Literature: Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking and friends
"It's surely best for little children to live an orderly life, especially if they can order it themselves."
Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking began as a series of children's books by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. They have since been adapted into multiple films and television series. The series is regarded as a classic of Swedish literature and the character has become a cultural icon.

The stories all revolve around the adventures of the eccentric young heroine Pippi. Her mother died when she was just a baby, so her father, Captain Efraim Longstocking, raised her as he travelled the world in his ship. When he was blown overboard in a storm Pippi was convinced that her father had survived and would one day come looking for her, so she moved into an old house (called Villa Villekulla) in a little Swedish village to wait for him. Besides a pet monkey and a horse Pippi lives alone, takes care of herself and keeps a suitcase full of gold pieces to pay for anything she might need. She quickly befriends her neighbors Tommy and Annika, who are both very normal kids in a very normal family. Pippi herself is highly unconventional, assertive, and inhumanly strong, quite able to lift her horse one-handed without difficulty. She can also be instantly recognized by her distinctive red braids that stick straight out on either side of her head.

At first Pippi's adventures are confined to the town she lives in and include her rescuing other kids from trouble, clashing with adults who underestimate her, and generally doing whatever she pleases with no regard for social norms. She later travels with her friends to the tropical island where her father rules as king, having more exotic adventures there before returning home. By the end of the series pretty much everyone in the town comes to accept Pippi the way she is and nobody bothers to make her do anything she doesn't want to. This is okay because although she refuses to go to school or be put in an orphanage, and behaves very badly at times, Pippi is a good kid who really just wants to have fun.

The Pippi Longstocking books have been adapted for TV and cinema several times. The adaptation that is probably most widely known is the 1969 TV series (a Swedish-West German co-production), which was also re-edited into five feature films. There is also an American live-action film from 1988 and a Canadian-German-Swedish animated adaptation from 1997.

Pippi Longstocking provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: Played with in the movie Pippi on the Run, where it becomes a Running Gag: Throughout the movie, Pippi pulls off increasingly impossible things, only for Tommy or Annika to point out that what she's doing is impossible — upon which Pippi will agree that yes, it probably is, and then never do that particular thing again. Gloriously subverted at the very end of the movie, when Pippi rides a broomstick like a witch, and Tommy and Annika once again point out that this is impossible — but then Pippi cries "It's not impossible to me! I can do everything!" and continues her triumphant flight. (In the American dub, her line is: "You may know that the broom can't fly, but the broom doesn't know it!", making it a straighter example of the trope.)
  • Art Evolution: The illustrator, Louis S. Glanzman, steadily gets better with each book.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: Horses don't belong on verandas, or anyplace else with steps they could trip on.
  • Ascended Extra: The two burglars, Blom and Dunder-Karlsson, only appear in one chapter in the original books, but go on to become major recourring characters in the 1969 TV series and later adaptations. Likewise, Kling and Klang, the two police officers were nameless minor characters in the books and got names and larger roles in the TV series.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Mrs Prysselius in the Nelvada animated movie and series. The original Mrs Prysselius from the 1969 TV series was not an antagonist; she was extremely silly, extremely annoying and completely incapable of seeing the value of anything non-conventional, but she was always well-meaning and genuinely wanted what was best for Pippi. The animated version, while still not much of a villain, is a lot more openly antagonistic; her goal seems to be to get Pippi (and, really everyone else) to behave and conform and do as she's told, and is prepared to employ some rather dubious methods in order to reach her goals.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The 1969 Swedish TV series and its related movies take everything that was good about the books and crank it up to eleven, while removing just about everything that didn't work or was just pointless filler, resulting in a much tighter story structure that still left room for a fair amount of the spontaneous wackiness and surreal dialogue that are Pippi's trademarks. It's helped tremendously by tight scriptwriting and good actors (Inger Nilsson in the title role being the most prominent example).
