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Literature / Madicken

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Madicken is a character created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. She appears in two novels and a short story which were adapted into a TV series in 1979 and a movie in 1980. English translations have given her several different names; the British translation of the books names her "Mardie," while the American translation calls her "Mischievous Meg," and the English print of the movies names her "Maggie."

Madicken is an upper middle class girl, who lives with her parents and sister on the outskirts of a small town in Sweden in the 1910's. Her father is the editor-in-chief of the local newspaper and unconventional in so far as he tries to draw his children's attention to social issues and injustice. Madicken is seen as a difficult child because of her temper and her many adventurous ideas that often get her in trouble, but she also has a kind heart and can't stand to see someone else unhappy. Other characters include Madicken's baby sister Lisabet, who admires Madicken's courage and gradually develops a mischievous side, the mother, who is often exhausted by her daughter's energy and stubbornness, the nanny Alva who often deals with the children's day-to-day issues, and Madicken's neighbour and friend Abbe and his parents.


Notable because while Lindgren depicts an idyllic and sheltered childhood for the main character, the book also addresses many social issues through the family's neighbours and a poor classmate that always tries to pick fights with her.

Madicken contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Abbe's father spends most of his time drinking or sleeping, which puts a lot of stress on his wife. He's a much more sympathetic character though than many other exemples of this trope, because he's a genuinely kind man at heart.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Lisabet has traits of this, even though the sisters get along more often than not.
  • Apron Matron: Linus-Ida, the laundry woman.
  • Bowdlerisation: Mischievous Meg, the American translation of the first book, is noted for making cuts and omissions to the original text to remove "offensive" material; most notably an entire chapter that depicts Madicken's and Lisabeth's first meeting with the poor children Mia and Mattis, and which not only depicts a class-conflict but also features the girls swearing at one another. The British translation, Mardie's Adventures, keeps the chapter and is a far more faithful translation, however.
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  • Bourgeois Bohemian: Madicken's father is a newspaper editor, so he's rich enough to give his daughters a priviledged upper middle class upbringing. And the family belongs to the upper crust of the small town. Even so, he is proud to be a socialist and gets really angry when other rich people treat poor people badly.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Lisabet is very much one of these — she's self-centered, stubborn and bratty, she laughs merrily at other people's misfortunes, and she has worked out that being the youngest and cutest means she can get away with a lot more. However, she's played much more sympathetically than many examples of the trope; there's no malice to her actions, and she genuinely admires and looks up to Madicken.
  • Catchphrase: Lisabet is very fond of telling Madicken that "You're out of your mind, Madicken!" Usually delivered with a gleeful thrill that reveals that in Lisabet's opinion, being out of her mind is one of Madicken's better qualities.
  • Cheerful Child: Madicken and Lisabet.
  • Children Are Cruel: As is typical of Astrid Lindgren's works, all the child characters (especially the girls) have their moments of this. As it also typical of her works, this doesn't mean they're bad people. Lisabet doesn't quite understand how bad she's being, and Mia and Mattis lash out because they have a difficult life.
  • Corporal Punishment: When the principal finds out that Mia stole his wallet, he spanks her in front of the whole class. Madicken has never seen violence before and is so shocked that she stands up and begs him to stop, which he does after a while.
  • Daddy's Girl: Madicken is the Tomboy older sister, who has developed a growing sense of social justice. So there is no wonder that she has a very special relationship with her socialist father, who happens to also be more lenient than her more uptight mother is.
  • Determinator: As small as she is, once Madicken sets her mind to something, she won't give up on it.
  • Fiery Redhead: Madicken's classmate Mia, although her aggression is mainly directed towards Madicken.
  • The Gadfly:
    • Lisabet has clear traits of this. Sometimes she's just Innocently Insensitive, but it's often hinted that she likes deliberately annoying people because it's funny.
    • Abbe is mostly a Nice Guy, but he has a few moments where he's just a little too fond of teasing and pranking Madicken. He will, however, regret it and make amends if he sees he's gone too far.
