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Obituaries

Astrid Lindgren, 94; Creator of Pippi Longstocking Adventures

January 29, 2002|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Tell me a story," begged 7-year-old Karin, who was bedridden with pneumonia. "Tell me about Pippi Longstocking."

Her mother creatively complied, and a few years later when she was bedridden with her own problem--a twisted ankle from a fall--she wrote down all the stories she had invented for the fictional child her daughter had impulsively named.

One of the most popular children's authors in the world was launched right along with the colorful character.

Astrid Ericsson Lindgren, the self-described "mother" of freckled Pippi Longstocking whose prodigious writing includes some 115 books, a dozen plays, two dozen screenplays, plus songs and poems, and whose satirical letters reduced Swedish taxes and prompted an animal rights law, has died. She was 94.

Lindgren died Monday in her sleep at her home in Stockholm.No specific cause of death was reported, but she had been ill for several days.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday January 30, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Lindgren obituary--The obituary of children's author Astrid Lindgren in Tuesday's California section incorrectly said that she received the Albert Schweitzer award from the Animal Welfare Fund. The medal was presented to her by the Animal Welfare Institute.

Her written works have sold more than 130 million copies around the globe and have been translated into more than 60 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu. More than 40 feature films and television series have been based on Lindgren's stories, including the critically panned Americanized "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking" in 1988.

Lindgren's plethora of awards included the 1958 Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the most prestigious international award in children's literature, for her book "Rasmus and the Vagabond."

On Lindgren's 80th birthday, Sweden honored her by issuing a series of 49 stamps based on her characters.

And Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson visited to say her published letters to him pleading such wisdom as "Every pig is entitled to a happy pig life" had won him over.

The Animal Protection Law, to be popularly known as Lex Astrid, he told her, would curb abuses of Sweden's "factory farming" in which livestock were immobilized in barns and slaughtered inhumanely.

The law, passed in 1988, earned Lindgren the Albert Schweitzer Award of the Animal Welfare Fund.

Her other major political victory occurred a decade or so earlier, and resulted partly from her success as an author. In 1976, Lindgren faced a 102% tax on her income. Irate that she had to "pay to write books," she penned a biting satire for a Stockholm newspaper criticizing the Social Democratic Party, which had ruled Sweden for more than four decades. Titled "Pomperipossa In the World of Money," her article is credited with reducing the tax and defeating the party in that election.

In addition to the postage stamps, Sweden created a theme park in 1989 featuring settings from Lindgren's books and later established Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital, one of the biggest such hospitals in northern Europe.

But Lindgren's most durable contribution to humankind unquestionably remains her children's stories.

She taught readers they could be brave even when scared--like the fatherless boy in "Mio, My Son," who fights evil in the Land Far Away, and "The Brothers Lionheart" in which young Rusky proves himself just as courageous as his older brother.

The author's personal favorite of all her creations was Emil, the 5-year-old imp of "Emil in the Soup Tureen," "Emil's Pranks" and "Emil and Piggy Beast," based on tales her father told of his own childhood escapades.

Another well-known protagonist--an adult--was "Karlsson-On-the-Roof" who had a propeller on his back, conveniently enabling him to fly from his penthouse apartment.

Pippi Longstocking (Laangstrump in Swedish), however, remains Lindgren's internationally best-known and most beloved character.

"Way out at the end of a tiny little town was an old overgrown garden, and in the garden was an old house, and in the house lived Pippi Longstocking. She was nine years old, and she lived there all alone," began the first book originally published in 1945.

Irrepressible Pippi had braids that stuck straight out, one black and one brown stocking, and shoes "exactly twice as long as her feet." With a dead mother and a ship's captain father away at sea, she spent her time with a monkey named Mr. Nilsson and a horse named Alfonso that she kept on the porch.

She slept with her feet on the pillow and her head under the quilt, never went to school, and was so strong she could toss bullies, robbers and interfering policemen high in the air or off her property as needed. A chest full of gold in the kitchen of her Villa Villekulla paid for her necessities.

Pippi's international popularity has long been attributed to fulfilling every child's fantasy of rebelling against authority.

But Lindgren was adamant that she did not create Pippi or any of her other characters with their needs in mind.

"I don't write books for children," she once told the New Yorker. "I write books for the child I am myself."

Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson was born Nov. 14, 1907, on a farm called Naas near Vimmerby in the rolling Swedish countryside of Smaaland.

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