Drawn & Quarterly brings back the generations-loved, red-pigtailed Pippi Longstocking in the comics collection Pippi Won't Grow Up. Created by Astrid Lindgren, Pippi is famous for her wit, eccentricities, and, of course, her superhuman strength. Many people are familiar with the novels relating Pippi’s many adventures or the TV shows and movies that have come since. D&Q revisits the original comic strip few have seen bringing them to a whole new generation of comics lovers.
Swedish author Astrid Lindgren was already a journalist and novelist before turning her hand to children’s books with Pippi in 1944. Her collection of children’s books soon gained worldwide recognition, and the illustrations by Danish artist Ingrid Vang Nyman became iconic. With such astounding popularity, it was one of those genius steps of publishing to suggest, “Why not take the same stories and expand the illustrations into comics?” With the straightforward tales and vivacious dialogue, Pippi leaped from one medium to the next with her signature finesse.
Pippi lives in a manor house with her spotted horse and monkey, Mr. Nilsson, while her father is away as a sea merchant captain, pirate, and South Seas king at different stages in his life. Pippi’s very being is a challenge to chin-jutting adults who believe that children have a certain place and must be taken care of. Even though she is a nine-year-old girl, Pippi is more than capable of taking care of herself. In fact, she routinely puts adults who think they know everything in their places.
In Pippi Won’t Grow Up, Pippi shares an array of adventures with neighboring brother and sister Tommy and Annika. It begins with the children bemoaning the arrival of Miss Rosenblom, who tests the children’s aptitudes. “Those who answer correctly win socks and underwear. The others have to stand in the corner.” It is a lose-lose situation.
Fortunately, Pippi is there to save the day. She answers all the questions herself with cockamamie replies, such as responding to, “Per and Pal are sharing a cake. If Per gets one-fourth, what does Pal get” with, “A stomachache.” Pippi deals with a greedy land-speculator, a worrisome aunt, and a pair of would-be pirates in a similar manner. When her quick mouth is not enough, she steps in with her inhuman strength (enough to lift her horse over her head) to knock down anyone threatening another person.
The wild facial expressions on the iconic figures make Nyman’s cartoons an excellent illustration of Pippi’s magical world. Everything is treated with a simplicity and innocence, even the sharks in the lagoon when Pippi takes Tommy and Annika to visit her father in the South Seas. This only heightens the astounding fun when Pippi suddenly picks up the shark by its fins or rides in on her horse throwing handfuls of gold coins from her pockets. Some of Nyman’s most engaging work is in the background, showing Mr. Nilsson’s antics that no one seems to notice.
Through it all, much of Pippi’s endearing character is in her humility. Even after being called the nicest person in the whole world, she says simply, “I hear there’s someone in faraway India who’s also really nice.” Her whimsical, bright philosophy can teach us all a lesson, such as responding to worries of sleeping in a cold house with, “As long as you have a warm heart, you’ll never freeze.” With her tricks and her wisdom, Pippi inspires young and old alike.