Pilot Fish Trailblazer Nominee: Astrid Lindgren

This week’s guest blogger is Ann-Christine Påhlson, who is introducing our first Pilot Fish Trailblazer nominee from Sweden.   Ann-Christine, who is a marvelous photographer and writer, hosts the blog Leya.  Her nominee is the author of the book Pippi Longstocking, loved by children and adults around the world.

And so I write the way I myself would like the book to be – if I were a child. I write for the child within me. — Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren. Source

Photo: Astrid Lindgren. Source: http://www.AstridLindgren.se

My children and I hopped on the Story Train at Junibacken in Stockholm about a dozen or so years ago for a journey through the recreated, imaginary children’s world of the writer Astrid Lindgren. It was her own voice, so familiar, that guided us through the journey.

We listened to her stories, with lumps in our throats and tears in our eyes…

Junibacken, Sweden

Junibacken, Stockholm, Sweden. Source: http://www.AstridLindgren.se

Every Swedish child knows “Aunt Astrid” and her stories. And her voice…

As a child I read all her books and sat every Saturday by the radio, eagerly listening to her gentle voice reading from Pippi Longstocking  and Emil in Lönneberga. Feeling totally safe and secure as she conjured up the characters and their magical adventures.

Her Own Story

The story of Astrid Lindgren is in itself a fairytale – the farmer girl from Vimmerby in Småland, Sweden, who became the world’s probably most renowned author of children’s books in the twentieth century.

Astrid was born 1907, and at school she was from the start good at writing. After getting a composition published in The Vimmerby Times, she earned the nickname Vimmerby’s Selma Lagerlöf.  (Sweden’s first Nobel Prize winning female author.)

Astrid worked as a shorthand-typist in Stockholm, building a family with her husband Sture and their two children Lasse and Karin. In 1941 they moved to Dalagatan where she then lived for the rest of her life.

Author and Publishing Editor

Sugar on the floor and mayhem in the nursery – I just could not take that responsibility.–Publisher Gerhard Bonnier on refusing Pippi Longstocking

When the first book about Pippi Longstocking was published in 1945 by the publishing firm Rabén & Sjögren, it changed Astrid’s life. The book became a great success, loved by children and grown-ups the world over.

Cover, Pippi Longstocking.

Cover, Pippi Longstocking. http://www.AstridLindgren.se

How did the story come to be? During the war, Astrid Lindgren started to tell stories about Pippi Longstocking when her daughter Karin was sick. The strange name was in fact made up by Karin herself, and these stories were like no other children’s stories… I have many times tried to imagine how the great publisher Gerhard Bonnier must have felt when he realized the success of the book that he refused to publish.

A year or so later, Astrid Lindgren began her work as a children’s book editor for Rabén & Sjögren and was soon made responsible for the publication of children’s books.


A Voice in Society

Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself. — Astrid Lindgren

Astrid was now a world famous author. But her interest in society made her initiate a debate in 1976 about taxation policies (Pomperipossa) and this contributed to the downfall of the Social Democratic government after forty years in power.

This was not the last time Astrid got seriously involved in current affairs.  Two years later she received the German Book Traders’ Peace Prize and her speech at the award ceremony was the starting point for an international debate about the use of corporal punishment in child-raising. She voted “No” in the Swedish referendum concerning nuclear power in 1980, and was involved in a campaign against unethical treatment of animals (main issue: hens in cages or not), which eventually resulted in new animal protection laws.

In January 2002, at the age of ninety-one, Astrid passed away.  The funeral was held on March 8th – International Women’s Day.  She was mourned by millions of readers and admirers all over the world, and the streets of Stockholm were crowded with 100,000 people, including representatives of the Kingdom and the Government, following the cortege through the city on its way to the Great Church in Stockholm’s old town.

Astrid Lindgren’s  Legacy

What made her books so great then?

Cover, The Brothers Lionheart

Cover, The Brothers Lionheart http://www.AstridLindgren.se

Astrid herself always said that she wrote for the child within herself. Her unique ability was to remember a child’s way of thinking and feeling, and then putting this into words for everybody to understand despite age or background.

Astrid Lindgren has dealt with the big questions in life, concerning right and wrong, life and death, loneliness and togetherness, war and peace. And she has done this with self assurance without ever giving up the perspective of a child. Like all great authors, her themes are the same worldwide through all times and in all countries. She has influenced the attitude towards children and children’s rights in many countries.

