Study Guide

Pippi Longstocking Family

By Astrid Ericsson Lindgren

Family

Pippi was sure that her mother was now up in Heaven, watching her little girl through a peephole in the sky, and Pippi often waved up at her and called, "Don't you worry about me. I'll always come out on top." (1.2)

Pippi's mom died when she was a baby, so Pippi doesn't remember her at all. Even so though, she seems sure of her mother's love, and she draws strength from the thought of her mother watching over her at all times.

"My father is a cannibal king; it certainly isn't every child who has such a stylish papa," Pippi used to say with satisfaction. "And as soon as my papa has built himself a boat he will come and get me, and I'll be a cannibal princess. Heigh-ho, won't that be exciting?" (1.4)

Maybe Pippi's father is dead. Maybe he's not. You'll have to read a few sequels to find out, but the point here is that Pippi refuses to believe he's gone. Like, gone-gone. As far as she's concerned, she's not an orphan; she's just holding down the fort till Dad comes home. So yeah, she's got family—in her heart and mind if not in her house.

Beside Villa Villekulla was another garden and another house. In that house lived a father and a mother and two charming children, a boy and a girl. (1.10)

Clearly, the Settergrens have a much more traditional set-up than Pippi. If they had a minivan, they could put a little stick figure family on the back window. Of course, they should probably get a dog first.

Annika said anxiously, "Do you live here all alone?"

"Of course not!" said Pippi. "Mr. Nilsson and the horse live here too."

"Yes, but I mean don't you have any mother or father here?"

"No, not the least little tiny bit of a one," said Pippi happily.

"But who tells you when to go to bed at night and things like that?" asked Annika.

"I tell myself," said Pippi. "First I tell myself in a nice friendly way; and then, if I don't mind, I tell myself again more sharply; and if I still don't mind, then I'm in for a spanking—see?"

Tommy and Annika didn't see at all, but they thought maybe it was a good way. (1.32-38)

First off, this quote shows that Pippi considers Mr. Nilsson and the horse as part of her household, and therefore part of her family. Second, it suggests that her alternative lifestyle (animals as siblings, parents existing in separate planes or hemispheres) doesn't seem like such a bad set-up to Tommy and Annika.

"Is one allowed to bring horses to your children's home?" asked Pippi.

"No, of course not," said the policeman.

"That's what I thought," Pippi said sadly. "Well, what about monkeys?"

"Of course not. You ought to realize that."

"Well then," said Pippi, "you'll have to get kids for your children's home somewhere else. I certainly don't intend to move there." (3.13-17)

What kind of person would move into a home that wouldn't allow the rest of their family to come along? Certainly not Pippi.

"My name is Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraim's Daughter Longstocking, daughter of Captain Efraim Longstocking, formerly the Terror of the Sea, now a cannibal king." (4.25)

Yeah, it's pretty obvious that being her father's daughter is a big part of Pippi's identity, showing that family does indeed matter (even when your dad is lost at sea).

"Aren't your mother and father home?" asked Bloom.

"No," said Pippi. "They're gone. Completely gone." (8.29-30)

This one kind of makes us want to cry. Of course the robbers (Bloom and Thunder-Karlsson) have no way of knowing that Pippi is, in effect, an orphan, but we understand that when she says "gone," she means gone. For a moment at least, we feel like maybe the absence of a mom and a dad—a traditional family, so to speak—does leave Pippi alone in the world.

Then she had sat down in front of her chest and looked at all her birds' eggs and shells, and thought about the wonderful places where she and her father had collected them and about all the pleasant little shops all over the world where they had bought the beautiful things that were now in the drawers of her chest. (10.2)

Yep, that's Pippi's dad: gone (for now at least), but not forgotten. Not at all. Pippi takes great comfort in being amongst the things she and her father collected together, so even though he might be living as a cannibal king on a far away island for the time being, his presence is still felt. And still very important.

"We can't get out because someone has built a fire on the stairs," cried the older boy. He was five and his brother was a year younger. Their mother had gone out on an errand, and there they stood all alone. (10.11)

See what happens when kids are left at home alone without parental supervision? Kids that aren't Pippi, that is.

Just then there was a knock at the door. It was Tommy's and Annika's father who had come to take them home. It was long past their bedtime, he said. […]

Pippi followed her guests out to the porch and watched them disappear through the garden. They turned around to wave. The light from inside shone on her. There she stood with her stiff red braids, dressed in her father's nightshirt which billowed around her feet. (11.77-78)

Okay, so Tommy and Annika have a dad who comes to take them home and make sure they get their beauty rest, and Pippi has… a nightshirt. Then again, Tommy and Annika have to go home and go to bed, while Pippi can do, well, whatever she wants. So you tell us: who has the better deal here?