tirsdag den 20. januar 2009

Lisbeth Salander alias Pippi Langstrømpe

Først et kort citat fra en email fra Stieg Larsson til hans svenske forlægger (fundet hos "Modtryk", den danske forlægger): "Jeg har forsøgt at gå mod strømmen i forhold til sædvanlige krimier. Jeg ville skabe hovedpersoner, som adskiller sig dramatisk fra de sædvanlige krimipersoner. Udgangspunktet var, hvordan Pippi Langstrømpe ville være som voksen. Ville man kalde hende sociopat, fordi hun ser anderledes på samfundet og ikke ejer sociale kompetencer? Det blev til Lisbeth Salander, der har mange maskuline træk."

Mange udenlandske anmeldere har valgt at drage andre (mere eller mindre overbevisende) paralleller mellem Lisbeth Salander og en hel række litterære figurer, men i dette indlæg vil jeg fokusere på sammenligningen med Pippi, dels på grund af Stieg Larssons egne hensigter, dels fordi sammenligningen er både interessant og forholdsvis oplagt for kendere af Astrid Lindgrens tre bøger om Pippi.

Ligesom Mikael Blomkvist ærgrer sig over at blive sammenlignet med helten fra en børnebog, er det absolut ikke Lisbeths kop te. "Han [Mikael B] hader det kælenavn, hvad man godt kan forstå. Nogen ville få sig et blåt øje, hvis jeg blev kaldt Pippi Langstrømpe på en spiseseddel."

Lisbeth Salander er midt i tyverne, en spinkel, anorektisk drengepige med karsehår, piercinger og mindst fire tattoveringer, som nemt kunne gå for at være fjorten. Måske ikke en helt præcis beskrivelse af Pippi med de store støvler og de strittende fletninger, men bestemt et afvigende og opsigtsvækkende menneske. Til trods for at hun er en enspænder, har hun imidlertid formået at kæmpe sig til et job som fabelagtig og fantasifuld privat efterforsker i firmaet "Milton Security".

Med hensyn til de to personers familiesituation, tror læsere af Pippi først, at Pippi er forældreløs, men senere viser det sig, at hun har en far, som både er kaptajn og negerkonge på en fjern sydhavsø. Til daglig bor Pippi altså alene i sin store villa, sammen med hr Nilson, hendes lille abe, og hesten Gubben. Lisbeth Salanders far hører vi ikke noget om i første bind, og hendes mor bor på et plejehjem, så i praksis er hun altså også alene i verden.

Et andet væsentligt punkt er deres holdning til autoriteter. Pippi bryder sig ikke om at blive opdraget på af velmenende voksne, hun sover og spiser ganske som det passer hende, og så vidt jeg husker, var hendes kortvarige skolekarriere nogenlunde lige så anstrengende for lærerinden som for eleven. Selvfølgelig griber en geskæftig nabokone ind og pudser politiet på Pippi, så de kan sende hende på børnehjem, men her tager Pippi blot sine superkræfter i anvendelse, og sætter dem venligt, men bestemt, uden for døren. Lisbeth, som ikke bare har udseendet imod sig, men udviser en del autistiske træk (en diagnose, Mikael Blomkvist også stiller på side 483 i bogen), når aldrig så langt som til folkeskolens afgangseksamen, til trods for indlysende intellektuelle evner på visse områder. Lærerne kan simpelt hen ikke nå ind til hende, og opdager aldrig, at hun bliver groft mobbet af større og stærkere klassekammerater. Lisbeth er en mere realistisk, litterær figur, og kommer i første omgang til kort over for ´systemet´. Hun kommer under socialforsorgen, får en diagnose som psykisk syg og er herefter i sin tilsynsværges vold. Et citat fra hendes journal: "introvert, socialt hæmmet, mangel på empati, egocentreret, psykopatisk og asocial adfærd, samarbejdsvanskeligheder og manglende indlæringsevne." De fleste af disse prædikater kunne lige så godt være blevet anvendt om Pippi, og de omgivende autoriteter er ikke parate til at anerkende, at trods overfladisk rod og kaos er her tale om to personer, som allerede længe har taget vare på sig selv.

Lisbeth er imidlertid ikke en flad figur, hun er i gang med at finde sin egen identitet som voksen af en slags. Via sit job, hvor hun foretager personundersøgelser, og sin kontakt med Mikael Blomkvist, udvikler hun sig hurtigt i flere forskellige retninger. I udgangspunktet er hun ekstremt mistænksom over for andre menneskers motiver, og det kræver meget overvindelse af hende at stole på nogen som helst. Når hun først overgiver sig og lukker et andet menneske indenfor i sin verden, er hun til gengæld lige så hjælpsom og loyal, som hun før var afvisende. Hvis en ven får brug for hjælp, rider Salander afsted på sin motorcykel, og skrider uden tøven til handling (ofte ved hjælp af sine overnaturlige - eller bare autistiske - hackerevner).

