Celebrating The Moomins

The Moomins was one of my favourite books and cartoons as a child so I was interested to see that this year Finland is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Tove Jansson, its creator.

A few childhood books are a little more troublesome than others, though no less great. I think that The Moomins sits amongst Watership Down and The Velveteen Rabbit (obviously not too comfortable with endangering our long eared friends then) as a book through which children can sense something sinister’s afoot. Whereas Watership Down and The Velveteen Rabbit are a little more obvious in their terrors, Moominvalley is a dreamy Finnish landscape, home to characters who seem a little more 3D than your average cartoon. Maybe it’s the feeling that you never quite know what’s lurking beneath the surface; never quite feel that the characters are fully explained, that makes The Moomins a little… creepy?

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Read this article on Tove Jansson and you’ll see that The Moomins were born out of an argument Tove had with her brother, after which she decided to draw the most hideous creature imaginable (an excellent and harmless coping strategy which many siblings should be encouraged to practice). This evolved into the slightly squishier characters that we know. The first Moomin books were written later, in the aftermath of WW2, and they often featured themes of catastrophe-perhaps explaining that sinister undertone.

Despite the sense of sadness that tinged The Moomins, something loveable and peaceful shone through. When the comic strip was first published in London’s Evening News newspaper, in 1954, it was an instant hit; within two years 120 newspapers around the world were running it, reaching 12 million readers.

To learn some valuable life lessons and remember Jansson’s fantastic characters, click here. And why not pop into the Moomin shop in London’s Covent Garden to collect some memorabilia for the celebration.

Kathryn Colwell, Publishing Assistant

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