BFTP – Friday Hoyden: Pippi Longstocking

This is part of our Summer Slowdown program of revisiting the archives, and was originally published in July 2007.

[image credit: kiddie matinee]

I loved Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking as a kid, and I’m just rediscovering her now at bedtime read-aloud with my four-year-old. Pippi is a quintessential hoyden, the obvious choice for my first Friday Hoyden piece. As a quick google “define:hoyden” search will tell you, the word “hoyden” has traditionally been used as a perjorative for girls or women who are “spirited”, “tomboyish” or “behave in a boyish manner”. Like “tomboy” and “harridan”, “hoyden” has been used to dismiss and shame women who don’t conform to traditional scripts of patriarchally-enforced femininity. Well, we’re reclaiming it.

Pippi is everything I wanted to be as a child but didn’t know how – outrageous, loud, anti-authoritarian, strong, free-spirited, messy, generous, powerful, and brutally honest. She is self-sufficient, thinks “ladylike” is a loud of hooey, and is an efficient dispenser of justice to bullies. Her shoes are too big, her clothes are a mess, she can lift a horse over her head, and nobody knows what to do with her. What’s not to like? freelance journalist Tiina Meri’s article “Pippi Longstocking: Swedish rebel and feminist role model” notes that Pippi was an early critic of beauty culture. This was very much a new concept for me in my Seventies childhood, though beauty culture was slightly different back then compared to now. (I have an album full of photos of me in plaid trousers, not “Lil’ pornstar” T-shirts.) It laid the seed for my future rejection of a constellation of femininity dictates, just as Pippi’s strength started me on the path to realising that developing bulging, strong muscles from sports training was a source of power for me, not feminine shame.

Meri offers this snippet of outspoken self-acceptance from Pippi:

“There is a sign in a shop window in the small town where she lives that reads, ‘DO YOU SUFFER FROM FRECKLES?’ Pippi doesn’t. She isn’t interested in the anti-freckle cream on offer but nevertheless goes into the shop to makes her position clear.

“No, I don’t suffer from freckles,” she declares.

“But my dear child,” says the startled assistant, “your whole face is covered in them.”

“I know,” says Pippi, “but I don’t suffer from them. I like them. Good morning!”

Who’s your favourite hoyden from history or fiction?

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

Tags: , ,

3 replies

  1. When I was 10, I acted a small scene from Pippi Longstockings in the local speech and drama competitions. I had a bright orange wig and extra freckles on my nose, and my mother made tiny cream cakes for me to eat as part of the scene. I enjoyed being Pippi enormously, and I featured on the front page of the local newspaper.
    I recall one day when I was in my mid-twenties, heading home from work because I was feeling very ill, and coming upon a trail of school children, all dressed up as characters from books. Right at the end was a small girl with a bright orange wig, and freckles. “Hello, Pippi!” I said. Her face lit up in surprise and delight, and she didn’t say a word, but she scampered up to the top of the line to tell her teacher. It made my day.
    One of my Miss Nines loves Pippi Longstockings too.

    • I probably would have ruined that young girl’s day by asking how her Green Gables were going, forgetting that since Anne was mortified by her freckles rather than revelling in them that they probably wouldn’t be part of a costume.
      I never read Pippi Longstocking as a child, and the last time Lauredhel posted this my girl felt she was too old to be interested in a little kid’s story (I knoooowww) and so I didn’t read them with her, so I still haven’t caught up with them. My youngest niece will probably be ready for them in a couple of years though, so I will read them to her, and maybe my own daughter will help me.

  2. For anyone who didn’t see it, Chally also had a Pippi Longstocking post on Iconography: The Rather Extraordinary Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking.

%d bloggers like this: