The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The book series The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or technically, the Millennium trilogy) by Stieg Larsson is a life lesson in never judging a book by its cover. The protagonist Lisbeth Salander appears dressed in an unorthodox fashion, refuses to conform to societal norms, but is highly intelligent. Her life is often affected by those who have preyed on her vulnerability, or have pre-judged her. To be fair, most of the actions that impact on her life are in fact part of a much larger conspiracy and are not to do with who she is (other than coincidentally because of her parentage).


A key theme of the trilogy is the responsibility of the state or government to protect those who are victims of abuse, and the novel outlines Salander’s case where the government not only fails, but in fact colludes with the abusers. Private security often trumps police forces in the trilogy, having better sources and resources to deal with the unfolding drama. The law is more of a hindrance than protection for Salander, and there are frequent miscarriages of justice.

The question of morality overhangs much of the story. We are told that Lisbeth has a strong moral code, but this transpires to be something of a Robin Hood sort of morality, stealing from the rich, though without necessarily giving to the poor. OK, so she only acts violently in self-defence or under extreme provocation (some may think this is justified), but she does not hesitate to cause a sequence of events that leads to the death of those who come across as the baddies. Evidently she does not trust the Swedish authorities to punish them (though based on the events, you might say with good reason).

Another key theme of the trilogy is relationships. Not only Lisbeth’s, though it is important that she struggles to build relationships, and does not trust or rely on others (probably something to do with her upbringing, you will add). Over time, she is able to build some friendships, with the ongoing effort of those who try to get close to her. The norms of other relationships are also thrown into the spotlight. The journalist Mikael Blomkvist, the other main protagonist, also struggles to maintain his relationships with women. The editor of Millennium magazine, Erika Berger, has an unorthodox marriage in which her husband accepts her liaisons with Blomkvist. Larsson calls into question the notion of the ‘normal’ relationship and we might take this as a suggestion that we should worry about our own relationships and leave other people to sort out their own without judging them.

You might admire her tenacity, her perseverance in the face of adversity, her desire for self-preservation which sustains her in everything from hurricanes to gun battles. You might agree with her desire to live an anonymous life, left alone by the state. You might be jealous of her photographic memory and problem solving ability, or sheer intelligence. You may even wish for her hacking abilities. But you probably would not hold her up as a role model to your children!

Excellent reading, and I’ve just ordered the Swedish trilogy of films to re-watch for fun. When I wanted to write a little something about the trilogy I discovered that Steig Larsson died in 2004 and the novels were published posthumously in 2005. A shame there will be no more ink flowing from his pen.

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