• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'It's high time for us to rethink our romanticized view of Sweden'
The author argues that pop star Beyoncé (r) embodies the outspokenness of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking (l). File photo: TT; AP

'It's high time for us to rethink our romanticized view of Sweden'

Published: 21 Jan 2014 13:25 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Jan 2014 13:25 GMT+01:00

Many Swedes grew up with Astrid Lindgren's layered and vivid tales about Emil, Ronja and Rasmus. Even today they are important and influential stories about people, relationships and adventure. Bullerbyn (The Noisy Village), Lönneberga, and the Västerhaga orphanage also tell a story about a Sweden from a time gone by; a Sweden that we learned to both love and marvel at through countless tales told by one of the country's most cherished writers. Our image of the Sweden that we asked our grandparents to tell us about when we were children is, more the part, told by Astrid Lindgren.

At the same time, many of her books sparked debate when they were first published. Pippi Longstocking, for example, was accused of contributing to the "wildness of young people". Yet, Astrid Lindgren's stories about the Sweden of iconic 'Gärdsgård' log fences, orphanages, red cottages, and Saltkråkan (Seacrow Island) played a more important role that lessons learned in school when it came to shaping the accepted view of the Swedish cultural heritage.

This romanticized image of contemporary Sweden is important to today's debate about Sweden. Not least because the political debate often revolves around the preservation of ideals and beliefs from a time long ago. When the Sweden Democrats disguise xenophobia and outdated values as dreams about a time gone by and preserving the past, it's is time to think about what sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would tell about our time. What questions will our grandchildren ask us? How was the Sweden that shaped us? Who is the "Emil" of our time? I know what I think about the sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would have told.

About a guy in Lönneberga whose name isn't Emil, but Samir and who, when he was a child, was a troublemaker; who played pranks, found mischief, and when his father scolded him fled to the nearest football pitch. That this rowdy boy, just as Lönneberga's Emil, would end up on the local council in Hultsfred was hardly anything the residents of Lönneberga would have believed.

About Ronja, the robber's daughter who finds her contested and sometimes forbidden love, not with Birk, the son of the head of a rival clan, but with the daughter Ylva. And I would hope that Ronja's and Ylva's love for one another would be as obvious to us as the one between Ronja and Birk described for us by Lindgren in the classic Ronia the Robber's Daughter (Ronja Rövardotter).

About Pippi, who wasn't chased by Prussiluskan from social services and who Tommy's and Annika's parents never shook their heads at. A Pippi who is instead praised, admired, and fascinates those around her for her outspokenness, her criticism of reigning norms, and going her own way. We might today know her instead as Lady Gaga or Beyoncé.

About an orphan boy who, just like Rasmus, left the orphanage and his homeland in search of a family and someone to love him. Our time's Rasmus, however, is named Sinan and is an unaccompanied refugee child from Afghanistan. In the same manner as that of Rasmus's world, where only blonde girls with curly hair were selected from the orphanage, no one at first welcomes Sinan with open arms. When this is told, I hope that it's as natural to get angry at those who want to send back Sinan to Afghanistan, as it once was to get angry when the police wanted to take Rasmus back to the orphanage.

About Bullerbyn, which is no longer inhabited by traditional nuclear families, but instead by "star" families (stjärnfamiljer), a recently minted Swedish term referring to families of different constellations. Where Britta and Anna living only with dad in Bullerbyn is as natural as Olle, who, though he lacks a father, gains a sibling when mom Lisa undergoes insemination treatment. It's a Bullerbyn where children play, find adventure, and where everyday life is an ideal worth longing for.

About Saltkråkan, which no longer plays out in the Stockholm archipelago, but thanks to free movement and economic growth, might take place somewhere in the Mediterranean archipelago; maybe on a small Greek island with whitewashed houses with blue shutters. Where Swedes travel every summer and where the occasional islander, like Saltkråkans Söderman, mutters something like, "Well, here come the summer residents. They are like the locusts of Egypt."

