Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Lindgren, Astrid

(1907-2002) Swedish writer. She wrote her first novel in the late 1930s, but it was rejected by numerous Swedish publishers and she put it aside. Her first published novel was the mundane YA Britt-Mari lättar sitt hjärta ["Britt-Mari Unburdens Her Heart"] (1944). The following year, however, the rejected first novel was published as Pippi Långstrump (1945; widely trans as Pippi Longstocking), and AL became controversial in Sweden, accused of undermining parental and school authority and of fostering juvenile delinquency and anarchy. There is no doubt that Pippi was and remains an uncommon heroine. She is immensely wealthy, having access to a chestful of Pirate's gold inherited from her supposedly deceased seafarer father; she owns her own house and lives there without adults but with a horse and a monkey; she is strong enough to lift her horse with one hand, and has no interest in going to school and even less in adhering to adult authority. Her adventures are further chronicled in Pippi Långstrump går ombord (1946) and Pippi Långstrump i Söderhavet (1948). The tale has been filmed several times, first in Sweden as Pippi Långstrump (1949); the best movie version is the Swedish-German Pippi Långstrump (1969), dir Olle Hellbom and scripted by AL.

AL's later fantasy is of yet greater stature. Nils Karlsson Pyssling (coll 1949) is a lyrical book of stories detailing the friendship between a lonely boy in a Stockholm apartment and the miniature boy living beneath his floorboards. Conceptually similar to Mary Norton's Borrowers series, AL's book is nevertheless totally individual in tone – sympathetic, low-key, and substituting tenderness for Norton's comedy.

AL's first High Fantasy was Mio, min Mio ["Mio, My Son"] (1954). Orphaned Bo Vilhelm Olsson is brought by a genie to the Far Country, where his true father is king and where he is preordained to fight the evil Squire Kato in his black fortress. The movie version, The Land of Faraway (1987), is sadly lacklustre. Bröderna Lejonhjärta ["The Brothers Lionheart"] (1973) again caused controversy. As the novel begins, Karl lies dying; the house where he lives starts burning and his older brother Jonatan saves Karl but is killed jumping through a window with his brother. Two months later Karl dies and the brothers are reunited in Nangijala, an Otherworld where they manage to free the inhabitants from an evil Dragon and a Dark Lord. Again killed, the two brothers are again resurrected, this time in Nangilima, a further fantasy realm. Some critics attacked the book for the notion that by dying, either brother would join his pre-deceased sibling in the next Otherworld; the hostile critics claimed that with this Plot Device, Lindgren was actually promoting suicide as a solution to grief or deprivation in young readers. Lindgren was understandably appalled by the suggestion.

In her third and last high fantasy, Ronja Rövardotter ["Ronja, the Robber's Daughter"] (1981), AL finally stepped entirely into a Secondary World; there are no longer any links with our reality. On a stormy night in a robber's keep, Ronja is born to a world of magical beings and great adventures; her mission is finally to make peace between the two robber clans sharing the same valley and eternally at feud. This is a more cheerful and adventurous story than the earlier fantasies.

Not long before the appearance of this encyclopedia, AL stated that she now felt too old to write; but her niche in Children's Fantasy remains both secure and exalted. Her stories and images can never be forgotten. [J-HH]

other works: Lillebror och Karlsson på taket (1955), Sunnanäng (coll 1959), Karlsson på taket flyger igen (1962), Karlsson på taket smyger igen (1968).

further reading: Barndom i Småland ["Childhood in Småland"] (1967), autobiography.

Astrid Anna Emilia Lindgren


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.