The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
First edition (Swedish)
Author Stieg Larsson
Original titleMän som hatar kvinnor
TranslatorReg Keeland, pseudonym of Steven T. Murray
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Series Millennium
Genre Crime, mystery, thriller, Scandinavian noir
Publisher Norstedts Förlag (Swedish)
Publication date
August 2005
Published in English
January 2008
Media typePrint (paperback, hardback)
ISBN 978-91-1-301408-1 (Swedish)
ISBN   978-1-84724-253-2 (English)
OCLC 186764078
Followed by The Girl Who Played with Fire  

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original title in Swedish : Män som hatar kvinnor; in English: Men Who Hate Women) is a psychological thriller novel by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson (1954–2004), which was published posthumously in 2005 to become an international bestseller. [1] It is the first book of the Millennium series.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Norwegian and Danish in written format are usually easier understood by Swedish speakers than when spoken due to the differences in tone, accent and intonation. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages. While being strongly related to its southern neighbour language German in vocabulary; the word order, grammatic systems and pronounciations are vastly different.

Stieg Larsson Journalist and novelist from Sweden

Karl Stig-Erland "Stieg" Larsson was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the Millennium trilogy of crime novels, which were published posthumously, starting in 2005, after the author died suddenly of a heart attack. The trilogy was adapted as four motion pictures in Sweden and the U.S.. The publisher commissioned David Lagercrantz to expand the trilogy into a longer series, which has 5 novels as of April 2019. For much of his life, Larsson lived and worked in Stockholm. His journalistic work covered socialist politics and he acted as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism.

<i>Millennium</i> (novel series) Series of posthumously published crime novels by Stieg Larsson

Millennium is a series of best-selling and award-winning Swedish crime novels, created by journalist Stieg Larsson. The two primary characters in the saga are Lisbeth Salander, a woman in her twenties with a photographic memory and poor social skills, and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and publisher of a magazine called Millennium.



Larsson spoke of an incident which he said occurred when he was 15: he stood by as three men gang raped an acquaintance of his named Lisbeth. Days later, racked with guilt for having done nothing to help her, he begged her forgiveness—which she refused to grant. The incident, he said, haunted him for years afterward and in part inspired him to create a character named Lisbeth who was also a rape survivor. [2] [3] The veracity of this story has been questioned since Larsson's death, after a colleague from Expo magazine reported to Rolling Stone that Larsson had told him he had heard the story secondhand and retold it as his own. [4] The murder of Catrine da Costa was also an inspiration when he wrote the book. [5]

Gang rape

Gang rape occurs when a group of people participate in the rape of a single victim. Rape involving at least two or more violators is reported throughout the world. Systematic information and statistics on the extent of the problem is limited.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and music critic Ralph J. Gleason, which became famous for its coverage of rock music, and for political reporting by authors such as Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine broadened and shifted its focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

Murder of Catrine da Costa Swedish case of murder

The remains of Swedish prostitute Catrine da Costa were found in Solna, north of Stockholm, in the late summer of 1984. Da Costa had been dismembered and parts of her body, in plastic bags, were found one kilometer apart on 18 July and 8 August. The case is known as Styckmordsrättegången. How da Costa died has not been established, since vital organs and her head have not been found.

With the exception of the fictional Hedestad, [6] the novel takes place in actual Swedish towns. The magazine Millennium in the books has characteristics similar to that of Larsson's magazine, Expo , such as its socio-political leanings and its financial difficulties. [7]

Expo is a Swedish anti-racist magazine started in 1995 by Stieg Larsson. It is issued by the non-profit Expo Foundation. The magazine, issued four times a year, contains investigative journalism focused on nationalist, racist, anti-democratic, anti-semitic, and far-right movements and organisations. The people responsible for Expo make no connections with specific organisations or political parties, but work together with individuals and organisations that share Expo's platform. The chairman of the Expo foundation is Charles Westin. The magazine is headquartered in Stockholm.

