Finally, I’ve joined the crowds tearing through Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy. As a fan of children’s books as well as grown-up thrillers, I had been especially curious about heroine Lisbeth Salander, frequently described as a grown-up Pippi Longstocking.
The books? A thrill a minute.
Lisbeth as Pippi? Not on my pigtails. I’d be less bemused if people went around comparing hero-journalist Mikael Blomkvist to Frank and Joe Hardy.
Larsson created Salander after thinking over a grown-up Pippi, according to his official site, “a dysfunctional girl, probably with attention deficit disorder who would have had a hard time finding a regular place in the "normal society." Larsson strewed a few tributes to the idea (and to author Astrid Lindgren) throughout the books, as when Salander’s nameplate reads “V. Kulla” – Villa Villekulla, Pippi’s home.
The New York Times once did a rundown of the parallels between the characters, citing Pippi-Lisbeth similarities such as great strength and an odd appearance. It’s still a big stretch to me. Even as homage, it’s hard to see anything of that gregarious, cheerful, zany rebel Pippi in the brilliant, wounded, antisocial Salander. One embraced independence; the other was abused into it.
Salander, the books slowly reveal, endured a tortured childhood. She learned to rely only on herself. I can’t speak for the late Larsson, and don’t know how far he meant the Pippi comparisons to go, but Salander could be held up with equal ease (and equal disconnect) to another spunky child heroine – also “dreadful thin,” with “a tongue of her own,” spending her younger years in an asylum “worse than anything you can imagine.” That one would be Anne of Green Gables.
Let’s just hope no one, talented or not, starts dreaming up a grownup, steampunk, hard-as-nails Pollyanna or Heidi.