Carl-Emil Pettersson: A Seafarer becomes a King!


Carl-Emil Pettersson was the son of a farmer and a teacher. He was born on October 10, 1875, in a rural municipality in the Sollentuna area,. And, it is a short distance north of the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

Sweden’s naval activities were expanding quickly in those years, and there was a considerable increase in trade by sea. Swedish merchants had the opportunity to sail to and from all over the world by sailing through the Baltic Sea. This covered the South Pacific and Oceania, a part of the world characterized by countless islands.

Carl Emil Pettersson

Pettersson decided to take a chance on getting a job on a merchant ship, travelling and finding work. Thus, he joined the crew in 1892. A career with the German Neuguinea-Compagnie changed his life forever.

Transit to a new life!

No one got a clue whether Pettersson is alive or not in a long time. He reappeared fifteen (!) years later, in 1907, with a new identity. The story he told was quite extraordinary, to say the least. Aboard several merchant ships that sailed through the Pacific Ocean.

specifically, through the Bismarck Archipelago, Carl Pettersson had gained valuable work experience. The city was named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who was instrumental in unifying Germany. Over centuries, the Dutch, British, and French had been wreaking havoc on the region’s colonial infrastructure. New Guinea was known for its tribes having a proclivity to practice cannibalism.

Carl Pettersson had been in several shipwrecks during his travels. When his ship sank for the second time in 1904, he washed ashore on the shore of Tabar Island. It was possible that it would have been the end of him. Perhaps it was a stroke of good fortune; perhaps Pettersson was so endearing that he could transcend language and cultural barriers.

A miracle that forces him towards!

Eventually, he washed up on the shore of what would become known as Tabar island. He was discovered by the Tabar Tribe, a group of locals who happened to be passing through. The problem is that this tribe was infamous for its cannibalistic tendencies. In contrast to the tribe’s hunger, Pettersson, a tall Swedish man with blue eyes and blonde hair, piqued their curiosity rather than their hunger.

Carl Pettersson owns a coconut palm plantation on the Tabar Island, which he named Teripax and plans to live for several years after retiring. The people of Tabar began to refer to him as “Strong Charly,” which can only be an allusion to his physical prowess and strength. His friendship with the local chief, Lamry, led to his falling in love with his daughter, Singdo-Misse, a tall blonde Swede. Yes, he was in love with the daughter of the cannibal chief when they met.

A new life within a new life!

Carl Pettersson returned Singdo-Misse’s affection, and the two became a couple. He married Singdo Misse sometime between 1907 and 1908, and he used the proceeds from his marriage to expand his coconut plantation and trade copra, the dried meat of the coconut, in order to make a very good living. He and Singdo-Misse had a total of eight children together. Before 1914, Lamry, the local chief, passed away – and because he only had a daughter, it was only logical that her husband, none other than Pettersson, would succeed him as the new chief. As a result, Carl Emil Pettersson was elevated to the position of Swedish king of the Tabar tribe.

Carl Pettersson’s story made headlines in Sweden when it was published in 1914. The fact that he didn’t show up on his mother’s doorstep with a story like this, even though it was almost certainly only a matter of time before the media picked up on it, speaks volumes. I’m not talking about Count Birger Mörner, who was also a Swede who happened to be travelling in the Pacific region at the time and documented his travels in a book. On Tabar Island, he happened to run into Pettersson, and his family, which he believes was by chance. Writing their story, taking photographs, and publishing a book about his travels once he arrived in Sweden, he also gave lectures, and the story was covered extensively by Swedish newspapers.

A tragedy!

Surprisingly, Mörner appeared to be more interested in Singdo-story, Misse’s though the Swedish newspapers that carried the story were more interested in the story of this shipwrecked sailor who managed to not only survive his encounter with the Tabar tribe but also rise to the position of king of the Tabar tribe. In a relatively short period, ‘Strong Charley’ rose to prominence in Sweden. He kept in touch with Swedish editors regularly, which allowed him to maintain a good public profile even though he was on the other side of the world from them.
Sadly, his life on the island of Tabar took a tragic turn in 1921 when his wife died during the delivery of their ninth child. Pettersson returned to Sweden to search for a suitable wife he could marry and bring back to his island and coconut groves in the Philippines. Swedish newspapers treated him as if he were actual royalty, with headlines referring to King Carl the First and Prince Pettersson appearing regularly. Eventually, he met and married Jessie Simpson, who became known as Queen Pettersson.

In 1923 the couple returned to Tabar Island. But the coconut imperium was crumbling, and to top it all off, both fell ill with malaria. It seemed at one point this misfortune was compensated by Pettersson discovering an abundance of gold on his lands. To give you an idea about the size of this gold deposit, he found: to this day, the gold deposit of the Tabar islands is one of the largest in the world.

On the other hand, Jessie died of cancer in Stockholm in 1935, when she returned to the city for medical treatment. Pettersson himself died of a heart attack in Sydney, Australia, two years after discovering the gold reserves, despite his initial efforts to keep them hidden. Pettersson and his action-packed life come to a tragic end in this manner. I was referring to the fact that washing up on the shore of an island populated by cannibals is pretty incredible if you manage to become the king, isn’t it?

Ephraim, A fictional sailor?

A fictional sailor that, depending on your age, might remind you of Carl Pettersson is Captain Ephraim Longstocking, the father of Pippi Longstocking. And well, that isn’t too odd. Astrid Lindgren, the writer of Pippi Longstocking, based Ephraim on Pettersson himself.

Ephraim too eventually became king of the island where he washed ashore. Swedish author Joakim Langer tried to get to the bottom of exactly how Pettersson inspired Lindgren. Lindgren was very ill by the point Langer started his research, back in 2001. She passed away the next year. Lindgren’s sister however confirmed that she was not just inspired by Pettersson but developed the story and its protagonist attempting to cheer up her own young daughter, who suffered from pneumonia.

Publishing over 15 books about Pippi, once the second world war ended, many children have grown up with the tales and adventures of Pippi and her search for her shipwrecked father, Ephraim. Langer and a colleague eventually published a book about the ‘real life father of Pippi Longstocking’.

Nearly 100 years after Carl Pettersson washed ashore on the Tabar island, he is still the centre of lively discussion in Sweden, at least among some.

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