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Expert Takeover: The Moomins, with Lotta Gavel Adams


Written July 05, 2020

The Moomins—“The Finnish Crown Jewels”.

This year, 2020, the world is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of Finnish-Swedish writer Tove Jansson’s first Moomin book. Since 1945, the Moomin books have been translated to at least 43 languages. Multiple new productions are in the works this year. A 13-part Finnish-British animation series is now showing in Europe, directed by Steve Box, who coined the phrase “The Finnish Crown Jewels.” A biopic about Tove Jansson will be out later in the year as well. At the Museum, we are celebrating the Moomins with a series of readings I was happy to film: these short storytime videos are available on the Museum's YouTube page (links at the bottom.)

The Moomin world was born in 1945, at the end of World War II. The tales grew out of a very dark period in history. World War II had left the Western World in ruins. During the war, Tove Jansson worked as a political cartoonist so she was very familiar with the despair and the hopelessness of the times—but all along she dreamed of a peaceful world and happy society. This is the world that she created in the Moomin books—a world that is safe and idyllic—but all the while threatened by destructive outside forces like big floods, tornados, comets. In the end, however, peace and tranquility are restored . . . which always deserves a celebration and a big party.

The Moomin series is usually considered books for children, but that is not entirely true. Most of Tove Jansson's tales are really allegories, and often so sophisticated that they can only (and perhaps better) be understood by grown-ups. And the Moomin figures are not just fictional characters—they are personifications of human traits and behavior patterns that we recognize in ourselves, in our friends, and in our neighbors.

Which Moomin character do you resemble? You can find out on the official Moomin website here by taking what has been called “the coolest personality test ever.” See you in Moominvalley!

Video Part 1: Introduction to Tove Jansson and the Moomins
Video Part 2: The story of Cedric
Video Part 3: The Invisible Child, first half
Video Part 4: The Invisible Child, second half

Stories are read for educational purposes under Fair Use and with permission from the publishing company. Moomin imagery is (c) the publisher, and used for educational purposes under Fair Use.

In the 1938 political cartoon, Tove Jansson satirizes Adolf Hitler as well as the countries that were giving into his political demands. The cartoon is Jansson’s satirical take on the Munich Conference in September of 1938 at which Great Britain, France, and Italy agreed to allow Hitler and Nazi Germany to annex a German-speaking area of Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia had not been invited to attend the conference. Here Jansson mocks Hitler, portraying him as a spoiled brat who is throwing a temper tantrum to get more cake (symbolizing land), while the leaders of England, France, and Italy worriedly and subserviently comply.

Professor Gavel Adams is Professor Emerita and Barbro Osher Endowed Chair of Swedish Studies at the University of Washington. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Women's Studies and member of the faculty of the European Studies Program. You can view her CVV here.