Astrid Lindgren would have celebrated her 100th birthday today.
Is there anything left unsaid about the inventor of such marvellous characters as Pippi Långstrump (Pippi Longstocking)? Maybe not a lot, maybe not to everbody. But some things bear repeating lest people should remain who have not heard it.
For one thing, everybody should read Astrid Lingren’s memorable speech “Niemals Gewalt” held when she received the “Peace Award” of the German book trade. To hear her relate the story of the boy being sent outside by his mother to look for a stick so she can punish him who then returns with a stone because he couldn’t find a stick is a healthy reminder to everybody who has any contact with children. It nearly drives tears in my eyes just writing about it. I suppose there are lots of young parents who swore they’d never treat their children like their own parents treated them (and I’m not talking about corporal violence alone, nor was Astrid). But it’s hard work, it doesn’t come easy or naturally, and a reminder like that from time to time can only help.
The other thing is: I just heard from a literary scholar that the fact that Pippi Lonstocking did not only have an anti-authoritarian quality but was also anti-totalitarian in general, i. e. beyond education. And I was thinking, “Woah, what were you reading all the time?” I mean, isn’t it absolutely obvious that that book is anti-totalitarian? Isn’t it obvious that somebody who believes in anti-authoritarian education must also believe in anti-totalitarian policies? And isn’t it just plain obvious from even a casual read that the book is not only anti-totalitarian but plain anarchical? And, of course, that is just why children all around the world love it. It’s the freedom from the constraints of the grim adult world that is so fascinating and offers such a retreat for gathering strength to face the world again knowing it does not have to be what it is, esp. (but not only) to children who have so little power over their own lives. If literary scholars haven’t understood that, before, I can only assume that that’s because my former colleagues are not taking children’s literature for serious. They tend to think that every message contained in children’s books must be confined to the realm of children and education, as if the children’s world was separate from our’s.