• Germany's news in English

Pippi Longstocking books deemed racist

Hannah Cleaver · 8 Nov 2011, 15:57

Published: 08 Nov 2011 15:57 GMT+01:00

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.”

Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:56 November 8, 2011 by lwexcel
This is absolutely amazing my wife and I just last night were talking about the same subject. From my understanding all of the newer versions of the books actually come with a disclaimer noting that the book was written before and the views projected in them are not intended to be racist in any way. I have not verified this but if it is true, then I as an African American have not problems with, it was the way that society functioned when these books were written and there is nothing that we can do to really change it except for have it taken out of newly printed copies, skip over it when reading, or stop reading the books all together to children in public schools.

If they were talking about the terms Negerküss or Neger (Colaweizen), which are still used today I would definitely not be as open minded. But this is simply about a book that was written a very long time ago. And that is really how it should be treated.
18:48 November 8, 2011 by lucksi
@lwexcel: Though the Negerküsse have been renamed, almost everybody over a certain age (whenever they were renamed) still knows exactly what it is. And actually, they were called "Moor heads" before which isn't better. Politically correct, it should be "Chocolade covered foam sugar" and utterly sarcastic it should be "Chocolade covered foam sugar with migrational background"

As for the books: It's not that it wasn't racism at the point in history when it was written, it was just acceptable racism.

And I think everything should be left in the book as it was written. Don't start changing stuff just because it's not PC. Then you might as well take out the stuff that goes against the parent's authority, because that isn't wanted either. Just tell the parents that parenting isn't a sometimes job and they should tell their kids that racism isn't ok.
19:38 November 8, 2011 by storymann
This is a classic , why do we have to represent it differently? always the same senario "racist" kind of tired of that rhetoric.

Remember the movie "White men can't jump" where the black players were husseled because they believed that white men could not play the sport..

No one cried foul there.
19:55 November 8, 2011 by chantal11
What's next? This is ridiculous! So I guess Shakespeare's plays should be rewritten???

In Othello, the lead character , a Moor of African descent, is continuously insulted for his heritage and appearance (especially in Act I) by his enemies and even his supporters (Lodovico) at the play¦#39;s conclusion when Othello murders his wife for mistakenly believing she cheated. Racism also occurs in Titus Andronicus (towards the Moor named Aaron), The Tempest where the misformed giant Caliban is called "this thing of darkness" (Act V, Line 275), and in Richard II.

These classics were written when this viewpoint was acceptable. It is up to you to teach your children that it isn't acceptable. Censorship is never the answer.
21:22 November 8, 2011 by ovalle3.14
Well maybe it is racist but you can't wash history. It is what it is and its position in time and history should be remembered when the book is read. I can think of plenty of other household books with "outdated" points of view.
21:51 November 8, 2011 by Loth
Liberals live in a world that has never been and will never ever be.
22:00 November 8, 2011 by puisoh
Another case of a saturated life, fat pay checks from the church and have nothing more important to worry about. Totally agree with ovalle3.14 and glad that the Local have accomplished reader like chantal11. And if Iwexcel being African-American has no problem with it, it show how shallow and unreal Dr what-BS is. I understand you have to keep yourself in employment, but pls say something more substantial. Holy Cow!!!
00:56 November 9, 2011 by Whipmanager
I guess most of what I want to say is already taken care of. People here are very smart, and have a good grasp of reality. The average populace currently in Sweden of Black people is around .8% of about 9.5 Million inhabitants. It was probably around the same or less in those days. I think that there was and is a sort of accepted racism everywhere. Whether it be against Muslims in France or elsewhere, Mexicans or hispanics in California, Turks in Germany, Indians or CHinese in Britain, any non Mexican hispanic in Mexico (strange, right?). I fear, though, that the left is trying hard to be proactive in an area no one is asking them to be. They preach Tolerance, but sho none towards those that have differing views from theirs.

We are being told to repent all of us that really did nothing, and make concessions. You can tell a great deal about a society, where they are or were, from the books of a certain time. It is important to be able to point to changes in a societal norm by contrasting literature from a particular period from another. If we white-wash (probably a racist term- shame on me) the past to conform to what some people want today, what have we done but hide a past that didn't meet the expectations of people of today.

Pippi is a classic. It was shown so much in the days of old when I was in Germany that I do not see how changing the book would resolve any lingering issues- if there are any. These intellectual liars need to stop trying to hide the past, accept things for what they meant then, to look forward and see if we have made progress. Just my worthless opinion.
01:09 November 9, 2011 by jmclewis
I saw Pippi as a child in Japan the first time in Japanese, and later in English! I love Pippi!
01:29 November 9, 2011 by derExDeutsche
'You understand Teacher, don't you, that when you have a mother who's an angel and a father who is a cannibal king, and when you have sailed on the ocean all your whole life, then you don't know just how to behave in school with all the apples and ibexes.'

