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Do you doubt anything I've said? Do you doubt the reports that have followed me around all my life? What do they say, if you could sum it up? They say I'm insane. It's alright, you can nod. Because it's true. I am insane. Nod.
~ Lisbeth Salander torturing her rapist

Lisbeth Salander is the main female protagonist of the Millennium book trilogy and the movies based off them. She is a genius hacker who has a great hatred of men who abuse women. This stems from a traumatic childhood at the hands of her father, a sadistic spy and crime lord, and his accomplices in the Swedish secret service.

She is portrayed by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish film trilogy and Rooney Mara and Claire Foy in the American films.


Lisbeth Salander has red hair, which she dyes black. Upon her first appearance in the series, she is described as a pale, skinny young woman who had hair as short as a fuse, and a pierced nose and eyebrows. She has a wasp tattoo about two centimeters long on her neck, a tattooed loop around the biceps of her left arm, another loop around her left ankle, a Chinese symbol on her hip and a rose on her left calf. She has a large tattoo of a dragon on her back that runs from her shoulder, down her spine, and ends on her buttocks. This was changed in the English translation to a small dragon on her left shoulder blade.

Salander is a world-class computer hacker. Under the name "Wasp", she becomes a prominent figure in the International hacker community, known as the Hacker Republic. She uses her computer skills as a means to earn a living, doing investigative work for Milton Security. She has an Eidetic memory, and is skillful at concealing her identity, possessing passports in different names and disguises herself to travel undetected around Sweden and worldwide.

She has a complicated relationship with investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, which veers back and forth between romance and hostility throughout the trilogy. She also has an on-again & off-again romantic relationship with Miriam "Mimi" Wu.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Salander is introduced as a gifted, but deeply troubled, researcher and computer hacker working for Milton Security. Her boss, Dragan Armansky, commissions her to research disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist at the behest of a wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger. When Blomkvist finds out that Salander hacked his computer, he hires her to assist him in investigating the disappearance of Vanger's grandniece, Harriet, 40 years earlier. Salander uses her research skills to uncover a series of murders, dating back decades and tied to Harriet's disappearance. During the investigation, Salander and Blomkvist become lovers.

The novel reveals Salander was declared legally incompetent as a child and is under the care of legal guardian Holgar Palmgren, one of the few people in the world she trusts and cares for. When Palmgren suffers a stroke, the court appoints her a new guardian: Nils Bjurman, a sadist who forces Salander to perform oral sex in return for access to her allowance. In a second sex session at his flat, he violently rapes and sodomizes her, unaware that she is recording his actions with a hidden camera. A few days later, she returns to his flat and, after disabling him with a taser, tapes his mouth and fastens him to his bed with his own bondage equipment, and finally sodomizes him with an anal plug. She then explains that she will release the video recording of him raping her if he does not do exactly what she orders, or if anything happens to her. She demands that he annul her legal incompetence and restore her sole access to her bank account. She tells him that she will visit him when she pleases, and if she ever finds him with a woman, even if she's there voluntarily, she will release the tape and destroy his life. Finally, she tattoos the words "I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST" on his abdomen, unlocks his handcuffs, and departs.

Salander eventually uncovers evidence that Harriet's late father, Gottfried, and her brother, Martin, committed the murders. Salander then finds Blomkvist just in time to save him from Martin, who is in the midst of torturing him. She pursues Martin on her motorcycle, but he is killed when he deliberately veers into an oncoming truck. Salander later uses her hacking skills to discover that Harriet Vanger is alive and hiding in Australia, and to get sensitive information about Blomkvist's arch-rival, corrupt media magnate Hans-Erik Wennerström. With the information uncovered by Salander, Blomkvist publishes an article and book that ruins Wennerström and transform Blomkvist's magazine, Millennium, into one of the most respected and profitable in Sweden.

During her investigation of Wennerström, Salander uses her hacking skills and a series of disguises to withdraw billions from one of Wennerström's off-shore accounts. Salander anonymously reveals the address of Wennerström's final hideout to a lawyer with criminal connections, and Wennerström is murdered three days later.

At the end of the book, Salander acknowledges to herself that she has fallen in love with Blomkvist. On her way to tell him so, however, she sees him with his longtime lover, Millennium editor Erika Berger. Heartbroken, Salander abruptly cuts off all contact with him.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Salander returns to Sweden after having traveled for a year. Shortly afterward, Salander is falsely implicated in the murder of three people: Bjurman and two of Blomkvist's colleagues. The frame-up is in fact a conspiracy between her biological father, former Soviet spy Alexander Zalachenko, and the Section, an illegal faction within SAPO, the Swedish Security Service, whose members had protected her father after he defected from the USSR. Zalachenko had been a high-ranking member of the GRU, and his defection was regarded by Säpo as an intelligence windfall, thus leading to the Section's covering up his subsequent illegal activities. Zalachenko had his son (and Salander's half-brother) Ronald Neidermann kill Blomkvist's colleagues, who were writing an exposé article on Zalachenko and Neidermann's prostitution ring, and Bjurman, a former Säpo employee who would have been exposed in the article as Salander's rapist. The Section then falsely incriminates Salander to cover up their concealment of Zalachenko's crimes.

