For the Last Time, Lisbeth Salander Is Not Pippi Longstocking

What Women Really Think
Dec. 20 2011 4:45 PM

For the Last Time, Lisbeth Salander Is Not Pippi Longstocking

1324416708194
Rooney Mara in a poster for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

On Dec. 21, the much-anticipated Hollywood version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo officially opens, and we will be thrown yet again into the dark world of Lisbeth Salander, the hero of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy.

Over the past year much has been made of Larsson explicitly writing Lisbeth, with her tattoos, trauma and propensity for violent wrath, as the grown up version of Pippi Longstocking, another super-strong, anti-establishment Swedish girl and the heroine of Astrid Lindgren’s series of classic children’s books.

Advertisement

This always makes me squirm.

Yes, both characters do spring from the same Swedish/Western cultural well, and both have no mother to speak of and missing fathers that turn up with unforeseen consequences. But Larsson claimed that Lisbeth is Pippi grown up in the real world, instead of that this is what happens to his Pippi in his alternate universe. This isn’t what Lindgren intended.

In a wonderful 1983 New Yorker profile, she had this to say about her heroine:

Pippi says, ‘I’m going to be happy and free and stronger than anybody.’ She has power, but she never misuses it. She’s just kind. But do you think children of the future will be like that? I’d be very happy to believe that. I don’t know what will happen to our world if there aren’t any kind leaders being born.

Maybe I should just let go and appreciate Larsson’s poetic license and extension of Pippi into a righteous feminist vigilante. But I can’t. At the end of the last of the original Pippi books, Lindgren implies that Pippi will never grow up, that she somehow represents a mythological vision of untouched childhood.

As the father of a a 5-year-old Swedish daughter who thinks of Pippi as the strongest girl in the world -- even if she values Pippi’s "thing finding" abilities more highly -- I feel especially protective of Lindgren’s vision. I’m sure my daughter will see plenty of darkness in her life. We all do. But she will also know that girls can be strong and free and that it is possible to go on grand adventures and come home safe and unbroken.

Pippi’s is beautiful and worth preserving, and Larsson should have left it well enough alone.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:58 AM Does this Colorado Poll Show Latino Voters Bailing on the 2014 Election?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 18 2014 8:53 AM The Other Huxtable Effect Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?