Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pippi Longstocking: the Swedish superhero

On the centenary of Astrid Lindgren's birth, Pippi Longstocking has been redrawn for a new generation.

Susanna Forest reports:

It is hard to resist Pippilotta Comestibles Windowshade Curlymint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking, with her "hair the colour of a carrot…plaited in two tight plaits that stuck straight out", and a nose "the shape of a very small potato… completely covered in freckles".

Pippi is strong enough to benchpress a horse
If this Swedish girl doesn't bamboozle you with tall tales of her time on the high seas, charm you with a gift bought with her inexhaustible pile of gold coins or turn the world as you know it upside down, then she can always pick you up and leave you hanging from a tree branch, because she's strong enough to benchpress a horse.
If Pippi met Voldemort she'd make mincemeat of him and then, because she's a generous, forgiving soul, sit him down and feed him ginger snaps.
This year she turns 62 (although she's forever nine) and it will be 100 years since her creator, Astrid Lindgren, was born in a small town called Vimmerby in southern Sweden.
Oxford University Press – Pippi's British publisher for half a century – is bringing out a commemorative edition, with a new translation by Tiina Nunnally and illustrations by the wildly popular Lauren Child, who is responsible for the smash hits Clarice Bean and Charlie and Lola. She's an inspired choice to hook a new generation of children on Sweden's greatest literary export.

Child's Pippi has the same droll, slanting eyes as Lola; she looks as though she thinks a little harder than most Longstockings, who tend to be all toothy grins and freckles. She zings about, disappearing over the page on a horse, slipping away from nasty grown-ups and dropping out of the bottom of the book. Child found the red, blue and white print fabrics for the collages at jumble sales, and they have a bright, clean Scandinavian style.
When OUP approached Lauren, she knew she had to say yes: "I have memories of other books from my childhood, but they've faded into a certain feeling or just bits of the book. The Pippi stories are so vivid. They were a shared love with my best friend and we used to talk about the books for hours."

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