Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren was a famous Swedish writer of children's books, best-known for her independent, energetic, and unconventional characters Pippi Longstocking, the noisy Nyman kids, and Emil, the master of pranks. She appealed to the little anarchist living inside every small child.

Born Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson in Vimmerby, she was the second of four children of Samuel August, a tenant farmer, and Hanna Jonsson Ericsson.

Her first Pippi adventure, Pippi Långstrump (1945), published by Raben & Sjogren, was followed by Pippi Goes on Board (1946) and Pippi in the South Seas (1948). The anarchistic protagonist was condemned by some authorities as a bad example of permissive upbringing.

"She had no mother and no father," wrote Lindgren, "and that was of course very nice because there was no one to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun, and no one who could make her take cod liver oil when she much preferred caramel candy."

Lindgren defended the right of children to be treated like human beings without being oppressed: if the children are given love, good behaviour will look after itself, she was fond of saying.

"I don't consciously try to influence the children who read my books," Lindgren said. "All I dare hope for is that they may contribute a little bit towards a humane and democratic view of the world in the children who read them."

Pippi Longstocking differed radically from the familiar literary tradition, represented in Johanna Spyri's classic Heidi series or L.M. Montgomery's stories of orphan Anne. The carrot-haired Pippi is more related to Heinrich Hoffmann's Slovenly Peter or Wilhelm Busch's anarchistic rascals Max and Moritz. Pippi is both mentally and physically strong, her pets are not cats or dogs or goats but a horse and a monkey, called Mr. Nilsson. The nine-year-old Pippi lives alone, fulfilling very child's dream of freedom and adventure.

Lindgren has also challenged conventional codes of children's literature in later works. Her novel The Brothers Lionheart brought up the taboo of the death and the doctrine of reincarnation. Mio, min Mio, a classical story of good and evil, is coloured by suggestive, flexible rhythm, derived from such sources as the Bible, the folk tales, and the lyric poetry. Both of these books were illustrated by Ilon Wikland.

Lindgren's memoirs, Mitt Småland, appeared in 1987. In 1999 she was voted the most popular Swede of the century. Lindgren died at the age of 94 peacefully in her home, in Stockholm, on January 28, 2002. She had published over 100 books, which have sold tens of millions of copies and inspired many television and screen adaptations.