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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

Dive into the World of Moomins

By Hikari Tanaka

(Japanese translation coming soon.)

Moomin is a character known by most people throughout the world. His formal name is Moomintroll, and he lives in Moomin Valley with his parents. There are also a lot of unique characters besides him and his family, like Little My, Snufkin, and so on. This is just the basic information about Moomins, which many people might already know. However, most people don’t know who created it or what influenced it.

Moomins were created by Tove Jansson who was from Helsinki, Finland. Since her father was a Swedish-speaking Finn and her mother was Swedish, she spoke Swedish as her mother tongue. In Finland, the Swedish-speaking population is a linguistic minority, and is now about only 5 percent. Thus, it is said that growing up in a minority linguistic group greatly affected her thoughts.

Moomins first appeared in a short novel in the chaos just after World War Ⅱ. The novel published in 1945 was the first work of the Moomin series, and in 1948, the third work finally became a big hit in not only Tove’s home country of Finland, but also in neighboring Sweden. Moreover, in 1954, the London newspaper, The Evening News, which had the largest circulation in the world at that time, helped the Moomins’ comic strip become popular. Moomins had a great reputation in the U.K. as well as Finland and Sweden.

Most think of Moomins living in a heart-warming and happy world, but it is not true. Tove combines her real thoughts and experiences with the stories of Moomins, sometimes explicitly or suggestively. For example, she reflects things like war time, her sexuality, and her mother’s death in the stories. You can see how she felt and thought about those things throughout the world of Moomins.

From the outside, it seems that her working-life was going well. However, Tove who had many titles, such as a painter and a picture book author, had many concerns, such as the lack of the time to create new paintings, the pressure of the dead line, many contracts piled like a mountain, lots of arrangements, and interviews from the media. The more popular Moomins became, the more praise and ridicule she gained. This led to much stress and she finally started to hate Moomins that made her famous.

One day, when she was feeling melancholy, she met a woman called Tuulikki Pietilä. She was a Swedish graphic artist and after their meeting she became Tove’s life partner later. The meeting was a great opportunity for Tove to know how to face the reality her readers lived in, and she learned how to handle the ever growing increase in her business. That means Tuulikki helped Tove mentally as well as her work. Moreover, there is a character called Too-Ticky in the Moomin series that is modeled after Tuulikki.

2020 is the 75th anniversary of Moomins. Since September 12, an exhibition of Moomins has been held at Sapporo Art Park Museum and will end on November 3. At the exhibition you can see representative scenes from the novel and the picture book with original pictures, and you can also approach Moomins’ charm through advertisements from newspapers, goods, figures and live stage plays. It will take you deep into Moomins’ world and you will be fascinated with it in the end.


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