• 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 When the Sweden Democrats disguise xenophobia and outdated values as dreams about a time gone by and preserving the past, it's is time to think about what sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would tell about our time.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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert
Terrorism expert Ranstorp and a policeman in Norway. Photos: TT

Swedish expert slams Norway terror alert

A Swedish terrorism expert has come forward criticizing the way Norway has handled its recent terror threat, saying the day the threat began was a "total intelligence failure". READ  

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

Swedish nurse reported for patient 'death wave'

A nurse in southern Sweden has been reported for abuse at a senior care centre after she allegedly waved to a colleague with the hand of a recently-dead resident. READ  

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo
Plopp and Polly, the offspring of Pandora the panda. Photo: Kolmården

Pandas Plopp and Polly born in Swedish zoo

A pair of red panda cubs have been born in central Sweden, a wildlife park announced on Monday. READ  

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

Green Party ranked 'most gay friendly' in Sweden

The Green Party's views are 88.6 percent "LGBT-friendly", a Swedish LGBT rights group claimed on Monday, making the Greens the most gay-friendly of all Sweden's parliamentary parties. READ  

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife
Police on the scene. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Man held on suspicion of murdering wife

Updated: Police arrested a man in Copenhagen on the suspicion of killing his wife, whose body was found at the couple's home in southern Sweden during the weekend. READ  

Arlanda, Stockholm
Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Lightning bolt grounds flight to New York

Swedes bound for New York learned on Monday morning that their plane had been cancelled after it was hit by lightning during Sunday's thunderstorm. READ  

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

Elderly Swedish man stripped of his 35 cats

The County Administrative Board of Skåne has decided to confiscate the 35 cats of an 81-year-old man who was forbidden from having more than nine of the furry felines. READ  

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew
Photo: TT

Wild weather set to strike Sweden anew

With Sunday's thunderstorm reported as the worst of the year so far, Sweden is bracing for round two on Monday as meteorologists predict more of the same. READ  

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high

Last year 1,600 people in Sweden took their own lives - and for Swedes aged 15 to 24, the numbers haven't been so high since 1989. READ  

Floods replace Swedish heatwave
The Viking Lines ferry pictured was ripped away from the dock as a result of the storm. Per Gustavsson / TT

Floods replace Swedish heatwave

The Swedish summer was washed away on Sunday as thunderstorms caused chaos in Stockholm, including torrents of water flooding down stairways at metro stations. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Blog updates

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
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

739
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
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
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