Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2785

Moomins in midwinter—and the life of their creator

Two radio programmes to listen to over the holidays
Issue 2785
Moomintroll stands in the snow beside a river, looking up towards a bridge

Moomintroll is alone in a frozen world

Tove Jansson was a literary phenomenon who lead a fascinating life.

She became famous the 1960s for a series of illustrated children’s books centred on the Moomintrolls. This family of hippo-like creatures lived in the forest, exploring all that nature had to offer.

It was a heavily autobiographical creation, though shaped by a great deal of wish fulfilment. The Moomins’ relatively happy family was a significant improvement on her own.

Her dad had a low opinion of women, and fascist leanings. In contrast, she was very close to her mum, but described the relationship as like “living together under a bell jar”.

Developed during the Second World War, while Jansson lived under a Nazi‑sympathising regime in Finland, the Moomins are celebrated for challenging social norms. One aspect of this is the inclusion of characters based on Tove and her female partner—at a time when homosexuality was still illegal.

For the first 15 years of her working life Tove was best known as a satirical cartoonist. But the Moomins eclipsed all that, spawning theme parks and merchandise—and making her a fortune. But they also dominated her life.

She came to hate them.

This documentary is a gentle exploration of her life and work. But it skates over some of the darker aspects and episodes of her life.

Ben Windsor

Moomin Creator Tove Jansson, Tuesday 21 December, 11am, BBC Radio 4 Extra and also on BBC Sounds

Moomintroll wakes in the middle of winter, when the rest of his family are hibernating, and Moominvalley is deep in snow.

Anxious and alone, he is forced to venture out into a frozen world. He has to find new friends, cope with new dangers, and learn to live in a new and hostile environment.

Gradually he learns to accept the strange and sometimes frightening conditions in which he finds himself. When refugees arrive fleeing the cold, will he do the right thing, or is it all a bit much?

Moominland Midwinter, Saturday 25 December, 11am on Radio 4

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