Both Larsson's longtime partner Eva Gabrielsson and English translator Steven T. Murray have said that Christopher MacLehose (who works for British publisher Quercus) "needlessly prettified" the English translation; as such, Murray requested he be credited under the pseudonym "Reg Keeland". [8] The English release also changed the title, even though Larsson specifically refused to allow the Swedish publisher to do so, and the size of Salander's dragon tattoo; from a large piece covering her entire back, to a small shoulder tattoo. [9]

Eva Gabrielsson is a Swedish architect, author, political activist, feminist, and the long-time partner of the late Swedish mystery novelist Stieg Larsson. Under the English common law, which prevails in the Commonwealth, and the USA, Ms. Gabrielsson would be considered the spouse of the late Mr. Larsson.

Steven T. Murray (1943-2018) was an American translator from Swedish, German, Danish, and Norwegian. He worked under the pseudonyms Reg Keeland and McKinley Burnett when edited into UK English. He translated the bestselling Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, three crime novels and two African novels by Henning Mankell, three psychological suspense novels by Karin Alvtegen, and works by many other authors. In 2001 he won the Gold Dagger Award in the UK for his translation of Sidetracked by Henning Mankell.

Christopher Colin MacLehose CBE is a British publisher who in 2008 founded the MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus Books. He was previously notable as publisher of Harvill Press, where his successes included bringing out the stories of Raymond Carver and Richard Ford for the first time in Britain. Having published works translated from more than 34 languages, MacLehose has been referred to as "the champion of translated fiction" and as "British publishing's doyen of literature in translation". He is generally credited with introducing to an English-speaking readership the best-selling Swedish author Stieg Larsson and other prize-winning authors, among them Sergio De La Pava, who has described MacLehose as "an outsize figure literally and figuratively – that's an individual who has devoted his life to literature".


In December 2002, Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of the Swedish political magazine Millennium, loses a libel case involving allegations about billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Blomkvist is sentenced to three months (deferred) in prison, and ordered to pay hefty damages and costs. Soon afterwards, he is invited to meet Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, unaware that Vanger has checked into his personal and professional history; the investigation of Blomkvist's circumstances has been carried out by Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but deeply troubled researcher and computer hacker.

Mikael Blomkvist

Mikael Blomkvist is a fictional character created by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. He is a main character of Larsson's award-winning Millennium series, along with Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth Salander fictional mammal

Lisbeth Salander is a fictional character created by Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson. She is the lead character in Larsson's award-winning Millennium series, along with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

Vanger promises to provide Blomkvist with evidence against Wennerström in return for discovering what happened to Vanger's grandniece, Harriet, who disappeared in 1966 during a family gathering at the Vanger estate on Hedeby Island, when the island was temporarily cut off from the mainland by a traffic accident on the bridge. Blomkvist moves to the island and begins to research the Vanger family history and Harriet's disappearance. As he does so, he meets most of the remaining Vanger clan, including Harriet's brother Martin, current CEO of the company; Isabella, Martin and Harriet's mother; and Cecilia, a headmistress who was Harriet's younger aunt and friend.

Meanwhile, Salander's legal guardian Holger Palmgrem suffers a stroke, and is replaced by Nils Bjurman, who uses his position to extort sexual acts from her and eventually rapes her. After using a hidden camera to record her assault, Salander takes her revenge, torturing Bjurman and threatening to ruin him unless he gives her full control of her life and finances. She then uses a tattoo machine to brand him as a rapist.

A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Guardians are typically used in three situations: guardianship for an incapacitated senior, guardianship for a minor, and guardianship for developmentally disabled adults.

Stroke Medical condition where poor blood flow to the brain causes cell death

A stroke is a medical condition in which poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic, due to bleeding. Both result in parts of the brain not functioning properly. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, dizziness, or loss of vision to one side. Signs and symptoms often appear soon after the stroke has occurred. If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke may also be associated with a severe headache. The symptoms of a stroke can be permanent. Long-term complications may include pneumonia or loss of bladder control.

Rape type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse without consent

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.

On Hedeby Island, Blomkvist pursues new evidence in Harriet's disappearance, including photographs showing Harriet's discomfort at the sight of a young man. He also discovers a set of names and numbers believed to be old telephone numbers in Harriet's journal; however, his daughter Pernilla, passing through on the way to Bible camp, identifies them as passages from the Book of Leviticus, which describe rules about violent punishment of women. Blomkvist correlates one of them with the grotesque murder of a Vanger Corporation secretary in 1949, and realizes that he may be on the trail of a serial killer. Vanger's lawyer suggests Salander as a research assistant.

