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Lisbeth Salander 2
Lisbeth Salander
Biographical information


Also known as

Wasp, Irene Nesser

Physical information




Hair colour

Dyed Black, Red (Biological hair)

Family information
Family members

Researcher at Milton Security

Lisbeth Salander is the main character of the Millenium Trilogy. She possess a photographic memory and legendary hacking skills. She works as a freelancer for Dragan Armansky at Milton Security. She teams up with Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to solve the mystery surrounding Harriet Vanger's disappearance.


Birth and Childhood[]

Lisbeth was born from Agneta Sofia Salander and Alexander Zalachenko and became the younger sister of Camilla. From early childhood, Salander has a history of violence and vindictive behavior.

Most of the incidents are triggered in response to attacks directed at her or to the few people she cares for. In elementary school, she was harassed and hurt by a school bully, but she refused to back down even though she was no match for him. After licking her wounds, Salander returned with a baseball bat and slugged the bully around the ear. At the age of twelve, Salander poured gasoline on her father and set him on fire after he administered a vicious beating to her mother, causing her permanent brain damage. As a result, her father almost died but managed to survive with severe scarring.

She was declared a danger to herself and others by the court at age thirteen and was sent for treatment at the St. Stefan's Psychiatric Clinic for Children in Uppsala. She refused to talk with psychologists, police, teachers, and social workers. The one person that she would speak to was Advokat Holger Palmgren who was assigned as her trustee until she came of age. At fifteen, it was decided that she wasn't a danger to herself and was released from St. Stefans and placed with a foster family.

After running away from her first few families, Palmgren explained that she would be placed back in the psychiatric clinic which convinced Salander not to run away from the next family. At eighteen, she proved to be uncooperative, disdainful of most authority figures, and frequently fought with others. After a particularly violent altercation with a man that attacked her, the court psychiatrists felt she would be safer institutionalized. At the court hearing, Palmgren acted as her legal representation and worked hard to convince the court that she was not dangerous, and should instead be put under a guardianship. Palmgren, went from being her trustee to her guardian. Their relationship grew to be one of the most importance for Salander.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo[]


At the beginning of Dragon Tattoo, Salander is hired by Milton Security to do a background investigation of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist, on Henrik Vanger's behalf. Vanger's attorney, Dirch Frode, demands to speak with the person who wrote the investigation to get their personal beliefs on the matter and he is surprised when he meets Salander. She tells him that she believes that there is more to Blomkvist's trial than was revealed and Frode asks her to continue her work, except training her eye on Blomkvist's nemesis, Hans-Erik Wennerström.

Salander learns she has a new guardian, Nils Bjurman, since her previous guardian, Holger Palmgren, had a stroke and cannot continue with his duties (A guardian is someone appointed to protect individuals unable to take care of themselves. They oversee their finances and personal life. Their role is similar to a parole officer but they have complete control and can send them back to a mental institution at will). "She was not afraid of Bjurman-Salander was rarely afraid of anyone or anything. On the other hand, she felt uncomfortable with this new guardian. His predecessor, Advokat Holger Palmgren, had been of an entirely different ilk: courteous and kind." Bjurman's first order of business as Salander's new guardian is to get access to all of her accounts. Previously, Palmgren had allowed Lisbeth to manage her own finances and served as more of a support system, but Bjurman wants complete control over Salander's life. At the time Bjurman had no idea he was dealing with Zalachenko's daughter. Bjurman had dealt with Zalanchenko in the past.


Lisbeth's new guardian

Their first few meetings are copacetic, without problems, but when Lisbeth's laptop is destroyed she is forced to go to Bjurman to ask for her money. He uses the opportunity to teach Salander how their guardianship will go, forcing her to perform oral sex. Salander, not being the sort to go to the police on any matter comes up with her own plan to take care of the situation. She sets up a hidden camera in her bag, hoping to catch Bjurman in the act. She visited his home to receive money for food; only to be tied down and raped by Bjurman. However, she captures the assault on camera. Salander comes up with another plan, she asks for more money to pay her rent and is able to subdue Bjurman by tasering him. She then strips him naked except for his socks, ties him to the floor and demands he give her access to her money; she uses the recording of him assaulting her to blackmail him and also tortures him. When Bjurman agrees, Salander releases him, though not before tattooing the words "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist." on his chest.

The Girl Who Played with Fire[]

The Girl Who Played With Fire begins with Lizbeth Salander returning to Sweden after traveling for a year.  Not long after her return to Sweden, Salander is falsely implicated in the murder of three people — Bjurman and two of Blomkvist's colleagues. The scheme is an elaborate conspiracy between her biological father, former Soviet spy Alexander Zalachenko, a high-ranking member of the GRU,  and the "Section", an illegal faction within Säpo,  the  Swedish Security Service, whose members protected him after his defection from the USSR.  His defection was regarded by Säpo as an intelligence windfall, leading to the Section concealing his subsequent illegal activities.

Zalachenko had his son,  Salander's half-brother Ronald Neidermann,  kill both of Blomkvist's colleagues investigating Zalachenko's prostitution business, and also Bjurman, intentionally implicating Salander. The Section hides its complicity in the concealment of Zalachenko's crimes by falsely incriminating Salander as well. Blomkvist tries to help Salander, even though she wants nothing to do with him.

By the end of the novel,  Blomkvist follows her to Zalachenko's farm, where he finds her seriously injured after a confrontation with both Zalachenko and Neidermann.  Blomkvist calls an ambulance, saving her life by having her air-lifted to a hospital.

