I was going to write about Tove Jansson in my post about Maurice Sendak but then I thought that she deserves a post in her own right. Jansson was a painter, illustrator and author, most well known as the creator of The Moomins. The original Moomin series included nine books, five picture books and a comic strip released between 1945-93. They quickly grew into a phenomenon; they now have their own theme park and a shop devoted to them in Covent Garden. You will remember the Moomin cartoons we used to watch:
The cartoons capture the eerie atmosphere of Jansson’s books, although they don’t have the same magical illustrations.
My favourite character is (of course) Little My, shown in the image above using an umbrella as a parachute. Little My is described on wikipedia as “A mischievous tomboyish little girl, who lives in the Moomin house and has a brave, spunky personality. She likes adventure, but loves catastrophes, and often does mean things on purpose. She finds messiness and untidiness exciting and is very down to earth, when others aren’t.” Little My is just one of Jansson’s intriguing and complex characters.
I rediscovered Jansson and The Moomins when I watched this documentary about her life, last year. I highly recommend it as a portrait of an artist who lived life her own way. In the documentary we see how the Moomins were both a blessing and a curse, as they eclipsed her other work as an artist. We also learn that Jansson lived much of her life on a small, secluded Finnish island called Klovharu; immersed in the rugged landscape and harsh climate.
I also recommend Jansson’s adult fiction. I have read The True Deceiver, which is set in a Finnish hamlet and tells the tale of a strange young woman and an elderly artist who come together through their mutual loneliness. One of the main themes of the book is the oppressive, harsh winter. The scene is set well by the book’s opening line: “it was an ordinary dark winter morning, and snow was still falling.”