Blomkvist realises that Salander hacked into his computer for the initial report, and confronts her to ask her to help with the investigation, to which she agrees. The two eventually become casual lovers. However, they realize they are being threatened when a local cat is left dismembered on their porch, and Blomkvist is shot at from a distance during an afternoon jog. Meanwhile, they uncover the remaining four murders corresponding to what was described in Harriet's journal, as well as several more that fit the profile. Moreover, most of the murders occurred in locations where the Vanger Corporation did business. They are initially suspicious that the murderer was Gottfried Vanger, Martin and Harriet's deceased father, but they find out that he died prior to the last victim's death.

While Salander continues to hunt through Vanger Corporation archives, Blomkvist manages to identify the man in the photograph: her brother Martin. However, before he can do anything, Martin takes Blomkvist prisoner, revealing that Gottfried "initiated" him into the ritual rape and murder of women before his own death, and implies that Gottfried sexually abused both him and Harriet. Martin admits to murdering dozens of women but denies killing his sister. He attempts to murder Blomkvist, but Salander—who had discovered the connections independently—arrives and attacks Martin. Martin flees by car, pursued by Salander, and commits suicide by purposely colliding with an oncoming truck.

Believing that Cecilia's sister Anita, who now lives in London, is the only relative who might know something about Harriet's fate, Blomkvist and Salander meet her and learn that Harriet is still alive and living under Anita's name in Australia. When Blomkvist flies there to meet her, Harriet tells him the truth about her disappearance: her father and brother had repeatedly raped her, until she killed her father in self-defense. Martin was sent away to preparatory school, but he returned the day of her disappearance. Harriet realized she needed to escape, so she found a place to hide during the traffic accident, and Anita smuggled her to the mainland the next morning. Blomkvist persuades Harriet to return to Sweden, where she reunites with Henrik. Blomkvist then accompanies Salander to her mother's funeral.

Back in Sweden, Blomkvist learns that the evidence against Wennerström that Vanger promised him is useless. However, Salander hacks Wennerström's computer and discovered that his crimes go far beyond what Blomkvist documented. Using her evidence, Blomkvist prints an exposé and book which ruin Wennerström and catapult Millennium to national prominence. Salander, using her hacking skills, succeeds in stealing some 2.6 billion kr (about $260 million USD) from Wennerström's secret bank account. Blomkvist and Salander spend Christmas together in his holiday retreat. Shortly after, she goes to Blomkvist's home, intending to declare her love for him and give a Christmas present, but leaves when she sees him with his long-time lover and business partner Erika Berger.

As a postscript, Salander continues to monitor Wennerström and after six months, anonymously informs a lawyer in Miami of his whereabouts. Four days later the body of Wennerström is found in Marbella, Spain, shot three times in the head.


Major themes

Larsson makes several literary references to the genre's classic forerunners and comments on contemporary Swedish society. [10] Reviewer Robert Dessaix writes, "His favourite targets are violence against women, the incompetence and cowardice of investigative journalists, the moral bankruptcy of big capital and the virulent strain of Nazism still festering away ... in Swedish society." [1] Cecilia Ovesdotter Alm and Anna Westerstahl Stenport write that the novel "reflects—implicitly and explicitly—gaps between rhetoric and practice in Swedish policy and public discourse about complex relations between welfare state retrenchment, neoliberal corporate and economic practices, and politicised gender construction. The novel, according to one article, endorses a pragmatic acceptance of a neoliberal world order that is delocalized, dehumanized and misogynistic." [11]

Alm and Stenport add, "What most international (and Swedish) reviewers overlook is that the financial and moral corruptibility at the heart of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is so profound as to indict most attributes associated with contemporary Sweden as democratic and gender-equal. The novel is in fact far from what American critic Maureen Corrigan calls an "unflinching ... commonsense feminist social commentary". (Corrigan's article was "Super-Smart Noir With a Feminist Jolt," National Public Radio, 23 September 2008.) [11]

Larsson further enters the debate as to how responsible criminals are for their crimes, and how much is blamed on upbringing or society. [1] For instance, Salander has a strong will and assumes that everyone else does, too. She is portrayed as having suffered every kind of abuse in her young life, including an unnecessary ordered commitment to a psychiatric clinic and subsequent instances of sexual assault suffered at the hands of her court-appointed guardian.

