Astrid Lindgren, 94, the Swedish author of more than 100 novels, short stories, song collections, poetry volumes and screenplays who is best known as the creator of the red-braided, wildly and uproariously independent child named Pippi Longstocking, died Jan. 28 at her home in Stockholm. A family member said she died of a viral infection.
It has been estimated that her work, mostly children's stories, has been translated into more than 50 languages, ranging from Azerbaijani to Zulu, and that more than 40 films and television series, released between 1947 and 1997, have been based on her fiction. Her books have sold more than 130 million copies, making her Sweden's best-selling author.
Mrs. Lindgren was a 1958 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's literature and a 1993 UNESCO International Book Award. In 1996, Sweden issued a postage stamp featuring her portrait and the names of some of her best-loved fictional creations.
Sweden also features Astrid Lindgren's World, a theme park that opened in 1989 and has about 300,000 visitors a year.
There is little doubt that her most popular creation is the 9-year-old whirlwind terror Pippi Longstocking. Famous in song and story, Pippi lives in a magical state of complete independence. It is understood that her mother has died and her father is a sea captain, always off on mysterious adventures. Pippi cheerfully lives alone in a ramshackle house with a monkey (Mr. Nilsson) and a horse (Alfonso). Able to lift the horse, she is the strongest girl in the world. She gets her energy from her legendary appetite.
She has an immense horde of gold coins (hidden in her kitchen) that not only pays for her needs but finances her battles with various authority figures, including adults who try to make her attend school. Her oft-voiced contempt for authority of all kinds and her battles against social conventions seem unending, perhaps because she has taken a magical drug that keeps her forever a young girl.
Pippi was "born" in 1941 when Mrs. Lindgren's 7-year-old daughter, Karin, was confined to bed with pneumonia. The weeks went by with the mother telling the child stories. Asked one day what story she would like to hear, the child replied, "Tell me about Pippi Longstocking!"
Mrs. Lindgren said her daughter had pulled the name out of thin air, and the future writer -- then a tired mother who worked as a secretary -- proceeded to make up a story. The child was evidently thrilled by the tale, and others followed.
Pippi and her stories might have ended with the child's recovery, but then Mrs. Lindgren became bedridden after a 1944 fall in the snow. She recalled the old Pippi stories from memory and wrote them and others in shorthand. When she recovered, she compiled them in a book for her daughter's birthday.
In 1945, the book found a publisher. And the rest, almost, was history. The book, and subsequent Pippi stories, did not meet with universal approval. Some parents were aghast at Pippi's foul language, bad manners and lack of respect for grown-ups. What seemed to most upset some of those readers was that Pippi invariably triumphed and that children loved the stories.
Mrs. Lindgren saw it coming:
In the letter she sent to her publisher with the Pippi manuscript, she wrote, "I'm sending you this manuscript in the hope that you will not call the social services."
She later told Publishers Weekly magazine her theory for Pippi's immense and long-lasting popularity:
"Bertrand Russell has written that a child dreams about power as grown-ups dream sexual wish dreams." She went on to explain that Pippi is "a child who has power . . . but she never misuses that power, which I think is the most splendid thing, and the most difficult."
Over the years, she brought other characters to life in her children's fiction. "Mio, My Son" tells of a lonely boy fighting evil in a strange land, "The Brothers Lionheart" tells the saga of a pair of brave brothers and "Karlsson on the Roof" tells of a handsome and brilliant man who flies the sky over Stockholm using a propeller on his back.
But it is Pippi Longstocking for which Mrs. Lindgren will be remembered, at least in the English-speaking world. Pippi's real name, in Swedish, is Pippi Langstrump. She is known as Nagakutsushita-No-Pippi in Japan, Bilbee Bat-Gerev in Israel, Pipi Pikksukk in Estonia, Pippi Hosan-Hier in Wales and Pippi Calzelunghe in Italy.
Mrs. Lindgren was born Astrid Ericsson into a large farm family in the Swedish province of Smaaland. She once recalled that she was "born in an old red house surrounded by apple trees" where she grew up loving such books as "Anne of Green Gables" and the Pollyanna stories.
She left Smaaland as an unwed pregnant teenager. She moved to Stockholm, had a son, and trained and worked as a secretary. She also married Sture Lindgren and had her daughter. Her husband died in 1952, and her son, Lars, died in 1986.
From 1946 to 1970, in addition to her writing, she worked as a children's book editor for the Raben & Sjogren publishing company. She wrote and published her own work into the 1980s. Since then, she had been proving that, at least in Sweden, the pen just might be mightier than the sword. She has been credited with reforms in laws governing children's rights and animal welfare.
She was a moving force behind the revision of Sweden's income tax after a campaign in which she questioned the justice of tax authorities billing her for 102 percent of her annual income. The irate elderly widow threatened to go after authorities with a crowbar. Laws were changed.
Mrs. Lindgren's survivors include her daughter.