A German theologian has caused controversy in Sweden by claiming that the beloved Pippi Longstocking children’s books are racist.
Speaking at an anti-discrimination conference in Leipzig, Dr Eske Wollrad, of the Federal Association of Evangelical Women, said readers should skip over certain parts of the books.
“It is not that the figure of Pippi Longstocking is racist, but that all three in the trilogy of books have colonial racist stereotypes,” Wollrad told The Local after the conference.
The book’s publishers have already changed the phrase referring to Pippi’s father from ‘Negro King’ to ‘South Seas King’, but Wollrad claims that other passages in the stories about the mischievous ginger-haired Pippi are still problematic.
“The black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book,” she said. “When reading the book to my nephew, who is black, I simply left that passage out.”
The much-loved stories were written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s, when racial sensitivities were not what they are today. Wollrad, however, can still see the appeal.
“I would certainly not condemn the book completely,” she said. “On the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to the book: as well as being very funny, it is instructive for children as it not only has a strong female character, she is against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and she is fiercely opposed to violence against animals – there is a very strong critique of authority in the book.”
Wollrad is suggesting that footnotes could be added to the stories to prompt teachers or parents to skip over certain sections or to promote discussion.
“The question to ask yourself is whether you could read a certain passage out loud to a black child without stopping or stumbling,” she told The Local. “Only then can you say whether it is okay or not.”
(Main page photo: Jacob Forsell/www.imagebank.sweden.se)