Blomkvist tries to help Salander, even though she wants nothing to do with him. When she hacks into his computer, he leaves her his notes on the prostitution ring, from which she learns that Zalachenko is behind the frame-up. By the end of the novel, she tracks Zalachenko to his farm, where he shoots her in the head and has Neidermann bury her alive. She digs her way out, however, and hits her father in the face with an axe before losing consciousness. Blomkvist finds her and calls an ambulance, saving her life.

The novel expands upon Salander's childhood. She is portrayed as having been an extremely bright but asocial child who would violently lash out at anyone who threatened or picked on her. This was in part the result of a troubled home life; Zalachenko repeatedly beat her mother but escaped punishment because the Section perceived his value to the Swedish State as being more important than her mother's civil rights.

One day, when Salander was 12, Zalachenko beat her mother so badly that she sustained permanent brain damage. In retaliation, Salander hurled a homemade Molotov cocktail into her father's car, leaving him permanently disfigured and in chronic pain. The Section, fearing this would lead to their exposure, had the girl declared legally insane and sent to a Children's Psychiatric Hospital in Uppsala. While there, Salander was placed under the direct surveillance of psychiatrist Dr. Peter Teleborian, who had earlier conspired with the Section to have her declared insane. During her stay at the hospital, Teleborian put her in restraints for the most trivial infractions as a way of venting his repressed pedophilic urges. On the Section's orders, Teleborian declared Salander legally incompetent so that no one would ever believe her accounts of what they had done. They then had Bjurman, a lawyer in their employ, appointed as her guardian after Palmgren's stroke.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Salander is arrested for the three murders while she recuperates in the hospital. Zalachenko, who is a patient in the same hospital, is murdered by someone in the Section, who then tries to kill Salander; fortunately, Salander's lawyer (Annika Giannini, Blomkvist's sister) has barred the door. The would-be assassin then commits suicide.

Due to her deep-seated mistrust of authority, Salander refuses at first to cooperate in any way with her defense, 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 hallucinatory so as to mislead the prosecution.

At her trial, Salander is defiant and uncooperative. The prosecuting counsel uses testimony from Teleborian, appearing as their principal witness, to depict Salander as insane and in need of long-term care. Giannini then destroys Teleborian's credibility by introducing the recording of Salander's rape and produces extensive evidence of the Section's plot, published in Millennium that morning by Blomkvist. At the same time Giannini starts questioning Teleborian, the 10 members of the Section are arrested and charged with crimes against national security. Police briefly interrupt Salander's trial to arrest Teleborian for possession of child pornography, which Salander's fellow hackers uncovered from his laptop and sent to the authorities. 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 brick factory she has inherited. 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 the same motorcycle gang who attacked her in the previous novel, who want him dead because he killed some of their people. Before they arrive to kill Niedermann, she contacts the police.

That night, Blomkvist shows up at her door, and the two reconcile as friends.

The Girl in the Spider's Web

In The Girl in the Spider's Web (2015), written by David Lagercrantz as a continuation of the original series, Salander is hired by scientist Frans Balder to find out who hacked his network and stole his quantum computer technology. She hacks into the network of his company, Solifon, and discovers that his data was stolen by a criminal organization called the "Spider Society", with help from accomplices within Solifon and the National Security Agency. When Balder is murdered, Salander, with Blomkvist's help, saves Balder's autistic son August from the Spider Society's assassins, and she is badly wounded in the process. She bonds with August, a fellow math prodigy, and becomes his protector.

Salander learns the Spider Society is led by her twin sister Camilla, a sociopath who as a child tormented her and delighted in the abuse their mother suffered at their father's hands. Camilla sends assassin Jan Holtster to kill Salander and August. Salander overpowers Holtster, however, and gives the police August's drawing of him. She has an opportunity to shoot Camilla during her escape, but cannot bring herself to kill her sister and allows her to get away.

Salander returns August to his mother, Hanna, kicks Hanna's abusive boyfriend out of the house, and gives Hanna and August plane tickets to Munich so they can start over. She then supplies Blomkvist with information she hacked from the NSA, which he uses to write an exposé article that results in the arrests of Camilla's accomplices and re-establishes Millennium as the most influential news magazine in Sweden. Salander shows up at Blomkvist's apartment, and they spend the night together.