“Painting was the most important, holy thing for me,
but my paintings were never noticed.
When I drew a rather ugly long-nosed figure,
everyone was interested.”
The famed Finnish artist named Tove Jansson, as well as her most famous creation, the Moomins, conjure up many different things to different people. For some she’s a novelist, for some a comic strip author, for some an illustrator and for most of us she’s simply the creator of the Moomins.
She always wanted to be recognized only as a painter.
All of her family were heavily into arts, mainly painting and sculpture. Her father wanted her to be a great artists, and Tove had all what she needed to become one. Illustrations and comics wasn’t considered an art, and when she began working mostly on that, her work, especially the Moomins was despised by her father and other art colleagues.
Tove made thought provoking, satirical illustrations and caricatures for Garm-magazine during the war. She was not afraid to speak up and show the horrors of war. Her father didn’t like her ridiculing Hitler, which she boldly, against the official propaganda code, did.
Her father also did not like Jews or communists, and both Tove brought in to their house. Although Tove have said there is nothing more repulsive than hate, at the end of war Tove and her father stated they hated each other.
“I have no reason to give birth to a cannon fodder. I’ll give birth when men stop killing. Likely never.”
Tove started to draw this small, rather ugly, long-nosed figures (as she puts it), in the corners of the illustrations. Just a little trademark for fun. Probably most of the people wouldn’t even notice them. At that time, the figure was still nameless.
When Tove wanted to do something less serious than painting, she wrote a short story, just to put it on her drawer for years. It had to be romantic and adventurous. These little ugly figures found their way to the books too, and were soon called the Moomins.
The Moomins became famous from the comic strips, that started appearing in the British papers too. Tove didn’t havemany friends or colleagues to talk about this kind of art, but found at some point a special someone, Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish graphic artist, whom she spend the rest of her life with.
Many of the characters themselves are based on actual people. Moominmamma was inspired by Tove’s own mother, Signe. Atos Wirtanen, the man Tove was romantically in relationship is the basis of Nuuskamuikkunen (Snufkin), Tiuhti ja Viuhti (Thingumy and Bob) resembles Tove and her lover Vivica, and Tuutikki (Too-Ticky) was rather obviously Tuulikki.
“I pitied the other kids in their clean houses. No sculptures and books all around, and no artists as parents.”
Films and series of the Moomins have come from many different countries. Earliest from the late 1950s, a puppet tv-series from West-Germany, Die Muminfamilie. The most recent is yet to be premiered – a traditional animation feature film, Muumit Rivieralla (2014).
In between there are three Japanese anime series, first from late 1960s, with young Hayao Miyazaki as one of the animators.
The weirdest, very free adaptation is Šljapa Volšebnika from Soviet Union. The most low-key and true to original illustrations are Swedish short films, Kuka lohduttaisi nyytiä (Who Will Comfort Toffle? 1979) and Kuinkas sitten kävikään from (The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My, 1993).
And of course there’s the Polish cut-out animation series Opowiadania Muminków (The Moomins 1978-1982). It’s material was restored and reused in two Finnish feature length films, Muumi ja vaarallinen juhannus (2008) and Muumi ja punainen pyrstötähti (2010). Latter being shown in 3D and having new theme song sung by Björk, a big Moomin fan. Third film is set to be premiered around 2016.
All in all, Tove Jansson’s Moomins may be the best known cartoon merchandise from Finland (at least if we do ignore Angry Birds.)
Today, Moomins are generally best known in Finland for the following things, in this order;
The anime series from the early 1990s, directed by Hiroshi Saitô. The ceramic mug merchandise, designed by Tove Slotte after Jansson’s originals. Tove Jansson’s original novels. The comic strips. The Polish stop-motion series. Possibly the Moomin World in Naantali, Naantalin Muumimaailma.
The two anime series (Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka and Tanoshii Mūmin Ikka: Bōken Nikki) and a feature film (Mūmindani no Suisei) were made between 1990 and 1992. In Finland, both series were lumped into one program called “Muumilaakson tarinoita”. It is the same name the Polish animation version was called before. For the younger generations, the softer, pastel looks of the Moomins is commonly thought as the real Moomins nowadays.
This series that boosted the Moomin legacy to the next generations to come, was a brainchild of Finnish Dennis Livson, co-foudner of Dutch production company Telescreen (Alfred J. Kwak). He wanted to do an animated series of Moomins already in the early 1980s but did not get the rights from Tove until he later became friends with her brother, Lars. He also created the Moomin World. In his last years, he still hoped to make an animated feature film of Muumipappa ja meri (Moominpappa at Sea). He never got the rights.
This year it has been 100 years since Tove Jansson’s birth. The new traditional animated feature length film will premiere in Finland within two months.