Astrid Lindgren Crucified

Astrid Lindgren is some kind of god over here. When she died a few years back they almost closed the town down and the number of tearful eulogies on the TV were embarrassing in the extreme.

And now an article in the grand old Swedish daily Expressen talks about a Norwegian TV show (ah those wily old Norwegians again!) making smutty fun of dear old Astrid. They have cobbled together a pastiche of Astrid characters doing “rude” stuff, such as drinking, smoking, shagging and playing bingo-lotto. According to the article the “outcry” from Sweden has been loud, but in reality I doubt that anyone cares.

You see, in reality, I think, most people feel like me – that Astrid Lindgren is rubbish. I hold nothing against her personally (heh heh), and I am sure she was a decent person and deserves more respect than I am about to give her, but I happen to think that her books are dreadful. They represent the worst kind of kiddie-pulp, and most of them were obviously thrown together in Phillip K. Dick fashion, over a long weekend with a big bag of speed.

Now I will proceed to beat the dead lady with a shitty stick, so kindly turn your head if you feel you will be offended.

1) First of all she has this irritating “oh the old days were so much better than today” crap going on, as if living in a poor farming community, rife with hunger, disease and sheep-shagging, was some kind of golden age. Well it wasn’t – it was a dire existence and anybody that tries to make that “romantic” is an idiot.

2) Her plots are so badly thought out and so full of holes that it makes my teeth hurt. As well as this, she had a tendency to toss in bits of medieval or fantasy environments without really knowing what she is doing, just to get a bit of “mysticism” going on.

3) Pippi Långstrump is the possibly the most annoying character in all of literature – a character who has NO flaws. And how much fun is that? She is strong, rich, friendly and kind with some kind of magical power, and NOTHING can ever turn out badly for her. Oh hurrah, great literature indeed…let’s watch perfect little Pippi wandering about doing stuff. And please pass the codeine.

4) And finally, my favourite…Karlsson on the roof. Yes, this is the happy story of a little boy who discovers that there lives a strange middle-aged man in a loft on top of his building. And the strange man likes to hang around exclusively with children, and even flies into their bedrooms at night (yes, he can fly) to “play” with them. Yes, this is really what happens, and if the idea was presented to a publisher today, you can imagine how far it would get.

I could go on, but I can’t be arsed watching any more Astrid Lindgren movies to complain about them, so off you go now. Go on, find the person you love and give them a foot massage, and you might even get lucky.

/ paddy

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16 thoughts on “Astrid Lindgren Crucified

  1. OK – I’ll bite – on behalf of the 99.865% of us who don’t live in Sweden, who the f$%@ is Astrid Lungdren? (apart from the author of two books I’ve never heard of?)

  2. On the risk of missing someone’s irony.
    I live outside Sweden, I do know AL and, DrDan, I think there are more than just 0.135% of us. This is possibly the first negative comment on Lindgren I have ever seen. Of course it has to come from Sweden. I think I recall that some of you guys were also highly critical about Ingmar Bergman? A Prophet in His Own Land… (Lukas 4:28-30). (Ever heard of Bergman, DrDan? No, not Ingrid. Ingmar. Oh, you don’t know either of them.)
    Back to topic: Most children like Pippi and, much less importantly, most of their parents like to read it for them. They all are particularly fond of the holes in the plot and the unlikely characters.
    Good point about Karlsson: it is so true that men cannot really fly.
    Which of the Lindgren books deals with sheep-shagging? I missed that one.

    *Wipes sweat from forehead, removes foam from lips*
    *Drinks glass of water*
    Oh well, your point is of course that you get sick of the deification of a normal human being. I can understand that.

  3. I don’t see why any Lindgren fan should have to get worked up over her characters’ being subjected to a raunchy spoof. Certainly I’m one and I don’t. If the spoof is well made, I might even enjoy it — why not?

  4. DrDan: Astrid Lindgren is the author of MANY books you have not heard of, including all the Pippi Longstockings and a whole shitload more. Swedes find this hard to believe, but I had not heard of her either until I came here.

    amph: Yeah, that’s about it – I dislike a person becoming a national treasure even though she was not very good.

    Tor: I agree – since when aren’t we allowed to make fun of dead, famous people?

  5. No irony amph – I’d just never heard of the author. A bit of googling later and I realised that Pippi Långstrump = Pippi Longstocking. Funnily enough (and at the risk of sounding like someone who would be worthy of you scorn, apparently) I’ve heard of Pippi Longstocking, but never read any of the books, so the connection wasn’t a natural one for me.