Pippi Langstrømpefiguren er nødvendig i denne historie, fordi Mikael Blomkvist er den forsigtige, næsten småborgerlige gentleman, som ikke rigtig kan hamle op med hårdkogte skurke, som slår først og spørger bagefter. Lisbeth Salander bryder gerne grænser (og samtlige svenske love), når det gælder om at hævne forbrydelser mod kvinder, og hun har ikke for vane at sætte sig hen i en krog og vente på politiet. Hun er også nødvendig, fordi et af Stieg Larssons ærinder er ligestilling mellem kønnene. Når der virkelig er brug for kavalleriet i Larssons univers er det derfor den superseje pige, der kommer ridende på sin plettede hest.

Lisbeth Salander alias Pippi Longstocking.
[The quotations as well as the email excerpt are translated from Danish into English by me]

First a short quotation from an email sent from Stieg Larsson to his Swedish Publisher: "I have tried to swim against the tide compared to ordinary crime novels. I wanted to create main characters who differ dramatically from the ordinary crime characters. My point of departure was what Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult. Would she be called a sociopath because she looked upon society in a different way and did not have any social competences? She turned into Lisbeth Salander who has many masculine features."

Several non-Scandinavian reviewers have chosen to draw other (more or less apt) parallels between Lisbeth Salander and a number of literary figures, but in this post I am going to focus on the comparison with Pippi Longstocking, partly because of Stieg Larsson´s intentions, partly because it adds to the understanding of the two main characters, including the interrelationship between them, in my humble opinion.

Just like Mikael Blomkvist, Salander thoroughly dislikes being compared to a hero from a children´s book. "He [Mikael Blomkvist] hates the nickname as anyone can understand. Someone would get a black eye if I were called Pippi Longstocking on a contents bill."

Lisbeth Salander is in her mid-twenties, a slight, anorexic-looking girl with short, coal-black hair and several tattoos, who could easily pass for a teenage girl. Perhaps not quite like Pippi with her overlarge boots and red plaits sticking out at right angles, but certainly a conspicuous person. In spite of being a lone wolf, Salander has managed to gain a position as a highly qualified and imaginative private investigator for "Milton Security", however.

With regard to the family situation of the two, readers of Pippi see her as an orphan in the beginning (throughout the first book perhaps? - not quite sure). Later it turns out that she has a father who is a sea captain as well as a ´negro king´ (the politically correct term = a South Sea King) ruling a remote island. So Pippi lives on her own in a huge, ramshackle house together with her monkey, Mr Nilsson, and her horse, called Horse. We do not hear of Lisbeth Salander´s father in the first volume either, and her mother lives in a nursing home, so for all practical purposes she is also quite alone in the world.

Another essential point is their attitude to authorities. Pippi strongly resents interference from well-meaning grown-ups, she eats and sleeps at her own convenience, and her transient school career was as strenous for her teacher as for herself. As a matter of course an officious, female neighbour meddles, calling in the police to put Pippi in a children´s home, but Pippi simply employs her super-strength and physically shows them the door.

Lisbeth, who is not only judged by her appearance, but also displays a number of autistic features (a diagnosis which is also made by Mikael Blomkvist near the end of the book), never even finishes her secondary schooling in spite of obvious intellectual abilities. The teachers are unable to relate to her and fail to notice that she is being bullied systematically by larger and stronger classmates. Compared to Pippi, Lisbeth is a more realistic, literary figure, thus she is forced to give in to ´the system´ the first time round. Social services embrace her, label her ´mentally ill´ and leave her at the mercy of her guardian. A quotation from her journal, "introvert, socially inhibited, lack of empathy, egocentric, psychopathic and anti-social behaviour, lack of cooperation and learning abilities." The major part of these epithets apply to Pippi as well, and the powers that be are not prepared to acknowledge the fact that beneath the disorganized facade these two girls are quite capable of taking care of themselves and forming strong friendships with people they like.

Lisbeth Salander is not a flat character, however, she is in the proces of finding her own identity as a grown-up woman. Through her work for the security company, and her relationship with Mikael Blomkvist, she is developing fast in various directions. Basically, she is extremely suspicious of other people´s motives and it costs her a great effort to trust anyone. Once she has relented and opened the door to someone, she is extremely helpful and loyal, however. If a friend is in need, Salander saddles her motorbike and takes action without delay (often by means of her supernatural - or just autistic - hacking abilities).

The Pippi Longstocking figure is indispensable to the story because Mikael Blomkvist is the cautious, almost bourgeois gentleman who is not really a match for hardboiled villains who shoot first and ask questions later. Lisbeth Salander gladly breaks the rules (and a number of Swedish laws) when it comes to avenging crime against women, and she is not in the habit of waiting quietly for the police. Furthermore, she is indispensable because equality between the sexes is crucial to Stieg Larsson. When the cavalry is really called for in Larsson´s universe, it is the super strong girl who charges on her polka-dotted horse.
Small wonder that the trilogy has been called a feminist project by some reviewers.

13 kommentarer:

Mia sagde ...

Hende Lisbeth Salander lyder bestemt også interessant. Jeg må altså i gang med den krimi-trilogi :o)

Endnu engang tak for en grundig gennemgang :o)

Kerrie sagde ...

