Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Jansson, Tove

(1914-2001) Finnish writer and artist, belonging to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. In eight novels, a short-story collection, three large-format full-colour verse books and a daily Comic strip (from 1954), TJ has chronicled the Moomin Valley and its charming, chilling and totally unique characters and creatures. The Moomin family's warm, flowering house is set in a world inhabited also by the incomprehensible, the alien and the frightening; overlying the texts is TJ's zany, absurd whimsy, which is comparable to that of Lewis Carroll.

TJ's novels are deceptively mild: it is easy to misperceive them as bland or harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Moomin world there are darkness and fear, loneliness and exposure. There are the totally alien hattifatteners, truly alive only when electrically charged; there is the Groke, a totally evil being; there are Snufkin, the unpredictable anarchist who refuses ever to be tied down, and a host of others.

The first Moomin level, Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (1945), is very much a children's book and is not considered by the author as part of the Moomin series proper.

Several of the books have gone through numerous rewrites: their bibliography is complex. These are: Kometjakten (1946; trans Elizabeth Portch as Comet in Moominland 1951 UK; rev vt Mumintrollet på kometjakt 1956; rev vt Kometen kommer 1968); Trollkarlens hatt (1948, this version trans Ernest Benn as Finn Family Moomintroll 1950 UK vt The Happy Moomins 1952 US; Finnish text rev 1968); Muminpappans bravader (1950; rev 1952, this version trans Thomas Warburton as The Exploits of Moominpappa 1952 UK; rev vt Muminpappans memoarer 1968); and Farlig midsommar (1954, this version trans Warburton as Moominsummer Madness 1961 UK; Finnish rev 1969). The last four books in the series have not undergone rewriting: Trollvinter (1957; trans Warburton as Moominland Midwinter 1958 UK), Det osynliga barnet (coll 1962; trans Warburton as Tales from Moomin Valley 1963 UK), Pappan och havet (1965; trans Warburton Moominpappa at Sea 1966 UK), and Sent i november (1970; trans Kingsley Hart as Moominvalley in November 1971 UK). The last novel is a deliberate farewell to the Moomin family: the family itself is absent, and the other creatures of Moomin valley must solve their own problems rather than turn to the family for help.

Two of the three book-long Moomin poems have not been translated: Hur gick det sen? ["What Happened Then?"] (1952), Vem ska trösta knyttet? (1960; trans Warburton as Who Comforts Toffle 1960) and Den farliga resan ["The Dangerous Journey"] (1974).

The Moomin series comprises an imaginative feat of depth and complexity. The quiet animism, the lyrical portrayals of nature and of natural phenomena, the subtle shifts in Reality – as in the scene in Moominpappa at Sea where the Moominmomma steps into her beloved garden, which she has recreated in paint on the walls of the lighthouse to which the family has moved – and the constant presence of strange and incomprehensible mysteries are all effortlessly integrated into a world that is superficially simple and comfortable.

TJ drew the Moomin comic strip in its early years (London Evening News 1954-1959); she was succeeded as artist by her brother Lars Jansson and then by others. She has written several stage plays set in the Moomin Valley. The Moomin characters are now licensed, and TJ has had little to do with the recent avalanche of comic books, animated movies and other Moomin products.

TJ has illustrated fantasy works other than her own, including translated editions of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and The Hunting of the Snark (1876 chap) and J R R Tolkien's The Hobbit (1937). [J-HH]

further reading: Bildhuggarens dotter (1968), autobiography.

Tove Marika Jansson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.