Swedish children’s classic comes to India on Children’s Day

November 14th, 2008 - 11:58 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 14 (IANS) A cache of 100 books by Astrid Lindgre, Sweden’s grand dame of children’s literature, were brought out by the Oxford University Press Friday to coincide with India’s Children’s Day and the birthday of the author - who would have turned a grand old 101.Lindgren preceded Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling by at least 50 years in her trade - writing children’s stories primarily for the benefit of their daughters. She immortalised the fictional orphan girl Pippi Longstocking in her native country and around the globe.

The Pippi series is part of the 100 classic children’s fantasy books released in India. Nine-year-old Pippi, or Pipplilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking, was born when the Swedish author’s seven-year-old daughter Karin fell ill and wanted her mother to tell her a story.

Lindgren, who won a local story writing contest organised by a publisher Raben and Saogren with a Pippi tale, completed the final manuscript on her daughter’s 10th birthday in 1944 and sent it to the publisher.

The book was an instant hit when it was published in 1945. Children loved it, but their parents and teachers hated it. “How could Pippi be so dangerous?” was the refrain.

Pippi, like Harry Potter, is an orphan. She lives alone with her donkey Mr. Nilson and her horse Lilla Gubben in an old villa in a little Swedish village. She is accompanied by her friends and neighbours Tommy and Annika on her adventure trails. Pippi, often coarse and loud, has an amazing ability to spin lies and tell tall tales.

Lindgren, whose books have been translated in at least 90 languages in over 60 countries, introduced Pippi at a time when girls were supposed to learn embroidery, play with dolls and listen to their parents. Pippi jumped into the world of boys and grown-ups without permission.

“In Sweden, Lindgren is one of the most famous authors because she fuses fiction with reality. Lindgren’s background too was somewhat unconventional. Her parents were farmers in the south of Sweden.

“At 18, Lindgren came to work in Stockholm and started writing stories. She entered a competition soon after moving to Stockholm with a diary of a teenage girl, but it was voted the second best. The next year, she won the contest,” grand-daughter Annika Lindgren, who is in India to launch the book, told IANS.

Lindgren has written only one book for adults - “Samuel August and Hannah in Hult”, which chronicles the romance of Pippi’s parents.

The author, during her lifetime, said she wrote children’s books to keep the child inside her happy.

“In Sweden, she is a cult figure and has been honoured as the ‘Swede of the Year’. Almost all her books have been made into movies,” Annika said.

After Lindgren’s death in 2002, the Swedish government constituted the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award to promote children’s literature and reading projects around the world. Comparable to the Nobel Prize, it carries a purse of $700,000.

On Jan 21, the National Library of Sweden inaugurated the Astrid Lindgren Archive, which was selected by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as a “Memory of the World”.

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