Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson was born November 14, 1907 in Vimmerby, Sweden. She developed a strong work ethic on the farm which her family ran but had plenty of time to roam free and play with her three siblings and the neighborhood children. She grew up feeling secure and able to exercise independence, cultivating her propensity of forming strong opinions and independent thought. The various people who worked alongside her family formed a diverse group from which she developed a keen understanding of the human condition. Growing up before television and radio were standard household inventions, the oral tradition of storytelling was still the primary form of entertainment. Among the many stories she heard, Astrid drew inspiration for the future characters and stories that would make her the most widely translated author in Sweden as Astrid Lindgren.
A SHIFT IN YOUTH
It felt silly and sad, because what would we do if we couldn't play?”
This quote, expressed by Lindgren as she recalled the day her childhood ended, illustrates the shift in her youth. While her childhood was idyllic, her adolescence and young-adulthood was far more somber. In 1914 she began school, facing both the prospect of growing up and the looming Great War. “My teenage years were just about existing, flat and lifeless, I was often melancholic. And I thought, as many do, that I was so ugly, and I never fell in love either. Everyone else was always in love…”
At the age of sixteen Lindgren took up work at the Vimmerby newspaper. The editor-in-chief, Reinhold Blomberg, would later become the father of her first child, Lars. Her son was born December 4, 1926 when Lindgren was just nineteen years old, prompting her to move from Vimmerby to Stockholm. Leaving her home at a young age was difficult, but she persevered, managing to earn an education as a secretary and gain employment soon after in 1927 at Svenska Bokhandelscentralen’s radio department. In 1928 she began work as a secretary at the Royal Automobile Club (KAK). It was at this time that she ended her relationship with Blomberg.
A BLOSSOMING CAREER
In 1937 Lindgren became secretary to Harry Soderman, Associate Professor of Criminology at Stockholm University. While running a successful detective agency, Soderman became internationally renowned for his skills which provided him the opportunity to teach forensic science at both Scotland Yard and the NYPD. As Lindgren remained under his employment, she absorbed his character and knowledge which would later come in handy as she created the popular books about Kalle Blomkvist, Master Detective.
1941 provided Lindgren with two unique advantages. One came in the form of a beautiful three bedroom apartment after her husband Sture Lindgren became the CEO of the Swedish Automobile Association. This was a special privilege for Astrid, who had grown accustomed to a modest lifestyle. Later that year, their daughter Karin became ill and begged to be entertained by one of her mother’s stories. After multiple requests, a tired Lindgren finally grew frustrated and asked Karin what sort of story she would like to hear. “Tell me about Pippi Longstocking”, pleaded Karin. It was this request that sparked a desperate mother’s imagination and the creation of one of the most beloved children’s characters in the world.
Her full name was Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking. The concept of her red hair and freckles came from a school friend of Karin’s, while her quirky personality was inspired by a young girl who rented a villa one summer in Furusund, where Astrid and her family had their summer house. Her bright red hair, abundant freckles and super strength would later leave an indelible mark on the imaginations of children across the globe. Her physical strength mirrored her incredible strength of character - generous, kind, confident and always ready to fight for the underdog. It is no wonder she became an emblem of female strength.
When Karin turned ten, Lindgren gifted to her daughter a manuscript of Pippi Longstocking’s many adventures. After a first attempt, Pippi Longstocking won first prize in a competition organized by Raben & Sjogren and was published in November 1945. The book quickly became a huge success, affording Lindgren the opportunity to pursue a full-time career as a writer.
Within the canon of Lindgren’s books, we have such works as The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes Aboard, Pippi in the South Seas and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Won’t Grow Up. Lindgren also created many other characters, as seen in such books as Karlson on the Roof, The World’s Best Karlson, Karlson Flies Again, Emil and the Great Escape and The Tomten. To learn more about her life and career, check out the eBook War Diaries by Astrid Lindgren and the biography Astrid Lindgren: the Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking by Jens Andersen.
Lindgren’s books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide. She is the 18th most translated author in the world. Her works have been translated into 105 languages. All this due to hard work and extraordinary talent to reach the hearts and inspire the minds of many. Join us as we watch her life unfold in the triumphant film Becoming Astrid, playing at the Panida theater starting Thursday, January 10th at 7:30 PM.
Whitney Taitano, Circulation Desk Attendant