anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Astrid Lindgren

with one comment

“Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.”

– Astrid Lindgren

Usually when I make papercuts I need silence. I can’t listen to podcasts because it’s hard to focus on both the words and the cutting at the same time. After all, quiet is good for the creative brain.

But as I started to work on this one of Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, I realized that I wanted to know what Lindgren sounded like, I wanted to know what she had to say besides a list of her quotes that I had compiled. So I found an interview with her from 1993.

As I cut and listened, I realized that her voice, her words, her story, it was all magical and comforting, evoking the same emotions that I associate with growing up in a half-Swedish household. She talked of nature, her own childhood, her first time going to the Stockholm library, her home in Skärgården (the Stockholm archipelago, which would later become the central point of her series Vi på Saltkråkan, but only after she had spent several decades living there, an acknowledgment that to write about a place you must know it) and she sang. In moments, she sounded like my own Swedish grandmother.

I found myself with tears in my eyes as the interview drew to a close. My personal connection to Sweden – besides language, besides family, besides friends – is very much tied to the magical world of books, those by Lindgren and another literary great Elsa Beskow. It was a world filled with exploration, adventure, nature, enjoyment, simplicity, and growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it was a link to the Swedish part of me.

It was a world that took inspiration from Lindgren’s childhood home Vimmerby, the memories and landscapes of her own life translated onto the pages and making their way into millions of children’s rooms around the globe.

I have donated many books from my childhood, but all of my Swedish ones remain. Their pages are filled with their own worlds, worlds that comfort and that inspire. When asked if she would ever start writing “real” books, Lindgren responded, “I want to write for a readership that can create miracles. Children create miracles when they read. That’s why children need books.”

Lindgren is of course most well known for Pippi Longstocking. When I read Pippi as a child, I never specifically thought about the fact that she was a central female character. I just liked the books because they were fun and unexpected. But as I have grown older, I have been reminded of the value of seeing a female heroine, one who is adventurous, strong, funny, courageous.

I came across a great Pippi Longstocking quote yesterday:

‘He’s the strongest man in the world.’

‘Man, yes,’ said Pippi, ‘but I am the strongest girl in the world, remember that.

In this context it means physical strength, but I think Pippi also embodies emotional strength. Strength is of course not the only thing that we as women can strive for, but there is value in seeing a girl take on the world around her with no fear. Even today, I still need that.

“Astrid touched the everyday Swede,” wrote Suzanne Öhman-Sundén, co-editor of a book on Lindgren’s public influence. “There was a combination of common sense, straightforwardness and warmth in everything she did, which made her unique.”

But Lindgren’s influence has today gone far beyond just Sweden. As of 2017, there are as many as 101 different translations of her books. And that means that still today, children – and even adults – have the ability to step into her world.

“Everything great that ever happened in this world happened first in somebody’s imagination,” Lindgren said in a reception speech for the H.C. Andersen award. I would say that love and imagination are two of our most powerful tools, and we have Lindgren to thank for them.

This papercut is a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a yearlong project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Advertisements

Written by Anna Brones

March 8, 2018 at 07:09

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. We have The Tompton by Lindgren. It’s a magical book; never loses its charmm!

    Judi C

    March 10, 2018 at 08:32


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: