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German theologian: Pippi Longstocking is racist

The Local · 9 Nov 2011, 07:58

Published: 09 Nov 2011 07:58 GMT+01:00

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Dr. Eske Wollrad from the the Federal Association of Evangelical Women in Germany first made her comments as a speaker at a state conference on anti-discrimination in Leipzig last weekend, stirring debate in the German media.

“It is not that the figure of Pippi Longstocking is racist, but that all three in the trilogy of books have colonial racist stereotypes,” Wollrad told The Local on Tuesday.

The publishers had already changed the original phrase used for her father as king of a South Seas island from Negro King to South Seas King, noted Wollrad, who is advisor for equality and social responsibility at the Protestant women's group.

But other passages in the much-loved books were also problematic, she said.

“The black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book,” she said. “When reading the book to my nephew, who is black, I simply left that passage out.”

She said there were many such sensitive areas in the books, which were written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s.

“I would certainly not condemn the book completely – on the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to the book, as well as being very funny, it is instructive for children as it not only has a strong female character, she is against adultism, grown-ups being in charge, and she is fiercely opposed to violence against animals – there is a very strong critique of authority in the book.”

But Wollrad would like to see additions made in the books to guide readers at such points where the original text was racist. “The question to ask yourself is whether you could read a certain passage out loud to a black child without stopping or stumbling,” she said. “Only then can you say whether it is okay or not.”

Footnotes for such passages could be a helpful aide to those reading the books – either to prompt discussions or to help readers put racist terms into context.

Story continues below…

Wollrad said literature for young children was woefully lacking in any characters that are not white – meaning that many white children do not encounter children of other heritage until they start kindergarten – and worse, that non-white children do not find any characters similar to them in pre-school books.

“It simply isn’t helpful if we want to help our children find their place in a multicultural society,” she said.

“A third of children under the age of five in Germany are from a migration background,” she said. “Publishers seem to think it is only white, middle-class women buying these books. We as consumers have to show that this is not good enough.”

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:23 November 9, 2011 by Corvinus
Sigh...PC gone wild once again. Instead of destroying past literary works they need to concentrate on guidlines for the future. There's alot of books out there for kids to read without changing history.
08:53 November 9, 2011 by senlac
@corvinus - indeed. How long before history books are "corrected"?
09:07 November 9, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
A German who is suggesting we need to take out certain parts of books. 1930s Germany all over again except on the other side of the coin.
09:07 November 9, 2011 by Keith #5083
A couple of things r kinda weird bout this! 1.an objective theologian? 2. an evangelical giving lectures on racist stereotyping? 3. what about cultural stereotyping?

Reminds me of the saying 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'.

I wonder, could u read Nietzsche to an evangelical without it being considered racist?
09:22 November 9, 2011 by swedish-aussie
Should we lie to our children and say that colonial racism never happend and jews did not go to the gas chambers?

That is history, not something to sweep under the carpet as certain People like to do. What country did she come from??
09:35 November 9, 2011 by Rick Methven
She would be better off examining the history of evangelical German Christian activities in Africa and forced conversion of the 'heathens' to Christianity.
09:37 November 9, 2011 by Zeffanyx
PC is disgusting. It is our right to express the truth about black people.
09:46 November 9, 2011 by engagebrain
The suggestion is that a few minor passages be altered in a work of fiction.

There is no suggestion that older copies be burnt or that any factual rewriting of history is required.

The suggestion to keep a much lowed series of books relevant to the 21st century is perfectly reasonable.
10:11 November 9, 2011 by canuk
the irony of a german saying these things is amazing.
10:27 November 9, 2011 by ?????
Get a life, Get a life, Get a life, Get a life, Get a life...

Oh God, save us from those who would save us...
11:09 November 9, 2011 by swenrika
have they got nothing better to do ?? and why is the church always getting involved.. the institution that brought forth more hatred and killings, stole more money from the people it was supposed to help and... "THE QUESTION"... lets not forget about that..... oh .. and hiding all the child abusers.. those pedophile priests and saying it never happened..... seems they might need to do some re-writing of their own..

There are more treasures locked up in the vaults of the church, more books confiscated and hidden from the world all because they are so paranoid that people might believe in something else....

