Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Moomins

Before joining Postcrossing, I had never heard of the Moomins (Swedish Mumintroll, Finnish Muumi) before. But they are beloved around the world, and postcards depicting them are highly coveted by many members of the Postcrossing community. So what are they? The Moomins are a set of characters created by Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator, and comic strip author Tove Jansson. Tove was born and raised in Helsinki, Finland in a family of artists belonging to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. She wrote her first Moomin book in 1945 during World War II, and proceeded to publish eight more during her life.

The Moomins are a family of trolls who are white, round and furry in appearance, with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. They live in their house in Moominvalley, in the forests of Finland, but they have variously taken up residence in both a lighthouse and a theatre as well. The central family consists of three main characters: Moominpappa (above left), Moominmamma, and Moomintroll. Other characters occasionally attach themselves to the family throughout the series, including Hemulen, Sniff, the Snork maiden, Snufkin, and Little My (below in yellow).

In addition to writing children's books, Tove Jansson was a satirist and a political cartoon artist, so it's not surprising that her more "adult" messages sometimes make it into her work for children.

"One can never be entirely free, if one admires someone else too much." -Snufkin

"Possession means worries and luggage bags one has to drag along." -Little My

Particularly in Sweden and Finland, the Moomins have become a cultural icon. Although Jansson died in 2001, the Moomins continue to be memorialized in television series, music, films, and even a Moomin theme park in Finland. This is because the series was resurrected by Lars Jansson (Tove's younger brother) and Dennis Livson - these men produced a 104-part animation series in Japan named Tales from Moominvalley, which has led to an international boom in popularity for the series, particularly in Japan. Many people, especially those who were fans of the Moomins before they gained wide international fame, think this commercialization of the franchise has cheapened the philosophical world of the Moomins created by Tove Jansson.

The Moomins' rights are still owned by the Jansson family, who have turned down offers to sell the rights to the Walt Disney Company.


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