02:42 November 9, 2011 by vonSchwerin
" there are many very positive aspects to the book . . . she is against adultism, grown-ups being in charge"

Yes, the world would be much better if children ran it. That certainly makes sense! The next time my daughter asks me why she needs to eat dinner before desert, brush her teeth, eat vegetables, put down the video, or get a full night's sleep, I will say, "I'm sorry. I was being an adultist. You are right -- we should come to a consensus or, even better, just let you make all the rules."
09:38 November 9, 2011 by DoubleDTown
I've always found Pippi annoying, even when I was a child. I mean, just look at her. Annoying.

On another topic, why is it good that the book is "against adultism" and "against adults being charge". Hello! Speaking as a selfish adult, I sure hope adults stay in charge.

Frau Wollrad is nuts.
10:44 November 9, 2011 by Keksi
"from the the Federal Association of Evangelical Women"

All I needed to read.
14:02 November 9, 2011 by Hans Tuga
Why all the political correctness.. ??

Could they not then criticize all the racism against the jews in the bible?

Or is the "word of god" just a evil story?

Aren't the american nazis leaders, evangelical and baptist priests???
15:06 November 9, 2011 by trevzns
@ Hans Tuga

Why all the political correctness.. ??

Could they not then criticize all the racism against the jews in the bible?

Or is the "word of god" just a evil story?

Aren't the american nazis leaders, evangelical and baptist priests???

Why all the disrespect and insensitivity about what is correct?

1. Where in the Bible is the word Jews ever mentioned until the Bible of the New Testaments?

2. There are many stories in the bible about racism and the enslavement of people. The murder of women and children, there is incest.

The raping of women and young girls as sex slaves to be shared among gods chosen warriors, as reward for the murdering of people not in favor with their god.

3. Arent the Jews in Israel the direct descents of gods chosen few who are oppressing people and occupying Lands in Palestine?
15:25 November 9, 2011 by vonSchwerin
Why does nearly ever story on The Local have to get comments that deal with Israel/Palestine?

Can we give it a break?
15:55 November 9, 2011 by arbeitsbiene3

This is a classic , why do we have to represent it differently? always the same senario "racist" kind of tired of that rhetoric.

@ chantal11

What's next? This is ridiculous! So I guess Shakespeare's plays should be rewritten???

What is ridiculous. Whether Pippi was written by Shakespeare or one of the

Prophets from the Holly Bible, it still is racists.

Shakespeares plays and Astrid Lindgren book in question are classics and should not be rewritten. Those classical works of art and Literature are evidence of European societies, insincerities and envy of black people.

There are reasons why some Europeans had and still have disrespect and hatred for the Moors.

Like all occupying empires, the Moors ran things their way and not all of it was pleasant for the Europeans.

The Moors were the last of the African Empires to occupy and rule a European country for over 700 years until about 1492.
16:17 November 9, 2011 by trevzns
@ vonSchwerin

Why should we give it a break?

The Jews from Europe and the State of Israel got their break when the British government granted the Lands of Palestine to the Zionists Federation in 1922.

Today in 2011, the Palestinian people are looking for a break in their original homelands… this one reason why, we should not give it a break.
17:27 November 9, 2011 by DonQuixote
The original text were and still are racist.

One African-American or a group of African-Americans, do not represent or speak for the long history of the African culture.

Black people in the U.S., Caribbean and South America are descendents of Africans. And today, many now have European DNA.

The African-Americans experience is part and whole, a sad part of European and American societies.

However, despite slavery and prejudice African-Americans are still making great achievements and contributions in the U.S. and in the rest of our world.

Some of the remakes made here attempting to excuse, justify and glorify the willful and intentional contempt and envy, many Europeans and other individuals have for black people is not surprising.

Racial prejudice is a disgusting human virus, which should be isolated and eradicated wherever found.
18:03 November 9, 2011 by SockRayBlue
Yeah, the last German theologian that stirred things up was Luther. It is only a story, Dumpkoff. Go stand in a corner...........please.
20:22 November 9, 2011 by Jesspatriat
I read these books as a (white, middle-class) seven-year-old and thought they were racist then. However, what really stuck with me was the fact that Pippi had a horse on her porch, much as what stuck with me when I read The Last Battle wasn't the Christian allegory that C.S. Lewis was hammering over my head but the drama of the Pevensie children dying in a train crash. I guess the final proof is that, as an adult, I'm neither Christian nor racist...
20:37 November 9, 2011 by Whipmanager
DonQuixote: I take a bit of offense from your input on#19. It appears that you are stating that African Americans have no prejudices, or at best, if they do, it is justified and ok. Maybe I am reading into your comment, and if so, I apologize. There are Africans around the world that never siffered what the people iin America did. There is prejudice in every race. Ever hear of Tutsis and Hutus? I do not think that Europeans or Americans corner the market on prejudice or wrong doing. And in fact, in this ever changing and more educated world; in one where the news and tragedy is in our face always; one can almost excuse the trespasses of our fore-fathers as ignorance. Today, when we have the proof of the past, and indepth looks at what and why things happened, there is less excuse for being an agressive racist who hurts others with words or deeds. Knowing what we know today, only by studying the past (so why remove the past and edit away the lessons to be learned) can we know what we shouldn't do. It doesnt mean that bad deeds of the past are good, just that we learn from them.

