We love the Moomins in the Duffy house, ever since the kids were small and we watched the cartoon series early in the mornings, bleary-eyed and exhausted, drifting off to the sometimes surreal, and always deep and meaningful, Moominvalley. Over the years I have discovered the genius of their Finnish-Swedish writer and illustrator, Tove Jansson (1914-2001). So here’s a very short tribute to her and the Mooomins.
The Moomins are trolls but not in the sense we usually think of trolls in this country. They are hippo-like, eccentric, cuddly, loving, adventurous, tolerant, and completely fabulous. They are enduring and full of quirky charm.
Tove Jansson found an unexpected fame with her Moomin creations which were the subject of several books of hers and later made into a comic strip which sold the world over. They’ve also been televised in different formats.
They were loosely based on members of her bohemian family, evolving over the years as she grew older and as her circumstances changed. But they were always rooted in her close contact with nature. The Moomins may live in a magical land but it is assuredly un-Disneylike. And assuringly believable.
Tove Jansson understood that life is light and dark – in Finland this is especially true with the long winters and eternal summer days. She first wrote about the Moomins at a time when Finland was supporting the Third Reich and reading the story in this light, you can see that the Moomins are subversive, tolerant, open-minded and caring. All traits that the Nazis did not share.
‘The live and let live Moominworld is tolerant of all types. Indeed the message is that without all types life would hardly be worth the journey… Children need strangeness. Adults assume that our world is sane and explicable – but to a child it is strange, often frightening, and not explicable at all, because the rules are hidden or unknown.’ Jeanette Winterson
If you have never encountered the Moomins before, then do try. If you remember them from childhood, then revisit. I am.
P.S. A while ago, a friend recommended The Summer Book and I felt an immediate affinity with the island described there, a mixture of the wilds of the coast of Devon and the serenity of a cottage I know in Canada.