    Your comment about Bergman brings up an interesting point which is probably at the root of PKs original post – we shouldn’t be afraid to voice our dislike of cultural icons simply because of the danger that this might make us seem like some sort of uncultured boor. For instance, I’m happy to admit that Bergman is one of the most influential film makers of the twentieth century while at the same time being equally happy to admit that I’d rather saw my foot off with a rusty hacksaw than have to watch a Bergman film ever again. Life’s just too short, and replete with things that I actually enjoy doing. Similarly, PK is not afraid to voice his dislike of Astrid Lungdren.

    Dan
    54% fukt
    99.999% certain god doesn’t exist
    34% uncultured boor

  6. Surely you mean Asspud Lungdream..? And, funnily enough, there is a part of Stockholm called “Aspudden” which we foreigners commonly refer to as “Ass-pudding”. Co-incidence? I doubt it…

  7. Ha ha…
    Kan berätta att mina barn avskyr de flesta av Astrid Lindgrens böcker! Två av dem protesterade högljutt när de skulle tvingas rita teckningar i skolan för att visa hur mycket de sörjde käringen, när hon dog. “Brukar inte folk dö i den åldern?” undrade de.

  8. Annaa: I’m afraid its the law in Sweden – you WILL love Astrid, and you WILL miss her! It’s weird how people always talk about how popular she is in other countries, when it’s obvious that none of my non-swedish readers have really heard of her. Propaganda!

  9. I’m sure many other Europeans have heard of her. I’m German and was reared with Pippi, Karlsson, Mio, the brothers Lionheart, that littly rowdy that lived on a farm and had a nasty sister (I’m sure you know who I mean, I hated the Bullerbü stuff), detective Blomquist wasn’t that also by her? And of course Ronja who lived all alone with dirty criminals in the forest, Madita and Pims is famous and I think a movie as well, and Rasmus and his friends?
    Pippi comes straight after princess in most preferred costumes for girls… and yes, we had her on TV for hours as well when she died. And Pippi flawless? I use to look down on her because she couldn’t even add numbers between 1 and 10… so much for promoting education

  10. Hmm
    maybe this is one of these cultural differences between continental Europeans and people from the UK and Ireland, we may have simply been brought up with a different set of childrens authors. I’m trying to think of authors I would have grown up with – A.A. Milne, who wrote Pooh Bear, and later, Enid Blyton (Famous Five, Secret Seven) and when I was going through my “I want to be a fighter pilot” phase, WE Johns (Biggles – although I doubt many Irish kids would have read this series) – how well did these transfer to continental Europe?

  11. Enid Blyton is still going strong over here (with a strange pronunciation, but still…) as are the Biggles books. Winnie the Pooh is also a big name. Roald Dahl is less well known – possibly a bit too nasty for the Swedes…

