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Cage Match: Pippi Longstocking Vs. Any Character in Children’s Literature

Miscellaneous, Op-Ed

For my money, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking is the most unique character in children’s literature.  I’m not just talking Pippi’s fiery red braids and superhuman strength, or even the fact she’s only nine- years-old yet lives alone at Villa Villekulla with Mr. Nilsson, the monkey.

Pippi Longstocking is one-of-a-kind because of her live-in-the-moment outlook and the fact that no one ever tricks her.  Pippi is always, always ahead of the game.

And that’s why I wish I’d never embarked on this blog post topic.

See, my idea was to search out contemporary characters that could be considered, if not Pippi’s equals, then her kindred spirits.  I wanted to provide a whole new book list for readers who love Pippi’s generous worldview and her sly ability for telling the truth within tall-tale “lies.”  So I went to two public libraries and picked the brains of three children’s librarians.  They were knowledgeable and eager to help, and gave me about twenty titles.

Some of those books I’d already read but many were new to me.  I happily took them home and began reading with the intention of highlighting the books in this post.  But after hours of agonizing stops and starts, I’m admitting defeat.  Why?  Because even though I enjoyed those books and their characters, none came close to replicating my love and adoration for Pippi.  It would be a stretch putting those characters in the same category.

I’m going to punt.

Is there any character in children’s books you believe would stand a chance against Pippi Longstocking in a literary cage match?  If so, please share in the comments.  But before you start rattling off suggestions, keep this PIPPI LONGSTOCKING excerpt in mind:

“Yes, but I mean, don’t you have any mother or father here?”

“No, not the least 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?”

And this excerpt from PIPPI IN THE SOUTH SEAS:

The arithmetic lesson was interrupted by Captain Longstocking, who came to announce that he and the whole crew and all the Kurrekurredutts were going off to another island for a couple of days to hunt wild boar.  Captain Longstocking was in the mood for some fresh boar steak.  The Kurrekurredutt women were also to go along, to scare out the boar with wild cries.  That meant that the children would be staying behind alone on the island.

“I hope you won’t be sad because of this?” said Captain Longstocking.

“I’ll give you three guesses,” said Pippi.  “The day I hear that some children are sad because they have to take care of themselves without grownups, that day I’ll learn the whole pluttification table backward, I’ll swear to that.”

See what I’m up against?

Tracy Abell knows Astrid Lindgren set the bar very high, but she’s still trying to create middle-grade characters that could, at least, make decent sparring partners for Pippi.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Sayantani  •  Dec 17, 2010 @6:22 am

    In the middle grade world? A hard one – the broke the mold, er, Villa Villekulla, when they made Pippi… maybe Frannie K. Stein withe her underground lair of bats and zombies and mad scientist potions could give Pippi a run for her money… otherwise I’m at a bit of a loss! Great post!

  2. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Dec 17, 2010 @7:57 am

    Pippi’s a fantastic one, but I gotta throw out couple more of my favs. How about Anne of Green Gables – what a character she is!

    And I’ve always loved Turtle from THE WESTING GAME. Her quirks are so subtle and funny.

  3. Karen Schwartz  •  Dec 17, 2010 @9:13 am

    I always thought Pippi was a little, ahem, crazy. A little too cheerful about being an orphan, ya know? I’d put her in a cage match with Anne of Green Gables, Junie B, and Ramona. I think Anne with her temper would come out on top! But there’d be a lot of interesting conversations going on.

  4. Laura Marcella  •  Dec 17, 2010 @9:37 am

    Anne Shirley! She’s another redhead who could give Pippi something to think about. :)

    I haven’t read a Pippi book in a long time. My old copies were read so often they fell apart. Time for new ones!

  5. Sydney Salter  •  Dec 17, 2010 @1:29 pm

    I love Pippi too! As a kid I wanted to BE Pippi. No one comes for me either–not yet!

