What Accounts for the Extraordinary Popularity of the Millennium Trilogy?

Early afternoon on Saturday, Don and I were downtown waiting for the start of “The Girl who Played with Fire”.  As you might know, that’s the second movie in the Millennium Trilogy.  The first movie in the Trilogy is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, which Don and I had seen ten days before.  We passed our wait discussing the extraordinary worldwide popularity of the Trilogy and speculating about the reasons for that popularity.

The first book in the Millennium Trilogy came out in 2005 and the other two followed a year apart each.  The Trilogy was written by the Swedish author and journalist, Stieg Larsson.  Larsson had planned to write a series of ten books.  Unfortunately, he died in 2004 of a heart attack at age 50 with only three of his books finished and without his seeing even one of them published.

No one guessed how popular his books were to become.   The initial printing was a respectable 10,000 copies.  But, as of last May, 27,000,000 copies of the books have been sold worldwide.  In some small countries, it’s estimated that half of the adult population in those countries has read the Trilogy.

One peculiar effect of such popularity is that tourists are flocking to Stockholm, which is the main setting for the stories.  The influx has amounted to a 20% rise in tourism, and it’s being called “the Millennium Effect”.

So, on Saturday, Don and I had some time before the movie in which to speculate as to why the Trilogy is so popular.  And we came up with two reasons we thought most important.  First, the character of Lisbeth Salander.  Lisbeth Salander is a highly intelligent young woman with a photographic memory and a knack for hacking computer systems.  But more than that, she is an exceptionally strong person who has survived horrible abuse while fighting back and without allowing the abuse to destroy her.

Second, we think the two main characters (Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist) are underdogs and thus some of the Trilogy’s popularity is accounted for by the attraction that underdogs have for many people.

Well, that’s what Don and I have come up with to help explain the popularity of the series.   But why do you think it’s grown so popular?

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6 thoughts on “What Accounts for the Extraordinary Popularity of the Millennium Trilogy?

  1. Flavour of the month?
    I think you’re probably right about it being the characters drawing people to this series, plus it probably just came along at the right time and caught the attention of the right people.

  2. MrsDoF and I loved Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Strong character, good story. What else is there, against special-effects-laden junk extruded from Hollywood?

  3. We have not seen the movies but my wife read the three books, and as is her habit, detailed them to me chapter by chapter. She was thoroughly horrified and wanted to stop reading…but so wished to know how it would end that she kept reading to the very end. Therin, I guess, lies the strenght of the trilogy.

  4. Scandinavian crime novels are becoming generally popular. I’m not sure whether it’s because of their availability in English, or something else. The first I read was a Henning Mankell novel 8 years ago and suddenly they are all over, with lots of authors: Mankell, Hoeg, Edwardson, Nesbo, and, of course, Larsson.

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