    • Astrid Lindgren herself was highly involved with this particular production, which explains why it's so much closer to the spirit of the books than its many successors.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight most of the time, but there are some notable exceptions. The local school teacher always treats Pippi kindly and is very patient with her bad behavior. Tommy and Annika's parents are like this, too, to the point that they trust Pippi with their children's lives. Then there's Pippi's father, who is just as unusual as she is and allows her to keep living the way she wants to.
  • Animated Adaptation: The only studio to attempt it so far is Nelvana, the same studio that produced Care Bears. It started in 1997 as a movie musical, then spun off into a 26 episode TV series.
  • Berserk Button: Pippi doesn't like it when people beat their animals or bully those that are smaller and weaker. She can also get very upset if Tommy or Annika are in serious danger.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Pippi is very sweet and nice, if a little strange, but if her Berserk Button is pressed, she makes GOOD use of her Super Strength.
  • Blithe Spirit: Pippi is this to the people of the town in general, but particularly Tommy and Annika.
  • Book Dumb: Pippi can't spell and thinks math is a waste of time, but she's smart enough to know how to cook her own meals and frequently outsmarts adults who should know better. She also has a good grasp of geography, having sailed the seven seas with her father and visited several countries.
  • Bully Hunter: Any bully — child or adult — running afoul of Pippi will be subject to her phenomenal strength, usually with a heavy dose of humiliation added to the mix.
  • Canon Immigrant: Mrs. Prysselius doesn't appear in the original books, but after her introduction in the 1969 Swedish TV series has been in every later adaptation. She is pretty much an amalgamation of all the concerned women from the books who disapproved of Pippi living alone, given a name and a much larger role.
  • Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin': The Christmas special of the animated series, where Dunder-Karlsson and Blom wants to go to prison, simply because it's the closest thing they have to a home. Sadly, they can't get in trouble because of too much Christmas spirit, even when they commit what they feel must be the ultimate crime— stealing candy from a baby.
  • Character Exaggeration: One of the good examples with Tommy and Annika in the 1969 TV series and its related movies — in the books, while they do have some individual traits, they're mostly played up as contrasts to Pippi. In the series and movies (particularly the last one, Pippi On The Run) their individual traits come across much more strongly: Tommy as the cheerful, easygoing older brother, Annika as the emotional, sensible younger sister.
  • Cheap Gold Coins: Nobody seems especially willing to point out the value of Pippi's gold currency to her. Of course, a normal grocer in her village might not actually have enough money in their registers to give change (nor would Pippi want to take those filthy coins).
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Pippi flies on a broom at the end of Pippi on the Run.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Pippi
  • Composite Character: Mrs. Prysselius. See Canon Immigrant above.
  • Cute Bruiser: Pippi has not only defeated bullies, police officers, robbers, and dangerous animals, but in one of the movies she took down an entire gang of fully armed pirates!
  • Disney Acid Sequence: The Nelvana animated movie provides one during Blom and Dunder-Karlsson's "I Want" Song.
  • Dub Name Change: Pipi is Hebrew child speech for urine. They had to change it to ‘Gilgi’ in the translated books, then again to ‘Bilbi’ when the dubbed television series started airing and they needed a name to sync with the characters’ lips moving.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Sir/Mr. Nilsson.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Pippi once, on a whim, drank a cocktail of "meduseen (sic)" from the local pharmacy, including several bottles marked "For External Use Only". She seemed to be just fine in the next chapter.
    • And don't forget her literal nail soup (a swedish expression similar to Stone Soup).
  • Failed a Spot Check: The pirates in the Pippi in the South Seas film keep failing to notice Pippi, Annika and Tommy several times when they are fairly close by, almost to the point of being a Running Gag.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Pippi's long stocking never match.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: The tomboyish Pippi subverts this trope; her approach to cooking is somewhat slapdash and eccentric, but as is frequently demonstrated, the results tend to be quite delicious.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Tommy and Annika in the 1969 TV series are often heard as voice-over narrators when exposition needs to be delivered. On very rare occasions, they'd even directly address the camera to explain something — like in the first episode, when Tommy and Annika introduce themselves and their family to the viewer through their regular voice-over narration, and then as they leave their house to run for school, Annika stops in front of the camera and tells the audience: "This is our house!"
