Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard

Authored by Astrid Lindgren
Illustrated by Mini Grey
Published by Oxford University Press

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In celebration of Pippi Longstocking’s 75th Anniversary, new editions of Astrid Lindgren’s popular series have been published with the addition of artwork by Mini Grey. Whether she’s imitating a monster or staring down a tiger, Mini’s pictures illustrate Pippi’s mischievous, fearless personality marvellously.

Pippi’s mother died when she was a baby and her father was blown overboard while sailing so she lives unsupervised in Ville Villekulla with a horse on the veranda and Mr Nilesson the monkey to keep her company. Her unconventional upbringing, independent spirit and thirst for adventure prepares Pippi perfectly for looking after herself.

In Pippi Longstocking Goes Aboard, we follow her often outrageous exploits with best friends Anneka and Tommy. When she likes the idea of joining her friends on a school trip, she has to attend school first. It’s on her own terms though, so she sits in the tree outside the classroom waiting for the teacher to “throw some multikipperation through the window.”

Despite her disregard for adult authority and convention, Pippi is kindhearted and generous, buying every toy and sweet in a shop to give to the local children. On the school trip when she witnesses cruelty towards a horse, she gives its owner the opportunity to see the error of his ways. However, when he doesn’t correct himself, she has no qualms about using her immense strength to teach him a lesson he will not forget.

While Pippi’s adventures still have great appeal to many adults and children, the story contains racial stereotypes and attitudes that can not be ignored by readers today. When Pippi, Anneka and Tommy are marooned on a desert island, the terms ‘savages’ and ‘cannibals’ are used repeatedly. White European views on colonisation are apparent several times across the story. We learn that Pippi believes that her dad has come ashore on a ‘South Sea Island’ and ‘became king of all the koratutt people.’ When he returns at the end of the story this racial trope is continued. He puts on his ‘royal finary’ of a  ‘grass skirt… and spear’ and it is further developed when the reader learns that the indigenous people of the island welcome him docilely. Within a fortnight of ruling them ‘furiously’, he is able to leave knowing that when he returns he will continue to be their ruler.

At a time when many children rarely venture far from a screen, Pippi’s exuberant, adventurous and inquisitive character can be seen as a positive role model for children, and girls in particular, today. However, in this story, the repeated racial tropes can not be disregarded and if ignored will serve to further reinforce subliminal racial stereotyping.