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
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…
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.
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?
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.
If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – then I’m satisfied.–Astrid Lindgren
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:
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
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.
Categories: Pilot Fish Trailblazer Awards