  • Fiery Redhead: Not in a bad way though.
  • Formally Named Pet: Mr Nilsson the monkey.
  • The Gadfly: Occasionally she'll annoy random people for seemingly no other reason than that it's funny. For the most part, tough, her worst insults and most annoying behavior are directed towards overly-strict or pompous authority figures, bullies and villains.
  • Genki Girl: Of course!
  • Girlish Pigtails: Duh!
  • The Hedonist: Pippi shows traces of this - however, she's not portrayed as a strawman, she's just a standard kid who naturally does whatever makes them happy.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Occurs in the 1988 movie The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.
  • Improbable Hair Style: People trying to cosplay as Pippi inevitably have trouble with her gravity-defying red braids. The actress in the original Pippi TV adaptation had wire braided into her hair to keep it in place. Now that's an Improbable Hair Style.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Blom and Dunder-Karlsson, who become Those Two Bad Guys in most of the adaptations.
  • Lighter and Softer: The original version of the first book (published after Lindgren's death under the title Ur-Pippi, or "proto-Pippi") was notably more absurd, anarchistic and at times macabre, with more physical violence and a notably more obnoxious and confrontational Pippi. The final version of the book is more toned down, Pippi becoming kinder, gentler, more nurturing and even more emotional; her worst behavior now generally used as a reaction to other people treating her or her friends badly first.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Pippi manages to combine this with being a Cloudcuckoolander and Genki Girl. She is, not surprisingly, at her snarkiest when confronting too-strict or unfair adults who object to her non-conformist way of life.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: These go back as far as 1949, but the most famous ones are the 1969 Swedish TV series and the 1988 American feature film. Then, early in January 2010, it was announced that a new American film is being planned.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Pippi for Tommy and Annika, though obviously without the romantic angle.
  • Minor Living Alone: Pippi lives alone with a horse and a monkey. At times, the adults in the town want to help or assist her, but she prefers to take care of herself most of the time.
  • Missing Mom: Died when Pippi was a baby. Pippi imagines her as an angel in Heaven who watches over her.
  • Motor Mouth: Pippi routinely lapses into longwinded, nonsensical speech, especially when she's telling lies or dealing with a stuffy adult.
  • Mugging the Monster: Two burglars attempted to rob Pippi. The chapter ended with them having a Spot of Tea with her... somehow.
  • The Munchausen: Most of the stories Pippi comes out with are actually lies.
    • She claims to have learned to lie from her trip to the Congo... which is probably also made up.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The “Scrubbing Day” sequence in the 1988 film.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Adolf, a very large and muscular circus strongman, has no trouble bending iron bars in half but he can't beat Pippi in a wrestling match.
  • Naughty Is Good: Pippi, though she's more playfully mischievous than truly naughty. Also, her best friends are well-behaved children.
  • The New Adventures: Used by the 1988 movie The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking.
  • No Name Given: In the books, Pippi's horse is simply called 'the horse', though certain film and video adaptations have named him either "Old Man", "Lilla Gubben" (affectionate Swedish for "Little old man") or "Alfonzo."
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Pippi has two unusual pets. Subverted in that they're really just a normal monkey and horse.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Kling and Klang have gotten this trait in the Animated Adaptation; while played more sympathetically than many versions of the trope, they still tend to spend so much time filling out forms and discussing what forms to fill out that they seldom get anything done.
  • Overly Long Name: Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking, in the English translation.
    • And in the original Swedish version: Pippilotta Victualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump.
  • Parental Abandonment: Pippi has a father, but he's away at sea a lot (and in the first book is missing after having been blown overboard in a storm). Fortunately, Pippi is financially self-sufficient and very resourceful.