Most of her books are regarded as classics and have already been read by generations of children and their parents. They transgress the boundaries of age, gender, geography and politics. They are also included in literary canons in their own right and on literary merit alone. — Courtesy of Astrid Lindgren Archives 

The year she turned ninety, she was elected Swede of the Year in the World by the society for Swedes in the World. Her books have been translated into more than 90 languages.

My Astrid

If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – then I’m satisfied.–Astrid Lindgren

Photo: Astrid Lindgren

Photo: Astrid Lindgren. Source:www.AstridLindgren.se

On the worldwide top-ten list of Astrid Lindgren’s most popular characters and books, the top three are my best loved ones as well:

  1. Do you know Pipi Longstocking? – “Someone who is very strong has to be very nice also.” –Pippi Longstocking, from Do You Know Pippi Longstocking? (1945)
  2. The Brothers Lionheart – “But then Jonathan said it was something he must do, even if it was dangerous. ‘Why?’ I wondered. ‘Otherwise you’re not a human being but just a piece of dirt’ said Jonathan.” — Jonathan to Scotty, from The Brothers Lionheart (1973)
  3. Emil in Lönneberga -“Du och jag, Alfred. Det vet du. -Tror jag, det. Du och jag, Emil.”–from Emil in Lönneberga

And – who says it is impossible to win the Nobel Prize for literature if you write for children? A majority of the Swedish people always wanted Astrid Lindgren to be the first one in this category to receive the prize.  I want to believe she got it in Nangilima–the fantasy land where the Brothers Lionheart had their adventures.

To honour her memory, the Swedish government created the World’s Largest Children’s Literature Award in her name.

AstridLindgrenMemorial Award

Read more about Astrid:

Pictures and history courtesy of http://www.astridlindgren.se/en

If you’d like to visit Ann-Christine’s blog,  and view her wonderful photos just click on the embedded link.

This is the tenth in a series of articles about forward thinkers who are helping to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. These remarkable people are helping to define the future direction of their community, country, and even our global society.   To read more about the Pilot Fish Trailblazer Awards and the nominees Dr. Fred Sanger, Paolo Soleri, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Goodall, Alice Waters, Swami Vivekananda, The Man in Black, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Dr. Jean Raffa click on the embedded links.  Suggest new nominees in the comments section below.

26 replies »

  1. I’m thrilled by having my nomination included in your Trailblazers, Patti! A world wide known writer, but maybe people do not know that much about the person herself.

    I never met her, but visited her homestead at Näs and “Bullerbyn” and Emil’s “snickerboa”. She changed many people’s view of how to (or rather not to…) raise children, and really made a difference when it came to the treatment of animals in Sweden. My friends and I were very impressed and proud. Everybody listened to her, and what she had to say – she was down-to earth and totally honest, together with a great deal of common sense. Not many women could, single-handedly, have overthrown a whole governement.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Ann-Christine. I’m so glad you shared what you know about Astrid. She is a beloved writer around the world, who really understood kids. I remember my son loving the rebellious spirit of Pippi. She was a true hero for him and so many other kids.


      • 😀 Rebellious she is, but very fair. She often teaches us to see clearly and finding useful shortcuts to the goal. The layers of grown-up learnings are carefully peeled off…
        I’m glad she was a hero for your son.
        My children found The Brothers Lionheart more to their taste, and Ronja of course.


    • Hi Sally. Ann-Christine chose a great artist. I love the back story too! I had no idea she was involved in politics and children’s rights. Thanks for joining the conversation!


  2. Reblogged this on Leya and commented:
    Patti Moed over at Pilot Fish runs a series featuring Trailblazers from all over the world. I was lucky enough to get my nominee, Astrid Lindgren, featured! Do read about the other interesting trailblazers – some of them you may never have heard of.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Generations of children around the world love the story of Pippi Longstocking. A true classic in children’s literature if there ever was one! I love that the Swedish cover shows Pippi with her iconic red braids.
    Ms. Lindgren is an excellent nominee. As a side note: when I visit Sweden someday, i will plan to go to that museum. It sounds like a lot of fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ann-Christine highly recommended the museum. Another place to visit on a very long list. I suspect your list is as long as mine. 🙂 Thanks for joining the conversation.


    • Hi Jackie, thank you for an interesting comment, and about cover – I totally agree. If you decide to visit, I hope you will go to Astrid Lindgren’s World in Vimmerby as well!

      Liked by 2 people

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