Pippi is extremely kind, generous and honest. I think she feels lonely sometimes, and I don’t know if she is vulnerable under the surface, but I think she must be. If that is the case, her way of protecting herself seems to be to avoid being sentimental. Even when she shares her innermost thoughts, she does it in a straightforward and unsentimental way. But we never reach deep into her 9-year-old soul, I think it’s due to Astrid’s desire to never be tearful. I guess she didn’t want to write “A Little Match Girl” or “Steadfast Tin Soldier”.
Obviously, Pippi is always on the side of the weak and vulnerable. Her strong sense of justice is a clear compass for her, as is her solidarity with people who are bullied and can’t defend themselves. She feels a strong sense of loyalty to Tommy and Annika. I wouldn’t necessarily call her a rebel, but she has no understanding whatsoever of social norms and does exactly what she thinks is rational in the situation, even if it breaches customs and traditions. She thinks that not being allowed to do certain things in certain contexts is incomprehensible and stupid. That also applies to laws and regulations. She is the definition of civil disobedience.
And she is of course incredibly strong and agile, but she never uses her strength to impress or gain an unfair advantage. A bit like Clark Kent. She uses it to help the underdog or sometimes just for fun. She is the world’s strongest girl, but only shows it when it is really needed.
Pippi cannot read or write, and clearly thinks these are unnecessary skills. I have always found that a bit problematic. I don’t know if Astrid had any particular reason for this, but school as such is an environment in which Pippi doesn’t really fit in, and she acquires knowledge in other ways. She listens to people and tries to understand their motives, but if they violate her view of honesty and equality, she goes her own way. She listens and is willing to change her point of view if there are rational reasons, but not otherwise.
Is Pippi a feminist? Yes, I think so, if by feminism you mean that both sexes are human beings and that there is no, absolutely no, reason to put one above the other.
So this is how I personally view Pippi, but we are many co-creators in this show and everyone has contributed in their own way with their Pippi images. Especially Malin Billing, Astrid’s grandchild, who has Pippi’s DNA in her backbone. She slaps me on the hand if I write words that don’t sound like something Pippi would say. As the work with “Pippi at the Circus” has progressed, I have tried to integrate Astrid’s language into the lyrics as much as possible.
Some years ago, I also tackled another national treasure, Vilhelm Moberg, when Benny Andersson, Lars Rudolfsson and I wrote “Kristina from Duvemåla”. I approach Astrid and her Pippi with the same deep respect, and that respect is felt by all of us who have been involved in creating “Pippi at the Circus”.
Astrid Lindgren is Sweden’s most read and most important author. I think I realised that already way back in 1967 when I gave her a rose on Västerlånggatan!
Björn Ulvaeus December 2021