  6. Blythe  •  Dec 17, 2010 @2:59 pm

    The thing about Pippi that makes her the winner is that she would *never* notice that she had lost.

  7. Tracy Abell  •  Dec 17, 2010 @4:06 pm

    Sayantani: I’ll have to look up Frannie K. Stein. She was not one of the librarians’ suggestions. Could Pippi have met her match?!

    Kimberley: Anne of Green Gables didn’t appear on the librarians’ list, but as you can see from the other comments, many readers agree with you. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve not yet read THE WESTING GAME. My younger loves it.

    Karen: Anne wasn’t on my radar or the librarians’ but Ramona and Junie B were mentioned. As for Pippi and her “orphan” state, she always believed her father would return to Villa Villekulla, and he did! The power of positive Pippi thinking! :)

    Laura: By all means, run out and buy new copies of Pippi, and bask in her glow! I still have my childhood copy of PIPPI IN THE SOUTH SEAS but my other copies fell apart along the way.

    Sydney: I wanted to be Pippi, too. My husband told me this morning when he was little, Pippi and her living situation made him nervous. All those burglars, etc. coming into her life.

    Blythe: I think you’ve nailed the essence of Pippi! :)

  8. Laurie Schneider  •  Dec 17, 2010 @5:59 pm

    Hmm… I will ask one of my daughter’s friends, an avid reader and true Pippi acolyte.

  9. Kenda  •  Dec 17, 2010 @6:32 pm

    Ah, can’t think of a character to match Pippi–but you sure have prompted me to go back and visit her! Thanks for the idea :-)

  10. Tracy Abell  •  Dec 18, 2010 @11:23 am

    Laurie: Looking forward to the report from your daughter’s friend!

    Kenda: I hope you do go back and read Pippi again. I laugh every time I pick up one of those books.

  11. Kimberley Griffiths Little  •  Dec 18, 2010 @11:56 am

    Tracy, Tracy! You’ve GOT to read THE WESTING GAME!!! It’s actually one of my all-time favorite kid’s books ever. In fact, about 20 years ago when I first started writing and was making all the usual beginner mistakes (not knowing a single other writer and before the internet and blogging) my very first completed MG novel manuscript was a mystery similar to The Westing Game. I was *copying* a brilliant writer. :-) I have been sad for many, many years that Ellen Raskin died so young.

  12. Sayantani  •  Dec 18, 2010 @3:32 pm

    Tracey: here’s a post I did about Franie K. Stein a while ago. She’s not like Pippi, save for the fact that she’s like no one else out there, a one of a kind, just like Pippi: http://storiesaregoodmedicine.blogspot.com/2010/09/girls-like-boogers-boys-like-romance.html
    Kimberly: heard great things about the Westing Game -must get big reader 8yo it!

  13. Tracy Abell  •  Dec 19, 2010 @10:43 pm

    Kimberley: Thanks for the nudge. Will definitely read THE WESTING GAME.

    Sayantani: That was a great post. Stop desegregation, already! I’m going to my online library account and reserve some Frannie K. Stein right now.

  14. Llehn  •  Dec 20, 2010 @7:18 pm

    The book sounds awesome :D

  15. Tracy Abell  •  Dec 21, 2010 @9:35 am

    Llehn: I hope you can read a Pippi book or two; they’ll bring you a smile!

  16. Laurel null Strong  •  Dec 26, 2010 @11:56 am

    I think there’s something wrong with me: I have never liked Pippi Longstocking, but then I never liked Curious George either.

  17. Tracy Abell  •  Jan 2, 2011 @12:23 pm

    Laurel: I just came back and found your comment. There’s nothing wrong with you; we all have likes and dislikes, and Pippi isn’t on your like-list. I don’t take it personally, and know for a fact Pippi wouldn’t, either. :)

  18. Laurel null Strong  •  Jan 3, 2011 @1:31 pm

    “…and know for a fact Pippi wouldn’t, either.”

    This made me smile. Thanks.