Stick to what you supposed to be.. a helpful supportive institution and stay out of politics etc...
11:20 November 9, 2011 by old jack
I see part of Wollrad's point, but agree we should look forward, not rewrite the past. That said, should everything be static, or can't we reinterpret old works? Once a story/character/song even becomes widely common, it's natural that people reinvent them. Maybe this is also a difference between oral traditions and written traditions (with copyright?)

But I also tend to think-write new, inclusive children's books and support contemporary writers. Take personal responsibility, and make it happen! Don't just talk about change, be change. Lead by action.

I also think it's wrong to link the concept of race with culture. There are places where people with varied features ("race") actually share a regional culture. Couldn't it be said that multiculturalism encourages people to cling too strongly to the past? Life is growth and change, with balance. If you link culture and race, then scream for multiculturalism, you are screaming for separate-but-equal; you're screaming for people within a region to live separately according to physical features.

Isn't multicultural society even something of an oxymoron? A more accurate term might be multicultural region. Or in Europe, dual-cultural even (or dueling cultures!) Where is the multi? What we really hear about is Western culture (and freedoms) vs Sharia. Or couldn't we also argue that Europe has always been comprised of different cultures and therefore multicultural in varying degrees? Isn't culture (and "race"!) a continuum like language?

Furthermore, writers such as Wollrad tend to view/describe "white" people from all over the globe (and time!) as some kind of homogenous group. Isn't that racial profiling?

And yes, it is odd that an evangelical woman is preaching about equality and oppression. I understand that who she is does not affect the validity of her argument, but evangelical Christianity suppresses people! Evangelical Christianity suppresses women and assigns gender-limiting roles! I suppose the "great" thing about religion is often its ability to oppress all peoples!
11:27 November 9, 2011 by Grokh
is this another "lets change the name of nigger jim because its racist" thing ?
11:29 November 9, 2011 by yourkidding
OH BROTHER! Give it a rest already!
11:38 November 9, 2011 by RobinHood
The European Network Against Racism is penning another thunderous missive, and Jesse Jackson is coming back to tell Pippi she,s better than that. Meanwhile down in Lund, the students are planning a Pippi party.

The show must go on!
11:58 November 9, 2011 by miau
Hardly any of the above comments deal with the issue raised by the article: That passages in the Pippi books are racist. And it's *not* ironic that a German is making these claims. What is ironic is that there are racist comments about an article on racism. The issue is not whether the person making the argument is German or religious, or whatever; it is the argument she is making. Shame on you racists!

Has anyone read a Pippi book? If so, what is your analysis of them? And of the films? Do you recall the scene in the first film where Pippi makes her eyes slanted and says "Ching, ching. Ching, ching."? As Wollrad notes, the books are generally enjoyable and have praiseworthy themes, but this does not hide the fact that some passages are rooted in a (less open and less tolerant) bygone era.
12:30 November 9, 2011 by Central European
Huh :)

in my country we call Germany " Německo" and germans " Němci"

The roots of this are in word němý which means dumb :) in meaning not speaking our language :)

99 percent of indians tribes names given by themselfs means in translation humans and given to other tribes means enemies, wicked etc..

So this has a deep roots in human perceptions of other humans and have nothing to do with racism or chauvinism.

It is same kind of sh... that we have to apologize for a slavery and black and arabians slaveholders, slavee traders which were continuing with this bussines century after end of slavery in the world are out of this obligation...
12:39 November 9, 2011 by old jack
"I would certainly not condemn the book completely - on the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to the book, as well as being very funny"

I think this could be said about the Bible as well. It's not very PC at all. Perhaps someone should advocate a censored-only version of this as well. :)
12:42 November 9, 2011 by Central European
miau :

well no one fairy tale meet todays standars :)
12:53 November 9, 2011 by swenrika

the point is.. it is the way it was written and should be kept that way.. the racism part is only due to interpretation and not intention.. I doubt any kid will go or has ever gone ... "OH... but that was racist...." whilst reading the book.

otherwise it is like @old jack says, we should re-write the bible as well and many a other book. And in 50 years we will come down this road again and start re-writing everything again...
14:37 November 9, 2011 by godnatt
You lost me at "theologian".

His opinion's as useful balls on a pope.
16:21 November 9, 2011 by Kemi
yeah, sure, Pippi is a racist, Tintin is a racist too, the worst of them all are the smurfs and having a asian girl on the candy wrapper is definitely racist.

