Pippi Longstocking The Psychopath

Is Pippi Longstocking a psychopath? Before you dismiss the idea out of hand, a little bit of psychopathy can  be a beneficial thing for the individual. An evolutionary advantage, in fact.

Episode 59 of the We Hate Movies podcast pretty much rips the hell out of The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking. I have not seen this film, but I have it on very good authority that the book is far better than the atrocity which is the screen adaptation, despite all of the problems associated with the book.

The closest I’ve come to this film is watching the Gilmore girls enjoy an earlier adaptation. After listening to the detailed rundown of the 1980s film adaptation from the We Hate Movies guys, Lorelai’s apprecation of this story explains to me some of her most annoying traits — her insistence on flouting the rules, of taking advantage of strangers at a funeral, of eating copious amounts of free wedding cake at a small business owner’s expense, of dumping a stranger’s secondhand mattress on a friend… that kind of thing.

And then one of the We Hate Movies guys pointed out that Pippi is likely an example of a psychopath, which sounds like a complete exaggeration, unless you understand that psychopathy is not a binary condition; rather, we are all somewhere on a continuum. This is explained nicely in another podcast altogether, this time from a science podcast.

Stieg Larsson, he who wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, said that Lisbeth Salander was inspired by Pippi Longstocking:

This delightful and formidable little girl has been a champion of equality between the sexes: she doesn’t depend on anyone, can use a revolver, has sailed the seven seas … But the main thing about Pippi is that she has her own ideas about right and wrong—and she lives by them, no matter what the law or adults say.

Kevin Dutton wrote a book called The Wisdom Of Psychopaths. He is very interesting in interview. You can listen to him speak about psychopaths, and how his own father was a psychopath at the Science Talk podcast.

It turns out psychopathy is fascinating. We’re attracted to such characters, perhaps trying to understand them, maybe because in small tribes such people would be useful and dangerous in equal measure.


If you like podcasts, see also Double X Podcast’s episode called The Bare-Chested Edition, in which the women discuss child psychopaths.

Or 60 Second Mind: Inside The Mind Of A Psychopath and Dexter Talks Psychopath Stress Management. The 60 Second Mind podcasts offer just enough information to make you want to know more.

Then there’s The Bad Seed episode from Stuff To Blow Your Mind, one of my favourite podcasts from How Stuff Works.

illustration by Ericavale Morello for Pippi Longstocking
illustration by Ericavale Morello for Pippi Longstocking

Which US President Was The Biggest Psychopath? from PSY Blog

Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath? from NYT Magazine

I Have The Brain Of A Serial Killer comes from someone who has been studying brains and childhood experiences, trying to work out why some people turn out to go on shooting sprees. As someone who has had chapped lips all my life, I wonder if I, too, have the brain of a serial killer. Let’s hope there’s much more to it than that…

Are You A Psychopath from The Good Men Project

The Two Steps To Spotting A Psychopath from PSY Blog

What makes a psychopath’s brain different? from io9

The neuroscientist who discovered he was a psychopath from Salon

What’s a sadist? Psychopaths vs. Sadists from Time


For the first fifty-eight years of his life James Fallon was by all appearances a normal guy. A successful neuroscientist and medical school professor, he’d been raised in a loving, supportive family, married his high school sweetheart, and had three kids and lots of friends.

Then he learned a shocking truth that would not only disrupt his personal and professional life, but would lead him to question the very nature of his own identity.
The Psychopath Inside tells the fascinating story of Fallon’s reaction to the discovery that he has the brain of a psychopath. While researching serial murderers, he uncovered a distinct neurological pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. A few months later he learned that he was descended from a family with a long line of murderers which confirmed that Fallon’s own brain pattern wasn’t a fluke.

So, for anyone who has a good understanding of psychopathy, and who is also familiar with the Pippi Longstockings brand, where might she fit on the spectrum?  What would have happened to Pippi Longstocking in a grown up novel about the adult Pippi? The New York Times has already speculated, and draws a discomfiting connection to Lisbeth Salander.


Apparently Hayao Miyazaki considered turning Pippi Longstocking into a movie and some concept art was even created, but he eventually decided to flag it. I wonder if Miyazaki thought Pippi Longstocking was too much of a psycho? After all, he prefers nice, well-rounded protagonists.

Who is from classic children’s literature might be a psychopath? What about Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, unloved until the age of ten? Then again, maybe it wasn’t too late for Mary, who was reformed about being sent to the country:

Four good things had happened to her, in fact, since she came to Misselthwaite Manor. She had felt as if she had understood a robin and that he had understood her; she had run in the wind until her blood had grown warm; she had been healthily hungry for the first time in her life; and she had found out what it was to be sorry for some one.

The Secret Garden

More seriously: Pippi Longstocking: a Character that Transcends Gender

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