The idea to revamp Astrid Lindgren’s beloved character was born during a writing workshop at Askeby School in Rinkeby. There, author Gunila Lundgren was teaching a group of Roma children between the ages of six and 12 how to express themselves in writing. One 12-year-old student suggested that the workshop write about Pippi Longstocking, a personal favourite.
“It’s always fun to do something your own way and do something in which you can recognize yourself,” the 12-year-old, Felicia Di Fransesco, told Radio Sweden’s P4 Väst.
With Lundgren helping Di Fransesco hone the text, Pippi Longstocking trades in her Villa Villekulla home for an abandoned car in Rinkeby, the “particularly vulnerable” Stockholm suburb that has made global headlines for past riots. She no longer has her horse or her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and spends her time “fighting injustice”.
“She is the strongest in the world, she’s self-sufficient and she takes care of herself. Everything is like in the original but we’ve made it our own,” Di Fransesco told P4 Väst.
But simply rewriting the biggest Swedish literary success in history isn’t that simple. Lindgren’s estate initially rejected the request to reimagine Pippi Longstocking as a Roma in Rinkeby.
“We contacted Astrid Lindgren’s relatives and they told us no because everyone wants to use Pippi on clothing, on candy, in hospitals and everything else you can think of,” said Lundgren, who has written over 30 children’s books.
But when those behind the project explained to the Lindgren family that all proceeds from the project would go to a children’s library in the Romanian capital Bucharest, the family gave the new story the green light, with the agreement that they would have to approve the final manuscript.
‘Pippi in Rinkeby’ will debut as a radio series on Sveriges Radio on October 29th. It will be narrated in Swedish by Sunita Memetovic, Sweden’s first-ever lawyer of Romani heritage. The radio series will also be broadcast in Sweden’s five official minority languages: Romani, Sami, Yiddish, Finnish and Meänkieli (Torne Valley Finnish). The plan is to then publish the story in book form.
Lindgren's original Pippi Longstocking books have been translated into more than 40 different languages and have been adapted into numerous films and television shows.