Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 1, Spring 2021

Nina Witoszek, Martin Lee Mueller
Pages 61-78

The Ecological Ethics of Nordic Children’s Tales
From Pippi Longstocking to Greta Thunberg

For decades now, environmental philosophers from Arne Næss to Freya Mathews have dreamt of environmental ethics that “make things happen.” We contend such ethics can be found in Nordic children’s tales—those scriptures of moral guidance, and influential propellers of environmental action. In this essay we discuss the moral-imaginative worlds of fictitious in Nordic children’s tales, choosing some of the most canonical stories of the Nordics as our focal point. We argue the complex and often inconsistent philosophical mediations between human and more-than-human worlds as imagined by Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, Thorbjørn Egner, or Tove Jansson are as viable philosophical works as other, more systematic studies in environmental ethics. Further, we argue that places, or indeed larger geographical regions, animate the moral imagination of the characters who live there, suggesting there is a reciprocal and mutually enhancing relationship between dwelling, thinking, and acting, between being animated and becoming animateur. Indeed, we may speak of this animated and animating, cultural-ecological topos as part of a genuine Nordic Ecosphere. Coruscating in this ecosphere are the sparkles of ‘literary ecological ethics,’ which influence human actions, not as much through analysis, documentation, or argument as through world-making stories, images, and models of environmental heroines.