"June evenings in Stockholm are like nothing else in the entire world. Nowhere else does the sky shimmer with such a strange light, nowhere else is the dusk so lovely and magical and blue. And in that blue dusk the city sits on its pale waters as if it has floated up out of some old fairytale and isn’t real at all." From The World’s Best Karlsson
Astrid Lindgren’s roots were in Småland but she spent most of her life in Stockholm. She had moved to the city in 1926, only 18 years old. And on the 22nd of September 1941 she moved, together with her family, into the flat on Dalagatan 46. It was here that she lived for more than 60 years, and where on the 28th of January 2002 she passed away.
There are many places in Stockholm that have a connection to Astrid Lindgren or to her writing. Below is a list of some of these places.
The apartment on Dalagatan was Astrid Lindgren’s home from 1941 until her death in 2002. It is the place where Astrid Lindgren became a world famous author. Today it is possible to visit the apartment by pre-booking a guided tour. It is also possible to take a virtual tour of the apartment.
From Astrid Lindgren’s flat on Dalagatan 46 you have a view across the Vasaparken park. Astrid often strolled there and met people in the park that ended up becoming life-long friends. They got to know each other as young mothers but continued to meet in Vasaparken even when their children had grown up. As late as the 1990s you could still spot Astrid walking arm in arm with one of these ‘park ladies’, as she called them.
It was also in Vasaparken that on a cold spring day in March 1944 she slipped on some ice and was confined to her bed with a sprained foot. In order to pass the time she wrote down the stories about Pippi.
After Astrid Lindgren’s death the section of Vasaparken, which is directly below her home, was named ‘the Astrid Lindgren terrace’.
Three flights up in a building on Karlbergsvägen lives Göran. He is ill and might never be able to walk again. But, in the evenings the flying Mr Lilyvale arrives to take Göran with him on adventures across a twilight Stockholm.
Mr Lilyvale was a friendlier predecessor to Karlsson on the Roof. Her daughter Karin came up with the name. The story In the Land of Twilight is included in the collection of short stories Nils Karlsson-Pyssling and was also published as a picture book.
One day there was a knock on the door of Gunnar’s classroom at the Gustav Vasa School in Stockholm. It was Peter and Petra. They belonged to the little people and lived in a hole in the ground underneath a spruce tree in Vasaparken. The story of Peter and Petra is included in the collection of short stories Nils Karlsson-Pyssling. It is also published as a picture book.
Astrid’s daughter Karin attended the same school, which can be found on Karlbergsvägen 34.
Astrid Lindgren walked through the Tegnérlunden park every day on her way from her home on Dalagatan to her work at the publishers Rabén & Sjögren. One time she passed a little boy sitting alone on a bench as dusk fell. That’s when she got the idea for the first chapter of Mio, my Son. Today there is a bronze sculpture of Astrid Lindgren in Tegnérlunden, created by the sculptor Majalisa Alexanderson.
In 1929 Astrid moved, with a female friend, to Atlasgatan 9. Around the corner on Vulcanusgatan 12 lived her future husband, Sture Lindgren. After they were married in 1931 they moved in together to a new apartment in the same building that Sture had been living in.
Stockholm plays an important role in the books about Karlsson on the Roof. It is not mentioned in the book exactly where in the Vasastan neighborhood Smidge and Karlsson live (“in a very ordinary building on a very ordinary street in Stockholm”), but it has been assumed that it is somewhere in the Atlas area.
In the late 1980s Astrid went back to visit the old apartment on Vulcanusgatan. At that point it was occupied by a Mr Karlsson, who just happened to work as a roofer!
When Astrid Lindgren moved to Stockholm she was poor and lonely. The books at the public library on Sveavägen helped her cope. However, her first visit didn’t go well - she wasn’t allowed to borrow any books because she hadn’t yet received her library card. “If I only had books, then I was fine without people, and here standing in front of me was this blond guy telling me very sternly that I couldn’t have any, no wonder I was crying! Now it probably wasn’t just books that I was starved of but also food, which all in all makes crying easier”, Astrid Lindgren has recounted.
When Olle Hellbom was about to film Karlsson on the Roof (1974) they searched for a long while to find a good location for Karlsson’s house. Finally they discovered the roof terrace of Centralbadet, an art nouveau spa in the centre of Stockholm, on Drottninggatan. Here they constructed an entire landscape of chimneys, garrets, ventilation drums and antennae. As a paying guest at Centralbadet it is possible to visit the terrace during summertime, however, there are no traces of the film anymore.