Maria de Lurdes Sampaio, in the journal Cross-Cultural Communication, asserts that, "Blomkvist, a modern Theseus, leads us to the labyrinth of the globalized world, while the series' protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, modeled on the Amazon, is an example of the empowerment of women in crime fiction by playing the role of the 'tough guy' detective, while also personifying the popular roles of the victim, the outcast and the avenger." In this context, she discusses "Dialogues with Greek tragedy... namely Salander's struggles with strong father figures." Sampaio also argues,

Then, like so many other writers and moviemakers, Larsson plays with people's universal fascination for religious mysteries, enigmas and hermeneutics, while highlighting the way the Bible and other religious books have inspired hideous serial criminals throughout history. There are many passages dedicated to the Hebrew Bible, to the Apocrypha and to the controversies surrounding different Church's branches. The transcription of Latin expressions (e.g., "sola fide" or "claritas scripturae") together with the biblical passages, which provide the clues to unveil the secular mysteries, proves that Larsson was well acquainted with Umberto Eco's bestsellers and with similar plots. There are many signs of both The Name of the Rose and of Foucault's Pendulum in the Millennium series, and in some sense these two works are contained in the first novel. [12]

Locked room mystery

Larsson writes within the novel, in Chapter 12, "It's actually a fascinating case. What I believe is known as a locked room mystery, on an island. And nothing in the investigation seems to follow normal logic. Every question remains unanswered, every clue leads to a dead end." He supplies a family tree delineating the relationships of five generations of the Vanger family.

Reception and awards

The novel was released to great acclaim in Sweden and later, on its publication in many other European countries. In the original language, it won Sweden's Glass Key Award in 2006 for best crime novel of the year. It also won the 2008 Boeke Prize, and in 2009 the Galaxy British Book Awards [13] for Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year, and the prestigious Anthony Award [14] [15] for Best First Novel.

Larsson was awarded the ITV3 Crime Thriller Award for International Author of the Year in 2008. [16]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo received mixed reviews from American critics. It debuted at number four on The New York Times Best Seller list. [11] Alex Berenson wrote in The New York Times , "The novel offers a thoroughly ugly view of human nature"; while it "opens with an intriguing mystery" and the "middle section of Girl is a treat, the rest of the novel doesn't quite measure up. The book's original Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women, a label that just about captures the subtlety of the novel's sexual politics." [17] The Los Angeles Times said "the book takes off, in the fourth chapter: From there, it becomes classic parlor crime fiction with many modern twists....The writing is not beautiful, clipped at times (though that could be the translation by Reg Keeland) and with a few too many falsely dramatic endings to sections or chapters. But it is a compelling, well-woven tale that succeeds in transporting the reader to rural Sweden for a good crime story." [18] Several months later, Matt Selman said the book "rings false with piles of easy super-victories and far-fetched one-in-a-million clue-findings." [19] Richard Alleva, in Commonweal , wrote that the novel is marred by "its inept backstory, banal characterizations, flavorless prose, surfeit of themes (Swedish Nazism, uncaring bureaucracy, corporate malfeasance, abuse of women, etc.), and—worst of all—author Larsson's penchant for always telling us exactly what we should be feeling." [20]

On the other hand, Dr. Abdallah Daar, writing for Nature , said, "The events surrounding the great-niece's disappearance are meticulously and ingeniously pieced together, with plenty of scientific insight." [21] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "It's a big, intricately plotted, darkly humorous work, rich with ironies, quirky but believable characters and a literary playfulness that only a master of the genre and its history could bring off." [22]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sold over 30 million copies by 2010. [23] In the United States, it sold over 3.4 million copies in hardcover or ebook formats, and 15 million total by June 2011. [24]

Book of essays

Wiley published a collection of essays, edited by Eric Bronson, titled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy (2011). [25]

Film adaptations


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