After my post yesterday on my own little Moomin, I thought I’d blog something I wrote last year on the author and illustrator, Tove Jansson. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and new year.

The Moomins, a fictional family of Finnish trolls, were the brainchild of painter Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001), a Swedish speaking Finn, whose artistic talents were equally matched by her storytelling ability.

Tove JanssonGrowing up in war-torn Helsinki, much of Jansson’s early work reflected the politics of the day. Her first published illustration appeared in the left-wing Swedish-Finnish political magazine Garm, where she continued to provide regular drawings between 1929 and 1953. The earliest incarnation of the character Moomin first appeared in this very magazine.

After developing Moomin and his family and friends (semi-autobiographically), Jansson wrote her first book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, using her own drawings. Although it was not well-received, she accepted the offer to produce Moomintroll in comic strip form with Ny-Tid, a Swedish-language newspaper, between 1954 and 1959. Jansson ended her work with the paper to spend more time on her books, which became hugely popular.

The Moomin tales, although for children, are complex and can appear sinister, cutting through the soft Scandinavian light of Moominland.

In her later years Jansson would reside in a small home on a secluded island in the Gulf of Finland, with her long-term partner, Tuulikki Pietila. The island was without electricity, and did not have a proper toilet. It was here, however, that she spent her final – arguably most happy – years, with regular visits from family members, providing inspiration for new work, including fiction for adults.

Jansson’s books were translated into 35 languages and television series’ of the Moomins were commissioned in their animated form. Since Tove’s death in 2001, newer works of fiction have been published in the UK and there has been a resurgence of interest in her work (perhaps also due to the success of Scandinavian fiction and television dramas). Moomin-branded toys and gifts can now be found in many British stores.

You can visit the museum, Moominvalley, in Tampere and the theme park, Moominworld, in Naantali, Finland.

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