The novel also expands upon Salander's childhood. She is portrayed as having been an extremely bright but anti-social child, violently lashing out at anyone who threatened or bullied her. This was in large part the result of an abusive and troubled home life: repeatedly abusing her mother, Zalachenko escaped punishment because the Section perceived his value to the Swedish State as being more important than her mother's civil rights.  Zalanchenko was also responsible for destroying Salander's relationship with her younger sister, Camilla, who, having repressed her own memories of their abuse,  perceived her father as gentle and loving.  When Salander was 12, Zalachenko beat their mother so severely that she sustained permanent brain damage. In retaliation, Salander set her father on fire, leaving him permanently disfigured and in chronic pain. 

Ultimately,  the Section, fearing repercussions from Zalanchenko's behaviour would lead to its exposure, dealt with Salander by having her sent to Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Uppsala.  While there, she was placed under the direct surveillance of pedeophilic psychologist Dr. Peter Teleborian, who had earlier conspired with the Section to have her declared insane.

During her stay at the hospital, Teleborian physically abused  12 year old Salander, indulging his pedophilia, repeatedly placing defensless Salander in physical restraints for trivial infractions.  Conspiring with the Section, Teleborian declared her legally incompetent, thereby invalidating her accounts of what had happened.  The Section ensured control of Salander by appointing Bjurman, a lawyer in its employ, her guardian after Palmgren's stroke.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest[]

In the third and final novel of the series - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest - Salander is arrested for GBH on motorcycle gang leader Carl-Magnus Lundin (aka Magge) and attempted murder of Zalachenko while she recuperates in hospital. Zalachenko, who is a patient in the same hospital, is murdered by one of the Section, who then tries to kill Salander; fortunately, her lawyer (Annika Giannini, Blomkvist's sister) had barred the door upon hearing a disturbance. Due to her deep-seated mistrust of authority, Salander refuses at first to cooperate in any way with her defence, relying instead on her friends in Sweden's hacker community. They eventually help Blomkvist discover the full scope of the Section's conspiracy, which he strives to publish at the risk of his own life.

Salander eventually writes, and passes to Giannini, an exact description of the sexual abuse she suffered at Bjurman's hands, but written in such a way as to make it sound astounding so as to mislead the prosecution. At her trial, Salander is defiant and uncooperative with the prosecution. The prosecuting counsel uses testimony from Teleborian, appearing as their principal witness, to depict her as insane and in need of long-term care; in particular, Teleborian dismisses Salander's account of Bjurman's abuse as a fantasy. Annika then destroys Teleborian's credibility by introducing the recording of Salander's rape, and adduces extensive evidence of the Section's plot, published in Millennium that morning by Blomkvist. At the same time as Annika starts questioning Teleborian, the 10 members of the Section are arrested and charged with a long list of crimes. Salander's trial is briefly interrupted to permit the arrest of Teleborian for possession of child pornography, which was uncovered by Salander's fellow hackers. Salander is set free the same day, her name cleared. After she is cleared of the charges, Salander receives word that, as Zalachenko's daughter, she is entitled to a small inheritance and one of his properties. She refuses the money, but goes to a disused factory she has inherited. There, she is attacked by Niedermann, who has been hiding there since shortly after the confrontation with Salander at Zalachenko's farm. She nails his feet to the floor, and then calls a gang who wants him dead to tell them of his whereabouts. Before they arrive to kill Niedermann, she contacts the police. That night, Blomkvist shows up at her door, and the two reconcile.

Physical Description and Personality[]

Lisbeth is described as being rail-thin, with short black hair, with a tattoo of a wasp on her neck. In the first book, it's briefly mentioned she was born with naturally ginger hair, but she dyes it black. (Recurrently, she is compared to Pippi Longstocking in her behavior throughout the book...) Mikael Blomkvist wonders if she might have Asperger's syndrome because of her strange behavior. She has multiple piercings and has a boyish body with non-existent hips and small "child-like" breasts. In the films she has a large tattoo of a dragon on her back. In the third film, Salander replied to a comment from one of the doctors treating her that it had hurt and it had taken hours for the tattoo to be applied. She is also depicted as being tone deaf, and so doesn't listen to music. Mikael Blomkvist states that she has beautiful eyes. In the books her eyes are always described as being dark.

Lisbeth's characterization is extremely complex, showing at different times signs of great mental strength and emotional stability. Being nearly unable to empathize with others, she is exceedingly anti-social, and feels no hesitation or guilt in performing great acts of violence on others, particularly if her survival is at stake. However she does have some sympathy, particularly towards people she generally trusts such as Miriam Wu, her fellow hackers, and Mikael Blomkvist to some degree. Though a strong female character who perhaps thinks somewhat less of men than women, Lisbeth is not completely consistent with the feminist archetype, as she seeks out breast surgery in an attempt to feel better about her body image, silently seeking the approval of (or at least support of her own desire in) her bedfellows. She is a rapid analyst, her initial impressions of people often turning out to be correct, and a skilled hacker who breaks nearly every measure of digital security that she sets her mind to. Perhaps because of her insight into people's personalities, she either ignores or actively dislikes those whose traits she finds unpleasing. Partially due to her background, Lisbeth is very paranoid, trusting fewer than 3 people in the world and only then to a certain degree. When she was growing up she did display faith in people who could have helped her and her mother who was being abused by her father, but no one believed her and nothing happened, so because of that she doesn't tell the police or doctors anything because she doesn't trust them. Despite displaying a level of maturity, she still allows herself to be hurt by seeing Mickael with Erika, holding a grudge for over a year like a child. Though she begins to open up more, particularly to Annika in the third novel, the only people to whom she shows any confidence are Mickael and Miriam.