Moomin-Mania

moomin

Moominmamma looked just as I had always expected her to. Snowy white of course, but with the same kindly air I had come to know and love as a child. Moomintroll was there too, still the same impetuous soul. And there were all the rest of them - the studious Hemulen, chirpy Snufkin, and the delicious Snork Maiden. As always, Moominpappa was in his chair, still working on his memoirs, in the corner of the main room of the tall, brilliant blue Moominhouse. I knew that somewhere not far away, I would find Sniff and the Muskrat too.

But I was not alone, reliving my childhood fantasies and meeting my storybook friends. "Shining like the sun of Naantali," is a common saying in many parts of Finland when someone wants to describe a very happy person. And the summer sun was shining brilliantly that day, and Moomin World was full of happy people. Including me.

But first you must understand that Moomin World, opened in 1993 at Naantali, near Turku in south-western Finland, is not a Disney creation. It is not even a theme park in many senses of the word.

Just as the author of the Moomintroll books, Tove Jansson, who died in June, 2001 at the age of 86, was no ordinary person, neither were her books ordinary books. And those who visit Moomin World are delighted to find that here the emphasis is on the celebration of childhood friends, a return of innocence. Time-out from the real world.

And while Jansson always said her books, which have been compared to the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, had no hidden philosophy, the core statement evident is always the value of a close and loving family.

Families were out in force that day, for Moomin World is only open during the summer, and this was school holiday season.

"Moomins sleep during the winter," my Finnish guide reminded me gently. I knew that. Jansson's first, and probably still most well-known book "Finn Family Moomintroll" , first published in English in 1950, begins 'One grey morning the first snow began to fall in the Valley of the Moomins'. Moomintroll the adolescent son of the family looks out his door and realises he will soon be asleep until spring.

It is hard to explain the magic that has captivated millions of children worldwide since Jansson's simple tale of a family of somewhat hippo-shaped Moomins and their adventures, and her delightful line drawings became an immediate hit in her homeland.

As the oldest child of an artist mother and sculptor father, Jansson's childhood was both bourgeois and bohemian, secure yet adventurous, and this plus the experience of growing up in a quiet island home with just the occasional storm for excitement no doubt formed the template for the ambience of her books. Working as both the illustrator and writer of her first Moomin book, Jansson's "The Little Trolls and the Great Flood" was published in 1945. Her life work had begun.

But it was "Finn Family Moomintroll" which became Tove Jansson's real breakthrough, quickly translated from the original Swedish into English and later 33 other languages. As their fame spread, the Moomin books with their distinctively Scandinavian world view, were dramatized for theatre, opera, film, radio and TV, they appeared on postage stamps, and the animated Moomin TV series became most popular in Japan.

Inevitably spin-offs have included souvenirs, and a variety of Moomin nick-nacks. Recently in Honolulu I stumbled on a House of Moomin gift shop and resisted (just) coming home with a Moominmamma fridge magnet or a Moomintroll paperweight.

Understandably Tove Jansson received much recognition for her work too - over fifty awards both in Europe and beyond, as well as an honorary professorship, but one award she must have valued was the Hans Christian Andersen medal she received in 1966.

In 1953 Associated Press began publishing Moomin comics in the Evening News, and from 1960 her younger brother Lars Jansson continued the drawing of these internationally spread Moomin strips. In later life, Ms Jansson returned to the world she loved best, living in a small cottage on a rugged island off the southern Finnish coast, with perhaps a few gentle adventures as well.

The sun was slipping away when finally I had to leave Moomin World. I'd met the witch, swapped banter with Little My, seen the mountain tremble and made it over the swinging bridge. I hadn't taken the boat to Adventure Island though, and I was glad about that.

There has to be an excuse to revisit your childhood, just once more.

 ---------------

Vale Ms Jansson. Thankyou for bringing joy and wonder to several generations of the world's children.

 

Sally Hammond won her copy of 'Finn Family Moomintroll' in an Australian Argonauts' competition, when she was a small child. She, like millions of other children worldwide, came to love the gentle Moomins and their offbeat adventures.

MORE about the Moomin books

Moominbooks (available in Puffin paperbacks):

The Little Trolls and the Great Flood (no Engl. transl.)

Comet in Moominland (transl. by Elizabeth Portch)

Finn Family Moomintroll (trnsl. by Elizabeth Portch)

The Exploits of Moominpappa (transl. by Thomas Warburton)

Moominsummer Madness (transl. by Thomas Warburton)

Moominland Midwinter (transl. by Thomas Warburton)

Tales from Moominvalley (transl. by Thomas Warburton)

Moominpappa at Sea (transl. by Kingsley Hart)

Moominvalley in November (transl. by Kingsley Hart)

Picture-books:

The Book about Moomin Mymble and Little My

Who will comfort Toffle?

Dangerous Journey

Skurken i muminhuset (An unwanted Guest)

FACTFILE

WHEN: Moomin World is open daily from mid-June to mid-August

WHERE: Moominworld is located in Naantali, around 16 kilometres from Turku and 180 kilometers from Helsinki. The Moominbus is an easy way to get from the Port of Turku or city-centre hotels to Moominworld

WHAT: There are two islands - the Moomin House island of Kailo and the Adventure Island of Väski. Also visit Moominmamma's Doughnut House and the Moomin Shop in Naantali Old Town.

HOW MUCH: Adults FIM 80 (around A$23) Children (3-14 yrs) FIM 60 (around A$17) valid for two consecutive days - you can spend one day on the Moomin's home island and the next on Väski.

ACCOMODATION: Sokos Hotels in Turku provide Moominworld packages with accommodation. www.sokoshotels.fi

Information about hotels in Naantali, www.naantalinmatkailu.fi

 

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