I’ve been a fan of the Moomins since I was a little girl – I remember my mum reading Moominland Midwinter to me before bed, and I loved the cartoon series. The love hasn’t died as I’ve grown up either, I named my beloved rescue cat Moomin after the sweet-natured Finnish troll.
So you can imagine my excitement on being invited on a trip to Finland, where I would not only visit Moomin author Tove Jansson’s private studios in Helsinki, but also be among the first ever visitors to Tampere’s brand new Moomin Museum! It took me all of two seconds to dig out my passport and get packing.
On the off-chance that you’re not as Moomin-obsessed as me, I thought I’d treat you to a potted history. Moomin, his father Moominpappa, mother Moominmamma and friends including Snorkmaiden, Sniff, Little My and Snufkin, are all stars in a series of children’s books and comics created by author/illustrator Tove Jansson, from 1945 - 1977. There were nine books, five picture books, a comic strip and a cartoon series.
They spread from their Finnish home around the world (particularly popular in Japan) thanks to their warm family values, romantic countryside setting and exciting adventures.
Moomin sights in Helsinki
My trip to Finland was based around Helsinki, where I was lucky enough to visit Tove Jansson’s studios (not open to the public) with her niece Sophia, who now runs the Moomin business. It was wonderful to meet one of Tove’s relatives (not least because I know her as the little girl in the centre of Tove’s novel The Summer Book) and talk all things Moomin. She told us lots about Tove’s life, including her art, relationships and passions. It was incredible to tour the studio, which has enormous windows looking out over the city, and mezzanine levels packed with books.
One place that Moomin tourists mustn’t miss is the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) which, rather strangely, is located above a multiplex cinema! Don’t let the setting put you off, as it’s a surprisingly large collection of Finnish work, including two stunning murals by Tove. Look carefully at both, and you might just spot a tiny Moomintroll hidden among the elegant guests at a party. There are other secrets hidden in the murals too, including a defiant self-portrait next to a painting of her lover, Vivica Bandler, during a time when it was still illegal to be a lesbian.
Pop into the Moomins shop and stock up on souvenirs – you’ll be amazed at the range. Personally, I am now the proud owner of some Moomin handtowels and a Little My waterbottle!
Finally, wet your whistle with a cuppa at one of the city’s Moomin cafes.
The Moomin Museum in Tampere
The real reason for my trip was to see the newly opened (world first) Moomin Museum in Tampere (around an hour’s train ride from Helsinki). This amazing space is packed with thousands of original illustrations, as well as utterly charming maquettes (3D models) that Tove and her partner Tooti made from scenes in the books. The best is indisputably the enormous Moomin house model, which is any doll’s house lover’s dream come true. What’s even more special is that these models are too fragile to travel, so the only way to see them is to visit the museum. There are also interactive games and commissioned artworks to enjoy, plus a changing series of exhibitions and rotations of the pictures on offer. The onsite restaurant offers a limited but tasty menu, while the shop is yet another opportunity to stock up on fabulous Moom-rabelia!
Finland is such an interesting country - you might be lucky enough to have a hotel room with its own sauna - and the Moomins have become a huge part of its identity. Whether you're already a convert or are new to the stories, I think any of the Moomin-themed activities are a lovely way to immerse yourself in the most charming element of local culture.
- All pictures © Moomin Characters™
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