NOSTALGIA: Memories of the Moomins and their peaceable world
JOANNE SAVAGE, like many children of the 1980s, was mesmerised by Tove Jansson’s lovable trolls who mooned about Moominvalley bestowing magical wisdom
Surely you do remember a family of white, rotund, fairy-tale characters with large snouts like polar bears crossed with clouds and hippopotamuses. They were lovable trolls who existed in a strange hinterland of the imagination in which sweet sentiments abided.
Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson’s Moomins, adapted as a cartoon series that lit up my 1980s childhood, supplanted you from the quotidian to Moominland, where things were peaceable, hunky dory and Moominmama had a lot of answers and soothing wisdom, and whatever the trials that befell the motley crew cast that also included Moominpappa, Moomintroll, Snork Maiden, Snufkin and Little My as they mooned about in Moominvalley, each instalment seemed to end in a Zen-like resolution where all was right in the Moomin sphere.
In Finnish culture, these unique characters are regarded as ‘crown jewels’ and the love of Moomin culture as something akin to a religion.
The Moomin trolls are particularly special because they are philosophical and often each episode carries some kind of moral message, usually one that augments the primordial importance of peace, love and understanding. Since Jansson’s death in 2001 there has been a huge resurgence of interest in her work, including reissues of the Moomin books with original artwork.
Literary devotees include Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith and Terry Pratchett, who called her “one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been”.
The Moomins popularity endures: in 2019 a new TV series was produced with Kate Winslet, Rosamund Pike and Will Self lending their voices to different characters.
In the 80s it was cult popular, an escape to a dream world where people spoke to each other softly and the plotlines were delicately solved - if it wasn’t OK then it wasn’t the end and the Moomin household radiated warmth and was ruled by kindly wisdom.
Somewhere amid the majestic wonder of it all I recall one of the Moomins saying something so important, obviously originally stated by American president Franklin D Roosevelt, but still a truth we should all remember: “The only thing you really need to fear is fear itself.”
Perfect love casts out fear, and the Moomins had that for each other in spades.
I can’t think of another children’s series that so combined the surreal and the magical with a simple translation of the loftiest moral truths.
There are very many days of late when I would absolutely surrender reality for an afternoon, nay, a century or two, in Moominvalley.