June 2001

Sorrow in Moominvalley

Tove Jansson's death has elicited obituaries and tributes to her work all around the world. One community, however, has perhaps felt deeper sorrow than any other. Jansson belonged to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland, and according to Erik Wahlström, writing in the Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet (28 June 2001), this is where the feeling of loss is greatest.

Wahlström reminds readers that the concept of 'Moominvalley' has been used as a symbol of the Swedish-speaking community in Finland.

"During an era when the Finns fought to liberate themselves from the country's cultural and economic isolation (and somewhat complicated political alliance), Moominvalley became to resemble an inward-looking, cosy little culture, whose sense of security could only be maintained by keeping the threatening outside world at bay.

"This interpretation of the essence of Moominvalley is based on a selective and unfeeling reading of Tove Jansson's texts and illustrations, a reading she would not have recognised. In fact, it is remarkable how outside threat — often symbolised by winter and frost — plays a major role in Moominvalley."

The fact that the threat was not allowed to win in the end belongs to the conventions of the genre, Wahlström writes.

"The critical view of Moominvalley as an idyll contains a partial truth which has become topical today when the dream of an outside world without borders becomes a reality and has proved to be something other than people had been dreaming of.

"Actually, Moominvalley was quite nice. We will still have it."

Wahlström writes that the locality described by Jansson is as intellectually stimulating as any other, whether in Paris or the Himalayas.

"It becomes a homage to the local. But it does not exclude other places. Meaningful internationalism can only emerge from deep knowledge of cultures, and why not begin from one's own?

"In fact, in the resurfacing theme of travellers and creatures who have lost their way arriving or living in Moominvalley and becoming integrated in it, mainly won over by Moominmomma's inner power, one can see a model of how strangers can be helped to integrate in the Finnish/Finnish-Swedish culture."

Wahlström emphasises that the world of the Moomins is much more than literature for children.

"It transcends a child's world and also Finnish-Swedishness. There is something for all humans, independent of age and nationality."


On 27 June 2001 we wrote:

Tove Jansson dies

The world-famous Finnish writer and illustrator Tove Jansson has died at the age of 86. Jansson is well-known to children — and adults — around the world for her Moomin books which have been translated into over 30 languages. Moomin comic strips have also been immensely popular. A Japanese-Finnish television series gained large audiences in numerous countries.

According to Terhi Salminen of MTV3 television news, Moomin books fascinated readers with their intelligent humour and original philosophy of life.

"Tove Jansson stories teach respect of difference and tolerance, even if the writer sometimes angrily denied that she wanted to educate anyone, all she wanted to do was to entertain — mainly herself."

Tove Jansson, who wrote in Swedish, was the first Finnish writer to receive the prestigious international prize for youth literature, the H.C. Andersen Medal.

In addition to Moomin books, Jansson wrote other books and was also an accomplished visual artist who had participated in many exhibitions since the 1930s.

See also:

Link to Moominvalley


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