Who is Snufkin based on?

Snufkin is known as the philosopher of the Moomin stories. A free spirit who enjoys the simple things in life. A patient friend and a talented musician. But who is Snufkin based on in real life? Was there someone who inspired Tove Jansson to create this unique character?

Like many artists, Tove Jansson drew inspiration for her work from her own life, culture and the world around her. The way the Moomins live, and Moominvalley itself, are primarily inspired by the Nordic culture and archipelago. The influences and themes of Comet in Moominland (1946), for example, can be linked to World War II, taking place when Tove wrote her first Moomin books. 

Tove was also passionate about literature and ancient mythology, amongst many other interests, which made their way to different pieces of her work. 

Understandably, also the characters of Moominvalley were influenced by her outlook on the world and the people around her. In some interviews, Tove alluded to specific people in her life as sources of inspiration for characters; however, these varied, and there was never a factual confirmation of any real-life references. 

Who inspired Snufkin?

Snufkin has been linked to Tove’s own free-spirited personality at times, as well as to her father, Viktor Jansson, and brother, Lars Jansson. Creative talent, an interest in the matters of the world and individuality were indeed central themes in the Jansson family.

Some have said that Tove’s uncle, Harald Hammarsten, inspired Snufkin; he was a pipe-smoking mathematician who became famous as a mountaineer and sailor.

Above all, one person that Snufkin is often said to be based on is Tove’s boyfriend from the 1940s – Atos Wirtanen. During their years together, Tove wrote and illustrated the first five Moomin books – and Snufkin appeared in the stories at the time the couple was dating.

Atos had a very free outlook on life and found excessive material belongings unnecessary, just like Snufkin. His looks also resemble Snufkin: a fedora hat and a pipe were typical accessories on him, in addition to a backpack making it easier for him to come and go as needed.

Another popular interpretation is that of Snufkin and Moomintroll’s relationship. Though not related directly to Atos and Tove – Tove was quite the free spirit herself as well– it is a beautiful depiction of any relationship where one perhaps expects more than the other. As much as Snufkin cares for Moomintroll and always comes back to see him in the spring, there is nobody who could change the way he chooses to live life.

Atos furthermore influenced the Moomin stories by commissioning the first Moomin comic strip. He worked as an editor at a Swedish-speaking newspaper in Finland, Ny Tid, where Tove’s very first Moomin comic strip (Mumintrollet och jordens undergång / Moomintroll and The End of The World) was published.

It has also been said that Atos inspired some of the characteristics of The Muskrat with his avid interest in philosophy.

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Snufkin is a philosopher and a wanderer who enjoys the simple things in life – fishing, playing his harmonica and walking alone at night.


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