Where they came from

Here you can read about the backgrounds to the people and the characters in Astrid Lindgren’s books and films. Find out how Astrid got her inspiration for the Light in Nangijala, and how that Karlsson-on-the-Roof was originally called Herr Liljonkvast.

“It’s just like fishing for pike – you’ve got to haul ‘em up”, said Astrid. She was referring to how she has used events, people – and not least her intense love for nature – from her childhood when she wrote her books. “That’s probably what most authors do when they write; then they add and create as they please.”

Where Astrid is concerned, many of these memories and backgrounds to how the book characters came to life are well documented. It has often begun with the name, a name like Pippi Longstocking or Emil i Lönneberga. But the people around Astrid – and the surroundings – are just as important. She has said herself that it is her own childhood she has written about.

At Näs there were plenty of grownup role models for children among the farm-hands, maids, washerwomen and “cow-men”. Even though they were servants they became part of the family and as such were important to the children at Näs in their everyday life. Lina and Alfred in Katthult, Agda in Bullerby and Alma in the Mardie books – all of them bear similarity to some of the maids and farm-hands at Näs. Astrid herself has told us how the children played tricks on the maids, secretly read their love-letters and disturbed their occasional romantic moments.

Ida in Liljerum and Marie in Vendladal were old women who would help out with things, and the children loved to visit them. If they were lucky they might get treated to baked apples or get to hear sad songs – the saddest was Jesus’ Railway to Heaven, which was later sung to Mardie by Ida, making Mardie cry – or be told some dreadful stories about ghosts and goblins, just like the ones in a far-distant future that Krösa-Maja would be telling Emil and Ida in the Emil books.

Life in the country at the turn of the century also included the tramps. Thousands of homeless people were trudging along the Swedish country roads, managing to survive by wood-chopping and begging. In Rasmus and the Tramp, Rasmus joins up with Oscar. Perhaps there were cryptic signs that Oscar would carve into the bark of a tree to tell those coming after him that it would be worthwhile stopping off at this farm. Perhaps there was such a sign at Näs, because there the tramps could always count on a place to sleep and a bite to eat.

To the right, Astrid’s grandfather upon whom the kindest grandfather in Bullerby was modelled – from Astrid’s collectionThe world´s kindest grandfather © Ingrid Vang Nyman/Saltkråkan ABThe world´s kindest grandfather, in the movie directed by Lasse Hallström © AB Svensk Filmindustri, Denise Grünstein