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The cover of “Garm”, no. 10, 1938 (photo: Finnish National Gallery/Jenni Nurminen)

The first Moomin appears in these drawings: a small, often half-hidden, long-nosed creature which Jansson called “Snork” and used as a sort of signature alongside her own “Tove”. Snork is not quite so friendly as the other Moomins. The motivation to write also came from the war. In 1991 Jansson wrote: “One’s work stood still; it felt completely pointless to try to create pictures. Perhaps it was understandable that I suddenly felt the urge to write down something that began with “Once upon a time” . . . I excused myself by avoiding princes, princesses and small children and chose instead my angry signature character from the cartoons, and called him the Moomintroll.” People from her own life appear: her onetime fiancé Atos Wirtanen is the nomadic, philosophising Snufkin, who tears down “Do Not Walk On The Grass” signs, and her subsequent lifelong partner, graphic designer Tuulikki Pietila, appears as the practical, wise Too-Ticky, the Moomins’ neighbour. It’s striking how melancholy the books are, and how often the Moomin family are threatened. In the first Moomin story The Moomins and the Great Flood (1945), Moominpappa has disappeared, and the forest is full of refugee families; in Comet in Moominland (1946) the family go to sleep believing the world has been destroyed, only to find next morning that it has been spared.

Illustration for the book “Comet in Moominland”, 1946, by Tove Jansson (Moomin Museum, Tampere, photo: Finnish National Gallery/Hannu Aaltonen)

The last Moomin book appeared in 1970. Jansson went on to write books for adults. She later said: “I couldn’t continue. I couldn’t go back and find that happy Moominvalley again. But one thing I did, not only for the children but for myself as well: in the very last sentence of the book you see the Moomins’ lantern approaching in the distance.” 

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