A Swedish Sailor Was About To Be Eaten By Cannibals, But Ended Up Becoming Their King

The story of Carl Emil Pettersson

What are the odds that a man from Sweden becomes the King of Tabar Island in Papua New Guinea, right?

For Carl Emil Pettersson, this story became reality after he was shipwrecked in the early 20th century.

Back then, the northeastern part of Papua New Guinea was a colony of Germany. Petterson had found work as a sailor at the young age of 17 in the year 1892, and ended up in the Bismarck Archipelago, a group of islands off the northeastern coast of this German colony.

On Christmas Day of the year 1904, the ship he was working on named the “Herzog Johan Albrecht” (Duke Johan Albrecht) sank and he washed ashore one of the islands of the archipelago.

The days of Carl Emil Pettersson were counted.

He found himself surrounded by islanders who thoroughly enjoyed the taste of a well-prepared, herb-flavored, and strong Swedish man.

The cannibals dragged Carl to their king, a man named Lamy, who happened to be the father of a daughter named Singdo.

Amazingly, she fell in love with Carl and saved his life. Just 3 years later they got married and after the king died he became the King of Tabar, producing 9 children along the way.

Carl Emil Pettersson facts

Being the king, he managed to acquire some wealth for himself. He started a couple of coconut plantations which he referred to as “Teripax.”

His most profitable endeavor was the copra trade. Copra is the dried fruit of the coconut, a very important part that can be used to extract coconut oil.

Nicknamed “Strong Charlie” due to his physical strength by the locals, he was a beloved king and his business went really well.

This was until his wife, the queen, died of a fever in 1921…

Just a year after he decided to leave the island and move to Sweden to find a new wife. After all, he had a bunch of kids that he couldn’t take care of just by himself.

He returned to Tabar Island in 1923 with his girlfriend, the Anglo-Swedish Jessie Louisa Simpson, to get married again.

There was just one problem though, his business had declined during his absence and he found it hard to recover it. The market conditions had changed in such a way that he faced bankruptcy.

To make the story of Carl Emil Pettersson even more remarkable, he managed to turn things around with a serious stroke of luck.

On one of the other islands in the archipelago named Simberi Island, he found a gold deposit.

The result was that he became pretty rich later on in life, even though he managed to keep his find secret from the locals.

This doesn’t mean that nobody found out though because, at the moment, the Tabar Islands have one of the largest gold holdings in the world, all thanks to Carl.

Both he and his wife left Tabar Island due to health problems in the 1930s. His wife died in Stockholm in 1935 and Carl died in Sydney in 1937.

His life didn’t go unnoticed and he became the inspiration for one of the most popular children’s series in history, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking.

Ephraim Longstocking, the father of Pippi in the series, was based on the story of Carl Emil Pettersson. This way, his story, and memory live on forever!

Carl Emil Pettersson family