About the Lionheart Brothers, a story that, when told to us was just a fairy tale from a time that never existed. Even this time it's about two brothers who dream of a life of freedom and fight for good. The difference is that their escape is for real and is from today's Syria. Hopefully in the future, that reality will feel as strange as the tale of the Brothers Lionheart felt for us.

About an open, modern, and respectful Sweden is what I think Astrid would have told. Where people come from all over the world to work, study, love, and to escape from war and persecution. Where everyone's love was equally recognized and respected. Where being critical and outspoken defeated modern sexism and traditional gender roles. Where growth and mobility made the world bigger and more open. Far away from the romanticized wooden fences, xenophobia, and gender roles of the 1800s.

Rasmus Törnblom
First vice-chairman of the Moderate Youth League (Moderata ungdomsförbundet)

This article was originally published in Swedish by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper. English translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Photo: TT

Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains

Torrential rains in western Sweden have left some towns submersed as water levels have risen to 1.5 metres above normal for the season with forecasts indicating that is worse to come. READ  

Ebola crisis
Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund
Photo: TT

Sweden pledges new aid to UN Ebola fund

Sweden has offered a new sizeable contribution to the fund set up by UN chief Ban K-moon to fight the Ebola outbreak. READ  

Society
'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme
Photo: Lars-Göran Thuresson/Älgriket

'Dark forces' target refugee hunting scheme

The Swedish hunting association runs a project to encourage young asylum-seekers to learn about hunting, a move which has proved controversial among some far right groups. READ  

Business & Money
American sales squeeze Ericsson profits
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg presents the third-quarter earnings report at the company's headquarters in Kista. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

American sales squeeze Ericsson profits

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson reported a decline in net profit in the third quarter despite an increase in sales, boosted by business in emerging markets. READ  

Interview
'Too many concerts feel the same'
Sofar hosts secret gigs in Swedish apartments. Photo: Sofar

'Too many concerts feel the same'

Kattis Bjork founded Stockholm's secret gig scene - Sofar - a year ago. The Local caught up with her as she prepared to celebrate the project's anniversary this weekend and revealed the concept will spread to other Swedish cities in 2015. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden calls off suspect submarine search
Ships are returning to shore in Sweden. Photo: TT

Sweden calls off suspect submarine search

The core search for a suspected foreign vessel in Swedish waters has been called off. The armed forces said they remained convinced foreign underwater activity had taken place but had not identified an intruder. READ  

Business & Money
US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks
Ed Carbaugh prepares to install parts on a truck engine on an assembly line at Volvo Trucks' powertrain manufacturing facility in Hagerstown, Maryland, March 2014. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

US and Japan fuel surge for Volvo trucks

Sweden's Volvo, the world's second-largest maker of trucks, said Friday it saw a spike in profits in the third quarter, boosted by thriving sales in the US and Japanese markets. READ  

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery
Cigarettes and beer photo: Shutterstock

Inspectors attacked at rogue doc’s surgery

Inspectors who were sent to shut down a doctor’s surgery in Gothenburg were physically attacked and fled the premises to get help from the police. READ  

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water
A Swede loads a car with alcohol in northern Germany. File photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Police turn Swede’s vodka into water

Swedish police say they will pay a man 16,000 kronor ($2,200) in damages after much of the alcohol they confiscated from him was stolen, while many of the bottles they returned were filled with water. READ  

Diplomacy
US to get first female ambassador in Sweden
File photo: Athena Center for Leadership Studies

US to get first female ambassador in Sweden

The United States Embassy in Stockholm is set to get its first female ambassador after the White House announced it was nominating the Iranian-American ex-investment banker Azita Raji to take over from Mark Brzezinski. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
Blog updates

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 

24 October

Is darkness weather? (Blogweiser) »

"I try very hard not to talk about the weather. This has come after a decade..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

985
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN