Preceding ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Borgen’ by some seventy years, British public imagination was excited by another Scandinavian invasion. The Moomins, trolls with amazingly plump bellies, upwardly mobile prominent snouts, and white sexless bodies, created by Tove Jansson, helped the spirits of many UK citizens to overcome the despair and hideous legacy of World War II.
This year, 2014, is the centenary of Tove Jansson’s birth in 1914 to bohemian Finnish parents. Her father was a well-known sculptor and her mother was an illustrator, who co-founded the Girl Guide movement in Sweden.
Moomins were bewitching, cartoon creatures and their Nordic universe made Tove Jansson a megastar. The fairy-tale animals had been a way of recapturing her childhood, “at night planes flew over us in open waves. It was as if the whole world had become a lump of anguish” she wrote in 1941. Nine books were published plus a long-running comic strip as well as plays, musicals, and playgroup paraphernalia. She became the most widely translated author from Finland, and won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1966. She illustrated editions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. By the 1980s, the Moomin’s endearing philosophy was being studied at undergraduate level.
Jansson’s authorised biographer, Boel Westin, a professor at Stockholm university, wrote her PhD on the “aesthetical and narratological perspectives” in the Moomin books. The Moomins are tolerant, happy-go-lucky and live in the moment.