Dr. Eske Wollrad and the likes, get a life, would you? Leave our beloved childhood stories alone?! These books reflect how people think during that time and we can't go back and change history. As much as I love Pippi and Tintin, I understand they are also limited by their times, people are not so stupid.

So these people who are only good at pointing fingers, why don't you channel your energy into something productive, like writing a even more popular children's story that promotes the image of whatever ethnic group you are screaming for. And please , as an Asian myself I'd like to see the asian girl on the candy bag, I think she's rather cute.
16:53 November 9, 2011 by J Jack
The Germans are equal to all of us! Those of you who even use Germany as a reference are unforgiving and anti-semitic, thinking you have the right to remind them of their past that was not caused by them, making them feel the hatred you have for them, SHAME ON YOU!! You all have a little piece of Hitler in you. Every nation has right wing idiots, that's what gives us the will to maintain social balance. Look at Norway, Look at Sweden who turned a blind eye to Nazi Germany invading Norway .. brothers in arms don't you think? You comment on an article about racism as a bunch of racist bigots. Maybe TL should watch the 'films' and see an even more obvious fault. It's voyeurism on children. Constant up skirt and genital shots of kids climbing trees and sliding down stair rails .. Just take a look for yourself .. pity it's too late to ask Per Gunvall and Olle Hellbom exactly what that was all about?
17:29 November 9, 2011 by old jack
I'm confused. Is it "racist" to call Germans "krauts"?
17:34 November 9, 2011 by Migga
@ J Jack

You are aware that you are doing the same thing that you are accusing others of doing?

When saying that Sweden turned a blind eye to Nazi Germany invading Norway you remind Swedes of their past that was not caused by them.

It seems as if you have a piece of Hitler in you and you should be ashamed.

I`m also worried that you sexualize small children when they are playing and climbing trees. Why do you connect small children playing with sex? Should one be worried about your sexual prefrences?
18:12 November 9, 2011 by SockRayBlue
The last German theologian to screw with things was Luther. Perhaps this fool will be told that it is only a story and he should be told to stand in the corner. Dumpkoff!!!
18:49 November 9, 2011 by Gamla Hälsingebock
Big Brother...is smiling!
22:24 November 9, 2011 by Tuomi1980
Wow, I was such a fan when I was a young kid too.I had no clue it was so bad :D
23:18 November 9, 2011 by salalah
Gosh! Leave old literary works alone! They are a document on how the world looked then. We wouldn't change the Bible because it talks derogatory about gays. We just can't make everything politically correct today, instead we can explain how the world looked back then with segregation and apartheid.

Blacks back then were seen as very exotic people and it was in no way on purpose that Astrid used the N-word. because it was a normal denomination for black people back then. They just recently also had to change "Kvarteret N*****" in Karlstad because some people were upset all of a sudden about a name that had existed for half a century:

02:10 November 10, 2011 by Da Goat
What a terrible article and Dr Wollrad is terribly racist Herself, read it again she is racist against white people!

firstly there is no black or white people just various shades of brown!

racism is a two way street and almost everyone does not get it, it seems.

e.g. "The question to ask yourself is whether you could read a certain passage out loud to a black child without stopping or stumbling," she said. This sentence should not contain the word "black" , if you can't read it to a 'black' child you can't read it to a 'white' child either! it is a sad day when you are so caught up in your enthusiasm to be seen to do right that you do wrong (are racist against your own race, if race exists.)

you can't discriminate without being discriminatory ! the old 3 fingers pointing back thing, if you declare something racist you are probably being racist yourself.

if you are pro white you are anti black and vice versa! just be pro human race.
06:37 November 10, 2011 by Kahmoudi
I totally disagree with revising literature unless there was huge mistranslation.To act like certain views weren't held in the past negates all the lessons that we learned from fallacies, prejudices and stereotypes that past generations held. I feel that literary works should stand as they are and children should just be given explanations of certain terms and passages and how they were/are wrong and hurtful to some people.

I'm a Black woman in her 40's who was an avid reader as a child, and still am, I hold Pippi Longstocking as a dear childhood friend that encouraged me to be strong, brave and to take risks. The only thing I blame Pippi for is a lifelong fascination with freckled, red heads.
08:52 November 10, 2011 by Rick Methven
"the black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book," she said. "When reading the book to my nephew, who is black, I simply left that passage out."