  12. Well, it’s all right not to like Astrid Lindgren, I suppose, even though I can’t see why…
    I live in Germany and grew up with her books, read them several times, watched the movies, dressed up as Pippi for carnival… Oh, and as Ronja, too…
    Now, too your points, why you don’t like her books:
    1. While she was a little bit romantizing (is that even a word?) the world of 19. century, she was not doing so overly much… She DID tell about the not so good stuff, too… Just normaly out of the point of view of a kid who has a mostly decend live… Emil (he is called Michel in Germany, ’cause we have another “famous” Emil in children books, over here) knows about the poor people home and it is nott shown in any good light… Still, his family, while not rich, is not poor either, he only has to help a little bit on the farm, if at all … And so too HIM, world is all right…
    Madicken (Mdita in German, btw), who lives in early 20’th century, knows Abbe, knows Mia… knows families, who don’t have as much luck as she has… But what 7 year old thinks about stuff like this for a long time? She even thinks in some way, that Abbe’s live is very cool, but if you read the book as an older person, you surely can see, that it is not… So she just has the typical little girl problems… and I just can say, that when I was a kid, I could see myself in her… Even though I lived in an differnt country, in a differnet time, in a city, in a SMALL flat…
    And you should not forget, that Lindgren was a child in Madicken’s time… And people often idiolize their childhood times… It just … happens…
    So, while I think you have a point about Lindgren romanticing the time of late 19’th century and early 20’th century, I also think, she is not doing it all too much.
    And for the city-kid I was, Emil’s live, Madicken’s world, even Bullerbü, what IS written boringly where a good place to escape too…
    2. I NEVER ever had the feeling, one of her plot where thought out badly… Wanna badly thought out plots of a famous children book author? Take Enid Blython! THAT is thought out badly… Uhm, sorry to all Enid Blython fans there and mostly to my little brother… ;)
    Oh, and the “horrible” fantasy envoirement… I alway saw it more as an “fairytales envoirement” … In a fairytale, you don’t have to create a whole complicated world… One wood, with different sorts of gnomes and monsters is enough…
    Or two dales, one free and one… well, not free… That’s fairytale-stuff, not fantasy-stuff… And so, too me her books are like long fairytales, not like short fantasy… Hmmm, it’s hard to explain, what I mean, though…
    3. About Pippi… I never thought of her as being perfect… Yes, she is strong, very, very strong… But she still can’t safe that little dead bird in that one scene (It’s in one book, and it is surely a sad scene, even though it is tiny) … And she can’t read or write (well) or do maths…
    She seems to be happy to live all alone, but I allways felt bad for her, for not having somebody to take care of her… Even if you can do everything… Even if you are rich like hell … it has to be lonely sometimes, if you are a kid and no parent is there for you… I allways wondered if there were things going on in her, she didn’t show anybody… And… I never wanted to be like her (Mostly because of one flaw, I did not want to have: Pippi lies, she just can’t help it!)… even though I wished I was Annika, to have her as an friend…

    Normally I just enjoyed reading the Pippi-books… They where most of the time funny and sometimes silly.. Just something to read if one wantes to relax… Our laugh a little bit…
    4. Now, about Karlson. Hmm, first of all, I never liked the books all too much, even though I somehow DID like the movie… But the picture you are giving there is abolutely wrong… Karlson is no pervert… He is more of an invisible-friend, the sort of friend, somehow lonely kids allways created and will continue to create. Yes, he is “real” in the book, and later even Lillebror’s friends and family see him, but this is at the very end and well, actually the only part I REALLY dislike about the books… the other parts I just did not like much, but did not DISlike… I just didn’t care for them…
    But Karlson is not a pervert, and I think, it is silly to interpret him that way… He is an annoying guy, though! , that’s right…

    And now, after taking up the gudgles for Astrid Lindgren, and showing that I still, even now, as an adult, am a fan, I also can say, that there ARE some of her books I don’t like…
    These are the Bullerby books, wich I did like once, but wich soon where written too boringly for me…
    The Karlson books, which I just plainly don’t care for much…
    And I also have problems with Mio my Mio … I somehow like this book, but it is hard on the border to being corny … The movie actually crosses this border, and so it is the only Lindgren movie I don’t like… Of the old movies that is… I don’t even want to think of the new cartoon adaptions of Karlson and Pippi…
    But Lidngren also wrote some of my all time favourite books: Madicken, Ronja and Saltkrokan…

    About the popularity of Astrid Lindgren: My whole family (two brothers, a sister, a mother, an aunt) know and like her… My sister identified with Lotta as a small kid, I identified with Madicken…
    At leaxst three of my friends know about Lindgren, and still like her in some way…
    My New Zelandish boy friend knows Pippi, thinks she is fun… even though he only knows the movie and did not know about Lindgren herself…
    Some kids I know like Astrid Lindgren…
    And, oh, yeah, in the TV-series “Gilmore Girls” there is an episode, where Lorelei and Rory watch “Pippi Longstocking” and Lorelei is VERY shocked, Luke never did watch it… And makes him watch it, then…
    So, at least Pippi seems to be famous all over the world… And Lindgren herself seems to have a good fan-base in Germany… ;)

    About making fun of famous dead people: Go on, but you also can make fun of the living! :p
    I am not a fan of “crude” humour, myself, I like jokes that are differnet to what this TV-show seemed to have done, but if somebody likes this sort of humour… that’s their thing!
    As Pippi would say: “We live in a free country, can’t I go how I want?” (Our, in this case, make the jokes, I want?)

    Wow, I really wrote an whole article myself now, didn’t I? Sorry ’bout this!

  13. Tamira: Holy crap, my scrolling finger is dead! To be honest, I have never read anything that she wrote. So I am basing my opinion on having seen the movies, and therefore you are probably right. :-)

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