Trolling in Finnish: how the Moomins became a national treasure

August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, was born. Today, the lifestyle of these fictional characters seems ideal to Finns

Spending your free time with your family and being always ready for a fight, looking for adventures in the summer and hibernating when the winter comes, eating pancakes with coffee and loving loneliness – in general, leading a Moomin life … Ideal in the view of the Finns.

Trolling the Finnish way: how the Moomins became a national treasure

At the Moomin Museum in Tampere, it always seems that you are being watched. White ears flicker in the cardboard forest, someone invisible stomps on the stairs, and dozens of yellow eyes light up in dark corners. It was decided to make the official home of the most popular heroes of Finnish literature interactive.

— We thought that fleeing Moomin trolls or the Wizard’s hat would be popular among children, — says museum teacher Minna Honkasalo, —but, When the museum opened, we were surprised to see that adults are more likely to play with Moomin exhibits. Everything is touched and pressed. Yes, Finns are big kids. We do not grow up, and when we grow old we fall even more into childhood.

In search of a Moomin home

In 1930, fifteen-year-old Tove Jansson argued with her brother: he explained to her the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and in response she painted on the wall of the country toilet the most disgusting creature that she could think of – thin, with a long nose and evil eyes. The girl called him Moomintroll. It became white and fluffy only ten years later.

With the outbreak of World War II, Tove Jansson came up with a world in which you can escape from the harsh reality. Moomin-mother and Moomin-papa Tove wrote off from her parents – an artist and a sculptor, and her friends became the guests of the Moomin-house. This world was not a children's fairy-tale kingdom. In the first edition of the Moomintroll and the End of the World comic, there was even a postscript: “Attention: this material is NOT intended for young readers!”

“Jansson said that each of us yearns for such a world deep down,” says Minna Honkasalo. “This is such an ideal Finnish reality without politics, traffic jams and the need to make money. What the Finns themselves did not immediately understand. Tuva wrote the first books about Moomins in Swedish: she grew up in a family of Finnish Swedes.

Minna leads me through the fabulous halls of the museum, past plush stone chairs, a beaded comet chandelier, and gigantic human-sized books. Huge models of scenes from the Moomin world are presented in the twilight. Every summer, the writer and her artist friend Tuulikki Pietilä spent three months on the uninhabited island of Klovaharun, where they collected one such model for the museum. The star of the collection was a two-meter Moomin house. If you look into its windows, you can see what pickles are stored in Moominmamma's cellar and what paper boats Moomin makes in his room. The museum calls this house a symbol of Finnish comfort.

Trolling in Finnish: how the Moomins turned into a national treasure

But the Finns for a long time could not see themselves in white creatures that looked like plush hippos. Only when the Moomin boom began in the UK, Tove Jansson's books were translated into Finnish.

– It's such a national trait, – Minna laughs, -not to notice what is under your nose, but to adore it what is fashionable abroad. This is what makes us different from the Moomins.

See also

Moomintroll and others

If you throw a postcard in the mailbox at the Moomin Museum in Tampere, then when sending it, they will put a special stamp on it with Moomintroll, which was also once painted by Tove Jansson herself. Even the stamps and postcards sold in the local gift shop are her illustrations.

Trolling in Finnish: how the Moomins became a national treasure

– Do not hesitate, – the seller convinces me, – all Moomin images -the trolls you meet in Finland were drawn either by Tove or her brother Lars. We are very proud that we managed to keep the Moomins the way we knew them as children.

During the life of the artist, the Moomins became a brand. Stories about the hippo-like creatures from the forest have been translated into more than 40 languages ​​(including Thai and Persian), the number of readers in the world has exceeded 20 million per day. In the 1950s, at the Jansson family council, it was decided that with such a hype, the Moomins needed protection. This is how the family company Moomin Characters Ltd was born. From that moment on, any depiction or mention of the Moomins without permission became illegal. Each of Tove Jansson's heroes has become a separately registered trademark.

Trolling the Finnish way: how the Moomins became a national treasure

— They must remain within the original stories and illustrations, — explains Kira Schroeder , producer Moomin Characters Ltd. – Today we have contracts for more than 600 licensed products, 60% of them belong to Asian companies. We are also very proud of Finnish products, from Finlayson sheets to Iittala Group mugs. Moomin business brings as much taxes to the country's budget as Nokia deducts (in 2018 — Note by

The company has developed a whole set of rules about what the Moomin trolls cannot do. They do not play computer games, do not use smartphones, and should not be associated with politics, violence and sex. But, like real Finns, they drink, smoke and use foul language – you can’t erase words from Jansson’s stories.

Moomin trolls are ideal in their imperfection and have special worldly wisdom. Therefore, anyone who wants to understand the Finnish character must get to know the whole Moomin world with its family values, love of loneliness, long walks, overcoming oneself and accepting others. As Moomintroll said: “People who keep the house warm and their stomachs full should be revered as heroes.”


Trolling the Finnish way: how the Moomins became a national treasure

Area 338,455 km² (64th place in world)
Population 5,615,000 people (114th place)
Population density 16 people/km²

SIGHTSMoomin Museum in Tampere, Moominpark in Naantali, Moomincafe in Kuopio.
TRADITIONAL DISHES calakukko – fish pie with bacon, gravavilohi – marinated raw fish, rosolli – salad with beets.
TRADITIONAL DRINKS berry juice, coffee with milk, sieve—Finnish mead.
SOUVENIRS postcards with photos of Tove Jansson, Moomin clock troll, mug with illustration by Lars Jansson.

DISTANCE from Moscow to Helsinki ~ 900 km (1 hour 40 minutes flight time)
TIME matches with Moscow summer, one hour behind in winter
VISA Schengen


Material published in the magazine ” Around the World” No. 10, October 2018, partially updated in August 2023

Ekaterina Sekhina

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