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Astrid Anna Emilia Ericsson Lindgren (November 14, 1907 – January 28, 2002) was a Swedish writer of fiction and screenplays, best known for her children’s book series featuring the independent and strong Pippi Longstocking. As of January 2017, Lindgren is the world’s eighteenth most-translated author, and the fourth most-translated children’s book writer. Her books have sold roughly 144 million copies worldwide.
An Imaginative Childhood
Born on a farm in Sweden, Astrid enjoyed a happy childhood. The daughter of tenant farmer Samuel August Ericsson and homemaker Hanna Jonsson Ericsson, she was the second of four siblings. Raised by her nurturing parents with tales and storytelling, she was taught how to apply her imagination and creativity in the world of literature. It’s been said that many of the characters and settings in Lindgren’s books are inspired by her own childhood, quoted in her obituary in the New York Times.
A natural-born writer, Astrid published her first story in the Vimmerby Times (Vimmerby Tindingen) at age 13. After finishing school, she took a job with the local newspaper and began writing reviews, advertisements, and eventually articles.
Rise to Recognition
Astrid began a relationship with the chief editor of the newspaper, a married father, who proposed to her in 1926 after she became pregnant. She was then 18 years old. Refusing the proposal, she moved to Copenhagen to have her son, Lars. For the following three years, Lars remained in foster care while Lindgren worked in Stockholm, traveling to visit him when she could. At age 3, he moved in with his grandparents in Vimmerby.
In Stockholm, Astrid worked as a secretary at the Royal Swedish Automobile Club, where she met her husband, the office manager Sture Lindgren, in 1928. In 1934 Astrid gave birth to her daughter, Karin Lindgren. When time allowed, the stay-at-home mother of two children wrote short stories for the magazine Landsbygdens Jul (A Country Christmas), bringing in some extra money.
How Pippi Longstocking came to be
When her daughter Karin was seven years old and recovering from pneumonia, she asked her mother to tell her a story about “Pippi Longstocking.” From that spark, a literary star was born, changing Astrid Lindgren’s life forever. “I didn’t ask her who Pippi Longstocking was,” Mrs. Lindgren told The New Yorker in 1983. “I just began the story, and since it was a strange name it turned out to be a strange girl as well.”
Three years later, stuck in bed rest with an injured leg, Astrid Lindgren began to write the stories of Pippi Longstocking for her daughter’s tenth birthday. After sending copies to the publisher Albert Bonniers Förlag and being rejected, she discovered her love and passion for writing books. Soon after, she wrote Britt-Mari Lättar Sitt Hjärta (Confidences of Britt-Mari). It came second in the publishing house Rabén & Sjögren’s writing competition for girls’ fiction. In 1945 Rabén & Sjögren’s published Pippi Longstocking.
You might also like: Quotes by Astrid Lindgren
Noteworthy Public Figure
Astrid Lindgren’s success with her published books quickly brought her into the public eye. She became involved in national debates on issues including taxation policies, nuclear power and the treatment of children, refugees and animals. Thus began her adult career of public recognition, granting her many awards and honors.
In 1956, she received the Swedish State Award, and in 1958, the Hans Christian Andersen medal, the highest international award in children’s literature. To mark her 60th birthday in 1967, the Astrid Lindgren Prize was instituted by Rabén & Sjögren. The prize is awarded every year for outstanding authorship in Swedish children’s and young adult literature.
Continuing her growing success, in 1973 she was awarded the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. In the 1980’s, as large commercial farms replaced family farms, she campaigned for protection and the welfare of farm animals. “Every pig is entitled to a happy pig life,” she wrote in an open letter to Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson. The law, which was passed in 1988, ensured animals freedom from cramped conditions and access to clean straw. It is known informally as Lex Astrid.
In 1993, Astrid Lindgren was awarded the UNESCO Book Award in 1993, and in 1994 she received the Right Livelihood Award, “For her commitment to justice, non-violence and understanding of minorities as well as her love and caring for nature.”
Success Beyond Her Lifetime
Mrs. Lindgren continued to be a public figure up until her death, passing away on January 28th, 2002, at the age of 91 in her home in Dalagatan. The funeral was held on International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2002 in Stockholm. The streets were filled with mourners, celebrating the inspiring authors life.
But even after her death, she continued to inspire and grow recognition. Shortly after her death in 2002, the Swedish government founded the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest children’s and youth literature prize. In April 2011 the Bank of Sweden announced that one of the new bank notes planned for 2014-15 will bear a portrait of Astrid Lindgren.
More about Astrid Lindgren on this site
Lindgren wrote dozens of books. This is but a small sampling of the most popular that were translated into English.
- The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1945)
- Pippi in the South Seas (1948)
- Pippi Goes on Board (1946)
- Pippi’s Extraordinary Ordinary Day (1999)
- Ronja the Robbers Daughter (1981)
- The Tomten and the Fox (1966)
- The Children of Noisy Village (1962)
- Mio, My Son (1954)
- The Brothers Lionheart (1973)
- Seacrow Island (1964)
- The Six Bullerby Children (1947)
More information on Astrid Lindgren
- A short biography
- Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award Website
- Lindgren’s books on Goodreads
Biographies and Memoirs
- Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking
by Jens Andersen (2018)
- Astrid Lindgren: Storyteller to the World by Johanna Hurwitz (2016)
- Astrid Lindgren: A Critical Study by Vivi Blom Edstrom (2000)
- War Diaries, 1939 – 1945 by Astrid Lindgren (2016)
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