…chapter nine in Pippi Longstocking, a children’s story written in 1944 by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren:
Tommy and Annika’s mother had invited a few ladies to a coffee party, and as she had done plenty of baking, she thought Tommy and Annika might invite Pippi over at the same time. The children would entertain each other and give no trouble to anyone.
Of course, Pippi, a nine-year-old redhead whose mother was dead and whose father was a sea captain who had been blown overboard and lost at sea, had never been to a coffee party. She lived by herself in her house, Villa Villekulla, with Mr. Nilsson, the monkey, a horse, and a suitcase full of gold. As the strongest little girl in the world, she was quite capable of faring for herself, but she did not attend school regularly and her lifestyle was not necessarily, er, conventional.
At three o’clock a very stylish young lady walked up the steps of the Settergrens’ house. It was Pippi Longstocking. For this special occasion she had unbraided her pigtails, and her red hair hung like a lion’s mane around her. With red crayon she had painted her mouth fiery red, and she had blackened her eyebrows so that she looked almost dangerous. With the crayon she had also painted her fingernails, and she had put big green rosettes on her shoes.
Not one to enter a gathering quietly, Pippi storms her way into the coffee party and serves herself a heaping plate of goodies before anyone else has a chance:
Pippi stretched her legs out in front of her and placed the plate of cakes between her toes. Then she merrily dunked cakes in her coffee cup and stuffed so many in her mouth at once that she couldn’t have uttered a word no matter how hard she tried. In the twinkling of an eye she had finished all the cakes on the plate. She got up, struck the plate as if it were a tambourine, and went up to the table to see if there were any cakes left. The ladies looked disapprovingly at her, but that didn’t bother her. Chatting gaily, she walked around the table, snatching a cake here and a cake there.
Things went downhill from there, until:
”You must never come here again,” said Mrs. Settergren, “if you can’t behave any better than this.”
Pippi looked at her in astonishment and her eyes filled slowly with tears. “That’s just what I was afraid of,” she said. “That I couldn’t behave properly. It’s no use to try; I’ll never learn. I should have stayed on the ocean.”
When I was a kid, I re-read my favorite books over and over. I must have read Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Goes on Board, and Pippi in the South Seas ten times each. But after the first time, I never read this particular chapter. I felt so bad for Pippi, and so embarrassed for her, that I would skip directly from chapter 8 to chapter 10 each time. Astrid Lindgren had created a character so real, one that I liked so much, that seeing Pippi unhappy (and committing so many appalling faux pas) was more than I could take.
My paperback edition: Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking, Penguin Books, 1978.
This has been a nodeshell rescue.