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Jaehee Shin on Pippi Longstocking
12 January, 2024
Eight women: Helen, Emilie, Melinda, Natalia, Reem, Solange, Yagmür and myself, Jaehee, took part in the Erntezeit Workshop : Being a Stranger in Ennenda, Glarus in September 2023, at the headquarters of Tisch Zwei Verein.
Some of the discussions held during the workshop were very intense and we focused a long time on the feelings and emotions produced by being a stranger. It seems that not belonging to a group is a hard feeling for many people. During our dinner preparations, Fabienne Girsberger of Essen und Zuhören remarked that many people seek their identity in a group because they do not find their identity in themselves. For me, this was helpful in understanding the feelings expressed during the workshop. The word Stranger is familiar to me, as a recent emigrant to the countryside in the Grisons Oberland.
While I was preparing texts for a workshop, I read an interview with my dear friends Valerie Keller and Matthias Liechti about their non-profit-space For, an encounter with the power of reframing. In the interview, Valerie introduced one of the articles in their second magazine “Pleasure Refusal Nonsense Anarchy” Written by Christine Lötscher, its title is “Pippi doing nonsense” and it discusses the story of Pippi Longstocking (1945), a famous classic anarchist children’s book by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. This is an important book that we need to re-read in contemporary times. Rather than focusing on the potentially negative connotations of the stranger, I was able to read about its positive power and energy. I took the hint that we might have a lot to learn from Pippi, who is different and thinks very freely.
In fact, the reality that Pippi faces in the fairy tale is quite hard. After her mother and father died and she was left to fend for herself, Pippi could have become helpless in the face of cold reality, but every now and then she would wave to her mother in the sky and say, “Mum, don’t worry about me. I’m fine.” She was a very special child.
In the orchard was a cottage, and in this cottage lived Pippi Longstocking. She was nine years old, and she lived all alone. She had neither mother nor father, which was really rather nice, for in this way there was no one to tell her to go to bed just when she was having the most fun, and no one to make her take cod-liver-oil when she felt like eating peppermints.
Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking
Throughout the book there are many other characters who interact with Pippi, some threatening her, some telling her what a child should do and some trying to correct her misbehaviour. But Pippi doesn’t let this stop her: she is free, independent, imaginative, rejecting adult rules and frameworks, always finding her own way, unconstrained by other people’s expectations or social norms, and her rebellious behaviour is hopeful and humorous. Pippi may still be considered a stranger by some groups in our society, but to me she is such a positive character and a role model to emulate in life.
Astrid Lindgren, the author of Pippi Longstocking, writes in warm and comforting language about her own experiences as a young country girl and the social violence she faced as a single mother, and the lessons she learned from it. Through her writing, she gives many children dreams, hope and courage, and this resonates with adults too. In this book, Lindgren may be trying to console herself for the life she lived, telling herself the story she wanted to hear.
“I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”
Astrid Lindgren. Pippi Longstocking
Based on what I’ve learned from Pippi, I would like to take a look at the things Being a Stranger, that were discussed in the workshop again.
“Strangeness has a very positive connotation for me. To be strange is to reject something that could have been ordinary and to exist in a strange form, meaning, and shape. It also means that there is a specific and clear intention. Usually, architecture exists as a physical form that is not communicated through language, so the strangeness of the ordinary that captures our attention creates a tension between our senses and gives a fresh impression of the delicate balance in architecture. Strangeness, after all, is an important sense that is indispensable in an artistic approach in field of architecture.”
Jaehee Shin, Learning from Pippi Longstocking