We can’t deny that the very best place to visit for Moomin lovers of all shapes, ages and sizes, whether human or otherwise, must be a bookshop – the words and pictures in Tove Jansson’s books and comics are the true heart of all things Moomin.
Still, when you’ve read each of them cover to cover until you know them by heart, when you’ve worn out all your video recordings of the all the different TV series, and when you’ve seen all the theatrical and the musical adaptations – if you’re not utterly exhausted! – then it’s time for the determined Moomin fan to take to the open road. Here’s a list of five essential stops on the Moomin trail to get you started…
1. Moomin World
This is a Moomin-based theme park designed for the Moomins’ littlest fans. Situated on the island of Kailo beside the town of Naantali, near Turku in Western Finland – on an archipelago facing into the Baltic Sea – Moomin World, or Muumimaailma in Finnish, is probably the most immersive Moomin experience a child (or a grown-up) will experience: rather than packing the island full of rides, like Disneyworld, the folk at Moomin World have simply recreated whole chunks of the Moomins’ world for you to explore.
The main attraction is the blueberry-coloured Moomin House, but you can also visit Hemulen’s yellow house, Moominmamma’s Kitchen, the Fire Station, Snufkin’s Camp, the Hattifatteners’ Cave, Moominpappa’s boar and more – and you’re likely to run into actual Moomins while you’re at it. The World isn’t open all year, but when it is, it holds special Winter and Summer themed events – there’s skating and dog-sledding scheduled for the cold weather, and a Fairytale theme is already lined up for Summer 2014. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it, and for older kids, you can get a ticket that includes the price of a visit to nearby Väski’s Adventure Island. They’ve pretty much thought of everything…
2. Moomin Valley Museum
For a more sedate trip – perhaps when the kids are sleeping off the island adventure – check out the Moomin Museum, or Muumilaakso, in Tampere, a little north-east of Turku. On display here are over two thousand pieces of Moomin memorabilia, from Jansson’s original illustrations to a 2.5m tall Moominhouse that was designed and built by Jansson in the 1970s in conjunction with others to be shown at the 1979 Bratislava Biennale of Illustrations – a celebration of children’s books and their art.
The House has been in and out of display ever since, and photos of it served as illustrations for some of Jansson’s later Moomin books. Not simply memorabilia, then, it’s a proper part of Moomin history. If you can’t get all the way to Tampere, however, the website is itself a thing of beauty, featuring a selection of Jansson’s haunting images.
If you want to get into the Moomin-mindset, why not immerse yourself in the world of their creator, Tove Jansson? Jansson and her partner, the graphic artist, lecturer and inspiration for Too-Ticky, Tuulikki Pietilä, spent many summers on the island of Klovharu, in Pellinki in the Gulf of Finland – Jansson’s later novel, The Summer Book, was set there.
A tiny, rocky island, with only one house (Jansson’s own), it’s no luxury getaway. Jansson described an early exhilarating camping trip: ‘The sea is a witch’s cauldron, thunder like cannon shots. Tent ripped. Exquisitely beautiful.’ If you can’t make it, Pietilä shot videos of their life there – check out the 2004 documentary, Tove ja Tooti Euroopassa (Tove and Tooti in Europe).
Jump to 42.40 in the video below to see film clips taken on the island.
4. Jansson’s Studio in Helsinki
This is a slight cheat because the studio isn’t actually open to the public, but it is where Jansson lived and worked for decades – and here she spent many years fighting eviction until she finally took ownership of the rooms herself. In her own words: ‘I’ve tried to build a home, the perfect artist’s turret studio that I’ve dreamed of my whole life, and for which I thank the Muses every morning’.
It’s a turret high above the corner of Ullanlinnankatu and Kasarminkatu in the Finnish capital, marked at street level by a commemorative plaque featuring a sculpture of the young Tove by her father, the sculptor Viktor Jansson – that itself is surely worth a quick visit, right?
5. Moomin Shop London
Okay, this is blatant commercialism rather than a hallowed site – but we want to throw a bone to the many English-speaking Moomin fans who can’t afford a trip to Finland! Head over to Covent Garden to visit one of the most comprehensive collections of Moomin paraphernalia outside Scandinavia (the other two branches are both in Helsinki – one in the airport, one in the city itself).
Your collection won’t be complete without a Moomin Love mug, a soft Snorkmaiden plush toy, or, of course, the paperback editions of Jansson’s Moomin comic strips. And, needless to say, the more little Moomins you see, the more you’ll long to visit the Moomin meccas we’ve listed above….