Creator of Pippi, Emil, and Ronia the Robber's Daughter Dies at 94

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Photo courtesy of Mats Lindgren

Swedish national television interrupted regular programming on Monday, January 28, to announce the death of Sweden's most popular children's author, Astrid Lindgren. The 94-year-old Lindgren died at home after a brief illness caused by a viral infection, according to her daughter, Karin Nyman, reported the Swedish TT news agency.

Nyman was credited with naming Lindgren's most famous character when, as a small child, she asked her mother to tell her a fairy-tale about a "Pippi Longstocking." On the spot, Lindgren spun a tale of the strongest girl in the world who feared nothing and no one, had a bag of gold coins, and carried a monkey named Mr. Nilsson on her shoulder. The Pippi Longstocking books were the most famous of her 100-plus works, including novels, short stories, plays, songbooks, and poetry. Her works were translated into dozens of languages from Azerbaijani to Zulu and sold more than 130 million copies worldwide. About 40 films and television series were based on her stories.

Lindgren was born Astrid Ericsson on November 4, 1907. In her writings, Lindgren painted charming pictures of a children's paradise based on her experiences as the daughter of a farming family in Näs in the outskirts of Vimmerby, in Smaaland, a wooded province in southern Sweden. Lindgren faced a crisis at age 18 when, unwed and pregnant, she shocked her small community and moved to Stockholm. Five years later she married Sture Lindgren, and they had a daughter, Karin.

Lindgren's first book, published in 1944, was a story for teenage girls titled Britt-Mari Opens Her Heart. It won second place in a literature competition sponsored by the publisher. Pippi Longstocking won first place the next year. The Swedish TT news agency quoted Francoise Bigot-Orfini at Hachette, Lindgren's French publisher as saying, "Astrid Lindgren's books were revolutionary. They marked a turning point for children's literature also in France. Her style was so biting, more daring than that of previous children's book authors. She launched a new genre which accepted children's mischief and pranks."

Lindgren was awarded dozens of Swedish and international prizes for her books, including the Hans Christian Andersen medal in 1958. She was voted the most popular Swede of the century in 1999. She once wrote, "I write to amuse the child within me and can only hope that other children may have some fun in that way too."

-- Nomi Schwartz