Who is Pippi Longstocking?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Pippi Longstocking is the beloved character created by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. She first became known to the world in the title book Pippi Longstocking published in 1945. Lindgren modeled the character after some of her own favorite female characters in novels, particularly Anne Shirley, of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and its sequels.

Pippi Longstocking was known for having red hair in two braids sticking out the side of her head.
Pippi Longstocking was known for having red hair in two braids sticking out the side of her head.

To this date, the Pippi Longstocking books are some of the most popular children’s books, and have been translated into hundreds of languages because of their popularity. In total there have been 11 books featuring the character. The title book was also made into a campy Swedish film that many enjoy.

A US television series based on the books enjoyed some success in 1997. Also in the 1990s, a US film, The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking was made.

Pippi seems most endearing to children because she lives outside established conventions. She has a father who is a pirate, and who only appears from time to time. Mainly she lives alone, and how she wishes. Her behavior often surprises her best friends, siblings Annika and Tommy. Though Pippi often errs, her nature is generous, frequently to a fault.

The character is exceptionally strong and has ample piles of gold for enacting her outrageous schemes. Her hair is bright red, and is usually worn in two braids that stick straight out from each side of her head. In the first Pippi Longstocking, she is nine years old.

Pippi entertains Annika and Tommy with greatly exaggerated tales of her adventures. In some cases, these fantastic tales turn out to be true. She also enjoys defying adult conventions for the proper behavior of children and making fools of adults who behave badly. Her “day” at school is enough to put fear in the heart of any teacher, and she decides not to return.

Critics have celebrated Pippi as a fantastic feminist character. She is definitely self-willed, and self-directed. Her behavior certainly flies in the face of the conventional girl heroine of a book written in the 1940s.

The books are suitable to young readers with a year or two of reading experience; much older readers may enjoy the books as well. They tend to be most appealing to young girls who enjoy Pippi’s unconventional ways and independence. The films have fallen short of the original stories, which is unfortunate. However, the original Swedish film does have something of a cult following.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@aaaCookie- I agree. Pippi Longstocking, or Pippi Langstrumpf (or Langstrump) in the Swedish, is a character that I think is really similar to some of the other characters my mother got me to read when I was a little girl.

For me, she has the slightly nutty outlook of Amelia Bedelia, the well-meaning maid who has her own series of books starting in the 1960s, and the take-charge attitude of Ramona Quimby, who was first written about in the 1950s.

I love Ramona especially, because she's really timeless, but I think Pippi is still important for the same reasons.


@pennywell- While they might be dated, I don't know if these stories are outdated; they're really very different terms.

Sure, the stories obviously take place in what we might refer to as "another time". However, the concept of a young girl who challenges convention, finds ways to point out when others behave badly, and has a huge imagination and sense of adventure is certainly not outdated.

I think she has inspired a lot of more recent characters, but I still think her stories are great for younger children today because they are easy to read and understand, but also interesting for young kids with big imaginations.


@nefret - It's hard to say whether parents still have an obligation to teach their kids about stories like Pippi Longstocking. Wouldn't you agree that even the story itself is outdated by today's standards?


@MsClean - It's funny that you compared Pippi to a character as independent as Huck Finn. In fact you've hit the nail on the head! Many other readers and fans also thought the same, including the now famous Swedish author, Stieg Larsson. I'm sure you've heard of his "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series. In fact, the title character, Lisbet Salander is based on his imagining of how Pippi Longstocking might have turned out as a young adult (arguably, under difficult circumstances). Does anyone know about other famous characters based on Pippi?


@John57 - In a way I don't really blame kids today because Pippi Longstocking has traditionally always been better known and more popular in Sweden and neighboring parts of Europe. In past decades, she was celebrated in North America too, through cartoons, the movie and translated versions of the book, but most of these would seem rather outdated the today's youth. Do you think that parents still owe it to their kids to revisit these types of classics?


I am involved with a community children's theater and Pippi Longstocking was one of the plays they had as part of their current season.

Not all of the kids who auditioned for this play even knew who Pippi Longstocking was! The girl who ended up playing the main part was familiar with this endearing character and she did a great job.

She was so excited to wear her Pippi costume for the first dress rehearsal. The most challenging part though was getting those braids to stick straight out.


Pippi Longstocking was one of my favorite books and characters when I was growing up. Even though the story seemed unbelievable with this red haired, freckle faced girl who always wore her hair in pigtails, and lived by herself, I was fascinated by her antics and her animal companions.

I had several books that I read over and over again. These stories made enough of an impression on me, that when we had a black colt that was born with four long white socks, I gave her the name Pippi Long Stocking.


@Sierra02 - The name of the actress in the Pippi Longstocking films is Inger Nilsson. Her full name is Karin Inger Monica Nilsson and she was born on May 4, 1959 in Kisa, Sweden.

Inger was ten years old when she accepted the role of Pippi Longstocking. I believe she still does some light acting but her primary occupation now is a secretary somewhere in Stockholm.


Who is Pippi Longstocking in the pictures? I mean who is the girl that played Pippi in the movie and does she still act?


I don't know if it was her crazy hair or her mischievous eyes, but there was always something about her that frightened me a little when I looked at her, especially in the Pippi Longstocking movies.

Don't get me wrong though, I've always admired her independent out-going nature. That's what we all loved about her. She was so much like another one of my favorite freedom loving characters, Huckleberry Fin from the Mark Twain novels.


It's a little funny to find this article written about Pippi Longstocking because I mentioned her name to my children just the other day.

I didn't realize that they had no clue who she was. They're nine and fifteen and never even heard the name Pippi Longstocking.

It just goes to show how quickly times change and popularity among childhood icons fade away.

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