Friday, December 12, 2008

Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking

Louis Glanzman, illustrator,
Penguin Readers Group, 1978

Pippi Longstocking is a character brought to life by Astrid Lindgren. Like many of the girls in the stories I loved as a child she is headstrong and unusual. I read Pippi Longstocking as a child. But I've read it many times since, and as an adult I discovered Pippi Goes on Board and Pippi in the South Seas. When the stories begin, she's nine and lives in Villa Villekula next door to two children Tommy and Annika.

Pippi's mother died when she was a tiny baby and Pippi was sure she was up in Heaven, watching her little girl though a peephole in the sky and Pippi often waved up at her and called, "Don't you worry about me. I'll always come out on top." Pippi's father was lost at sea but she believes he's the king of the Cannibals on an island somewhere and will one day come for her.

When her new friends first learned that Pippi lived without adult supervision they were stunned.
"But who tells you when to go to bed at night and things like that?" asked Annika.

"I tell
myself," said Pippi. "First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; and then, if I don't mind, I tell myself again more sharply; and if I still don't mind, then I'm in for a spanking--see?"

In the meantime she lives with Mr. Nilsson, her monkey, and her horse which she likes to keep on the porch. Pippi has red hair in two braids which stand straight out and she wears one brown stocking and one black one and walks about in giant shoes so she has something to grow into. She is also freakishly strong and can lift her horse and carry him around. In her front yard is a hollow tree which grows chocolate bars and soda pop. She's creative--she straps scrub brushes on her feet and skates on the floor to clean it... she's generous--she gives birthday gifts to her guests on her birthday.... and she's fun loving, but has no real interest in school or plutification (as she refers to multiplication).

"Just think about how embarrassing it will be for you to be so ignorant. Imagine when you grow up and somebody asks you what the capitol of Portugal is, and you can't answer!"

"Oh, I can answer all right, " said Pippi. "I'll answer like this: 'If you are so bound and determined to find out what the capital of Portugal is, then, for goodness' sakes, write directly to Portugal and ask.'"

"Yes, but don't you think that you would be sorry not to know it for yourself?"

"Oh, probably," said Pippi. "No doubt I should lie awake nights and wonder and wonder, 'What in the world is the capital of Portugal?' But one can't be having fun all the time," she continued, bending over and standing on her hands for a change. "For that matter, I've been to Lisbon with my papa," she added, still standing upside down, for she could talk that way too.

She lacks convention and is fond of lying and doesn't really understand how to behave in polite society ... at school picnics or tea parties or circuses.

Mrs. Settergren, the mother of Tommy and Annika invites Pippi to a coffee party and things don't go well... she doesn't hold that against her when it's time for Pippi to go to the South Seas, the Settergren's let their children go along.

"Pippi Longstocking's manners may not always be what they ought to. But her heart is in the right place."

When the circus comes to town Annika explains it costs money.

"I'm rich as a troll," said Pippi, "so I guess I can buy a surkus all right. But it'll be crowded here if I have more horses."

"Oh, don't be so silly," said Tommy, "you don't buy a circus. It costs money to go and look at it--see?"

"Preserve us!" cried Pippi and shut her eyes tightly. "It costs money to look? And here I go around goggling all day long. Goodness knows how much money I've goggled up already!" Then little by little she opened up one eye very carefully. "Cost what it may," she said, "I must take a look!"

Often people who know no better are trying to take advantage of poor Pippi who likes to remind them that they "asked for it." In the third book a man wants to buy Villa Villekula but has no idea that Pippi is the owner.

"She," said the fine gentleman with a pleased look. "Is it a she who owns this miserable house? So much the better. Women don't understand business. In that case there's a hope of getting it cheap."

"We can always hope," said Pippi Longstocking.

When Pippi is on the Kurrekurredutt Island in the South Seas she becomes so tanned that every spot on her face was covered in freckles.

"This will turn into a real beauty treatment for me, " she said gaily. "I have more freckles and am therefore more beautiful than ever. If this keeps up, I shall be irresistible."

And irresistible she is. Read more about the spirit of Pippi here.

Swedish author Astrid Lindgren brought Pippi to life as she told her daughter stories of Pippi and then in 1944 during an injury when she was bedridden for a week she put the stories to paper. It was going to be a present for her daughter Karin on her tenth birthday, but she also sent a manuscript to the publishers Bonniers. "Not that I for one second believed that they would print it in a book, but all the same! I was personally quite shaken by Pippi, and I remember that I ended my letter to the company 'In the hope that you don't warn the child welfare officer."
-- from "Astrid Lindgren - a biography"By Margareta Strömstedt

Astrid Lindgren wrote many, many more books for children... but I only know these ones. Lindgren won many awards in her lifetime for her literature and in the seventies she also became more outspoken about politics, advocating for children and animals and pointing out flaws in taxation policies... her plutification skills may not be her strength either... but Mrs. Lindgren knew when she was being robbed! What I love most about this journey into my past is the memory of a book I once loved being pulled fully into the light, but also how upon new examination I love the stories and the author even more.

Louis Glanzman, Penguin Young Readers Group, 1977 Reissue
I love this cover art!

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