I see Prejudice in Many African Americans, much that I do not see in my true African friends. If you have prejudices, keep them to yourself and conduct yourself, when in society, appropriately. Think freely what you will, but act educated and tolerant where needed. The freedom we have is to think what we will, but the freedom ends when what we think or do affects others and their freedom and freewill.

Finally, if Europeans had contempt for someone different from them, several hundred years ago, it is because there was no thought of races intermixing, countries being occupied by people of different races- it was inconceivable then. BUt didnt the tribes of Africa, upon dealing with rival tribes of the same color not also kill, molest, disrespect, or otherwise mistreat their neighbors? Are they free from charge in your eyes?
21:05 November 9, 2011 by trevzns
Stores define European culture and heritage, so what else is new?
22:25 November 9, 2011 by Wayne Grand
@trevzns No, Israel is not "oppressing people and occupying Lands in Palestine" , there have always lived Jews in that land, e.g around 1850 when the Ottoman Empire did the first census, Jews were actually in majority in Jerusalem. The population of Jews never fell below 10% even with strong influx of Muslims from areas around, with your logic every people except Jews have the right to self determination. So please stop spreading canards and educate yourself instead.

About Pippi; why are people so quick to draw the conclusion that the black children threw themselves into the sand in front of the children because they are white, Of course they threw themselves in front of Pippi because they instantly knew how awesome and super cool she is. The black children didn't give a f**k about stupid Annika and knee jerk Tommy.
00:18 November 10, 2011 by DonQuixote
No personal offense intended.

Some Africans and African-Americans have Prejudice. There are always exceptions with human beings.

Many African-Americans have a self-hate complex and do understand or have knowledge of their American heritage.

The same version of U.S. American history taught in all schools today, excludes or misrepresents many achievements and contributions made by their African ancestors.

There is no justification or excuses for the violence and behavior of the Hutus and Tutsis. Like I said, many Africans today are still suffering from the disconnections of their African heritages.

Over the years Africans and African-Americans have been breastfed by Europeans for a longtime. Now that much of the breastfeeding has stopped, many individuals are lost, confused and have little humanity for their fellow human being.

The after effects of colonialism, Apartheid and the European religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are at the root of many problems and conflicts in Africa and the world today.

Racial Prejudice is a horrible behavior and mindset introduced by Europeans. To degrade African and other cultures, while instilling a sense of superiority and achievement in an otherwise cold and savage European culture.

I do hope the Africans have learned their lessons well and will not repeat the mistakes of their forefathers and assume the Arabs, Europeans and Asians have Africas best interest in mind.

European legacies in Africa, or anywhere Europeans call home, even in Europe have tails to tell of slavery, genocide, and religious disputes and conflicts.

Some African tribes did kill and mistreat their neighbors. Europeans took Prejudice and contempt for other human beings to another level.
11:22 November 10, 2011 by trevzns
@Wayne Grand

Stop spreading false or unfounded stories?

Palestinians should have a state and right to self-determination.

True stores. The state of Israel is occupying Palestinian lands and building illegal settlements, and denying people their human rights to freedom…sounds like and smells like oppression?

The Lands now the Sate of Israel was granted to the Zionists federation in the 1922 by the British government.

Did the British government and the Jewish prophets from bible not know there were other people living in Land of Palestine? When did god get into the real-estate business?
14:07 November 10, 2011 by vonSchwerin
@ trevzns et al.

You misunderstand me.