  • Pirate:
    • Even though the books, TV shows, and movies all take place sometime in the 20th century, there's plenty of these guys running around in Pippi's universe — and 17th century movie pirates, not the modern kind.
    • She even states at one point that she wants to be a pirate when she grows up. Somewhat justified by the fact that her father was a wealthy sea captain in the books, but whether he's really a pirate is unclear.
    • Her suitcase full of gold coins makes you think of a pirate's hoard.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Pippi, of course.
  • Rules of Orphan Economics: Type 1 for Pippi. It's nice to have a bottomless suitcase full of gold coins, isn't it?
    • In the 1969 TV series she does at one point run out of money, conveniently at the time when her long-lost (and rich) father comes to find her, turning it into a Type 2 situation.
      • That's based on the tail end of Pippi Goes On Board. As the Hoptoad pulls away from the dock her dad throws her a new suitcase full of money. It lands in the water, but she jumps in and retrieves it.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Pippi's usual outfit in the books, complete with mismatched socks.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Tommy and Pippi.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Despite certain Seinfeld characters having no idea who she is and think she's got something to do with Hitler, she actually provided examples of this trope long before any of them were ever on TV.
  • Single-Minded Twins: While they're not actually twins, Tommy and Annika often display hints of this in the books, having similar if not identical reactions to things and often sharing spoken lines — though not played completely straight, as there are occasional hints of differences between them, Tommy being more upbeat and easygoing, while Annika is more pessimistic and anxious. The 1969 TV series and movies take these individual traits and makes them clearer, completely averting the trope.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Averted — the Child Welfare Board do take interest, and in the 1969 TV series (and later adaptations) well-meaning Mrs. Prysselius visits often and makes repeated attempts at getting Pippi to an orphanage, but Pippi prefers to continue living on her own and makes this very clear.
  • Stepford Smiler: Well, sort of. While there's no doubt that on the whole, Pippi is genuinely happy, there are the occasional, usually very subtle hints that she isn't quite as carefree as she pretends to be, and that at least some of her wackiness is a coping mechanism. It's mostly visible on the few occasions when she gets visibly upset or sad about something, and then moments later brushes it off, usually with a smart-alec comment or doing something spontaneously bizarre.
    • Possibly the strongest hint here is in the book Pippi in the South Seas, which is one of the times we actually see Pippi seriously crying — Tommy is almost eaten by a shark, but Pippi saves him, after which the narrative notes she behaves "very strangely," hugging Tommy tightly and then breaking down in tears. When the other children, a little startled by this uncharacteristic behavior, ask if she's crying because Tommy almost died, she answers rather crossly that she's crying because that poor shark didn't get any breakfast.
  • Stout Strength: Pippi's father, Captain Efraim Longstocking.
  • Super-Strong Child: The only adult who ever comes close to Pippi in strength is her own father, whom she probably inherited it from.
  • Tall Tale: Pippi tells these all the time.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Blom and Dunder-Karlsson, the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain duo who try and fail to steal Pippi's money. While they only appear in one chapter of the original books, they get increased roles and become this; though they're much too bumbling to be threatening in any way.
    • Jim and Buck, the bandits from the book version of Pippi in the South Seas are a slightly more malicious and threatening version of this, though Pippi handles them with ease.
  • Those Two Guys: Kling and Klang, the policemen. Again, not really in the book, where they're only in one chapter, but in the adaptations they're pretty much this trope.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Pippi and Annika.
  • Tomboy Princess: After her father is made the king of Kurrekurredutt Island, Pippi becomes a princess by default. Doubles as Modest Royalty since she discourages her subjects from bowing to her and prefers to be treated as one of them.
  • Uncle Pennybags: Pippi is very generous with her gold pieces and never seems to run out of them.
  • Unfortunate Names: In many languages, Pippi is a childish way to say piss, which is why her name is changed to Fifi in the French adaptation, Peppi in Russia, Bilbi in Israel, etc.
  • Youthful Freckles
  • Zettai Ryouiki: They don't call her Pippi Longstocking for nothing!