At the end of the 1940s Sweden had well and truly caught the Pippi bug. It reached its peak when tens of thousands of children and their parents descended on central Stockholm for a ‘Children’s Day’ celebration in 1949 at the Humlegården park.. Tumultuous scenes took place as everybody crowded around the big Villa Villekulla stage that had been constructed, waited to take their turn riding Pippi’s horse, all wanting to participate in the best Pippi-costume competition, or try to catch the gold coin that, according to the leaflet, would fall from the sky twice a day. There were also long queues for the little train named ‘the Pippi-express’ that went all around the park. The clever marketing of the event was topped by the programme itself, which had been specially commissioned by Astrid Lindgren and designed as if it was a picture book, Pippi in the park, with illustrations by Ingrid Vang Nyman. The ‘story’ was later re-discovered and published in 2000 as a regular picture book. Since then it has been reprinted many times over.
Astrid Lindgren wrote three novels about the young woman Kati and her travels to America, Italy and Paris. The second book about Kati describes her journey to Italy but also her life in the flat she calls “dubbletten” (a two-roomed flat, often with no kitchen) on Kaptensgatan in Stockholm that she shares with her friend Eva. The rooms had a direct parallel in the real world: during the summer of 1927 Astrid had shared a ‘dubblett’ on Kaptensgatan 11 with a female friend.
Despite her love of travelling Kati is very enthusiastic about her own city:
“Stockholm in the summer. Oh how I adore it! Sitting in the sun on the steps of the Concert Hall during my lunch break, in the evening drinking a cup of coffee in Berzelii park listening to the music seeping out from the salons of Bern's, maybe see a film […], aren’t those just terrific sensations all of them?”
This is the home of Mr Lilyvale from the story In the Land of Twilight. “Thereout by Blockhusudden, all tucked away from the other buildings, was a very, very small house in yellow surrounded by a lilac hedge.”
In the short story Göran and Mr Lilyvale’s journey in the sky above Djurgården and Stockholm is described as follows: "We flew above the oak trees in the park and high above the glistening water and high above the city, where lights in houses were beginning to come on. I never knew there was anything as beautiful as the city that now stretched beneath my feet."
Junibacken in Stockholm is a playful museum with children’s books at the centre of its operations. Here it is possible to experience many of the characters and settings that Astrid Lindgren describes in her books, but also to encounter other characters from children’s books and to watch children’s theatre plays.
When Astrid Lindgren first found out about the project she thought - well that’s probably a good and wise idea, but she wouldn’t hear another word about making it some kind of ‘Astrid Lindgren house’. However, a place where other children’s authors and illustrators were supported and given the opportunity to inspire, now that was another matter. And that’s what happened.
Outside Junibacken there is a statue of Astrid Lindgren made by the sculptor Hertha Hilfon.
Astrid Lindgren’s husband Sture is buried in the ‘Northern Cemetery’, just north of the city centre. Whilst walking there Astrid noticed a gravestone that belonged to two brothers called Bernström, who both had died at a young age. This became one of the catalysts that inspired her to write the book about the Brothers Lionheart.
The summerhouse ‘Stenhällen’ at Furusund in the Stockholm archipelago was originally purchased by Astrid’s parents-in-law. For over sixty years she passed her summers there. When she was still working at Rabén & Sjögren she always took three months off in the summer. She then lived at Furusund and spent her time writing.
Astrid Lindgren thought it was very important to be familiar with the settings she wrote about. After thirty years at Furusund she finally felt ready to write about the Stockholm archipelago: this became the book, the television series and the films about the children on ‘Seacrow Island’ (Vi på Saltkråkan). Saltkråkan was originally the name of the Lindgren family’s sailing boat, moored down by the house at Furusund. Astrid Lindgren’s family still pass their summers there.
When it is announced that ‘Carpenter’s Cottage’ is about to be sold off to a rich bigwig Melker, Johan, Niklas, Pelle and Tjorven jump in a boat and set off for Norrtälje in a last-ditch attempt to convince the lady owner of ‘Carpenter’s Cottage’to sell it to the Melkerson family instead. When they finally arrive in Norrtälje Melker tells Pelle and Tjorven to sit still and wait on a bench whilst the others look for the property agent Mattsson. Tjorven, however, has different plans.
"Tjorven was upset. Norrtälje was fun. She had been here several times with Mummy and Daddy and she knew how many interesting things there were to look at. And they had to sit here, stuck to a park bench and feeling hungry at the same time!"
The small-town scenes from the films ‘Kalle Blomkvist - Master Detective’ (1996) and ‘Kalle Blomkvist and Rasmus’ (1997) were shot in Norrtälje.
It was on this island in the northern part of the Stockholm archipelago that the television series and the films about ‘Seacrow Island’ were recorded over the course of five years. The production team rented many of the cottages on the island to live and work in, as well as to use for locations. This is also where the house that became ‘Carpenter’s Cottage’ was situated. The building still exists and is owned by the same family as then. During the summer there are usually guided tours around the film locations.
Sources: Denna dagen, ett liv by Jens Andersen, Från Snickerboa till Villa Villekulla by Johan Erséus and Petter Karlsson, Astrid Lindgren i Stockholm by Anna-Karin Johansson and Man tar vanliga ord by Lena Törnqvist.
Map of Astrid Lindgren's Stockholm