Moomin characters as Tove Jansson’s self-portraits

The Moomin stories were inspired by many things in Tove Jansson’s own life, culture, and the world around her - as well as her singular imagination. The characters may represent various people in Tove’s life, albeit not factual, but there are personal traits and qualities that Tove likely infused into these characters also. Which Moomin characters reflect Tove’s own nature?

Moominvalley and how the Moomins live are inspired by Finnish nature and culture, the early Moomin books were influenced by the World War, and there are hidden queer themes in the storylines. Like any piece of art, the Moomin stories can be seen as reflections of the world as their creator saw it.

Though never factually confirmed, there are interpretations about who each character might resemble in Tove’s real life – but also how Tove might have mirrored pieces of herself into various characters.

Moomintroll and Tove

One interpretation is that the main character, Moomintroll is Tove’s “alter ego”. Together forming the Moomin family, Moominamma has been linked to Tove’s mother Ham and Moominpappa to her father Faffan.

Though a very simplified assumption, there are certainly characteristics that Tove shares with this friendly troll. Tove appreciated adventure and exploration, and was a big lover of nature – just like Moomintroll. A deep affection for the sea is something that Tove infused into the stories overall, specifically into Moomintroll.

It’s believed that the first lines of the picture book The Book about Moomin, Little My and Mymble (1952) describe an island route that young Tove and her family used to take between the beach and the village in Pellinge, Finland. In the story, it is “little Moomintroll” who walks home with his mother.

”Here’s litte Moomintroll, none other hurrying home with milk for Mother.”

(The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My, 1952)

Snufkin and Tove

Snufkin is often said to resemble Tove’s boyfriend in the 1940s, Atos Wirtanen, but many traits of Snufkin could also describe Tove herself well. She was an independent spirit who found freedom important. She appreciated personal space and moments of reflection (in addition to her vibrant social life!).

Snufkin may be some form of expression of creativity. His musical talent, endless pursuit of inspiration and ability to see the beauty around him are traits that Tove perhaps felt in her own dedication to art.

Snufkin could also easily be seen as another personification of Tove’s immense love for nature.

Thingumy and Bob, and Tove

Thingumy and Bob are an inseparable duo whose creation had deep meaning to Tove personally: they reflect the love story of Tove and Vivica Bandler. Called Tofslan and Vifslan in the original (Swedish) language, the characters’ names are nicknames that Tove used about her and Vivica – a message that gets missed in the English translation of the names.

Other characters and Tove

The various characters introduced in the Moomin stories create such a broad spectrum of traits and quirks that it’s not difficult to find something of oneself in almost everyone. 

Little My, for example, has been said to reflect the communication style of Tove and her friends – straightforward and always truthful, even if a little mischievous. Tove’s diligence and meticulous tracking of her work can be seen in Hemulens, whereas personal fears and loneliness, things that all humans battle with, are personified as The Groke.

There are also similarities between Tove and Toffle from the picture book Who will comfort Toffle?, who is a small creature (named Toft in Swedish) with an introverted expression.

Who do you think you are most like?

Take the Moomin character quiz and find out!


Who is Snufkin based on?

Who is Snufkin based on? Find out who inspired Tove Jansson to create the outdoorsy, philosophical character of Snufkin.