The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the latest film appearance of Lisbeth Salander, the troubled antihero of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequel novels. In addition to the four books, Salander has also appeared in a trilogy of Swedish film adaptations, in which she was played by Noomi Rapace, as well as an American version starring Rooney Mara. Claire Foy is donning the dragon tattoo for the latest movie, which comes out November 6.
Whether Spider’s Web is your first time seeing the character or you’re a long-time fan, here’s what you need to know about Lisbeth Salander.
She’s a hacker
Salander is a talented computer hacker who uses her skills to expose the secrets of the powerful and corrupt. Her handle is Wasp — for which she has a less famous, matching tattoo on her neck.
She works with the Hacker Republic, a community of computer experts, but that’s not her day job. Salander makes a living doing detective work for a firm called Milton Security. That’s the work that sets off the story in the novels and leads her to her often-partner, journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
She has literary roots
We don’t just mean that Salander originated in novels by late author Stieg Larsson. The writer himself took surprising inspiration for his character. According to Larsson, he based most of Salander’s character on what he imagined another famous Swedish fictional character might be like when she grew up.
That character? Pippi Longstocking, the heroine of a series of children’s books. Like Pippi, Lisbeth has red hair (she dyes it black), and neither character tolerates bullies, even if they’re “grownups.” Both characters had difficult childhoods, which led to them not quite knowing how to function in society. And they’re both fiercely independent and loyal — once they find someone worth trusting.
She’s incredibly smart
That kind of goes without saying considering the whole “master hacker” gig, but Salander has some serious mental skills that help her with her work. She has an impressive memory and has several tactics she uses to protect herself, which is probably smart considering all the kinds of people she targets in her work, both paid and otherwise.
Lisbeth possesses several passports, each with a different name. She also disguises herself when she travels. In the books, she even had that big, distinctive wasp tattoo taken off of her neck because she was worried it made her too easy to identify. It also kind of defeats the purpose of having a secret online name if you basically have that handle written on your neck where everyone can see it.
She’s a fighter
When she isn’t doing her regular work, Lisbeth keeps herself busy — and satisfied — by taking down evildoers on her own time. She’s particularly fond of targeting men who hurt women. She got her start by avenging herself on various men who wronged her, but she has since directed her desire for payback outward to help others.
Lisbeth has a definite sense of good and evil, and she has the skills and determination to wring justice from injustice. Like any vigilante superhero, she has her own weaknesses, but she refuses to let them become liabilities. And she remains strong and formidable through sheer force of will. To the vulnerable and downtrodden, she’s an almost mythical hero. And to abusers and wrongdoers, she’s the scariest person on earth.