What connections are there between Moomin stories and Finland, other than Tove Jansson being born in the country? Here are seven ways Finland influenced the Moomin stories!
The fantastic world of the Moomins may seem surreal and magical, but many aspects of Tove Jansson’s creation are actually inspired by real life in her home country of Finland. While the characters and their exploits have universal appeal, there are certain themes throughout the series that are inspired by uniquely Finnish and Nordic ideals and cultural traditions.
1. The Finnish archipelago
With 179,584 islands, the archipelago that surrounds the coast of Finland plays an essential role in the lives of many. Many Finns spend their summers at cottages on these islands, relaxing and enjoying time away from daily life.
The archipelago was the summer favourite of author Tove Jansson, who spent a great deal of time on the island of Klovharun. The influence that island life had on the Moomin stories was monumental; the natural setting, seclusion, and closeness to the sea in Moominvalley were inspired by it. The lighthouse setting of Moominpappa at Sea (1965) is specifically said to be inspired by lighthouses Tove Jansson had seen, such as the island of Söderskär, one of the many lighthouse islands that line Finland’s coast.
The appreciation of nature is one of the strongest themes of the Moomin books. Take, for example, this quote from Comet in Moominland (1946):
“He thought about the sea, the rain, the wind, the sunshine, the grass and the moss… and how it would be impossible to live without them”.
Sophia Jansson, Tove Jansson’s niece, once described the strong connection between the Moomins and nature: “The Moomins have a great love and respect for nature, which is a particularly Finnish trait. They go for excursions in the forest or to the seaside, as many families here do.”
Finns have a deep affinity and appreciation for nature: taking long walks through forests, picking wild berries and mushrooms, or boating on the sea are important parts of the local culture.
3. The harshness of winter
Like in most Northern locations, winters in Finland can be unforgivingly cold and harsh. Undoubtedly, many Finns wish that they could hibernate through the worst of it as the Moomins do! On the other hand, there remains a sense of fondness for the quiet and beauty of winter snow, crackling hearth fires, and swirling Northern Lights.
Also Moomintroll learns to deal with the harsh weather, even though he isn’t fond of it at first, during one winter, when he wakes up from his hibernation in Moominland Midwinter (1957).
4. Finnish food
Aside from pancakes with jam, the Moomin books are filled with traditional Finnish foods like fish, berries, spiced wine, and buns. There is even a Moomins’ Cookbook for those who want to eat like a Moomin!
“One can’t be too dangerous, if they like to eat pancakes. Especially with jam on it.”
Finn Family Moomintroll (1948)
5. Appreciation for peace, melancholy and solitude
“Walking had been easy, because his knapsack was nearly empty and he had no worries on his mind. He felt happy about the wood and the weather, and himself. Tomorrow and yesterday were both at a distance, and just at present the sun was shining brightly red between the birches, and the air was cool and soft.
It’s the right evening for a tune, Snufkin thought. A new tune, one part expectation, two parts spring sadness, and for the rest, just the great delight of walking alone and liking it.”
This quote from Tales from Moominvalley (1962) sums up how peace, melancholy, and solitude are valued and appreciated in Moominvalley. Many might say that Finns also find comfort in these feelings – something that ties in with the Finnish connection to nature. If the Moomins have taught us anything, it’s that it’s okay (or good, even) to experience a range of different emotions!
6. The importance of small pleasures
Although the Moomins often ponder deep and powerful matters of life, they are very good at noticing and appreciating the smaller things in life. As Moomintroll puts it in one of Tove Jansson’s comics: “I only want to live in peace and plant potatoes and dream!”.
This mirrors how the Finnish culture values small pleasures, whether it be a tasty snack or a few minutes in the sunshine. And who doesn’t love the simplicity of warm pancakes or a mysterious forest path to follow?
7. Midsummer celebrations
Midsummer Eve is one of Finland’s biggest holidays, with people all over the country gathering together to celebrate. Midsummer takes place on the summer equinox, the longest day of the year—and in Finland, that can mean celebrating in the light of the Midnight Sun.
Finns celebrate Midsummer in a variety of ways, such as building bonfires or spending time at their cottages in the countryside. In Moominsummer Madness (1954) the Moomin family celebrates the longest day of the year in their own way.
There you have it, seven wonderful ways that Finland helped shape the Moomin stories into the beautiful place that we all know and love. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting Moominvalley, Finland would be the closest option – not to forget, it’s also home to the world’s first Moomin theme park, Moominworld!
The first blog of a two-part series, this blog explores how the Moomin books comfort us in times of crises, decades after their creation.
In Moominworld, Naantali, you can relive the Moomin stories and experience the authentic Finnish archipelago that also inspired Tove Jansson.
Relive the Moomin stories by visiting the places listed on this Moomin tourist guide to Finland, from Moominworld to the Finnish archipelago.