Calla Jones Corner
The author is a News-Press correspondent.
When my Swedish mother read “Pippi Longstocking” to me before going to bed at night, I was enthralled by the playful, red-headed, pig-tailed, unconventional and superhumanly strong 9-year-old, who didn’t play by the rules and made fun of unreasonable, pompous and condescending adults.
To me, Pippi was an adorable rebel, who balked about everything, but with a good heart. I don’t remember having nightmares about Pippi’s outrageous escapades. I was fascinated by them.
My mother probably bought the book the minute it was published. She was Swedish to the core, and for her 80th birthday, a fellow Swede gave her a bumper sticker for her old Volvo that read “Swede on Board.”
The famous children’s book by Astrid Lindgren first came out in 1945, only in Swedish. I was born in 1943, and one of my earliest memories is of my mother’s animated face as she read in a language I barely understood, turning the delightfully illustrated pages. Once, in the 1970s, I put my hair in pigtails and dressed in red-striped, knee-length stockings for a Swedish costume party in Switzerland. We had many Swedish friends who had fled abhorrent Swedish taxation.
“Pippi Longstocking” has long since been translated into dozens of languages. It is considered one of the top 100 children’s books of all time, although not without controversy. Jen Anderson, biographer of Lindgren, wrote, “the misanthropic, emotionally stunted age of the Second World War,” during which Lindgren developed the character of Pippi, influenced the author to create a “cheerful pacifist whose answer to brutality and evil of war was goodness, generosity and good humor.”
Lund University professor John Lindquist wrote a critique in 1946 titled “Bad and Prizewinning.” He thought the book “badly done and harmful to children, and that Pippi was mentally disturbed.” Rabén and Sjörgen, the book’s publishers, advised Lindgren to revise some of the book’s more “graphic” descriptions, such as a full chamber pot being used as a fire extinguisher.
Now we have Greta Thunberg, the Swedish 16-year-old who has been frightening the world’s children with a prophesy that the world will soon end if they don’t stand up to the world’s adults, especially those “who have lied about climate change.” In other words, parents, grandparents and anyone else who eats meat and drives anything but electric cars.
“I don’t easily fall for lies. I can see through them,” says the teen, who went into a deep depression when she was 11, stopped going to school and stopped speaking to anyone but her family and one teacher. It was then that Greta was diagnosed with a form of autism, obsessive compulsive disorder and selective mutism. “Autism makes me different, and being different is a gift. It makes me see things from outside the box,” she told one interviewer after speaking to the U.K’s parliamentarians last April. She bluntly told MPs that “unless CO2 emissions are reduced by at least 50% by 2030, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”
“Gretamania,” wrote Oliver Harvey for The Sun on Aug. 19, “ is about to arrive on U.S. shores” when the left’s new poster child took a trans-Atlantic, zero-carbon, 60-foot yacht, backed by wealthy politicians, scientists and celebrity activists, to speak before the U.N. climate action summit.
Arrive Greta did, after contending with basic rations and a chamber pot for two weeks. Mr. Harvey believes that “a more cynical picture has emerged of a well-intentioned but naïve child being manipulated by energy giants and pushy parents — including a fame-hungry mum who once appeared on Eurovision.” Neither Greta’s backers nor her parents have given her a ticket back to Sweden, as she won’t fly.
After watching the nervous, red-faced teen with a weepy warning for the world speak before the U.N. on Sept. 24, I was frightened. I thought of the teenage “Red Guards” of Maoist China naming parents and neighbors as enemies of the state. Do sensible adults have to prepare for an imminent wave of “Green Guards”? Have we come so far that a teenager from a country that rejected socialism decades ago can manage to scare 3 million children to skip class on a Friday to carry her misinformed message?
I wonder what my mother would ask Greta. Probably, “Vill du ha en spanking?” which is Swedish for: “Do you want a spanking?”