This is a fascinating connection Dorte. As you pointed out to me, it is one that people not brought up on Pippi Longstocking would really make a connection with.
It is interesting to see that in the UK, the success of the second book has sparked a rise in sales of the first

Dorte H sagde ...

Mia: Tak!
Jeg synes, Larssons bøger er knaldspændende, og det har været så sjovt for mig at blande mig i den britiske diskussion om Salander som Pippi Langstrømpe. Jeg har faktisk fået en del fine kommentarer i et krimilæserrum (crime and mystery fiction), som jeg er lidt stolt af.

Kerrie: thanks a lot. I found my inspiration for these two posts via discussions of Salander & Pippi on other people´s blogs. I know that Larsson´s books sell extremely well right now. Just so sad to think of that he died immediately before having success.

bookwitch sagde ...

Hej Dorte!
Mycket intressant, och det visar att min känsla för vem Lisbeth är stämmer. Pippi är inte sexig, så det är inte Lisbeth heller. Den engelskspråkiga världen har fel!
Jag kommer antagligen att blogga lite mer om detta, med din blogg som grund.

Dorte H sagde ...

Bookwitch: Tack så mycket.
Det er jättekult med en bra skandinavisk diskussion av Stieg Larsson/ Pippi Långstrump.
(No, I´d better stop before you think I am making fun of your language. I think reading Norwegian is very simple but with Swedish I must admit that I miss many of the finer points)

Jane sagde ...

Interessant, baade indlaeg og kommentarer. Jeg synes selv referencerne til Pippi var meget tydelige, og de sagde mig mere end dem til Kalle Blomkvist ;-) Derfor er det godt at blive erindret om, at ikke-skandinaver nok laeser bogen paa en anden maade.
Og forklaringen paa at Lisbeth er saa lille er jo simpel: Pippi vaelger ikke at blive "stuuuur", saa selvfoelgelig er hun ikke vokset siden....
Spoeg til side: Da jeg som voksen genlaeste Pippi, og naar jeg taenker paa boegerne nu, slaar det mig ofte, at Pippi er meget ensom. Der er en scene hvor Tommy og Annika vender hjem til deres foraeldre, og ser et lille lys alene fra Pippis hus. I dag kan det naesten faa taarer frem i mine oejne.
En lignende scene husker jeg ikke om Salander, men hendes ensomhed er ret aabenlys, selvom hun jo ikke ligefrem opsoeger andres selskab.

Foroevrigt er det da ret fedt, at du har en saa international laeserskare paa din blog! Tror at jeg vil til at goere mine amerikanske venner interesserede i Stieg Larsson. Maaske skal jeg til at give den engelsk-sprogede udgave vaek som gaver?

Dorte H sagde ...

Jane: tak! Og du har ret, nu hvor jeg blogger om Salander/Pippi, slår det mig, hvor store lighederne er, og at Pippi langt fra bare er morsom underholdning. (Nogle bloggere har nemlig indvendt, at parallellen ikke holdt, fordi Pippi var så glad og munter).
Mht "international" så er jeg meget stolt af en omtale på "Petrona" (anerkendt britisk anmelder), http://petrona.typepad.com/
Hun var i fuld gang med at skrive, 11 minutter efter jeg havde sendt mit indlæg :)

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

The headings to each section of the first book, at least in the English translation, with what purport to be statistics about violence against women in Sweden probably contribute to reception of the books as a feminist project.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dorte H sagde ...

Peter; yes, it is clearly a book written in support of women´s equality & safety.
Perhaps this is why some British bloggers protested when I made fun of Salander, seeing her as less than real. I don´t believe you have to be serious and realistic all the time, however, just because you have a serious message. Humour and fairy tale can be very ´educational´ because they make people understand at new levels, and perhaps remember the points better.

Peter Rozovsky sagde ...

I don't know the tone of your exchange with those British bloggers, of course, but look at Liabeth: She has mysterious origins and unexplained gifts. She appears from nowhere, a kind of foundling. She's an avenger.

Sounds pretty unreal to me -- as long as "unreal" includes mythic overtones.
=================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dorte H sagde ...

Peter, when I got to know them, we found each other, I think, but this happened when I had just begun blogging so it might have been me who didn´t know the tone yet.

On the whole I thrive in an international community of bloggers, but in the beginning I was sometimes in doubt whether people were serious or making fun so if I had expressed myself clearer in the first place, we might have understood each other immediately. Scandinavians can be a bit hasty so now and then I must remind myself that the rest of the world expect more politeness than I am used to.

C.R. sagde ...

Hey Dorthe,

Tnx for the great essay on Lis/Pippi. I would just LOVE it if you'd allow me to republish it - wholly or partially - on my Millennium fan site, sallysfriends.net. I'd like to do an extended page with some more illustrations and links - e.g. to more information about Astrid Lindgren (who also happens to be a favourite author of mine - but very, very different from Stieg Larsson of course! :-)

Let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Chris

sallysfriends.net
chris[at]sallysfriends.net

Dorte H sagde ...

Hi Chris.

I am glad you like it. (It was a real pleasure to write this piece and point out some of the similarities between Salander and Pippi to English readers).

You are welcome to borrow all or part of it, as long as you add my name (Dorte Jakobsen) and a link to the original article.