  • Hate Sink: The second book of the series has two examples.
    • The mayor's wife is a painfully stuck-up Rich Bitch, who believes that she's above everyone else in their small town. She begins a stupid vendetta against Alva, Madicken's family's housemaid. Her husband is also clearly hen-pecked, and she basically forces him to fly with an airplane, despite that it's clear that he's too scared to do it, which causes him to have a Potty Failure out of fright while up in the air.
    • Madicken's school headmaster is hated by all the children, because he's so mean and gruff. Not to mention that he's politically incorrect by modern standards, with his rigid views on how girls should behave and his tendency to let rich kids get away with more than poor kids. But he passes the Moral Event Horizon by humiliating and caning a poor girl, who had stolen his wallet. And to make the situation even worse, he does all of this right in front of her class-mates. Madicken acknowledges that stealing is wrong, but it's made clear that the punishment was too severe for the crime.
  • Henpecked Husband: The mayor really isn't as much into social events as his wife is, but she forces him to attend them anyway.
  • Motor Mouth: Lisabet, who talks about everything and anything in great detail.
  • Nice Girl: Madicken, in a way that doesn't clash with her mischievous side; she's temperamental and often thoughtless, she get into fights, she misbehaves - but she's a genuinely generous and empathic person who can't stand it when she sees or even hears about someone else being unhappy.
  • One-Word Title
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Madicken's real name is "Margareta," but nobody uses it (except when they're scolding her). Likewise, Lisabet is actually named "Elisabet."
  • Out-of-Character Moment:
    • Madicken is normally a loving older sister to Lisabet. But occasionally, she's a jerk to Lisabet for no other reason than that being a jerk suddenly amuses her. Then again, this is probably meant to only be typical sibling bickering. And just a moment later, the two sisters will be playing together again as if nothing unusual has happened.
    • Similarly, it is made clear that Madicken is Spoiled Sweet and mostly a really compassionate person for her young age. But still, she did call her poverty-stricken classmate Mia "Louse Mia" once. She only did that though after having been harassed by Mia for a long time. And still, she would regret it later and eventually became friends with Mia.
  • Parasol Parachute: Madicken believed that if she used her father's umbrella as a parachute, she would be able to jump from the roof of a shed without being harmed. She got a concussion after she hit the ground.
  • Rich Bitch: The mayor's wife believes that she's above everyone else in their small town. She starts a stupid vendetta against Alva, Madicken's family's housemaid, and The Film of the Book makes it very clear that her husband is hen-pecked.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Madicken and Lisabet are prone to these, usually in some way revolving around some misunderstanding about society, history or Bible stories.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Madicken grows up in a privileged upper middle class household, and her family belongs to the upper crust of their small town. But still, she has been taught by her Bourgeois Bohemian father to treat all people the same and have sympathy for the less fortunate. So she's not above being in love with their charming but poor neighbor Abbe, despite the fact that his father is a hopeless alcoholic. And she also defends her poor class mate Mia against the mean head-master and later becomes friends with her.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Madicken is the tomboy, Lisabet is the girly-girl. Madicken likes to climb trees and houseroofs and will win every fight. Lisabet might be mischievous, but still, she's the more delicate and prettier of the two. It should be noted though that Madicken, not Lisabet, is the one who cries when she hears sad songs or sad stories.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: From Madicken's point of view at least, Mia does this in the second book. Though Madicken does admit that Mia remains the quarrelsome and bad-behaviored troublemaker in school, she completely stops fighting with Madicken because Madicken shows her kindness. How their relationship develops is perfectly illustrated in the differences between their interactions in the first and the last chapter: In the first chapter, Mia steals one of Madicken's sandals — in the last chapter, which takes place exactly one year later, they run around together like the best of friends.
  • Wrong Assumption: Mia believes that Madicken is a stuck-up Spoiled Brat. But even though it's true that Madicken is the richest kid in their class, she also is Spoiled Sweet. And because her father is a Bourgeois Bohemian, she has been taught to care about social justice. And in the end, she and Mia can even become friends.


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