’s education.
As a child I loved Astrid Lindgren novels because they were funny and entertaining. Now, as an adult, I realise that Astrid Lindgren is a strong, brave and inspiring woman who put love, respect and humanity above all other things. I was really impressed and I wanted to share a short biography of such an inspiring woman with you.
All the best!