It was the evangelical missionaries in Africa who taught African children that white Christian children where superior to the blacks. now this evangelist is complaining????
16:09 November 10, 2011 by jvtx3232
Oh pleeeeeease! Now Pipi Långstrump is "racist"?!?!?! These P.C. wack-jobs have really gone overboard with their bleeding-heart hyper-sensitivity.

I never bought any Pipi books before, but thanks to this flaming idiot complaining about them, I will now make it a point to buy uncensored Pipi books and give them to children in my life for Christmas and birthday presents, etc.!
18:09 November 10, 2011 by zat_xela
If this "theologian" wants to address racism, cruelty and other non-PC issues in literature, she should probably start with the Bible.
20:24 November 10, 2011 by jvtx3232
She is mycket inte klok!

Did I ever tell you how much I HATE the know-nothing-knoww-it-all self-appointed PC police?

Geez! Picking on Pipi Longstocking! Get a life!
18:13 November 11, 2011 by Larry Thrash
Just another Maxist hiding behind the cloak of theology.
12:57 November 12, 2011 by rationalperson2

The word Negro is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not. The word negro means 'black' in Spanish and Portuguese, from the Latin niger, 'black', probably from a Proto-Indo-European root *nekw-, 'to be dark', akin to *nokw- 'night'.

So what's wrong with using the word negro?? People all of a sudden start to be offended by all sorts of things. If you're offended by the truth (negro, meaning black, in this case), then you're in some serious trouble! Morons!

@Migga #25 Yes! I agree totally. People see a child running around in underwear, or perhaps you see their underwear under their skirt for a brief moment, and you start talking sex? That's in YOUR head, so maybe YOU have some issues, Mr J Jack!
23:04 November 17, 2011 by Vermaldeehide
All religion must be shelved if we're going to survive as a species. The mythologists should be encouraged later on to pull it back down off the shelf, but only when they are mature enough that their imagination doesn't run away with them. Additionally It should be likened to more of a candy reward to those who can work their way through the need to NOT censor everyone else's candy rewards.

19:06 November 25, 2011 by LibertyLover
Politically correct Marxists like this are only worthy of contempt. This obsession with race, class and gender differences has permeated academia in both Europe and the United States, while the quality of education has declned markedly at all levels. Universities in the United States are permeated with gender and ethnic studies which lack any intellectual credibility because they are ideological at their very core and whose goal is to enforce a political and cultural orthodoxy on unsuspecting students. We call this educational malpractice. In the U.S., some politically correct academics are still preoccupied with Christopher Columbus who is to be credited with opening up the New World to exploration and colonization 500 YEARS AGO, (and 500 years after it was discovered by the Vikings). They claim that he opened up the New World to imperialist exploitation and want to abolish the holiday. What they seek, in reality, is to impose their Marxist form of mind control over the population. They are the modern equivalent of the KNOW NOTHINGS.

Pippi is fine just as she is. Keep your %$#&*^! hands off Pippi.
15:56 December 17, 2011 by jvtx3232
Why does this stupid stupid article keep popping up in the header of TheLocal.se webpage? We have all already decided it's a worthless article.
00:18 December 28, 2011 by alf2
So read a different book, and stop attacking our cultural heritage.
10:43 January 5, 2012 by Whynot8
Pippi is not a racist, it's her writer Astrid Lindgren who is the racist. What's more Astrid is to blame for the total chaos in the recent generations of children. She created a little monster who has no respect for society. A person who dresses as she likes, eats whatever she likes, and shows a total disrespect for anything that doesn't fit her warped ideas. Imagine her as an adult! Astrid Lindgren is a major contributor to the new generation of slackers.
20:40 January 29, 2012 by janeway
Any work of literature written before the PC-police, could have passages in them that will upset the latter. Pippi Longstocking are just the latest one to fall into the category that will get the xtians, immigrants and lefties falling over eachother in their condemnations. Tintin in Congo is another. Should we erase colonialism, the holocaust and racism from everything published in our society and pretend it never happened and have people censoring children's books? Or should we give the parents a little bit of responsibility in raising their kids to be aware of history and equality?

Whynot8: Not sure if you're sarcastic, but Astrid Lindrgen have written so many books covering all sorts of subjects surrounding childhood and by that helped children all over the world with difficult issues. You should try and read some of them!
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