I love Astrid Lindgren. With the deep, all-consuming love I have for my very favorite authors. I love Astrid Lindgren the same way I love Madeleine L’Engel; because each time I open a book by one of those women, I am transported back to the first time I accessed the secret world inside.
I love Astrid Lindgren and its not all about Pippi. In fact, its very little about Pippi, though I love her, too. For me, Astrid Lindgren is about Ronia. I understand the appeal of Pippi Longstocking, her silly clothes and fun adventures. Her irreverent, almost accidental feminism. But Ronia is another beast entirely.
Ronia the Robber's Daughter is probably my favorite heroine. She is dearer to me than any “Paperbag Princess” or reimagined fairy tale. Lindgren makes no apologies for the femininity of Matt the Robber’s only child. She is as wild as Sendak’s Max as she runs through the magical forest surrounding her house. No one tries to stop her because she is a girl, nor is that fact even emphasized in the text. Her gender is secondary to her other qualities – her ferocious courage, her stubborn will, her deep love for her parents, the robbers and her only playmate, the son of her father’s arch-enemy.
The world that Lindgren creates for us is perfect. It is similar enough to the world that we know that it is easy to leap into the imaginary. The harpies and grey dwarves that lurk in the forest are believable foes. The wild horses that Matt and Ronia tame are perfectly perched on the edge of fantasy.
I love Ronia because she is not afraid of knowing what she wants or of doing what needs to be done. She is guided by love and compassion, but never sacrifices herself. I imagine her beautiful and wild-haired (I often contemplate getting her image tattooed to my shoulder). And she could kick Cinderella’s butt.