Study Guide

Pippi Longstocking Youth

By Astrid Ericsson Lindgren

Youth

In that house lived a father and a mother and two charming children, a boy and a girl. The boy's name was Tommy and the girl's Annika. They were good, well brought up, and obedient children. Tommy […] always did exactly what his mother told him to do. Annika never fussed when she didn't get her own way […]." (1.10)

Tommy and Annika have a bit more supervision in their lives than Pippi does. They're definitely being groomed by their parents to fit into polite society, and they are indeed very pleasant—and charming—children. (No wonder they run off to Pippi's every chance they get.)

"What are we going to do now?" asked Tommy.

"I don't know what you are going to do," said Pippi, "but I know I can't lie around and be lazy. I am a Thing-Finder, and when you're a Thing-Finder you don't have a minute to spare." (2.18-19)

One of the best things about being a kid is being able to make up simple games like this and have hours of fun playing them. Pippi's thing-finding mission is such a great example of that ability we have in our youth to see ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

They went on to tell her that some nice people in the town were arranging for her to get into a children's home.

"I already have a place in a children's home," said Pippi.

"What?" asked one of the policemen. "Has it been arranged already then? What children's home?"

"This one," said Pippi haughtily. "I am a child and this is my home. Therefore it is a children's home, and I have room enough here, plenty of room." (3.8-11)

This is particularly funny because Pippi has a great point. Her house is a children's (or at least a child's) home in the most literal sense, whereas the children's home where the police and townspeople want to put her is most likely run by adults. And of course, as Pippi points out, there simply wouldn't be enough room for her (and her monkey and her horse and her imagination) in a home like that.

Outside Villa Villekulla sat Pippi, Tommy, and Annika. […] It was a warm and beautiful day toward the end of August. A pear tree that grew close to the fence stretched its branches so low down that the children could sit and pick the best little red-gold pears without any trouble at all. They munched and ate and spit pear cores out onto the road. (5.1)

This is kind of the idyllic view most people have of childhood: beautiful summer days spent outside, green grass, trees swaying in the breeze, ripe pears, friends, and freedom from the adult world of work and bills and responsibilities. This is also the kind of childhood Astrid Lindgren thought kids should have—one where they were free to be kids, spitting pear cores onto the road. (We'd like to advocate for a little of this time for adults, although we're okay without the spitting.)

"We'll have this for our secret hiding place," said Tommy. "Nobody will know that we are here. And if they should come and hunt around outside for us, we can see them through the crack. And we'll have a good laugh." (5.72)

Did you ever have a secret fort? Or a clubhouse? Or a treehouse? Or a clearing in the woods that only you knew about? There's something really cool about having a special place of your own where you can gather with friends—or just go by yourself—when you're young. As people get older, it doesn't seem quite as necessary or intriguing. (We don't know a lot of thirty-somethings with secret hiding places.) Why do you think that is?

The door opened and the two tramps came in. You can imagine that they opened their eyes when they saw a little red-headed girl sitting all alone on the floor counting money. (8.7)

As Thunder-Karlsson and Bloom demonstrate, older people tend to view younger people as naïve, inexperienced, and incapable of taking care of themselves. As Pippi demonstrates, that's a pretty narrow view.

At three in the morning Pippi said, "I could keep on dancing until Thursday, but maybe you're tired and hungry."

That was exactly what they were, though they hardly dared say so. Pippi went to the pantry and took out bread and cheese and butter, ham and cold roast and milk; and they sat around the kitchen table—Bloom and Thunder-Karlsson, and Pippi—and ate until they were almost four-cornered. (8.57-58)

This is one of many moments in which Pippi takes on a role we would normally associate with an adult. Of course, we already knew she could make pancakes and cookies, but man—she's got more (and better) food in her refrigerator than most single adults. This girl knows how to cook and she knows how to caretake. She takes better care of these guys than they can take of themselves, and she teaches them a lesson or two in the process, which just goes to show sometimes age can learn from youth.

Tommy's and Annika's mother had invited a few ladies to a coffee party, and as she had done plenty of baking, she thought Tommy and Annika might invite Pippi over at the same time. The children would entertain each other and give no trouble to anyone. (9.1)

Mrs. Settergren is one of those adults who seems to prefer children when they are being quiet, polite, and virtually invisible—i.e., not children. She believes children have their place and she wants them to stay in it. Of course, we know that doesn't work out so well for her—or for anyone else—in this scene.

Pippi thought for a while. Then she asked, "Can anybody bring me a long rope?"

"What good would that do?" asked the stout gentleman. "The children are too small to get down the rope, and, for that matter, how would you ever get the rope up to them?"

"Oh, I've been around a bit," said Pippi calmly. (10.17-19)

Yep—life experience comes in all sizes and all time spans. She may only be nine, but Pippi has accumulated plenty of special knowledge and skills. She also has a monkey and super-strength, but it's really her youthful perspective and her willingness to think outside the box that get the ball rolling here.

"I'm going to be a pirate when I grow up," she cried. "Are you?" (11.80)

After the debacle of the coffee party, where Pippi tries (and fails) to fit in with the ladies, she slides back into her rightful role as the local wunderkind. And when she tells her friends in the last line that she's going to be a pirate when she grows up, we get the feeling that what she's actually saying is that she'll never stop playing—she'll hold on to the magic of her youth forever and, in effect, never grow up at all.