Sweden’s much-loved Pippi Longstocking children books have been branded racist by a leading German theologian.
Dr Eske Wollrad, from Germany’s Federal Association of Evangelical Women, has called on parents to skip certain passages or else explain to their children that they contain outdated colonial stereotypes.
She hit out at the Pippi Longstocking trilogy, written by author Astrid Lindgren and first published in 1945, at an anti-discrimination state conference in Leipzig at the weekend.
Dr Wollrad told German newspaper The Local: ‘It is not that the figure of Pippi Longstocking is racist, but that all three in the trilogy of books have colonial racist stereotypes.’
In the books, Pippi is an eight-year-old with superhuman strength who does not want to grow up and hates pompous adults.
Her father, once a king of a South Seas island, was originally known as Negro King before publishers changed it to South Seas King.
Dr Wollrad is demanding the book’s publisher make additions in the books to guide readers when ‘racist’ content arises.
She said that in the third book, Pippi In The South Seas: ‘The black children throw themselves into the sand in front of the white children in the book. When reading the book to my nephew, who is black, I simply left that passage out.’
She added: ‘The question to ask yourself is whether you could read a certain passage out loud to a black child without stopping or stumbling. Only then can you say whether it is OK or not.’
But Dr Wollrad did praise the trilogy for its feminist and pro-child innovations, a rarity in the 1940s.
She said: ‘I would certainly not condemn the book completely–on the contrary, there are many very positive aspects to it.
‘As well as being very funny, it is instructive for children as it not only has a strong female character . . . and she is fiercely opposed to violence against animals.’
Astrid Lindgren died in 2002 aged 94. She remains best known for her three Pippi Longstocking books–Pippi Longstocking (1945), Pippi Goes On Board (1946) and Pippi In The South Seas (1948).
She wrote the first of the trilogy following a request from her unwell nine-year-old daughter Karen for a ‘get well story’.
The books swiftly became a Swedish phenomenon and have been adapted numerous times for film and television.