You have the right to spew all the anti-Israel or pro-Israel propaganda you want. But I think that comments on The Local should be relevant to the story. This story is about Pippi Longstocking. It has nothing to do with Zionism.
20:43 November 10, 2011 by Landmine
"Dr. Eske Wollrad from the the Federal Association of Evangelical Women"

Federal Association of Evangelical Women explains it all -crack pots...
20:57 November 10, 2011 by Enough
Against monkeys?
22:03 November 10, 2011 by svaens
Not only is it a travesty to modify a book, like this, without the authors consent,

but it is like one is trying to erase history! Completely ridiculous. The book captures the feel of the time in which it was written. To modify it to suit current political correctness is falsehood. If the book is written in a way that does not fit with current thought, it should simply be explained to the reader. I doubt, if a child lives in a truly multi-cultural society, free from racism, one little old work of children's fiction is not going to turn the child into a raving racist! It is part of our past, and we shouldn't deny it, but rather use it as a lesson, of how horrible people can be to other people, and why that does not need to be so.
07:39 November 11, 2011 by parografik
Is this really news? Or new? And wouldn't leaving these texts alone create an opportunity for education and discussion?

By discussion, I mean between the ruling class adults and the underage classes, of course.
10:40 November 11, 2011 by trevzns

This is not about me misunderstanding you.

Its about the insensitive and contemptuous attitudes some Europeans past and present still have for African culture and heritage.

Pippi is a classic. Classical illustrations of the diabolical mindset white people have for black people and black heritage.

Othello is another classic. However, disrespecting a Moor? The African Moor civilization ruled and occupied Spain and Portugal for over 700 years until 1492.

During the late1400s, the rest of Europe was still emerging from one of the many dark ages of ignorance and savagery in European history.

The Catholic Church perpetrated this period of intellectual and cultural darkness. Catholicism, another religion of Middle East origins.

Israel and Propaganda. A group of European German Jews, claim their ancestors 3 thousands years ago originated in the Middle East, and today Jewish people have the DNA test results as evidence.

The Hebrew religion and Languages are not European or Jewish in concept or origin. Hebrew is the religion, not Judaism.

Hebrew languages originate from the Afro-asiatic languages group, in North and East Africa, not in Europe.

The Middle East regions were apart of East Africa long before the Geek, Roman, Turkish and Asian European Empires arrived in Africa.

Ancient stories and folklore define much of European religions, culture and heritage. You do not have to read or reply to my comments…lick, report abuse.

And, suggesting censorship of the Local is a better alterative, because you and others are of the opinions, some comments are not relevant.

Which Great Emperor or Queen, died and left you and others, rulers of freedom of Speech?
11:40 November 11, 2011 by LecteurX
Wew, breaking news! Shock, horror! A book written in Northern Europe in the 1940s contains racist prejudice! Oh dear, oh dear... As a black man, all my childhood was full of reading faintly racist stuff by Europeans or Americans from the previous decades or centuries. Just think "Tintin in the Congo" ("Tim im Kongo" for the German readers). It just reflects the standard European stereotypes about Blacks in that time. Of course it is quite distateful to read now, but there was no intended malice from the authors at the time of writing. You can also read through "old-fashioned" literature and find sexism and chauvinism aplenty...
14:35 November 11, 2011 by wenddiver
It must be sad to be the products of a Modern Age that is so untallented, that all it can find for itself to do is desecrate it's Ancestor's classics. Modern Political Correctness is the Puritanical boundage that enslaves the creative of our age and elevates the semian no talents who cut on better Men's books and substitutes Garbage for Art. To laugh at these self appointed censors as untalented Baboons, is to insult Baboons who at least do not desicrate the work of other baboons to my knowlege. I call for an age were all Mn's thoughts can walk in the sunshine and be judged by each individual reader or viewer of art and let those offended by their reading go back to their Caves or go dig Grubs. There is no idea so dangerous, that it can not be heard.
17:36 November 11, 2011 by ErnestPayne
reverend bowlder is alive and well and living in Germany.
15:29 November 12, 2011 by Bruno53
The same can be said of "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie, where American indians are portrayed as ridiculously primitive. And I hate "Peter Pan" as embodiment of immaturity. Or more serious books like "Candide" by Voltaire or "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann. Are we that "sensitive"? Ridiculous! What's next? Ban the Bible because it is unfair to snakes, donkeys and pigs?
02:10 November 13, 2011 by Dizz
I think you're missing something. Racism doesn't exist in minds of little children. It is not a genetic predisposition of the human race. Flowers have different colours. Puppies and kittens and different colours. Friends have different colours. Its all new information and they don't rank it hierarchically, they just take it all in like a sponge. When I grew up my family was in one of those professions where you travel every 3 or 4 years and live in very multi-cultural expat communities. We went to the international schools. There were japanese kids, indian kids, irish kids, french kids. israeli kids, ghanain kids, jordanians, you name it. FWIW its worth the little jordanian boy and the little israeli boy were the two always up to no good and best friends on earth. As for the rest of us, we changed allegiances and friendships on an hourly basis or depending on the game we were playing or the teams we wanted to form and we all collapsed giggling in a big pile at the end of "what's the time, mr. wolf?"
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